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Indonesia News Digest 46 – December 8-14, 2007

News & issues

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 News & issues

The struggle against underdevelopment

Green Left Weekly - December 12, 2007

Jonathan Strauss – Dita Sari, who is head of the advisory council of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) and also a member of the advisory council of Indonesian National Front for Labour Struggles, spoke to Green Left Weekly during the Latin America and Asia Pacific International Solidarity (LAAPIS) forum, held in Melbourne from October 11-14, about the struggles of Indonesian workers.

Sari explained that the main industrial campaigns of workers in Indonesia at the moment are against government attempts to reduce the severance payments of workers who receive higher wages, which the workers believe is discriminatory, and to make sacking workers easier. But, she said, Papernas is also trying to persuade the workers to take a more political approach and to win them to the party's broader campaigns.

Sari said: "One of Papernas' main campaigns is to overcome underdevelopment and push to build the national economy and industry, relying more on our national economic resources, rather than being dependent on foreign investment. We want the workers to support this economic program and put their immediate demands into [its] framework.

National development

"We think that if the national economy depends too much on foreign investors, then labour conditions will get worse. [Those] investors want liberalisation and 'labour flexibility'.

We want the workers to realise this is not just about the immediate demands in the factories, but also about how the workers could contribute and play a significant role in protecting our national industry."

This part of the Papernas program, Sari said, compelled it to consider the possibility, if the party's work would benefit, of limited tactical alliances with owners of small and medium-sized businesses. "They are also harshly attacked by foreign investment and the government's policy. Their distribution and their networks are being smashed to make way for foreign investment."

Sari explained that building the national economy meant introducing a broader range of controls on corporations and resetting the country's economic orientation.

"Everyone in political power", she argued, "must make sure all the contracts with mining companies, especially in oil and gas, which is our main energy source, are reviewed". Taxes on such companies should increase. "What the companies should do for environmental protection should be included, so should their social responsibilities – what they should spend for schools and building infrastructure in that area. The government's responsibility for cost-recovery, especially for the oil companies, should be less, because the companies take more for this and pay less in royalties. Also, there should be no human rights violations, especially towards indigenous people."

Sari said: "One of the most important things is the transfer of technology. Western companies operate in our country for many years, but they don't want to transfer the technology. They make us dependent on their technology. In five years or 10 years there should be a transfer of technology. This should be included in the contract."

Sari also argued for a concentration on improvements in agriculture. "You must produce at least the basic food that you eat. You can't just import." The cost of the imported produce is one concern, as is the threat of outright destruction of many sectors, including rice and corn growing. This policy would also tackle unemployment, which is primarily in rural areas.

Sari compared agricultural development with that of textile, clothing and footwear production. "There's already too much of those. This change of economic orientation is very important."

The existence of a very pro-neo-liberal government, Sari said, was a major obstacle to overcoming these problems. "It says yes easily to many proposals from international financial institutions, and foreign governments and corporations."

Papernas also faces more immediate problems in its campaigning. Sari said: "Many of our campaigning activities, our conference and even internal meetings are attacked, sometimes physically, by so-called Islamic groups."

Social fragmentation, especially in the movement, is also a barrier to campaigning. "Everyone is scattered. Everyone is busy with their own issues, their own meetings and day-to-day activities, like it's business as usual." Sari said breaking through this was a challenge. "We keep banging on those doors. We keep saying 'come on, come on, come on' to the social movements."

"But right now", Sari continued, "we're also focusing on building the party, and building a coalition with another party, which is not left, revolutionary or progressive, but to some extent can accept our program, so that we can campaign through its structures, with its mass base, giving them an understanding of our program, and organising and campaigning among the masses in that framework.

"Before we were focusing on campaigning among the social movements. But we found the social movements were very fragmented and sometimes very sectarian and apolitical. What we are trying to do now is campaign for our program among the mass bases and structures of this Islamic party that we are targeting for a coalition.

Reaching the masses

"We are looking for tactics to reach the masses. The masses are not only in the social movements and their groups. Most of the masses are not touched by the social movements. We are thinking about how to find a way to reach the masses: in what way, what is the instrument, what media, what's the bridge to the masses? Then we saw this opportunity with the Islamic party that offered us a coalition.

"They are much bigger than us. They have 14 seats in the parliament, 190 seats in local parliaments and 2.8 million who vote for them. Working inside them will give us a way to go to the masses and get our message heard."

Speaking at the LAAPIS forum Sari had raised the idea of a transformation from a social movement into a political movement. She explained this meant two things: "In the social movement itself, there should be an effort made by us so they can change the way they think about politics. You cannot just become a pressure group that mobilises every time [US President George] Bush or the WTO comes. You can't just do that, demonstrating every time there's a new government policy. You may have to move forward to a more political movement.

"And there is working to – seek other possibilities of making alliances and pushing them to become more politicised. We want to say that the social movements are not the only possibility for alliances and addressing the masses."

At the conference, Sari noted "in terms of the new tactics that we are trying in terms of building the left and making the left heard and get a solid base, we [can] explain our ways and our tactics, and the political and social dynamics in Indonesia. We can have input, criticism and ideas from comrades all over the world about our 'controversial' tactic."

Sari explained that the tactic of the coalition with the Islamic party has proved controversial. Sari said that she wanted "to remind comrades that [the People's Democratic Party – the main group that has formed Papernas] made an alliance with the bourgeois Gus Dur regime, which had a more democratic character. There was a lot of criticism against us at that time and even now.

"We have this new way, which we think suits our struggle. We want other comrades to hear, to understand and debate about it."

US intelligence tapping Indonesian phones, British also involved

News and Comment - December 12, 2007

Allan Nairn – US intelligence officers in Jakarta are secretly tapping the cell phones and reading the SMS text messages of Indonesian civilians.

Some of the Americans work out of the Jakarta headquarters of Detachment 88, a US-trained and funded para-military unit whose mission is described as antiterrorism, but that was recently involved in the arrest of a West Papuan human rights lawyer.

The Papuan lawyer, Iwangin Sabar Olif, was seized by police and Detachment 88 on the street and later charged with "incitement and insulting the head of state" after he forwarded SMS text messages that criticized the Indonesian armed forces (TNI), as well as the President of Indonesia, Gen. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. (West Papua is a restricted-access region where Indonesian forces have been implicated in rapes, tortures, kidnappings, assassinations, mass surveillance and intimidation.)

The information on the US surveillance program is provided by three sources, including an individual who has worked frequently with the Indonesian security forces and who says he has met and formally discussed their work with some of the American phone tappers, as well as by two Indonesian officials who work inside Detachment 88.

The first source says that the he was told that the Americans are employees of the US CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), but it could not be confirmed whether they work for the CIA or other US agencies. He says that through his work he has observed that these US intelligence specialists help run a sophisticated wiretapping network that uses much new US equipment.

He says the US operation includes the real-time monitoring of text messages, as well as mapping contact "networks," ie. tracing who is calling or texting whom.

This individual deals frequently with Detachment 88, but says that he has not inquired about the seizure of the Papuan human rights lawyer, Iwangin.

He said that Detachment 88 units are also present in other outlying zones including Solo, Ambon, and Poso, the later two of which have been the scene of TNI – POLRI (the Indonesian National Police, who formally oversee Detachment 88) "provokasi" operations that have helped to spur deadly fighting between poor Muslim and Christian villagers.

This source also says that US intelligence is providing covert intelligence aid to Kopassus, the Indonesian army's red beret special forces famed for abduction, torture, and assassination. Classified Kopassus manuals discuss the "tactic and technique" of "terror" and "kidnapping" (see "Buku Petunjuk tentang Sandi Yudha TNI AD, Nomor: 43-B-01").

Kopassus has, in the past, been heavily trained by US Green Berets and other forces, in topics that included "Demolitions," "Air Assault," "Close Quarters Combat," "Special Reconnaissance," and "Advanced Sniper Techniques" (all of these during the Clinton administration, under a program called JCET – Joint Combined Exchange Training).

But after this training was exposed and after the TNI – POLRI Timor massacres of 1999 (which followed a UN – supervised independence vote, and in which Kopassus was implicated), many in Congress were under the impression that they had succeeded in stopping US aid to Kopassus. (Congress is due to decide within days on a new lethal aid bill for Indonesia).

The American presence inside Detachment 88 was confirmed by an Indonesian Detachment 88 official who said that a team of Americans did telecommunications work in the "Intel Section," along with an individual whom they believed to be a British national.

A second Detachment 88 official also confirmed the US presence, but said he did not know the name of the American team leader. Like the first Detachment 88 official, he gave the name of the operative whom he said was British, but that named individual could not be reached for comment.

Asked for comment on December 12, during the late afternoon, local time, Stafford A. Ward, a spokesman for the US Embassy in Jakarta at first said he was not familiar with such a US program and did not know what Kopassus was.

An hour later Ward read out a statement that said that "there are no Americans in either Detachment 88 or Kopassus." When asked if there was any kind of US assistance to those units he said: "The US is not involved with either of those organizations. I can confirm to you that the US has no involvement with either Detachment 88 or Kopassus."

In fact, though, that US Embassy statement appeared to contradict the public record. US officials have frequently spoken on the record about their involvement with Detachment 88, including to the press and in meetings with and testimony to the US Congress.

Twenty minutes after issuing that denial, Embassy spokesman Ward sent the following email: "I misspoke earlier when you called me a second time today. The US government works with Indonesia to bolster its counterterrorism capabilities. For example, the Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security's Office of Antiterrorism Assistance has trained Indonesian Antiterrorist Units."

This revised Embassy statement did not repeat the denials of the earlier statement, nor did it deny the presence of US personnel inside Detachment 88, nor did it deny the existence of covert US intelligence aid to Kopassus.

US officials have never acknowledged on the record the presence of US intelligence wiretappers inside Jakarta's security forces, nor have they acknowledged on the record the provision of intelligence assistance to Kopassus.

The initial Embassy denial, phrased in the present tense, came less than 24 hours after the US Congress, in Washington, made private inquiries to the US Executive Branch about whether the US was aiding or planning to aid Kopassus.

These Congressional inquiries came after this blog reported on December 7 that "the State Department this week was putting out urgent queries around Washington that make it sound as if they are planning to openly aid Kopassus," and after people in a position to know privately declined to deny that report.

It is not known whether the Congressional inquiries included the question of Detachment 88.

But in a call to the Detachment 88 office hours before today's initial carefully-phrased Embassy denial, the Indonesian officer who answered the phone said that the Americans had not come in to work today and that, as far as he knew, the British staffer there was on vacation.

Detachment 88 has been mentored by veteran CIA and State Department official Cofer Black, who was one of the architects of the US invasion of Afghanistan. Detachment 88 is publicized as being aimed at violent jihadists, like the groups implicated in the bombings in Bali and Jakarta that killed more than 200 civilians.

But the US wiretapping program provides a capacity to target any kind of phone user in Indonesia, an issue of concern in a country where the security forces – often US-assisted – have killed many hundreds of thousands of civilian dissidents.

Indonesia may face food crisis in next 10 years: Minister

Jakarta Post - December 11, 2007

Jakarta Post – Indonesia may face a food crisis within the next 10 years should it fail to overcome the disparity between its rapidly growing population and its limited ability to expand arable land for food production.

Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyantono said Monday that with the population growth rate of between 1.3 percent and 1.5 percent a year, Indonesia needs to increase the annual production of the country's staple food of rice by at least 1.8 million tons by 2009.

Such a production increase requires another 600,000 hectares of paddy fields, while the country is at present in short supply of available arable land.

"The demand for more land can actually be fulfilled if there weren't so many land conversion for other purposes, such as for factories or housings," Anton told Antara at a workshop on food sustainability in Makassar. "But the fact is that the availability of potential arable land is currently unavailable."

With Indonesia's current population growth creating such dilemmas of land usage, Anton said food production may face grave problems within the next 10 to 20 years if nothing is done.

Indonesia will also be unable to cut its dependency on importing food, including rice.

The republic has to import 1.5 million tons of rice this year to secure supply and stabilize prices. A total 1.17 million tons of the planned rice import has as of the beginning of November been distributed to the domestic market, the State Logistics Agency (Bulog) said.

The country's production of unhusked rice is expected to reach 57.05 million tons this year, the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) reported, which would be up 4.76 percent from last year.

Anton said efforts to address possible problems of food production in the future included to increase production using the currently available land through the government's agriculture revitalization program in every regency across the country.

The program is expected to reverse the recent production drop and increase it through better production methods, as well as through the renovation and restructuring of every available production means.

This includes better land use, increasing the amount of productive land managed by each farmer – and resolve land disputes which are only hampering production.

Clash between Political Committee of the Poor and Islamic thugs narrowly averted

Antara News - December 10, 2007

Surabaya – Hundreds of protesters from the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD) and the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) almost clashed with members of the Union for Dealing with the New Style Communists (SP-KGB) during an action on JL. Governor Suryo in the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya on Monday.

The two groups, both of whom were commemorating International Human Rights Day, faced each other off at a distance of some 20 meters. Fully armed police however intercepted the two groups and the PRD-Papernas protesters halted in front of the Simpang Hotel while the SP-KGB members stopped in front of the State Grahadi Building.

The protesters from the PRD, Papernas, the National Student League for Democracy (LMND) and the Independent Workers Union (SPM), which have joined together in the Political Committee of the Poor (KPRM), appeared to outnumber the SP-KGB members by more than 200 people. This was because protesters from the East Java Workers Challenge Alliance (ABMJT), who had initially been demonstrating at the Surabaya Municipal District Police station and the East Java Governor's office on Jl. Pahlawan, also joined the demonstration.

Members of the SP-KGB meanwhile, which is made up of the Surabaya Anti-Communist Front (FAK), the Lamongan Islamic Community Forum (FUI), the Surabaya Center for Indonesian Community Studies, the Tauhid Anti-Communist Movement (GERTAK) and the Greater Sidoarjo Muhammadiyah Youth Association (IRM), numbered only around 30 as several SP-KGB members had already gone home.

The SP-KGB members it seems, who had been holding an action since 9am local time at the Governor Suryo Statue, "missed their targets" when they pelted a group of demonstrators with rocks who they assumed to be the PRD because they were wearing red clothing. It turned out however that they were activists from the group People Living with HIV/AIDS (ODHA).

The PRD-Papernas demonstrators began the action by gathering at Jl. Kombes M. Duriyat at around 10am. They then held a long-march to the State Grahadi Building some two kilometers away.

The protesters however were intercepted by the unit head of the South Surabaya municipal police Iptu M. Rasyad on Jl. Basuki Rahmat (in front of the Tegalsari sectoral police offices), who asked them not to hold an action in front of the Grahadi building because the situation was "unfavorable".

The East Java PRD-Papernas protesters who came from Surabaya, Gresik, Mojokerto, Ngawi and Sidoarjo, were finally "detained" for more than an hour in front of a fast-food restaurant on Jl. Basuki Rahmat, but then moved off again stopping at the intersection between Jl. Basuki Rahmat and Jl. Governor Suryo to wait for the ABMJT.

It was while the PRD-Papernas demonstrators were "resting" that police held negotiations with the SP-KGB leaders. The negotiations however apparently failed resulting in PRD-Papernas and SP-KGB almost running into each other.

Six or seven SP-KGB members were even able to slip past the police barricade and tried to "approach" the PRD-Papernas protesters. A number of police intelligence officers however stepped in and prevented them from advancing any further.

"The government has banned the PRD, so how come the police don't have the guts to disband [the rally]. It is because of this that we will disperse them ourselves, because wiping out communism is a religious command", said SP-KGB activist Imanan.

According to Imanan, Papernas represents a "personification" of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), because Papernas's symbol, terminology, jargon and even its statutes and rules of association are a "photocopy" of the PKI, which has already been banned by the government. Because of this therefore, they say that Papernas is a new style communist organisation.

Speaking separately, KPRM public relations officer Yusuf DH said FAK has indeed sought to sabotage Papernas's activities on a number of occasions such as during its launch in Jakarta, at the Papernas Congress in Yogyakarta and the East Java regional conference in Batu.

"Papernas is actually already registered [officially with the government], but up until now there has yet to be any firm position taken by the government [against this harassment]. Because of this, we believe that the government has violated [our] human rights, because they have never respond to Papernas's complaints", he asserted.

Although the two actions took place opposite each other, in the end they did not meet because both were forced to disband by the police as they had exeeded the mutually agreed to time limit for the actions.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

 Demos, actions, protests...

Be on alert for protests, avoid the AGO, PLN and police HQ

Detik.com - December 14, 2007

Maryadi, Jakarta – Jakarta never seems to be free from protest actions. Not a day goes by without demonstrations, including today, Friday December 14.

According to the Metro Jaya Regional Police Traffic Management Centre (TMC), there will be three separate protest actions today. Drivers are therefore warned to avoid these locations in order that they don't get caught in traffic.

Based on information from the Sat Intelkam, the protest actions will start at 9am local time at the State-owned Electricity Company office on Jl. Trunojoyo in South Jakarta. There will be around 100 protesters at the action.

At around the same time, Student Solidarity for the Wishes of the People (Somasi) from Cerebon, West Java will be holding a demonstration at the national police headquarters, also on Jl. Trunojoyo. Around 25 protesters are expected to attend.

Following this, there will be a protest action at the Attorney General's Office on Jl. Sisingamangaraja in South Jakarta by around 100 people from the Bank Indonesia Liquidity Support Scandal People's Challenge Alliance (ARMS-BLBI).

Drivers are asked to avoid these roads because the actions are expected to disrupt the flow of traffic. (mar/nrl)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

More demos today, drivers should avoid Monas, Kuningan, Block M

Detik.com - December 13, 2007

Maryadi, Jakarta – Jakarta could well be referred to as the 'storehouse' of protest actions since not a day goes by without demonstrations being held somewhere in the city, including today, Thursday December 13.

According to information from the Metro Jaya Regional Police Traffic Management Centre (TMC), there will be at least five different protests today. Drivers are therefore advised to avoid the protest locations in order that they are not caught in traffic.

At 9am local time, protesters from the Rokan Hilir regency in Riau will be demonstrating at the offices of the National Land agency on JL. Sisingamangaraja in South Jakarta.

Then at 10am, the Native Jakarta Brotherhood Forum (FBR) will hold a protest at the city hall on Jl. Merdeka Selatan. They will also be holding a simultaneous demonstration at the Central Jakarta District Court building on Jl. Gajah Mada.

At 12noon protesters from the Student Network for the Eradication of Corruption (JAM-AKSI) will be demonstrating at the Attorney General's Office on Jl. Sisingamangaraja.

One hour later students from the Indonesian Anti-Corruption Student Network (JAMIN) will hold a demonstration at the Jakarta Chief Public Prosecutor's office on Jl. HR Rasuna Said in South Jakarta.

The final action will be at 4pm by protesters from the Solidarity Network for the Families of Victims of Human Rights Violations (JSKKPH) at the State Palace on Jl. Medan Merdeka Utara in Central Jakarta. (mar/nrl)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Strike causes traffic jams

Jakarta Post - December 11, 2007

Jakarta – Some 200 Metromini bus drivers from around Jakarta staged a protest Monday in front of the company's main office on Jl. Pemuda in East Jakarta, causing heavy traffic congestion.

The demonstration became violent when several drivers tried to pull down the office's gates. They stopped when police arrived on the scene to mediate in talks between the drivers and company representatives. The drivers called for the company's director, TH Panjaitan, to resign.

The strike began early morning and ended peacefully around 2 p.m. when representatives of the drivers, who met with Panjaitan, announced a special meeting would be held in March to elect new leaders.

"Panjaitan's position is illegal because none of us agreed to him being the director," said W. Pandiangan, one of the company's stakeholders. Pandiangan said the company's office should be closed and its assets frozen until new leaders were elected.

Panjaitan told The Jakarta Post the office would stay open to facilitate preparations for the upcoming meeting. He also denied allegations he holds the post as the company's director illegally.

Protest in Bali condemns US intransigence on climate change

Tempo Interactive - December 10, 2007

Rofiqi Hasan, Denpasar – Hundreds of Balinese student activists held a demonstration at the US Consulate General in provincial capital of Denpasar on Monday December 10. The action was part of International Human Rights Day commemorations and at the same time to protest the United States' intransigence on climate change.

A number of student organisations joined the protest including, among others, the Bali Association of Narcotics Victims (IKON), the Falun Gong Group, Papuan students and environmental activists. Each of the groups came with something distinctive to denote their identity, such as the Papuans who wore traditional dress.

"All these elements have joined together because [we] feel that the source of the problem lies with the stand being taken by the US government," said action coordinator M Katafi. Each group then issue a statement in according to their specific concerns. The speeches were accompanied with shouts of protest. "Number One Terrorist, Number One Terrorist", they shouted.

Wenslaus, from Papua, called on the US to end investment in Papua. "They just exploit and damage our environment, but the people never prosper", he said. His colleagues held up posters with messages such as "Don't take My Virgin Forest", "Oppose the satellite launch in Biak", "Free the Papuan Activists", "President Yudhoyono, Vice President Kalla don't become US puppets" and the like.

But two hours after demonstrators had read out a people's declaration on climate change, no one had came out to meet with them. The demonstrators called for an end to the exploration of natural resources that damage the environment and are a source of human rights violations. "Sovereignty over resources must be returned to the people", said Astika, who read out the declaration.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Protesters commemorate Munir's birthday, call for justice

Java Post - December 9, 2007

Jakarta – Memories of murdered human rights activist Munir are still strong in the mind of many activists. Thus it was on December 8, when a commemoration was held to coincide with his birthday. Hundreds of activists from various community organisations took to the streets to demand justice for Munir.

Aside from demonstrating in front of the Supreme Court, protesters also went to the State Palace, the defence department building and the Jakarta city hall. As they marched through Jakarta, they also called for justice and for the law to be upheld for the victims of other human rights violations.

"If he had not died of poisoning in September 2004, Cak [elder brother] Munir should have still been among us after returning home from studying in the Netherlands," said Sumarsih, mother of the late Bernardinus Realino Norma Irmawan (Wawan), an Atma Jaya University student who was shot dead during the Semanggi I tragedy in November 1998. Up until his death, Munir also campaigned for this case.

To this day, the curtain of secrecy surrounding Munir's murder has yet to be fully lifted. Only two people have been named as suspects, former Garuda Indonesia Airlines executive director Indra Setiawan and former chief pilot Rohainil Aini. Both are still being tried by the Central Jakarta District Court. Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto meanwhile, the only person convicted for the murder was released by the Supreme Court.

Protesting in front of the Supreme Court, the demonstrators called for justice and for the institution headed by supreme justice Bagir Manan to act fairly. It is still not clear if the Supreme Court will issue a new verdict on Priyanto although the rumor is that it will be issued this month. The judicial review submitted to the Supreme Court includes new evidence implicating Priyanto, including the testimony of Budi Santoso who is a member of the National Intelligence Agency.

According to the coordinator of the Committee for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, Usman Hamid, who also took part in the protest action, the commemoration of Munir's birthday should also be used to generate momentum to end all forms of violence. (naz/dwi)

[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski.]

Transvestites protest fatal raid

Jakarta Post - December 8, 2007

Jakarta – Dozens of transvestites and activists staged a peaceful protest at City Hall on Wednesday, demanding the city administration investigate the death of a transvestite following a raid by public order officers.

The protesters, including members of the Arus Pelangi Organization, the Indonesian Transvestites Communication Forum and the Poor People's Alliance, accused public order officers of abusing Elly "Sayep" Susanna during the raid on Jl. Latuharhari, Central Jakarta, last month.

They said the officers pushed her into the nearby river and then threw stones at her until she drowned. "The city administration must investigate the case and take strict action against those responsible for the death," said Rido Triawan, director of Arus Pelangi.

Public order officer deployment needed to be reviewed as they often violated human rights and conducted aggressive raids, he said.

"The governor must tell the public order officers to use a persuasive approach, not a violent one, because they can become more brutal than the police," he said. He also said that his team would push the Central Jakarta Police to investigate the case.

According to Freddy Simanungkalit, the advocacy division head of Arus Pelangi, the incident happened on Nov. 17 at around 9:30 p.m. when several public order officers tried to arrest transsexuals they alleged were sex workers along Jl. Laturharhari and its surroundings, known as the Taman Lawang area.

Some of the transsexuals jumped into the river to escape, but Elly was unable to swim. Her friends said they saw her fighting with some of the officers.

"They saw the officers push Elly into the water and throw stones at her," Freddy said. Her body was found on the next day in Cideng River, Central Jakarta.

Freddy also said his team later checked with the subdistrict office and was told that no official raid had been planned for that day.

"It was only a routine patrol. So the crackdown was illegal," he said, adding that Elly's family had not received an apology from the public order officers.

It is not the first time public order officers have been accused of abusing civilians during raids.

A few months ago, a three-in-one jockey, Irfan Maulan died in Kebayoran Lama, South Jakarta. Activists alleged that he had been beaten by public order officers but the case was never solved.

Yuli Rettoblaut, head of the Indonesian Transvestites Communication Forum, said public order officers often take the cell phones of people caught in raids, as well as extorting money from them and sexually harassing them. "Crackdowns are only used as excuses for them to take our money and cell phones," she said.

She said that when Elly's body had been found her underwear was missing, indicating that the officers had tried to undress her during the fight.

Dudung Supriadi, a city official from the social welfare agency, said he would take the groups' complaints to the Governor Fauzi Bowo, who was not present during the protest.

Central Jakarta public order agency head Subandi denied the allegations his officers had chased the transsexuals or pushed Elly into the river. "They were afraid when they saw my men, so they ran away. And Elly jumped into the river," he told The Jakarta Post.

He added that his team had begun patrolling the area every night after receiving complaints from people in the neighborhood, saying they were disturbed by the transsexuals' activities. "Every night the transvestites play loud music and offer sexual services, causing discomfort in the neighborhood." (dia)

Journalists protest police violence

Jakarta Post - December 8, 2007

Jakarta – Dozens of journalists gathered in front of the National Police Headquarters in South Jakarta on Friday, protesting violence against journalists.

"We want the National Police chief to punish Sr. Comr. Julius Srijono, who forcibly seized the camera of a Jawa Pos reporter," Suparni, from the group Jakarta Journalist Axis, said as quoted by Detik.com news portal.

The reporter, Farouk Arnaz, was covering the police reconstruction of a crime in Depok, West Java, on Monday, when Srijono, head of a narcotics unit at the National Police, allegedly confiscated his digital camera and deleted the pictures he had taken.

The group of reporters protesting on Friday also demanded punishment for Depok Police chief Sr. Comr. Imam Pramukarno for allegedly intimidating three journalists in a separate incident.

The incident occurred when the journalists were covering a church service at a shopping mall last Friday, when a mob arrived and forced the service to halt, claiming it was unauthorized.

Five demonstrations to colour to Jakarta's streets this weekend

Tempo Interactive - December 8, 2007

Munawwaroh, Jakarta – As many as five different protest actions will colour Jakarta's streets over the weekend. "People should keep away from protest points in order to avoid traffic jams," said First Brigadier Witardi, a Traffic Management Center (TMC) official at the Metro Jaya Regional Police Traffic Directorate.

At around 10am local time, three actions will take place at three different points in the capital. The Indonesian Farmers Alliance (API) will hold a action in front of the State Palace and the Public Gallery on Jl. Diponegoro in Central Jakarta. Around 200 people are expected to attend the action.

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) will also be mobilising some 300 members at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout. They will be opposing a beach reclamation project and supporting the restoration of mangrove forests on Jakarta's northern beaches to overcome floods in the capital city.

A smaller action involving only a score or so of demonstrators will be held by Falun Gong Indonesia in front of the Chinese Embassy.

Later in the afternoon at around 1pm, protesters from the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) and the Solidarity Committee for Munir (KASUM) will hold an action at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout. They will hold a carnival to the Jakarta city hall, the Supreme Court, the State Palace and the Department of Defense. The action to commemorate a decade of human rights violations in Jakarta will be joined by around 500 people.

Around the same time, a group calling itself the Active Without Violence Movement (GATK) will also hold a carnival to commemorate World Human Rights Day. The carnival will start at the Indonesian Press Council Building, then go on to the Jakarta city hall, the Horse Statue and end at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout. Around 150 people will take part in the carnival.

Members of the Greater Jakarta Betawi Brotherhood Foundation (FBR) meanwhile will be demonstrating in front of the CBD Ciledug offices in Tangerang. Around 1,000 FBR members will be demanding the right to manage a parking lot in the CBD Ciledug area.

[Translated by James Balowski.]


Illegal logging in Aceh rampant despite moratorium

Jakarta Post - December 13, 2007

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – Despite the imposition of a moratorium on logging in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, illegal logging has been rampant, causing the state about Rp 123.7 billion (US$13.70 million) in losses the past six months.

A Greenomics Indonesia survey conducted from June to December, 2007, found some 100 places in forests along coastal areas where illegal logging trade took place between villagers and brokers.

It further said most of some 108,000 cubic meters of illegal logging went to post-tsunami rehabilitation and reconstruction work in the province.

"The illegal timber was supplied mostly by brokers to the Aceh- Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency (BRR) and its foreign partners," Greenomics coordinator Vanda Meutia Dewi said in Jakarta on Tuesday.

She said the logging moratorium, which was set by the Aceh province government on June 6, 2007, was found ineffective because of the increasing demand for wood during the post-tsunami reconstruction of houses and public infrastructure the past three years.

BRR and international non-governmental organizations have developed at least 100,000 houses for the 2004 tsunami victims. "BRR bought 68 percent of the illegal timber, while international organizations accounted for another 28 percent," she said.

Vanda said if the illegal logging was not controlled, its volume could reach 216,000 cubic meters and cost the province Rp 247.42 billion in losses over the next six months. "That figure excludes illegal timber smuggled out of the province through the east coastal area," she added.

Vanda said the survey reported some 425,000 cubic meters of illegal timber was supplied annually to the province from North Sumatra, Riau and Kalimantan.

"Quantitatively, the supply of illegal timber for the reconstruction work decreased by 49 percent and many timber mills stopped operation after the imposition of the moratorium, but the smuggling of illegal logs out of the province has remained rampant," she said.

Greenomics' findings, however, was denied by spokesman for BRR Mirza Keumala, who said the reconstruction agency was committed to environmental conservation in the province and used more iron to replace wood in its housing projects.

He said BRR had no capacity to check whether its partner companies and foreign NGOs used illegal timber in carrying out their constructions projects.

"BRR has asked its partner companies and international aid agencies not to use wood from illegal logging, but it is the task of local authorities to take action against any companies violating the law," he said.

Protests call on government to resolve past rights abuses in Aceh

Aceh Kita - December 11, 2007

Banda Aceh – Commemorating World Human Rights Day, hundreds of activists in the provincial capital of Banda Aceh held a torch- lit procession from the Simpang Lima roundabout to the City Park in front of the Baiturrahman Great Mosque on the evening of Monday December 10. They called on the government to resolve past human rights violations in Aceh trough a human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission.

The action at the Simpang Lima roundabout began shortly after evening prayers at around 8pm local time. They carried torches and marched around the Simpang Lima roundabout while singing songs, giving speeches and handing out leaflets. The action created a traffic jam in and around the Simpang Lima area. A number of police officers could be seen busily directing the flow of traffic.

In a leaflet that was handed out to passers by, the protesters demanded that the government resolve past human rights violations by means of forming a human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission, end violence and discrimination against women, the release of political detainees and prisoners and an end to the criminalisation of human rights defenders.

They also called for the government to undertake a reintegration program that supports justice for victims, the rehabilitation and reconstruction of houses damaged and burnt down during the prolonged conflict in Aceh and expressed their opposition to development that damages the environment. The statement was signed by 34 organisations including Interpeace and the Organisation for Migration.

Kurdinar, an activists from the Coalition of Human Rights Non- government Organisations said that the momentum created by World Human Rights Day on December 10 is being used to pressure the government to immediately form a human rights court and a truth and reconciliation commission in order that past human rights violations can be quickly resolved.

Kurdinar cited a number of human rights case that urgently need to be brought before the courts including the brutal actions by security forces at Simpang KKA in North Aceh (1999) and in Arakundo, Idi Cut, East Aceh.

Kurdinar said that there were many obstacles faced in resolving the crimes against humanity that have occurred in Aceh since it was declared a Military Operation Zone (1989-1998), during Operation Wibawa (1999) and the State of Martial Law and Civil Emergency (2003-2005).

The problem being that Law No. 11/2006 on Aceh Governance states that the courts can try human rights cases after this law was ratified. Kurdinar said however, that human rights activists in Aceh however use Law No. 26/2000 on the Establishment of a Human Rights Court as a reference. This law states that a court may try past humanitarian crimes (retroactive).

They are also urging the central government to revise the law on Truth and Reconciliation Commission that has been annulled by the Constitutional Court. "We are endeavoring that Aceh human rights violations can be tried in a human rights court", said Kurdinar.

Kurdinar added that efforts to resolve human rights violations in Aceh were also being hindered by the slowness of the previous National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM). They are now placing their hopes in the recently inaugurated new Komnas HAM leadership. "We were disappointed in Komnas HAM. But we hope that the new Komnas HAM will become a hope for upholding human rights, particularly in Aceh", he said.

Meanwhile the coordinator of the Aceh Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS), Asiah Uzia said that up until now the central government has not been serious about the humanitarian crimes that have been committed in Aceh and Indonesia. Whereas Indonesia has already ratified a number of international human rights conventions. "The government must accelerate the resolution of human rights violations in Aceh", asserted Uzia.

He also called on former Finish President Martti Ahtisaari – who mediated the Helsinki negotiations between the government and the Free Aceh Movement – to pressure Jakarta to resolve human rights cases in Aceh. Uzia said that rights activists in Banda Aceh would convey this request to Ahtisaari when he visits Aceh next week.

The torch-lit procession, which was joined by hundreds of activists ended at the City Park in front of the Baiturrahman Great Mosque where they gave speeches and sang songs. It was not until 10pm that the protesters finally disbanded. [dzie]

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Activists propose model for Aceh truth commission

Jakarta Post - December 10, 2007

Alfian, Jakarta – Activists proposed Sunday a model for a truth and reconciliation commission in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam aimed at accommodating the victims' sense of justice.

Senior associate of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) Galuh Wandita said many victims of the Aceh conflict were still disappointed with the implementation of the Helsinki Agreement, signed in August 2005 by the Indonesian government and leaders of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

"Many victims feel that the peace process has yet to recognize their suffering," said Galuh.

His conclusion was drawn from the results of a focus group discussion with 113 victims of the Aceh conflict. The research was conducted by ICTJ from June to August in nine districts in Aceh. The study showed that although the victims said that the peace agreement had succeeded, they still wanted an explanation of what had actually happened during the conflict.

"There is a strong desire from the relatives of conflict victims to figure out what happened to their beloved family members during the conflict," Galuh said, while adding that some said they would feel unsafe until human rights criminals were prosecuted.

Galuh and activists from 26 organizations had proposed the model for the commission based on residents' anxieties. "The establishment of such a commission was mandated by the Helsinki Agreement," said Galuh.

She said the commission would not replace a human rights court, but should work hand in hand with the court instead.

The 2007 Truth and Reconciliation Commission Law was nullified by the Constitutional Court in December 2006. However, for Aceh province, the establishment of the commission is mandated by Aceh's administrative law.

Galuh said the Aceh truth commission would have victim's interests as its highest priority. "The commission's structure will consist of a special division which will focus mainly on the victims' problems," she said, adding that it will consult heavily with those affected by the conflict.

Haris Azhar from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said Aceh's truth commission, which consists of seven members, should not give amnesty recommendations for persons found responsible for serious human rights crimes.

"We adopt the international law that forbids giving amnesty to perpetrators of serious human rights crimes," Haris said, while adding that the commission's recommendation could be to prosecute human rights violators.

The commission's job is to uncover human rights violations starting from January 1989, when a military emergency status was imposed in Aceh, until August 2005, when the Helsinki agreement was signed, he said. The commission has two years to work in, with the possibility of extending the period.

Haris said the commission's job was not only to address investigations into alleged human rights violations committed by the Indonesian military, but by all involved parties, including the (GAM).

House of Representatives legislator from Aceh Imam Sudja said he supported the idea and that it was urgently needed.

"It is important to eliminate suspicion among the Acehnese people on Jakarta's seriousness (about human rights)," said Imam. "The conflict was 32 years old. There were so many victims... It's important for the truth commission to make sure that the same thing will not happen again in the future."

 West Papua

Protesters in Bali call for end to US investment in Papua

Detik.com - December 10, 2007

Gede Suardana, Denpasar – The United States' stand in refusing to reduce emissions in order to overcome global warming has received a strong reaction with hundreds of students demonstrating in Bali on Monday December 10.

The action was held in front of the US Consulate General on Jl. Teuku Umar in the provincial capital of Denpasar. The student began the protest my marching from the Bali Monument to the People's Struggle to the US consulate. A number of Papuans wearing traditional dress also took part in the action.

During rally to the US consulate, the students sang songs of struggle, gave speeches and shouted slogans. They also brought posters condemning the US with messages such as "Don't take My Virgin Forest" and "President Yudhoyono, Vice President Kalla don't become US puppets".

In a speech they condemned the US for exploiting Papua's forests. "To date the US has only exploited our natural resources. The US's actions have further impoverished traditional communities and little by little their natural wealth has been lost. Stop all US investment in Papua", said Wenslaus, the coordinator of the Papua Traditional Society (MAP).

The action was tightly guarded by security personnel who watched over the protest until the action ended. By the time the protesters had left, still not one US consulate official had come out to meet with them. (gds/iy)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Papua human rights campaigner charged over SMS messages

Radio New Zealand International - December 13, 2007

A Papuan human rights campaigner has been formally charged with insulting Indonesia's president in a series of mobile phone SMS text messages.

Sabar Iwanggin, who works for the human rights organisation Elsham, was arrested in Jayapura in October by Indonesian police and was held in police custody until this week when charges were laid. He is now being transferred to the community prison in Abepura to await trial next year.

Elsham's Paula Makabori says the content of the SMS messages referred to the alleged involvement of Jakarta in a recent wave of reports of Papuans being food poisoned. But she says Mr Iwanggin is being unfairly singled out for messages passed around thousands of Papuans.

"It's like: why don't those thousands of people be put into the jails together with Sabar? Because they all received the same SMS and for writing to their friends and families because of their concern about human rights in West Papua and the deteriorating situation over there."

(Elsham's Paula Makabori)

Victims of Abepura incident still not satisfied

Cenderawasih Pos - December 8, 2007

Although the 7 December 2000 Abepura case is now closed according to the law, victims of this bloody incident are not satisfied. On Friday this week they went to the DPRP building to seek justice.

The crowd of more than forty people were organised by Solidarity for Victims of Human Rights Violations (SiKaP-HAM) which links together a number of organisations, KontraS Papua, PBHI, KPKC, GKI Synod, Students and Youth and Abepura Community Survivors.

They called on the provincial government, the MRP and the DPRP to pay attention to the victims of human rights violation in Papua, as stated at the demonstration by Peneas Lokbere, who coordinated the action.

They rejected the presence of organic and non-organic troops in Papua and called on the national and provincial governments to work together to transfer Papuan prisoners from prisons in Jakarta and Makassar to Papua.

They called for the immediate establishment of a human rights court in Papua and for the enactment of regulations about the right to reparation for victims of human rights violations.

Peneas said that the bloody Abepura incident began when two unidentified people attacked the police station in Abepura and some nearby shops burned down. One police officer was killed and two were injured. After this, the police conducted sweepings of people from the Central Highlands and three residences where people from there are living. Many arrests occurred, which led to torture and summary killings as well as unlawful detentions and the death of some detainees.

"We Papuans know nothing about the victims. What does the Abepura case show? That there are victims but no perpetrators because the courts have become places for cleaning away the actions of the perpetrators."

He said that the victims of the Abepura incident are among the many victims of the irrationality of human rights courts in Indonesia. At a court in Makassar in September 2005, the judges did not respond to the victims but freed the accused, a decision that is far from the norms of laws or basic human rights.

Peneas went on to say that seven years after that incident, they had not received justice but would continue to struggle, along with the victims of other incidents in Papua such as Wasior, Wamena, Biak, the murder of Theys Hijo Eluay and the kidnap of (his driver) Aristoteles Makosa.

He said that conflict was still ongoing in Papua because every human rights violation was linked to the security forces, the TNI and the police.

The issue of the OPM is conveniently used by certain elements to become involved in brutalities. And these perpetrators end up being regarded as heroes and given promotion and good jobs. He said that violence was being concealed behind a pack of lies.

The same fate is being suffered by detainees and convicted prisoners in prisons in Jakarta and Makassar. Ardi Sunggulmol died on 1 December 2006 in Jakarta, Maichel Heselo died in August 2007 in Makassar. Herry Asso who was transferred from a prison in Makassar to Abepura prison is now seriously ill with a lung disorder. as a result of sleeping on a bare floor without a mattress.

Another survivor of the Abepura incident at the demo was carrying his one-year-old child, Saravina in his arms. He also gave a speech calling for the re-investigation of these human rights violations. 'I myself was a victim but I know nothing and was tortured for one day and two nights,' he said.

The peaceful demonstration was guarded by the security forces, including Brimob of Papua and the police force.

[Slightly abridged translation from TAPOL.]

 Human rights/law

Imparsial appeals rejected lawsuit

Jakarta Post - December 14, 2007

Jakarta – Human rights watchdog Imparsial is seeking to appeal a court ruling that rejected its lawsuit against a senior Indonesian intelligence official.

Imparsial filed in February a suit with the Central Jakarta District Court accusing the chief of the Indonesian Military's Strategic Intelligence Agency (BAIS) Maj. Gen. Syafnil Armen of breaching the 1945 Convention and the 1999 Human Rights Law.

"Our right to dissent is guaranteed. Yet, BAIS had listed us as a radical group and a security risk. If such action is tolerated it will set a dangerous precedent for the preservation of democracy," executive director of Imparsial Rachland Nashidik told a media gathering here Thursday.

Imparsial, alongside Kontras and another human rights organization, Elsham, were classified as radical organizations and labeled as a threat to the sanctity of the state ideology Pancasila in an intelligence report presented by Syafnil at a closed-door Defense Ministry seminar last year.

Imparsial subsequently filed a civil lawsuit in February, charging the BAIS chief with violations of the 1945 Constitution and the 1999 Human Rights Law, both of which guarantee Indonesian citizens the freedom to express opinions and to dissent.

Presiding Judge I Ketut Manika of the Central Jakarta District Court, however, rejected the suit Wednesday, saying the fact that the report was presented in a closed-door setting in which the Chatham House Rule applied.

The rule governs the confidentiality of the source of information received at a meeting.

"The real issue here isn't about the forum in which the views were presented, but rather the fact that they were the result of an intelligence study by BAIS; an organization with a scope of operations that goes beyond the walls of the venue," Rachland said.

"What BAIS did is against the Constitution because Imparsial's right to dissent is a constitutional right," human rights activist Asmara Nababan said. He added that the legal recourse of lawsuits should also be seen as a means to facilitate reforms within the military.

"Taking our case to the court is just one of many ways to uphold our constitutional rights in a democracy. We're seeing remnants of the New Order regime in BAIS's activity, so our legal challenge should pave the way for the new (Indonesian Military) chief to rectify the situation within that organization," he said.

According to Imparsial's lawyer, Harry Ponto, despite the justice system's bad reputation, his clients were still hopeful about the appeal process.

"If you ask why we are even trying, it's because we have hope that there are still good judges out there. We are hoping the panel of judges at the appeals court will be among them, and that they will carefully review our case and make a difference," he said. (amr)

'Beware of SOE loophole in new information law'

Jakarta Post - December 14, 2007

Jakarta – Law and media experts agreed Thursday that a freedom of information law – not yet passed – should cover state-owned companies, but with some exceptions.

Frans Hendra Winarta of the Indonesian Law Commission said there were two reasons why state-owned companies should be included in the bill.

First, the establishment and function of state-owned companies was regulated by law; and second, state-owned companies were managing public funds – whether from the state budget, the regional budget or non-budgetary funds, he told experts gathered to discuss the public's right to access official information.

However, he said, certain classes of information might properly remain secret, such as information relating to intellectual property rights and trade secrets, competition strategies, transfer of assets and currency by the state and state-linked investment or business expansion plans.

On the same occasion, Agus Sudibyo from the Coalition of Public Information Freedom said the inclusion of state-owned companies was only one of four major problems with the bill that is expected to become law in January 2008.

First, he said, as regards the misuse of information the bill doesn't define "mistreatment" and "misleading".

Second, the mechanism for the establishing a special "information commission" and determining the composition of its members was unclear. Third, the specific companies and categories of information that would constitute exceptions to the transparency mandate hadn't been determined.

Finally, he said, exceptions applicable in the case of national defense and security matters were also yet to be agreed on.

He said these problems had delayed the passage of the bill. "The bill should be ready this month.

The main source of problems is that the government is taking a very conservative position on the idea of public information freedom and accountability." Another speaker at the discussion, Bambang Harymurti of Tempo magazine, said the problems couldn't be solved simply by revising the language of individual provisions of the law.

Most important, he said, was the question of how to make sure the bill was in agreement with basic democratic principles.

"We should always remember the main aim of the bill is to strengthen the people's sovereignty." Bambang said research studies conducted by experts – among others Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz and James D.

Wolfensohn – revealed that countries with high incomes also enjoyed a relatively free flow of information. "It can be said that all of the world experts have agreed that access to information is significant in reducing poverty," he said. (uwi)

'Political will' needed to combat torture and ill-treatment

Jakarta Post - December 12, 2007

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak, recently made a two-week visit to Indonesia on invitation from the Indonesian government. The Jakarta Post's Lovelli Ariesti interviewed Nowak.

Question: What did you expect to find in relation to torture and ill-treatment in Indonesia before arriving here?

Answer: I should say in the beginning I had the feeling that most cases of torture and ill-treatment would actually be related to conflict areas, like Aceh, Poso and Papua. But my findings are the opposite.

Particularly in Papua – those who were engaged in political activities, like raising the flag, and sentenced for treason, as well as other political suspects, are better treated than ordinary criminal suspects. I only found a few cases (involving) allegations of torture that could be corroborated by medical evidence in Papua.

But in general I would say that the conditions in Abepura and Waimena prisons are extremely liberal. They are very open prisons, even for the so-called political detainees. I could speak to them openly and they could communicate with the outside world. They all had mobile phones and they could even leave the prison and come back. That's what I mean by a liberal system.

In Jakarta, the (number of) prisoners are two to three times the prison's capacity. About 3,500 prisoners are crammed into small prisons. The new arrivals are kept in huge rooms for weeks, even months, sitting together under very bad conditions. They are also subjected to disciplinary punishments and locked up in small isolation cells made for one person. There's no fresh air and not much light. I could only call this (kind of) treatment inhuman. So you have really, really big differences.

My main point is there are not enough leading safeguards to prevent or combat torture. We can't bring perpetrators of torture to justice and that creates a very broad range of discretion for the respective police chiefs or prison directors.

Indonesia has a judicial system that is not yet independent, and this hampers legal approaches to resolving human rights violations. What do you think about this?

We also received many allegations that the judicial system in general, the administration of criminal justice, is very corrupt. And we could directly testify to that. The Cipinang Prison, for instance, is so corrupt that the detainees have to pay the prison guards for everything. Sometimes even only for being allowed to sleep there, although they are required to sleep there. And we heard the same allegations in relation to prosecutors and judges.

So the general theme that you're always going to encounter is that if you have money you can find your way. So of course, that system of corruption leads to strong discrimination of the poor. There's no question about that.

So my recommendations would be, of course, to strengthen the independence of judges and to provide prisoners with more direct access to lawyers. I think we have to reduce the high number of pre-trial detainees by speeding up the judicial process.

Indonesia has a long history of human rights violations. Do you have any suggestions for how Indonesia could resolve these past human rights violations?

I think Indonesia has come a long way already, since 1998, in overcoming the legacy of the Soeharto regime. And by developing a well-functioning democracy in a country like Indonesia with so many huge differences, so many different ethnic communities, so many different religions, this is a big task, a big challenge. And I think Indonesia has done very well.

Many reforms in relation to the law and human rights have been achieved already. The 2004 Law on Domestic Violence Against Women is a very good example. But it needs to be better implemented. I think it's important to have such a law. But what really hasn't been done yet is (the creation of) a particular law for torture in the criminal code with adequate sanctions.

The criminal procedure code needs to be amended, in order to introduce the idea of habeas corpus, in order to reduce police custody, in order to establish the possibility of criminal complaints, to make sure that confessions extracted by torture are not used in the criminal trial against the defendant.

We have a long list and I will state that very clearly in my recommendations, what actions can be taken. Many of those actions do not cost much money, it just (requires) the political will to do it.

Other (measures) cost money, and I am happy to facilitate technical cooperation, financial assistance by the international donor community, both the UNDP, the European Union and bilateral donor agencies... one of my major recommendations is to ratify the actions protocol in the convention against torture, and set up a truly independent and affective national preventive mechanism, which could be the National Commission on Human Rights or other (body).

Do you think Indonesia can overcome its culture of impunity for those in power, having no success in bringing members of the military or police to court for their involvement in torture and ill-treatment of humans?

Of course, the military is a different question. Military officials are only brought before a military court, irrespective of whether the victim is from the military or is a civilian. In every case, whether its murder, theft, or torture, they can only be judged by a military court. And of course, as you know, military courts are never truly independent. And I have my doubts they will really be tough on soldiers and military officers who have been found practicing torture.

On the other hand, much has been done to demilitarize the country, to deprive the military of certain privileges, and I have been told the military is not holding any more civilian detainees. I have not received any recent allegations of the military holding a person for more than 24 hours.

What do you think are the major threats and challenges in implementing the Convention against Torture in Indonesia?

I think, first, it's just the political will. I think this will is there in certain parts of the government, but of course, powerful bodies like the National Police and the military might be opposed to the very far reaching message of investigating tortures within their areas. If you ratify the optional protocol in the Convention against Torture, then it is really a major effort.

The government should see this as a major chance to see that both the UN sub-committee on the prevention against torture and the national preventive mechanism are actually allies in preventing torture.

The government has also to over think it's policy if it really wants to have this independent mechanism. The independent body should give them the maximum possibility of freedom of inquiry and full access to places of detention, without subjecting them to any kind of control.

How would you compare the situation in Indonesia to that of other Asian countries?

Within Asia, Indonesia is one of the most democratic countries. It is a country with a functioning democracy. And Indonesia has shown that within less than 10 years after the end of the Soeharto era, it has come a very, very long way. So I have full trust that Indonesia might become a kind of a pioneer in this region, if they really ratify the optional protocol. This is a big step.

Show other countries you can take affirmative action in eradicating torture... the present legal situation indicates much has improved. There's freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of the media, etc. They are really fully functioning in the democratic spirit. I think you have a very critical media, which is the basis of how the criticism can actually flourish.

What is much more difficult is to really change institutions, such as the police, where torture for many, many years has been structurally applied.

If people really get 10 years imprisonment for torture, they would think twice and others would be reluctant to do it. But, as I said, we have no cases so far, not one police officer has ever been brought before a court and sentenced for ill-treatment. And I think this really has to change.

Slow year for human rights, say activists

Jakarta Post - December 11, 2007

Jakarta Post – Human rights activists say there has been no significant improvement in human rights protection in the country this year.

"Many people have been said to have disappeared without a trace, but ipso iure (by operation of the law) we can not find the kidnappers. (Human rights activist) Munir died, but ipso iure we can not find his murderers.

"Many lives were taken in East Timor, but the courts can not find any proof that human rights abuses happened there," human rights activist Soetandyo Wignjosoebroto said here Monday.

Soetandyo, who chaired the selection team for the recruitment of the current membership of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas Ham) attributed the problems to the elites' "lack of guts" to face the politics risks that could result from law enforcement efforts.

"We can still see a lot of impunities; there's no significant improvement in human rights protection in the country," Soetandyo told the audience at an event to commemorate International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10 at the office of Komnas Ham in Central Jakarta.

However, commission chairman Ifdhal Kasim said the year 2007 was a milestone in the progress of human rights protection in Indonesia, with the government starting to implement the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the 1966 International Covenant on Civic and Political Rights, which were ratified in 2005.

But he also said that the government had yet to seriously implement the principles and provisions of the two covenants by not reforming existing regulations and annulling those against the covenants.

"This can be seen as the government's unwillingness or disregard for doing something (to improve human rights protection)," said Ifdhal. He said Indonesia still was not conducive to a good human rights situation, with a number of atrocities left unsolved.

These cases include the May 1998 riots, the Trisakti shootings, the Semanggi I shooting incidents in 1998, the Semanggi II shooting incidents in 1999, and the Wasior (2001-2002) and Wamena (2003) rights cases in Papua, whose initial investigations had long been completed but were never followed up.

Ifdhal added that many officials refused to cooperate with human rights investigators.

He said some of the prominent human rights violations that occurred this year included the suffering of the Lapindo mudflow victims, domestic violence and human trafficking.

"Domestic violence contributed 20 percent of the cases reported to us, while human trafficking is getting more common. The government's efforts to curb both cases are still very poor," Ifdhal told reporters after the event.

He said the commission also recorded "disturbances" to freedom of religion in 2007, while observing what had happened to followers of the Ahmadiyah and Al Qiyadah sects.

Regarding past human rights abuses, he said the government needed to reestablish the truth and reconciliation commission, which was dismissed by the Constitutional Court in December last year.

"We recommend the immediate re-establishment of the commission because there were too many human rights atrocities cases in the past that we can't settle through just the human rights courts. "We need to settle the past cases so we can move forward with the new ones," said Ifdhal. (wda)

Prison beatings used to punish, interrogate

Jakarta Post - December 10, 2007

Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – A human rights group has reported that inmates at Tanjung Gusta penitentiary in Medan were being brutalized by prison guards.

Herdensi, Sumatra head of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, said Thursday inmates were subjected to various forms of mistreatment such as beatings with hard objects.

Herdensi said data from the last two months showed around 26 inmates were abused. Twenty-two of them are presently in solitary confinement. Escape attempts, common at the overcrowded prison, were among other factors behind the abuse, he said.

He said under Indonesian and international law no one should be subject to cruel or inhumane treatment. "As human beings, inmates are protected by law. Even though they try to escape, it doesn't mean they should be cruelly treated," Herdensi said, referring to Zainal and Johan, inmates who were beaten by prison guards after a Nov. 28 escape attempt.

Prison Warden J. Gultom confirmed the beatings which he said were part of interrogation.

"We use that method to obtain information and reform convicts. It would be excessive (to beat inmates) for no reason. I wouldn't dare harm inmates for no reason, let alone fatally," Gultom told The Jakarta Post.

According to Gultom, prison authorities at one point uncovered an firearms smuggling attempt. The arms, never delivered, were part of a planned breakout, he said. "We received the information from an inmate named Johan."

The warden said the inmates – the majority serving time for drug crimes – hadn't managed to get any guns because they were expensive, at least Rp 3.2 million (approximately US$355.00) each. He said there an order was placed for 40 bullets, however.

Gultom said, "The current number of inmates in the prison is 2,652, which is over capacity. Ideally the number would be 800."

Rights body reopens Soeharto cases

Jakarta Post - December 8, 2007

Jakarta – The National Commission on Human Rights said it would soon decide if human rights abuses that occurred under former president Soeharto's reign can be classified as "gross violations of human rights".

A study and research team from the commission has examined six cases that took place under Soeharto's regime believed to be gross violations of human rights.

The six cases examined killings related to the socio-political upheaval during the mid 1960s, in which an undetermined number of people, allegedly members of the Indonesian Communist Party or its sympathizers, died or disappeared.

The cases also involved the prolonged imprisonment of political detainees on Buru Island, the series of mysterious shootings of criminals known as "Petrus" in the 1980s, the armed conflicts in Aceh and Papua, the Paraku killings in East Kalimantan and the July 27, 1996 incident.

"We hope that we have completed all of the reports by the end of December so we can discuss the cases in more detail in our plenary meeting," Yoseph Adi Prasetyo, commissioner for education and public information affairs said at a press conference Friday.

Ahmad Baso, head of the study and research team for the Soeharto cases, said if the cases were determined as "gross violations" in the meeting, an ad-hoc team would be set up to further probe the violations.

The team would be made up of special investigators to follow-up the earlier examination process and to bring a formal dossier on the cases to the Attorney General's Office. "Most probably, the pro-justice investigation approach will be applied to the Soeharto cases," Baso said.

Ifdal Kasim, chairman of the human rights commission told The Jakarta Post by phone: "A Case will be said to be a gross violation case when it involves a crime against humanity or genocide as stipulated under Law No. 26/2000 on the Human Rights Court".

The human rights commission said it had received 273 reports filed by citizens during its first 100 days in operation. Yoseph said the cases involved mostly land disputes and labor cases.

Indonesia's poor human rights record has seen the United Nations require the rights commission to submit a report to the world body. Hesti Armiwulan, deputy chairman on external affairs with the commission said a five page report was required by the UN.

"The content of the report is about the existence of the human rights commission, laws which protect human rights and the implementation of the ratification of two covenants," he said.

The report would be discussed on Dec. 10, which coincides with the International Human Rights day, at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

Rights efforts showing some results

Jakarta Post - December 8, 2007

Jakarta – Indonesian human rights activists said Friday that despite many shortcomings, the efforts to improve human rights awareness in Indonesia have started to show results.

Haris Azhar of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said there had been concrete progress in Indonesia in 2007 that had earned it international recognition.

"Some of the country's notable achievements in 2007 are the visit of three high-ranking officials of the United Nations overseeing human rights issues, and Indonesia's presidency of the UN Human Rights Council," said Haris.

The three UN officials invited by Indonesia were Louise Arbour, High Commissioner on Human Rights; Hina Jilani, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders; and Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Haris was speaking at a press conference to commemorate World Human Rights Day on Dec. 10 and also the nearing 60th anniversary of the UN Human Rights Declaration in 2008.

Ali Akbar Tanjung, of the Human Rights Working Group, said the government should work harder to maintain the positive image Indonesia has gained in the international community.

"There are at least five recommendations that have to be followed up by the government," he said.

"Three recommendations are from UN human rights envoys visiting Indonesia in 2007. The other two are from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women."

However, Asfinawati, of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, said from the point of view of the victims of rights violations there had been no significant improvement. "The government is still unable to function as the country's main human rights enforcer. The Munir murder case, the Lapindo mudflow case and the Alas Tlogo shooting case are some examples of this."

Also during the conference, Asfinawati and two other speakers, Usman Hamid of Kontras and Uli Parulian Sihombing of the Indonesian Legal Resource Center, cited state intervention that threatened the freedom of religion as an example of the government's ambiguity and ambivalence in improving human rights conditions in Indonesia.

Usman said the government's prohibition of religious sects, as in the case of Al-Qiyadah Al-Islamiyah, was procedurally inappropriate.

"This should have first gone to court, instead of only being the decision of the Attorney General's Office," he said. "The government should reorganize its system if it wants to be serious in integrating the country's laws with the values stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Uli Parulian Sihombing said in the case of preserving freedom of religion, law enforcement was still very weak. "We can see this from the increasing incidence of vandalism related to religion or faith issues," he said. (uwi)

 Environment/natural disasters

Major floods in Jakarta to become 'more frequent'

Jakarta Post - December 14, 2007

Jakarta – Imbalances between development and environmental conservation in Jakarta may lead to several major floods in the city in coming years, a hydrology expert said.

Climate change is also increasing the likelihood of floods occurring in the capital, Firdaus Ali from the Regulatory Body for Jakarta's Water Supply said Thursday.

"The five- or 10-year cycle of flooding has become obsolete and it is possible Jakarta will be hit by massive floods twice in the same year," he said during a public discussion on water drainage solutions.

Firdaus said an increase in the number of natural disasters occurring around the world was a cause for concern. "Storms in all parts of the world became... worse during the last 10 years. Just look at Bangladesh which was hit by cyclone Sidr. We should be preparing for these types of things."

Cyclone Sidr generated winds of up to 250 kph and caused a five- meter tidal surge in Bangladesh last month. It killed more than 2,500 people.

Firdaus said recent instances of flooding in Muara Baru, North Jakarta, were a sign of things to come in the capital. Data from the Public Works Agency indicates that floodwaters reached 2.2 meters when high tides inundated several North Jakarta coastal regions recently. In the past, water levels rarely exceeded 1.6 meters during such floods.

I Gde Nyoman Soewandhi, the head of the water and coastal resources management unit at the Public Works Agency, said city planning was sometimes in conflict with environmental planning as new buildings were reducing green areas in the city.

"It would be ideal if we could continue on with development without changing water run-off levels, but that would be impossible," he said, adding that the city's current drainage systems were inadequate to mitigate flooding.

Firdaus said the administration should construct a multi-purpose deep tunnel network which would serve as a drainage system during the rainy reason and a traffic route during the dry season.

"The project can't be delayed as I doubt the flooding cycle is still the same as it was in previous years. I hope I am wrong, but I highly doubt it," he said.

Meanwhile, the Jakarta Flood Project, which studies all aspects of flooding in Jakarta in cooperation with the Public Works Agency, has predicted more floods caused by high tides will occur on Dec. 23 and 24.

"Climate change only plays a minor part in this. The current high tides are part of an 18.6 year lunar cycle which has been worsened by land subsidence," project executive Jan Jaap Brinkman from Delft Hydraulics said.

The team predicted several floods would be caused by high tides this year, including a flood on Nov. 26 that isolated Soekarno Hatta International Airport for hours. (anw)

Indonesia ranks third on climate risk index

Jakarta Post - December 13, 2007

Adianto P. Simamora, Nusa Dua, Bali – Indonesia, home to more than 200 million people is ranked third among the world's nations most affected by extreme weather events due to climate change.

The archipelago comes after the Philippines and the Democratic Republic of Korea, where climate change has affected thousands of people, mostly through flooding, a report says.

The report of global climate risk index, by the German-based environment research organization Germanwatch and the world's largest insurance company Munich Reinsurance, said that the Asia region suffered far more storms, floods and extreme weather than wealthier countries, which contributed most to the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming.

"The most effected countries in 2006 were the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Korea and the host of ongoing climate change summit, Indonesia.

"In both the Philippines and Indonesia, there were almost 1,300 deaths and damages ranging in the billions of dollars due to storms and floods," Sven Harmeling, senior adviser climate and development of Germanwatch, told reporters on the sidelines of the ongoing climate change conference in Bali.

The report recorded 21 extreme weather events hit Indonesia last year with 1,297 deaths and US$0.27 losses per GDP.

"For Indonesia itself, it will be a signal that the country must do more to prevent the floods and find ways to resolve the problems such as by building a lot of flood shelters as done by Bangladesh," he told The Jakarta Post.

The study identifies the countries most affected by extreme weather events based on indicators, among others, of the total number of deaths, the deaths per 100,000 inhabitants and percent losses per unit of GDP.

The report listed the top ten countries most affected by extreme weather events are the Philippines, Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, India, China, Afghanistan, the United States and Romania.

"In Korea, there were four times as many deaths per 100,000 inhabitants due to the weather extremes than were in Indonesia," he said.

Peter Hoeppo, head of the Geo-Risk research department of Munich Reinsurance, said that the incidence of natural disasters through wind storms had doubled, while the frequency of floods and other extreme weather events, such as heat waves and drought also quadrupled.

He said that the rich countries were the main causers of the climate change, and has a responsibility to support processes in preventing the dangers.

The report says in the period of 1997 to 2006, extreme weather killed over 200,000 people with $750 billion of direct economic losses around the world.

The Munich Reinsurance foundation said that long-term studies revealed that about 80 percent of the victims come from poor countries.

Harmeling of the Germanwatch said that the adaptation fund should be provided based on the vulnerability of nations to the climate change.

A study by the Germanwatch and Climate Action Network (CAN) – Europe earlier ranked Indonesia as the 15th best state in promoting efforts to slow the climate change.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Development Programs (UNDP) called for a stepped-increase in financing for adaptation, saying that US$86 billion annually in a financing commitment was needed by 2015.

"The number is large but so is the human cost of climate change," said Kevin Watkins, lead author of the UNDP Human Development Report's Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World on the sidelines of Bali conference on the climate change.

The report accused developed countries of leaving the world's poor to sink or swim on their own resources.

Watkins said that the rich countries should put adaptation issues to climate change at the center of the high-level political negotiation in Bali.

"Having created the climate crisis developed nations must face up to their responsibilities, including the responsibility to protect the potential victims," Watkins said.

Activists reject nuclear option to mitigate climate change

Detik.com - December 13, 2007

Nusa Dua, Bali – Anti-nuclear activists have expressed their strong opposition to the use of nuclear energy to mitigate the impact of climate change. They condemned such an option saying it would only aggravate the already worsening climate situation.

In voicing their views, around 20 anti-nuclear activists erected a poster at the entrance to the Bali International Convention Centre (BICC) in Nusa Dua, Bali, where the United Nations Climate Change Conference is being held.

Activists wearing full-length white coats normally worn in a laboratory erected the huge white poster. They also wore dark glasses to protect them against dangerous nuclear radiation. "We don't want nuclear [power to be used] to mitigate the rate of climate change", said action coordinator Vladimir Slivyak on Thursday December 13.

The action proceeded for less than 20 minutes when United Nations police officers asked them to move away from the BICC entrance and hold the action instead at a side entrance some 10 meters away. Although there was no confruntion between the protesters and UN police, several protesters objected to the request.

The activists came from 13 non-government organisations from around the world who are focusing on anti-nuclear issues including, among others, Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU) the Institute for Global Justice (IGJ). (ari/asy)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Thousands march against REDD

Jakarta Post - December 9, 2007

Luh De Suryani, Contributor, Denpasar, Bali – More than 2,000 members of local and international civil society organizations gathered at Bajra Sandhi park in Puputan Renon, Denpasar, on Saturday morning to protest against the proposed carbon trade scheme known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation).

"REDD no, climate justice yes," shouted Nyoman Sri Widhiyanti, director of the Bali branch of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), as she lead the march.

Nyoman said the carbon trading scheme would only benefit developed countries and large-scale corporations.

"This is an unjust scheme for indigenous communities in developing countries," she said. "Stop talking about business, think and talk about the fate of the local people," said a representative from the Indonesian Alliance for Indigenous Communities (AMAN).

The Saturday gathering involved AMAN members, as well as farmers, craftsmen and fishermen, and members from traditional communities, an international farmer's network, the Korean youth forum, Greenpeace, Via La Campasina and many others.

The group marched from the Bajra Sandhi Monument in Renon, Denpasar, for almost an hour to reach the Bali Provincial Legislative Council building.

Hildebrando Velez G, a speaker from Via La Campesina, said climate justice was a more important issue than climate change.

"The Latin American countries and other developing countries in the world must wake up... and fight against capitalism, which endangers people's rights," Velez said.

Chalid Muhammad, executive director of Walhi, said talks, discussions and negotiations at the current UN conference on climate change in Nusa Dua had so far only focused on trade issues rather than climate justice.

Taufiqurohman, a 72-year-old farmer from Bandung, took part in the activity. "I lost 26 family members in the landslide at Leuwigajah dump site in Bandung, West Java, which claimed 153 lives," he said.

The Bandung administration and other provincial administrations in Indonesia have failed to successfully manage garbage disposal. "They don't care about people living adjacent to dump sites," he said.

Taufiqurohman and others questioned the ability of the Indonesian government to handle the delicate and complicate carbon trade scheme. "How can Indonesia deal with such a difficult thing?" argued Chalid, adding the garbage issue alone was a never-ending problem for many cities in Indonesia.

Kartini, a lecturer from Udayana University, criticized the Indonesian government's agriculture policy, which she said affected farmers, and more importantly, the environment.

"The government has long been pushing farmers to use chemicals to boost their harvests," she said. As a result, she said, the once fertile farming lands in many parts of Indonesia are now saturated with heavily toxic substances that can adversely affect people's health and the ecosystem.

The gathering involved numerous public figures such as actress- turned-activist Rieke Dyah Pitaloka, presenter Tantowi Yahya, singer Franky Sahilatua and other celebrities.

"This is the right moment for Balinese people and other people around the country to voice their opinions," Widhiyanti said.

Chalid added the aim of the gathering was to put strong public pressure on all leaders and policy makers at the UN conference.

Social movements gather against global warming

Jakarta Post - December 8, 2007

Nusa Dua, Bali – More than 200 hundred people from four of the world's continents gathered here in a forum called Solidarity Village for a Cool Planet, which kicked off Friday at the Kampong CSO in Nusa Dua complex near the main climate change conference venue.

"The Solidarity Village for a Cool Planet will be a space for debates, assemblies, conferences, self-organized workshops and cultural events where global warming and its solutions will be discussed from a people's perspective," said Dani Setiawan, one the gathering's spokespeople.

The activities run from Dec. 7 to Dec. 10 and take place mostly at the Kampong CSO or the Civil Society Organizations area.

The kampong has been a place where non-governmental organization activists, indigenous people and peasants meet. The dominant position of these NGOs is one that criticizes the conference's direction, which they find has so far disregarded climate change justice.

The national coalition at the Solidarity Village writes a position paper highlighting the relationship between global injustice and climate talks. They see the foes in ecological justice are the agents of neo-colonialism and neo-liberalism like transnational corporations.

Therefore, they include debt cancellation discussions in the meeting as well as discussions on family farming and palm plantation.

The coalition comprises 14 national NGOs, including the Indonesian Peasant Union (SPI, formerly FSPI), Indonesian Fishermen's' Union (SNI), Institute for Global Justice, Women Solidarity (SP) and Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi).

There are 12 co-organizing international NGOs, which include the global network peasant movement, La Via Campesina, the federation of 70 environment and social organizations around the world, Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) as well as organizations from countries like the Philippines and Thailand.

 War on corruption

Activists demand end to government's monopoly on haj

Jakarta Post - December 14, 2007

Jakarta – Religious and anticorruption activists are calling for an end to the monopoly of the Religious Affairs Ministry over haj management so pilgrims can have better service.

Indonesian Corruption Watch's (ICW) public services head, Ade Irawan, said here Thursday that monopolistic, opaque government policy made the haj management vulnerable to corruption.

The ministry "deals with a huge amount of money in managing the haj, around Rp 9.07 trillion (US$974.6 million) per year, but it's been doing it without transparency and accountability," Ade told a media conference.

Another ICW member, Firdaus Ilyas, said misappropriation of a total of Rp 387.8 billion had allegedly occurred in haj fund management in 2006 alone and cited a 2006 audit by the Supreme Audit Agency in support of the allegations.

He said the amount that each pilgrim had to pay to participate was increasing every year; even though state budget funds earmarked for supporting haj participants were also increasing.

A representative of the Public Interest Research and Advocacy Center (PIRAC), As'ad Nugroho, said the high cost of performing the haj was due to flight costs which accounted for 50 percent of the total.

In 2007, the haj trip cost an average of Rp 27 million, he said. "The Religious Affairs Ministry sets the flight cost at $1,200 per head, but from interviews with travel agencies, we find a pilgrim can actually pay as little as $900," said As'ad.

Head of the Indonesian Haj Association, Ade Marfuddin, said the pilgrimage was costly because trips for high-level officials and legislators were in essence being subsidized by ordinary pilgrims "and fees for maintenance of buses and dormitories all come from the pilgrims as well".

Ade Irawan said that mismanagement or fraud was also suspected in the procurement of food for haj pilgrims. "Do you know that Indonesian pilgrims have to pay double what Malaysian or Thai pilgrims pay for food? There are more of us, we should be paying less." The ICW had a list of eight specific haj management concerns.

At the top were issues about procurement and appointment of pilgrimage-related products and services: air passage, catering, accommodations and haj accessories and garments. The remaining list items focused on financial aspects of the haj business, including management of haj fund interest and the perpetual haj fund.

ICW urged the government to follow up BPK's audit results that found indications of misappropriation within the ministry.

PIRAC and the Indonesian Haj Association, meanwhile, urged the House to thoroughly overhaul the haj management enabling law of 1999.

"The law provides the Religious Affairs Ministry too much authority and allows it to play regulator and executor, as well as operator. This results in zero control (over the country's haj programs)" said Ade Marfuddin. As'ad said two-year-old attempts at reform had disappointed and legislators appeared to "have the same stance" as the ministry.

"The current minister should have learned from his predecessor and shouldn't make the same mistakes. And he could start with establishing transparency." (wda)

Big political parties behind emergence of pro-corruption movement

Kompas - December 12, 2007

Jakarta – The big political parties, Golkar and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), who have the largest number of seats on the House of Representatives (DPR) Commission III must be held responsible for the selection of Antasari Azhar as the new head of Corruption Eradication Commission or KPK.

If the new KPK leadership is later proven to in fact be protecting the interests of corrupters and the political parties, the public must demand that these parties take responsibility.

This was conveyed during a press conference organised by anti- corruption activists from the Judicial Monitoring Commission (KPP) on Tuesday December 11 in Jakarta. The KPP, which is made up of a number of non-government organisations including Indonesian Corruption Watch (ICW), the National Consortium for Legal Reform (KRHN), the Centre for Legal and Policy Studies (PSHK), the Indonesian Institute for an Independent Judiciary (LeIP), the Indonesian Judicial Watch Society (MaPPI), Transparency International Indonesia (TII) and the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH), was holding a discussion under the theme "The Plot to Liquidate the KPK".

According to Emerson Yuntho from ICW, the fit and proper test conducted by Commission III was little more than a means to legitimise a preferred political choice that had already been determined beforehand.

Commission III's choice of leaders for the "KPK round II" was done in accordance with the political interests of the DPR to safeguard the 2009 political agenda, and at the same time to protect its party members from being indicted by the KPK. Data from the KPK itself indicates that the majority of corrupters are from the big political parties, that is Golkar and PDI-P. "It isn't surprising therefore that Golkar and the PDI-P's support for Antasari Azhar was so clearly evident," said Yuntho.

Hermawanto from the Jakarta LBH said that the fit and proper test of the prospective KPK leaders conducted by the DPR demonstrates the emergence of a pro-corruption movement from the political parties.

According to anti-corruption activists, in the lead up to the 2009 general elections they will be organising a "rotten politician movement" against the politicians that chose the new KPK leadership, including those politicians that are the field operators. "The political parties have so blatantly demonstrated their preference for people who do not support the agenda to eradicated corruption", said PSHK. (VIN)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

 War on terror

Trial starts of top Indonesian Islamic militant

Reuters - December 12, 2007

Jakarta – One of Indonesia's top Islamic militant leaders went on trial on Wednesday on charges of keeping explosives and sheltering fugitives wanted for a series of deadly attacks in the country.

Abu Dujana, self-confessed military leader of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) regional militant group, faces the death penalty if found guilty under anti-terrorism laws.

Prosecutors said Dujana had authorized in 2006 the shipment of two caches of explosives intended for attacks against Christians in Poso, a region of Central Sulawesi province torn by inter- religious fighting between 1999 and 2001.

The indictment also alleged Dujana had harbored and assisted Noordin Top and Azahari Husin, two Malaysians wanted for several deadly attacks in Indonesia in recent years, including the 2002 Bali bombings in which 202 people were killed.

Azahari was killed in a police raid two years ago while Noordin is still on the run.

Dujana, wearing a white shirt and traditional black cap at the court hearing at the South Jakarta district court, said he had been a victim of injustice. "It was said I sent explosives. The truth is I did not," he told reporters, adding that he did not agree with Noordin's violent ways.

He said the gun he carried was simply for self-defense training. "Self defense is an obligation for Muslims. There was no intention to use arms for terrorism," he said.

Under Indonesian law a defendant need not enter a plea at the start of a trial.

Police arrested Dujana, 38, in a Central Java town in June and at the time described him as their most wanted man.

Dujana said in a video shown by police after his arrest that he had undergone rebel military training in the Pakistani city of Peshawar and in Afghanistan.

JI, believed to aspire to create an Islamic state linking Muslim communities in Southeast Asia, has in the past been linked to al Qaeda. It was blamed for a string of attacks that killed hundreds of civilians, including the bombings of the Australian embassy in Jakarta in 2004 and the Marriott Hotel in the capital in 2003.

Indonesia is the world's fourth most populous country, with about 85 percent of its more than 220 million population following Islam. While the vast majority of Indonesia's Muslims are moderate, the country has seen the emergence of an increasingly vocal militant minority.

Although there has been no major bomb attack since 2005, police say Indonesia still faces a considerable threat from Islamic militants.

(Writing by Ahmad Pathoni; Editing by Ed Davies and Jerry Norton)

Terrorist threat still real, says expert

Jakarta Post - December 9, 2007

Abdul Khalik, Jakarta – Countries in Asia and the Pacific may have reduced the threat of terrorism but were warned by prominent terrorism researcher Sidney Jones not to become complacent, at a security conference Saturday in Jakarta.

The two-day conference that began Friday was organized by the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific (CSCAP) and attended by security experts from some 20 countries in the region.

One of the speakers, Jones, said since many new radical organizations had been established in Indonesia, the terrorist threat was still real. She said terrorist groups were looking for new recruitment areas in conflict zones across the region.

"Several radical organizations beside Jamaah Islamiyah have emerged, only they haven't received the same publicity, or are still in the process of formation," she told reporters in the sidelines of the conference.

Jones said terrorist groups, which had been targeted by massive police campaigns, were looking for new training and recruitment grounds in localized conflict areas in southeast Asia.

Police have reportedly arrested some 300 members of the Jamaah Islamiyah militant group throughout Indonesia, and have killed many others, including Malaysian fugitive Dr. Azahari who allegedly masterminded the Bali bombings.

Jones said terrorist groups from the southern Philippines and Indonesia were attempting to get into southern Thailand to help local insurgent movements there.

"(The situation in southern) Thailand is getting worse, but has not internationalized yet. It will be a nightmare if insurgents there ask for help from a regional group.

"The big risk is if Indonesian and Philippine alleged terrorists get involved... It hasn't happened yet and we hope it doesn't," she said.

Aside from Poso and Maluku in Indonesia, the southern Philippines and Thailand have increasingly become flash points of conflict in the region. Connections between Indonesian and Philippine radical groups have occurred in the past with Umar Patek and Dulmatin, two Indonesian terrorist fugitives who joined the terrorist movement in the Philippines.

Many have expressed fears that radical movements in Indonesia and the Philippines are cooperating with groups in southern Thailand to create a solid regional network.

A resurgence of violence by guerrilla groups in Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, the three southernmost provinces of Thailand, which began in 2001, has resulted in more than 2,500 deaths in the past decade with more than 2,300 occurring after problems escalated in January 2004.

International relations and security expert from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Rizal Sukma, also spoke at the two-day seminar and echoed Jones' views.

"They always look for conflict areas to recruit people, because it is easier for them to influence people there," he said.

Rizal said as long as the root causes of terrorism, such as a perception of injustice, were not addressed by the government and community as a whole, its resurgence and new attacks were still possible.

He said regional cooperation and action is needed to address the possible regionalization of terrorism, and suggested involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to help tackle the issue.

Louise Richardson of Harvard University said the mistakes of the Bush administration in declaring war against all groups, rather than targeting al-Cued alone, served to increase terrorist activities with the formation of numerous small terrorist groups which were difficult to detect.

"We hope the new US administration will shift their focus to other issues, but it is unclear because the leading Republican candidate said fighting terrorism will be his priority," she said.


Headscarf issue insignificant, says officials

Jakarta Post - December 14, 2007

Jakarta – Officials have said that the Indonesian Military's plans to possibly allow Muslim female personnel to wear the headscarf outside of Aceh could raise "insignificant" discussions.

Amidhan of the Indonesian Ulema Council said that he didn't think the issue was an important one yet. "I believe it is still a discourse among small groups of people," he told The Jakarta Post over the phone. "Moreover, I also consider the issue a sensitive one.

I am afraid if it is continually being discussed, it will create a loose cannon that could easily be politicized by those who have an interest."

Meanwhile, Indonesian Military (TNI) chief spokesman Rear Marshall Sagom Tamboen said the issue first emerged during the fit and proper test session for the incoming TNI chief held at the House of Representatives. "During the questioning session, a lawmaker asked Gen.

Djoko Santoso, the TNI chief candidate, (about) the TNI's decision to comply with the sharia law in Aceh, where all TNI female personnel are required to use headscarves," Sagom told the Post.

"If I look at the source of the issue, I believe that it has only arisen within the one person's mind (the House member who asked the question). People should see what the TNI does in Aceh as a symbol of the TNI's flexibility toward the local wisdom in Aceh." Sagom said he didn't know who the lawmaker who raised the topic was because he had not attended the House meeting. "While within TNI itself, there has never been any problem or even a question from TNI personnel regarding the headscarf," he said.

Commenting on the possibility that the TNI's indecision on the issue would create resistance from female civilians who wanted to join the military, Sagom said in his 32-year military career, he had never heard of anyone who felt she could not join the TNI because she wore a headscarf.

However, a female graduate of the pharmacy school at the Bandung Institute of Technology said that during her studies, she attended a lecture given by Navy officers. She said the guest lecture was held to promote job opportunities for pharmacists in the Navy.

"However, as almost 90 percent of female pharmacy students were wearing headscarves, they were not allowed to join the Navy even though they were actually very interested in joining the Navy," she told the Post, while requesting anonymity. "When we asked what the reason was, the Navy officers could not provide any clear answers." (uwi)

TNI reconsiders ban on Muslim headscarf

Jakarta Post - December 13, 2007

Jakarta – The Indonesian Military (TNI) headquarters is reviewing its official uniform code for female soldiers after calls to allow Muslim women in the military to wear the traditional head scarf.

The head of the TNI Information Center, Col. Ahmad Yani Basuki said that as a national institution the military was willing to support the local wisdom of the Indonesian people.

However, TNI also needed rules to regulate some things, including the wearing of the head scarf by its female members. "The TNI's formal uniform for female personnel does not yet include the head scarf.

However, the TNI should develop a regulation about the specific requirements for TNI female members who want to use the head scarf. I can say that at least the color of the head scarf must be the same as that of the uniform." "It is clear that the TNI, despite some conditions, has not explicitly prohibited its members who want to wear head scarfs.

However, until now, there has been no internal request coming from TNI female members asking permission to wear the head scarf," he said.

The issue came to the forefront during recent discussions over the selection of a new TNI commander, which also touched on Aceh's requirement that all Muslim women, including military personnel, wear the head scarf.

A military expert, Kusnanto Anggoro, said he appreciated the way the TNI was handling the topic. "It shows that the TNI is no longer resistant toward any idea related to the issues of identity and locality. It proves that the TNI is able to accommodate a kind of global value, in which physical appearance has nothing to do with professionalism," Kusnanto said.

On the other hand, another expert on military issues, Edy Prasetyono said he would not agree if the head scarf policy was implemented outside Aceh. "Aceh is an exception due to its status as a special autonomous region. So, the regulation is specifically designed to suit the characteristics of Aceh. Outside of Aceh, the TNI still needs to maintain its image as a symbol of national unity," he said.

Edy said that in order to support the professionalism of the military, there were some universal values that needed to be implemented, such as discipline, the command system and uniforms. "Moreover, what if every region, every ethnicity and every religion in Indonesia demands the same privilege?" Edy added.

Indria Samego from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences said that as long as wearing the head scarf had no negative impact on TNI's professionalism, then it would be acceptable for its female members to opt to wear it. (uwi)

Poso religious leaders push for peace

Jakarta Post - December 13, 2007

Ruslan Sangadji, Poso – Religious figures in Central Sulawesi see the security situation in Poso regency as improved and large-scale violence a thing of the past.

This proves residents are aware of the value of peace, says a church leader. A leader from the Toraja Church in Poso, Rev. Dharma Sallata, said the peaceful situation must be maintained, at whatever cost, because peace was so dear.

He urged people not to undermine the peace which has been achieved. "People shouldn't be led away by their own temporary interests if this would eventually be detrimental to us all. Conflicts only bring misery," said Dharma.

Poso became a center of bloodshed during violent religious conflicts in the late 1990s and early 2000s; thousands of people were killed.

Dharma said the four-day Poso Lake Festival, late last week, was evidence of peace and security in Poso.

The Central Sulawesi Protestant Church synod in Tentena, Poso, had a similar message of peace. An episcopal letter signed by acting leader Rev. Ishak Pole called for Christmas this year to be commemorated in peace.

Spreading peace to all humans was the duty of Christians everywhere and this year's Christmas was the right moment to spread peace, he wrote. "Don't be influenced by misleading information. Let's live in peace and harmony."

Head of the Palu chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council, Zainal Abidin, said calm in Poso was something that everyone appreciated. After living in fear, he said, Muslims no less than Christians enjoy living in peace.

"So, peace shouldn't be undermined by irresponsible parties." Zainal said police, military, religious, youth and community leaders in Poso are working together to maintain harmony.

More calls for religious tolerance

Jakarta Post - December 12, 2007

Jakarta – International experts on Christian and Muslim perspectives on religious freedoms have advised Indonesians to work together to show compassion for one another's religions.

Prof. Hugh Goddard of the Nottingham University in the United Kingdom, said all religions had their own ideals on freedom. "But local and international experiences show that no-one can maintain that ideal," he said.

He was speaking at a seminar on Saturday organized by the Center for Dialogue and Cooperation among Civilizations (CDCC) and the British Embassy in Jakarta.

"Every person has the right to practice their religion without any pressure from any party," Goddard said. "The freedom of speech, however, has brought major changes in the practice."

One member of the audience voiced a concern about Christians and their general ideology to help others in need, which he said was feared by the community as an effort to persuade Muslims to convert to the religion. In response Goddard said, "I don't see why Muslims and Christians can't work together in distributing help for the needy".

He further praised Indonesia's healthy religious atmosphere, where he said people of different religions can live side-by-side in peace.

Prof. Seyyed Amir Akrami, a visiting research fellow at the University of Birmingham in the UK, said, "it is very clear the Islam religion couldn't be a matter of compulsion and coercion". "However, it is true that Muslims all around the world are lacking the ability to express a basic compassion for others," Seyyed said.

"Being compassionate is actually (a) criterion of being a good Muslim. Faith in Islam is happening within the heart, when one experiences the internal, emotional connection with God," he said.

Syafi'i Anwar, executive director of the International Center for Islam and Pluralism, said the spirit of pluralism in Indonesia was clear and eloquent. "However, the rise of the radical conservative Islam is a threat to religious freedoms in Indonesia," Syafi'i said.

"There's a tendency that Islam in Indonesia is interpreted as merely the shariah, with many conservatives Muslims demanding strict implementation of the law in diverse Indonesia."

"Such textual interpretations, where texts and hadith (words and deeds of Prophet Muhammad) are seen only as text, is very subjective and undermines the context of modern Indonesia."

Syafi'i said recent research showed radical conservative Islam had an anti-gender characteristic.

"The radical conservative Muslims also show a strong belief in the conspiracy theory – that the West has an agenda to destroy the Islamic tradition of the East. This paranoia of the West has been their justification in using violence against others of different beliefs."

Syafi'i then called for more interfaith dialogs and cooperation to maintain a good relationship between religions in Indonesia. (lva)

Four Indonesian militants jailed for attacks on Christians

Reuters - December 11, 2007

Jakarta – An Indonesian court jailed three Islamic militants for 14 years and another for 19 years on Tuesday for attacks on Christians in a region torn by inter-religious violence.

The four – Muhammad Basri, Ridwan, Ardin Djanatu and Tugiran – were convicted under Indonesia's tough anti-terrorism laws.

Judges found Basri guilty of several deadly attacks targeting Christians in Central Sulawesi province and sentenced him to 19 years. The attacks included the killing of three high-school girls in 2005 in Poso district and the shooting to death of a Christian minister in the provincial capital, Palu, in 2004.

The three other militants, who were each sentenced to 14 years in prison, were convicted of separate attacks, including a 2005 bomb blast at a busy market at Tentena in Poso which killed 22 people. The four were tried in separate courtrooms.

Poso was the scene of street fighting between Muslims and Christians between 1999 and 2001, in which more than 2,000 people died. Despite a 2001 peace accord, sporadic violence continued. Police have said Basri and Djanatu were the leaders of a local group believed to be linked to the regional militant network Jemaah Islamiah (JI).

JI is blamed for a string of deadly attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 nightclub bombings on the resort island of Bali, which killed more than 200 people. Hundreds of militants allegedly linked to JI have been arrested since the Bali bombings. Three Christians convicted of leading a group that killed scores of Muslims in 2000 at a boarding school in Poso were executed last year.

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

(Writing by Ahmad Pathoni, editing by Sara Webb)

 Elections/political parties

SBY-JK most rational choice for 2009: Golkar

Jakarta Post - December 13, 2007

Jakarta – A senior executive of Golkar, the country's largest political party, said Wednesday maintaining the pairing of current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla was the most rational strategy for winning the 2009 presidential election.

"There are a lot of scenarios for seeing a candidate from Golkar win the next presidential election," said Rully Chairul Anwar, the deputy secretary general of the party, in a telephone interview. "However, the most feasible one is to maintain the present duo of Yudhoyono and Kalla."

Speculation has been rife since Kalla's "political safari" during the Idul Fitri holiday in October that Kalla, who is also chairman of Golkar, will run for president in the next election.

Not only did Kalla make the whirlwind tour of nine provinces in Sumatra and Sulawesi, but he also visited a number of Indonesian leaders, including former presidents and vice presidents.

Since then, Kalla has said several times that Golkar would use national internal surveys to select its presidential candidates. He said the surveys would provide more objective results than the convention system applied in the 2004 election.

In 2004, Golkar nominated Wiranto to run for president via a convention but he failed in the first round of the election.

The party leadership concluded that convention system only enabled the party's elite to suggest candidates, while the constituent level was left in the cold.

Rully said Golkar had already started running surveys and planned to present a shortlist of party candidates before Golkar's national leadership meeting in 2009, during which the final candidate will be selected by a vote.

He declined to reveal the provisional results of the surveys this far, saying they could affect the leadership of the current president and vice president. "It is predicted that the current combination will manage to win the 2009 election, but Golkar will wait until the 2009 legislative election is over to announce its candidate for the presidency," he said.

Legislative elections are held several months prior to the presidential elections. Since 2004, voters have directly voted for a president and vice president instead of voting for a president and having the vice president appointed.

Political expert E. Sofiah of the Center for Information and Development Studies said Wednesday the current leaders would have more chance of winning the election than if both ran for election with other partners.

Echoing Sofiah's recommendations, head of the Golkar faction at the House of Representatives, Priyo Budi Santoso, said the current team would stand a greater chance of surviving the next election if it ran together.

"This is what many Golkar members believe, including me," Priyo was quoted as saying by detik.com.

He mentioned there were four scenarios Golkar could use for its next election strategy.

It could nominate its own presidential candidate; have the current combination of Yudhoyono as president and Kalla as vice president; run a coalition with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle; or form a coalition with the Islamic parties. (lln)

 Economy & investment

Exports expected to spur economic growth next year

Jakarta Post - December 13, 2007

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta – Investments and exports are expected to contribute more to Indonesia's economic growth next year, giving an additional boost to the slow but sure revival in consumption, a central bank official says.

With a "more balanced, structured economy" ahead, Indonesia's gross domestic product next year is projected to maintain its strong growth and come in higher than this year's estimate of 6.3 percent, Bank Indonesia's director for bank research and regulation Halim Alamsyah said.

Per capita GDP should also reach some US$2,000 next year, up from around $1,800 this year.

"Consumption will still be the economy's main driving force, but it looks like we're going to experience an upward cycle in investment as well," Halim said Wednesday at an economic outlook discussion organized by ABN Amro.

"This can be seen, from one aspect, in the rising trend in bank lending, which we will see continuing next year." Data from BI shows that bank lending amounted to Rp 980 trillion (US$105 billion) as of the end of October, up 23 percent from the same period last year.

Although consumer lending has of late been recording the fastest growth, Halim said both investment and working capital loans had also increased by more than 20 percent. BI expects bank lending to grow by 24 percent next year.

Data from the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), meanwhile, shows that realized investment nearly doubled to Rp 114.7 trillion up to the end of October.

Indonesia's growth picked up in this year's third semester, reaching 6.5 percent, with consumer accounting for 3 percent of this. Investment came in second to contribute 1.9 percent, while net exports accounted for 1.1 percent.

Halim said that more investment ahead would likely mean more imports of capital goods and raw materials, but that this would result in more production and exports.

As long as exports were strong, keeping the balance of payments in the black, Halim said that the rupiah would continue to trade at a level that was favorable for consumption, investment and exports.

The balance-of-payments surplus until the third quarter to September stood at US$13.6 billion, says BI, and is expected to reach $15.6 billion in 2008.

Under the current circumstances, the central bank would play out its rate policy so that it remained favorable to both fixed- capital and portfolio investments, while maintaining a cautious approach.

"We're still concerned about the current excess liquidity in the market," Halim said.

"There's a possibility of an upward inflationary trend ahead, so we'll also be watching out for that." The central bank cut its benchmark BI rate to 8 percent last week.

Indonesian Stock Exchange director for reporting Eddy Sugito said a BI rate of between 8 and 8.5 percent would be favorable for the country's stock market as it would provide room for listed companies to continue growing on cheaper investment and costs.

He mentioned several sectors of the economy that remained attractive to investors, such as telecommunications, banking and mining.

Up-hill battle for domestic producers of medical goods

Jakarta Post - December 12, 2007

Irawaty Wardany, Jakarta – Local producers of medical goods said Tuesday they could not compete with imported products unless the government reduced import duties on required components.

"There used to be five disposable syringe producers operating in the country but now there are only two... due to tight competition with imported products, especially from China," Paulus Novianto from Jaya Mas Medica said Tuesday.

Jaya Mas Medica is a producer of disposable syringes. Paulus said his company could barely compete with Chinese products because their prices were some 30 percent cheaper than domestic products.

"Our products still use 60 percent imported components, which have import duties ranging from five to 15 percent," Paulus said.

"On the other hand, the government imposes zero percent duties for imported products. How can we compete with such condition."

Paulus said plastic materials attracted a 10 percent import duty, gaskets five percent and wrapping paper five percent. "There are some local producers of the components but their production does not meet our needs," Paulus said.

Secretary general of the Association of Indonesian Health Equipment Producers, Ade Tarya Hidayat, asked his colleagues to focus on low-tech equipment first, including rubber gloves and hypodermic needles, because these were in high demand.

"It will be difficult for us to sell high-tech equipment because we have yet to be advanced in that sector," Ade said. But the domestic market potential for health equipment was Rp 9 trillion (US$971 million), he said.

Secretary of the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT), Jumain Appe, said in his opening speech the national health equipment industry had not developed because the component industry could not support it. Jumain also said the country needed a commitment from the consumers to use domestic products.

Robert Iman Sutedja from the Indonesian Hospital Association said it was difficult for them to use any domestic medical equipment, because most had not been standardized. "There are currently some 7,000 (items of) health equipment produced in the country but only 20 of them have been standardized," Robert said.

Domestic producers should fulfill several requirements if they want consumers to use their products, he said. "They should provide after-sales service, spare parts, on-time delivery, good quality and (offer) reasonable prices," Robert said. If all these requirements could be fulfilled, producers would automatically use domestic products, he said.

Director of the Specialist Medical Service Building, Ratna Rosita Hendardji, said Indonesia was a potentially strong market for the production of medical equipment. "There are 1,300 hospitals and almost 8,000 community health centers, but the producers do not provide the equipment they need," she said.

Deputy of the Agro Industry and Biotechnology Division at BPPT, Wahono Sumaryono, said Indonesian researchers were able to create new innovations around medical equipment.

"Unfortunately, most of (the) producers want an instant result, (but) developing new products will need time," Wahono said. "This is the risk that most of the producers will not take."

At the end of discussion, speakers all agreed to work toward establishing a small team consisting of industry stakeholders. They said team would compile all problems faced by the medical equipment industry sector and look toward finding a way out together.

Heritage hangs over birth of Indonesian bourse

Asia Times - December 10, 2007

Bill Guerin, Jakarta – Southeast Asia's biggest economy has a brand new bourse, a long-awaited merger of two pre-existing financial markets aimed at attracting more foreign capital through a one-stop shopping platform for both equity and bond investors. But will it succeed in attracting the new foreign investment many say is necessary to sustain Indonesia's recent strong economic performance?

The new bourse, a financial fusion of the Jakarta Stock Exchange (JSX), until now Indonesia's main bourse, and the Surabaya Stock Exchange (SSX), the country's main bond and over-the-counter exchange, will be known locally as Bursa Efek Indonesia (BEI). The exchange commenced trading last week with a total capitalization of US$268 billion and 377 listed companies, but also launches at a time when trading practices, issuer compliance and overall supervision are being called into question by many investors.

Indonesia's economy is growing strongly, with gross domestic product up 6.5% year on year in the third quarter, the fastest quarterly growth rate recorded in the country over the last decade. Yet for the BEI to lure in new capital, it will need to widen and deepen substantially to meet the liquidity requirements of major institutional investors, including the Western hedge funds now looking for investment safe havens outside of the United States and Europe.

One way forward would be through more initial public offerings (IPOs), which according to BEI officials are apparently in the pipeline. BEI president director Erry Firmansyah told reporters last week, coinciding with the new bourse's launch, that around 30 companies planned to list on the BEI in 2008 and that another 54 companies have indicated their intention to issue new bonds.

IPOs on the JSX have been sparse in recent years, with only 91 companies floated on the bourse over the five-year period spanning 2001 to 2006. Those numbers have remained flat in 2007, with only eight new listings through the first seven months of this year. Investors have aggressively snapped up the slim new pickings, however.

The June IPO of PT Media Nusantara Citra (MNC), owner of the country's biggest TV station RCTI, was seven times oversubscribed. Likewise, majority state-owned toll road operator PT Jasa Marga floated a 30% share of its total equity on the former JSX in November and the offering was 4.7 times oversubscribed.

PT Jaya Konstruksi Manggala Pratama Tbk, a construction subsidy of the Ciputra Group, was the first company to list on the new exchange through an IPO of just over 10% of its total equity at Rp 615 per share. The company said 95% of these shares were allocated to institutional investors, of which 55% of them were foreign. On the first day of trading, the company's shares prices soared by 59% to close at Rp 980.

Meanwhile, Indonesia's third largest listed coal producer by market value, Thailand coal miner Banpu PCL's local unit, PT Indo Tambangraya Megah, will go public next week on the new bourse at an offer price of Rp 14,000 rupiah ($1.50) a share. The 20% equity stake listing is expected to generate substantial foreign investor interest as a commodity play and if fully subscribed would bring in Rp 3.16 trillion in new capital and value the local unit at nearly $1.7 billion.

Indonesia has benefited from the recent surge in global commodity prices, with PT Bumi Resources, the country's biggest coal producer, seeing its shares rise some 300% so far this year. Yet Indonesian stocks are still widely viewed as volatile investments, with the still sharp memories of the collapse of several heavily leveraged listed companies in the wake of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis.

Those risks were symbolically seared into the minds of many foreign punters by the September 2000 car bomb that detonated in the basement of the Jakarta bourse that killed 15 and triggered a wave of security fears that continue to weigh against broad investor sentiment. In 2001, the year of former president Aburrahman Wahid's impeachment and the terrorist attacks on the US, the net outflow of capital from the predominantly Muslim country hit $9 billion.

Sentiment remained bearish in the wake the October 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, followed by the 2003 bombing of Jakarta's JW Marriott hotel, then a popular resting place for Western businesspeople. Foreign investor sentiment only started to revive with the 2004 election of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's pro-business administration. Total stock market capitalization jumped from Rp 680 trillion at the end of 2004 to Rp 801 trillion a year later, after his government signaled its intention to implement pro- market reforms.

Led by a robust economic recovery and declining interest rates, the Jakarta bourse last year lagged only China's Shanghai and Shenzhen as the best performing capital market in the Asia- Pacific region. The Jakarta Composite Stock Index (JCSI) was also Asia's third best performing index in terms of volume, trailing only Thailand and South Korea.

Market hurdles

Indonesian market officials now hope that the merged BEI will generate even more investor interest and push the market index higher. But there are still several hurdles in place, several analysts say.

Kahlil Rowter, president director of Indonesian credit ratings agency PT Pefindo, believes that the merger by itself will not be enough to substantially increase the currently depressed number of new corporate stock and bond issuances. He told Asia Times Online that more important than the merger is to leverage the fanfare surrounding its launch to push urgently needed financial reforms.

For one, Rowter notes, poor trading practices remain a primary concern and market players still need to be ensured that rules and regulations will be rigorously enforced by the new exchange and the Capital Market and Financial Institutions Supervisory Agency (Bapepam-LK), the market regulator.

Others note that both the JSX and SSX were owned by a handful of the country's largest brokerages, which they contend has historically carried conflict of interest risks. This year the regulatory authorities have launched at least two investigations into suspect trading transactions. That includes the controversial divestment through a Rp 2 trillion public offering of a 5.1% stake in majority state-owned gas distribution company PT Perusahaan Gas Negara (PGN) in December 2006.

The funds generated were substantially less than the offering's Rp 3.2 trillion target and the lackluster sale came against strong allegations by certain market watchers of insider trading and market manipulation. PGN's shares plummeted by more than 23% in a single day's trading this year on January 12 following a belated announcement by the company of a delay in the construction of a major gas pipeline. Following an investigation by Bapepam – LK into the transactions and the activities of twelve local and foreign brokers, Rp5 billion in fines were imposed on four of the company's directors and a commissioner for failing to publicly disclose the information about the delay.

Despite such hiccups, analysts say the stock market still has plenty of upside as an alternative capital raising avenue for Indonesian corporations, particularly given the current maturity mismatch dilemma faced by most Indonesian banks, where most of the funds available for loans are held in short-term investments such as time deposits, making it risky for them to lend to longer-term corporate projects.

For that capital raising potential to be realized, however, there is a dire need for improvements. In a lengthy report released this February by the World Bank entitled "Unlocking Indonesia's Domestic Financial Resources – The Role of Non Bank Financial Institutions", the multilateral lending agency argued that Indonesia still needs to treat corporate restructuring as an ongoing process and consistently enforce existing securities laws to help corporations reach standards commensurate with international norms.

Rowter similarly calls for more IPO enticements, saying that besides tax benefits, such as those given by other neighboring countries, market regulators should also include a method for shelf registration – where an issuer submits pertinent information to the regulators and has received a go-ahead, but the actual issuance is held until the market achieves a certain momentum – and a longer validity period for audited financial statements to improve market conditions.

While the government has already promised tax incentives for companies that list on the new exchange, many local companies remain reluctant to go public because of the strict disclosure, transparency and good corporate governance requirements. Yet the failure to galvanize new corporate issues will likely leave the new exchange firmly in the grip of the handful of companies that accounted for more than half of the old market's capitalization and trading volume. And as the World Bank notes in its report, a market is ultimately only as good as the corporations listed on it.

[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.]

Consumer confidence remains steady in Q3

Jakarta Post - December 10, 2007

Jakarta – The Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence Rating for the third quarter of 2007 remained steady, increasing a mere 0.1 points to 112.8 from the previous quarter.

This level is 3.5 points higher than the 109.3 recorded in the same period of 2006, but is still a distant 6.4 points lower than the confidence level of the third quarter of 2005, prior to the fuel price hikes of 2005.

Although there are still more people who say they are currently worse off than a year ago compared to those who say they are better off, more than half of all Indonesians feel their circumstances have not changed, according to a quarterly survey conducted by Roy Morgan Research Indonesia.

The survey indicates that 31 percent of Indonesians (down 3 percent), said they are worse off then a year ago, and 16 percent (down 4 percent) said they are better off than a year ago. Those who said their circumstances had remained the same jumped from 46 percent to 53 percent in the third quarter.

In terms of buying major household items, the percentages are also the same as last quarter, according to the survey, which was based on interviews with about 6,500 respondents aged 14 and over.

The survey shows that the majority at 67 percent still consider now is a bad time to buy, with only 29 percent of Indonesians saying it is good time to buy.

Regarding their personal circumstances in the future, more people are optimistic: 45 percent (up 1 percent) expect to be better off financially this time next year, while only 10 percent (down 1 percent) expect to be worse off.

Indonesians continue to be positive about the country's long-term future, with 81 percent expecting good economic conditions over the next five years (up 1 percent), and only 18 percent (down 2 percent) expecting bad economic conditions.

Short-term expectations of good economic conditions for the country are also high, with 60 percent expecting good times economically, although this number is down by 1 percent. On the other hand, 40 percent (up 2 percent) expect bad economic conditions over the coming year.

Ira Soekirman, the director of Roy Morgan Research Indonesia, said that although the Indonesian economy had grown faster in the third quarter of 2007, this had not affected ordinary Indonesians, as reflected in the Consumer Confidence Index for the quarter, which remained at the same level as in the second quarter.

"Wealth, if it is concentrated in the hands of the affluent minority, does little to affect the lives of the majority," Ira said.

 Opinion & analysis

A swinging anti-pornography bill

Jakarta Post - December 11, 2007

Leon Agusta, Jakarta – After a disappearance from public attention, the anti-pornography and anti-porn bill has now resurfaced with the new name "Anti-Pornography Bill", when several factions in the House of Representatives, in particular the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), United Development Party (PPP), and Golkar – after initially questioning it, sent on the bill without the required approval of a plenary session to the government executives for further study.

Other factions had held a critical stance from the beginning, such as the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), National Awakening Party (PKB), and the National Mandate Party (PAN), were not given the opportunity to put forward their opinions.

In terms of legal procedure, the bill is flawed. Thus we need to ask: Why were these factions so anxious to hand the bill over to the executive body that they actually broke the rules?

The definition of pornography according to the bill says: "Pornography is any man-made work that includes sexual materials in the form of drawings, sketches, illustrations, photographs, text, sound, moving pictures, animation, cartoons, poetry, conversation, or any other form of communicative messages; it also may be shown through the media in front of the public; it can arouse lust and lead to the violation of normative values within society; and it can also cause the development of pornographic acts within society".

In regard to exceptions, the bill stipulates that: "... it does not include the making, the distribution, and the use of pornography for a) sexual dysfunctions therapy, b) art and cultural performances, and c) customary and traditional rituals".

During a discussion, organized by a private radio station in Jakarta last week, poet W.S. Rendra asserted that: "The bill displays a crisis of common sense. It is against Pancasila (Five Principles ideology), and there is no existing law that calls for it. It is against the principles of social justice and the sovereignty of the people.... The Pornography Bill is culturally dangerous. Anything that cannot be defined with clarity should never be turned into a binding law. Pornography should be left within the territory of morality and religions – not some act. The Pornography Bill is flawed as it neglects the codes of morality and the codes of religions."

Having heard Rendra's words regarding the potential dangers of the bill once it is approved, some said, "It would be great to see him speak during a parliamentary session".

"Would that be possible?"

Speaking in the same forum, Sinta Nuriyah Abdurrahman Wahid also underlined the dangers of this bill.

"The bill is politics-ridden; it is a political agenda. It might be used to justify repressive conduct. As a woman I don't feel protected. As a woman I actually feel under threat. What they should've done is maximize the implementation of laws and other legal acts that we already have instead of turning the law into some kind of commodity," she said.

At Taman Ismail Marzuki, a home shared by artists, last Nov. 28, the reaction toward the bill was unanimous acrimony. Marco Kosumawijaya, the executive of the Jakarta Arts Council, strongly objected to the Pornography Bill. "The reasoning behind the bill is ambiguous..."

According to Marco, to put bodily expressions in the arts, culture, and customs under the same category as pornography is blasphemy toward the arts, culture, and customs themselves.

Would the respectable members of the legislature be willing to take the reactions of the people into consideration during their final sessions on the bill?"

It is hard to tell (or is it?).

Apparently, it will take some time before any side can win this battle. It is also apparent that it is highly possible that if the controversy becomes too extensive, the whole matter will one day make its way into the Constitutional Court.

It is hard to believe that this country can give birth to such a bill. It is inevitable that some might get the impression that the House of Representatives, or at least the Pornography Bill Special Committee, is intentionally sowing the seeds of catastrophe in this nation.

This is terrifying! Why can't they see this? What is really going on in that house of voices?

[The writer is a poet.]

Our parliament's immaturity

Jakarta Post Editorial - December 11, 2007

We cannot help but feel more cynicism toward our parliament, which has no sense of urgency in addressing the real issues.

The House of Representatives decision last week to question President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on the estimated Rp 144.50 trillion (US$16 billion) in emergency liquidity credits Bank Indonesia granted to financially-distressed banks during the height of the economic crisis between November, 1997, and early 1999, is an irresponsible act.

This is the latest evidence of how the childish and trifling politicians of the House often unwisely exercise their constitutional rights. The interpellation motion will simply waste the House's and the government's resources.

We find it flabbergasting to fathom what the House thinks it can achieve by quizzing the President on an issue already settled in August, 2003, with consensus from the House itself.

This move will only overstretch the capacity of the House and the government at a time when both are time-strapped to complete long-delayed reform measures to spur economic growth, improve the democratic process and create jobs for the millions of unemployed people and alleviate poverty.

It would be more in the interests of the people they represent if House members focused their attention on their important legislative agenda, which includes bills on taxation, mining, general elections and the structure and composition of legislative assemblies, all of which have long been behind schedule.

In 2003's final agreement on the emergency credits, which resolved once and for all their four-year dispute, the government reimbursed Bank Indonesia with 30-year bonds.

The dispute itself arose after an independent audit by the Supreme Audit Agency in 1999 found Rp 138.5 trillion of the loans had not adequately been secured with collateral, and that quite a portion of these funds, supposed to be used to reimburse depositors during the massive bank runs, had been misused by the recipient banks for currency speculation or lending to affiliate businesses.

Bank Indonesia flatly denied any wrongdoing, arguing that, as part of the Cabinet under the authoritarian rule of then president Soeharto, the central bank ought to obey the president's instruction not to close banks, notably those owned by Soeharto's cronies.

The central bank became a politically independent institution only in May, 1999, immediately after the enactment of a new law on Bank Indonesia.

Making a political issue out of the emergency liquidity credits now would only create a new source of uncertainty, especially because most of the assets ceded by the owners of the distressed banks – to repay their debts to the central bank – were sold through the then Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency to domestic and foreign investors.

Around 20 of an estimated 40 large debtors (former bank shareholders) signed closing agreements with the government to resolve once and for all their debts to the central bank. These closing agreements were concluded after government and independent audits ascertained the value of the assets pledged by the debtors was sufficient and the legal status of the assets was clear.

What is needed now is not political inquiry but vigorous investigation into the auditors' findings on alleged misappropriation and misuse of the liquidity credits.

The House should pressure the government to push harder in investigating and prosecuting the former bank owners and directors who have not yet resolved their debts or were found guilty of misusing the credits.

To our knowledge, the Supreme Audit Agency submitted as early as 2000 to the Attorney General's Office the names of more than 50 Bank Indonesian officials and dozens of former bank owners implicated in the credit misappropriation and misuse findings. But so far, only three of the central bank's deputy governors have been jailed. Several former bank directors and owners found responsible for misusing credits have also been brought to justice but most of these defendants were either tried in absentia or fled the country before serving their sentences.

The government threatened as early as 2000 to prosecute debtors who were not cooperative and did not show good faith in repaying the emergency liquidity credits, but public prosecutors still miserably failed to produce solid legal evidence to prove debtors had truly defaulted on their commitments.

Summoning the President, Cabinet ministers, former ministers and former Bank Indonesia governors and deputy governors to explain the circumstances and procedures for the extension of the liquidity credits will only waste House and government resources.

The series of public hearings the House will conduct under the right of inquiry will become largely a meaningless political circus amid a weakening economy, as skyrocketing oil prices add uncertainty to the global economy.

Human rights revisited

Jakarta Post Editorial - December 10, 2007

Is all really quiet on the front line in the war against human rights abuses? Some people in Indonesia certainly think so. And one would hesitate to think otherwise if one goes by the headlines of the newspapers (including this one) throughout 2007.

There have been very few stories of human rights atrocities committed in Indonesia throughout the year that made the front pages of the newspapers. There have certainly been far fewer than in the late 1990s and early 2000s when hardly a day went by without a report on human rights abuses in particular parts of the country, whether East Timor, Aceh, Papua or some other corner of the archipelago.

Today, the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will likely pass unnoticed by the public because human rights are no longer a major issue on the national political agenda. Even the Nobel Peace Prize award, which will be presented today to co-winners Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Oslo, is moving the spotlight from human rights to global warming.

But to accept this is to play right into the hands of those people and institutions who continue to commit human rights violations almost with impunity in this country. To accept this is to deny the demands for justice and for redress from the many victims of past human rights abuses. To accept this is to betray Munir, the Indonesian human rights activist, whose killing more than three years ago remains unsolved, with his killer, or killers, still being at large.

The near silence in the human rights battle does not mean that the war has been won in Indonesia. And International Human Rights Day is precisely the time to remind ourselves of the great deal of unfinished work, the legacy of past human rights abuses, that needs addressing.

We certainly need to be thankful that things have significantly improved since the collapse of the tyrannical Soeharto regime and the advent of democracy in 1998. We need to be thankful that two hot spots as far as human rights are concerned, namely East Timor and Aceh, are less violent today. East Timor is now the independent Timor Leste (though a new tragedy is evolving there), and Aceh is a peaceful area struggling to recover after the devastating tsunami three years ago.

A more democratic Indonesia is also one that requires the government to be more accountable, and this has significantly curtailed human rights violations committed by the state. When we amended the constitution in 2000-2002, we inserted enough human rights protections to hopefully prevent the nation from regressing to the past, where state-sponsored violence was the norm.

But while we have every reason to be thankful for the significant improvement in the observance of human rights in this country, we also have to work to make sure that human rights atrocities do not go unpunished.

And today we are confronted by the fact that, increasingly, human rights violations are being committed by non-state players, in the form of terrorists and radicals, many using the pretext of religion. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's record on human rights is, unfortunately, found so wanting that it raises questions about his own personal commitment to the cause.

This includes his failure to date to catch and punish Munir's murderer(s) as he promised to Munir's widow three years ago, and his role in scrapping altogether the truth and reconciliation commission that was set up to look into cases of human rights abuses. Meanwhile, many military officers (his colleagues and seniors), who should have been held responsible for the atrocities in East Timor, Aceh and elsewhere, have not been held to account for their actions.

Increasingly, we are also seeing the state failing in its duty to come to the rescue of minority religions in this country. Mr. President, we are not impressed.

Let this day be the time we honor all those victims of human rights abuses. Let this day be the time we renew our commitment to continuing the struggle for justice for Munir, who showed us that when it comes to human rights, there is no time for rest and no room for complacency.

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