Indonesia & East Timor News Updates - May 21-22, 2017

* Indonesian police arrest more than 140 men at alleged gay sauna party
* Indonesian police make mass arrests after raid on 'gay party' at sauna
* President must thwart public caning of two men convicted of sodomy: HRW
* No room for communism: Luhut
* Two dead in latest spate of violence in Papua
* Thousands of Freeport Indonesia workers to strike for second month: union
* Thousands support Indonesian petition to repeal blasphemy law
* Jokowi, Kalla are fine, says Luhut
* Ex-Jakarta governor Ahok appeals blasphemy conviction
* Indonesian student Afi's blog items inspirational -- but her FB 'frozen'
* Banning Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia: Freedom Or Security? -- Analysis


Indonesian police arrest more than 140 men at alleged gay sauna party

The Guardian (Australia) - May 22, 2017

Kate Lamb, Jakarta -- Indonesian police have arrested more than 100 men in a weekend raid on a gay sauna in the capital Jakarta, a day before two men are to be publicly flogged for having same sex relations.

Authorities raided what they said was a sex party promoted as 'The Wild One,' held at a sauna and gym venue in Jakarta's north on Sunday evening.

Police spokesperson Agus Yuwono confirmed that 141 men, including the owner and several performers, had been detained for questioning and could be charged under Indonesia's pornography law.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, but over the past 18 months the LGBT community has been subject to an unprecedented wave of discrimination and attacks, sparked by several controversial comments from conservative government ministers.

Last month police targeted a gathering of gay men in a hotel in Surabaya, following a tip-off from neighbours. Fourteen men were arrested and forced to undergo HIV tests.

Two men were also arrested in Banda Aceh in late March and convicted of sodomy under the province's sharia law. The men were sentenced to 85 lashes with the cane, which will be meted out publicly in the provincial capital on Tuesday.

This will be the first time Aceh's sharia courts have sentenced people to flogging for homosexual acts.

Yulita Rustinawati from the LGBT activist group Arus Pelangi said that while all the details of Sunday's raid were not year clear, the arrests were likely part of a growing trend of intolerance toward the queer community in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation.

"It's been increasing for two years now," Rustinawati said of the recent crackdowns, "It's bad for democracy, for freedom of expression and freedom of association. We're not sure what the government is trying to achieve. We are queer and we are not going away."



Indonesian police make mass arrests after raid on 'gay party' at sauna

South China Morning Post - May 22, 2017

Indonesian police have detained 141 men who were allegedly holding a gay party at a sauna, an official said on Monday, the latest sign of a backlash against homosexuals in the Muslim-majority country.

Officers late on Sunday raided a building in the capital Jakarta called Atlantis that houses a sauna and a gym, and halted the event they said was called "The Wild One".

Pictures circulating online showed topless men sitting crammed in a room next to gym equipment after the police raid.

"Our officers did an undercover investigation and raided the place on Sunday," senior detective Nasriadi, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said.

Homosexuality and gay sex are legal everywhere in Indonesia except in conservative Aceh province, but Nasriadi said that 10 of those arrested in the Jakarta raid could be charged under Indonesia's tough anti-pornography laws.

These include the alleged organisers of the event as well as men suspected of being prostitutes and striptease dancers. Those found guilty of breaking the laws face up to 10 years in jail.

The other detained men are still being questioned by police as potential witnesses in the case, the detective said.

It is the latest sign of growing hostility towards Indonesia's small lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Since last year, ministers, hardliners and influential Islamic groups have been lining up to publicly denounce homosexuality.

Earlier this month Indonesian police detained eight men in the city of Surabaya for allegedly holding a gay party, and they could also be charged under the anti-porn laws.

Last week an Islamic court in Aceh also sentenced two men to be publicly caned for having gay sex, the first time such a punishment has been handed down for homosexual activities in the conservative province.

The backlash against the homosexual community began in early 2016, and activists believe it was triggered by widespread media coverage of a decision in the United States to legalise same-sex marriage. (AFP)



President must thwart public caning of two men convicted of sodomy: HRW

Jakarta Post - May 22, 2017

Jakarta -- The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned the Aceh administration's plan to sentence two men to public caning for engaging in same-sex relations. They will be subject to 85 lashes.

The group also asked President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who has spoken out in support of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Indonesia, to use his authority to cancel the public caning scheduled for May 23.

HRW Asia deputy director Phelim Kine wrote on the organization's website that it was a crucial moment for the President to act to defend the LGBT community's rights by thwarting the plan.

"Jokowi needs to be clear to Aceh's authorities that flogging is torture for which they will be held accountable for," Kine wrote.

The case emerged on March 28 when unidentified men forcibly entered an apartment in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital, and took two men in their 20s into police custody for allegedly engaging in same-sex relations. A sharia court convicted them of sodomy on May 17.

This is the first time the sharia courts have sentenced people to caning for engaging in same-sex relations. (hol/wit)



No room for communism: Luhut

Jakarta Post - May 22, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Balikpapan -- Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan has called on people not to worry about a communist resurgence in the country because he said the government would not let the banned ideology return.

"We must overcome this issue about communism. All Golkar members must be deployed to help the government overcome this issue and we must ensure that there is no room for the growth of communism," the senior Golkar Party politician said on Sunday during the party's national leadership meeting in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan.

"We can't bury the ideology. It will still exist, but if those people try to establish a political party or aim to change the country's ideology [of Pancasila], we have to [combat] that because that violates the Constitution," Luhut said.

Despite the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) having been banned for almost 50 years, Indonesian government, law enforcement and military officials are currently experiencing another surge of communist-phobia.

The Indonesian Military (TNI) has cracked down on people selling and wearing T-shirts bearing the hammer-and-sickle symbol and religious zealots have even forced Bank Indonesia to clarify that its signature recto-verso logo on new bank notes have nothing to do with the PKI.

The official fear has grown worse because of unfounded reports about huge numbers of Chinese workers coming into the country. Luhut said that there were definitely many Chinese workers arriving along with Chinese investment and illegal workers were unavoidable. (wit)



Two dead in latest spate of violence in Papua

Radio New Zealand International - May 22, 2017

There's been more deadly violence in Indonesia's Papua province.
Indonesian police at a demonstration in the Papuan region.

The body of a 45-year old woman from Maluku province was discovered outside a power plant in Waena, near Jayapura, early on Saturday morning.

As police moved the following day to make arrests in connection with the alleged murder, a mob of around two hundred Moluccans gathered in Waena to avenge the woman's death.

The mob stirred unrest, with Tabloid Jubi reporting that two Highlands men were stabbed -- one died and the other was seriously injured.

Jayapura City Police Chief Tober Sirait, who led the team responding to the first murder, confirmed eight suspects had been arrested.

Chief Sirait described them as alleged masterminds in a number of recent cases of violence in Jayapura and Keerom regencies. He said one of the eight was shot in the process of being arrested.

The weekend's violence in Waena is the latest in a series of reported cases of violence in Jayapura in the past two months. At least five people have been killed in these attacks, including a University of Cenderawasih lecturer eleven days ago in Waena.

On this case, a member of Indonesia's National Commission for Human Rights, or Komnas HAM, has claimed to have been the subject of an attack by police conducting investigations.

Nareky Kogoya he was assaulted and detained by police after being accused of protecting the perpetrators of the murder. Mr Kogoya claims he was trying to help the police who subsequently pressured him not to reveal their attack on him to the public.

Chief Sirait told local media that not all of the witnesses they have questioned have been co-operative.



Thousands of Freeport Indonesia workers to strike for second month: union

Reuters - May 20, 2017

Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Samuel Wanda, Jakarta/Timika -- An estimated 9,000 workers at the giant Grasberg copper mine operated by the Indonesian unit of Freeport McMoRan Inc will extend a strike for a second month, a union official said on Saturday, in an ongoing dispute over employment terms and layoffs.

Freeport is at loggerheads with Indonesia over rights to the Grasberg mine in Papua in a dispute that has cost both sides hundreds of millions of dollars, and tensions with workers threaten to disrupt the mine's operations further.

Freeport resumed copper concentrate export shipments from Grasberg late last month after a 15-week outage stemming from the dispute with government and had planned to ramp up production after it was cut by around two-thirds during the outage.

As of mid-April Freeport had "demobilized" around 10 percent of its Indonesian workforce of 32,000 among efforts to cut costs resulting from the dispute. The company has repeatedly warned workers that striking will result in disciplinary action.

The union has demanded an end to Freeport's furlough policy and began a 30-day strike on May 1 in an effort to get workers' jobs back.

"We will extend the strike for 30 more days," Freeport Indonesia union industrial relations officer Tri Puspital told Reuters on Saturday, referring to a government recommendation for a resolution of the matter.

"We regret the stance of the businessmen who unilaterally laid off workers," Puspital said. "It is a kind of discrimination in terms of disciplinary action."

According to Puspital, output from Grasberg has been reduced by half as result of the strike, but he stopped short of providing further detail.

In a Freeport inter-office memo titled "Making the Right Choice for Your Family and You" obtained by Reuters, the company said the strike was illegal and that "voluntary resignation is the consequence" for workers that ignored demands to return to work and were absent for five consecutive days.

"Already, 840 workers have suffered this consequence and others will follow if they do not immediately contact the company," the memo dated May 15 said. A U.S.-based spokesman for Freeport referred to a recent statement in response to Reuters questions on the strike and its impact on operations.

Worker absenteeism since mid April "has unfavorably impacted mining and milling rates," it said, noting that the company "is working with union leaders, with the support of Indonesian government officials, to encourage a safe and efficient return to normal operations for the benefit of all stakeholders."

"Freeport Indonesia plans to ramp up its production to full rates during second-quarter 2017," it said.

(Additional reporting by Susan Taylor in TORONTO; Writing by Fergus Jensen, editing by Louise Heavens)



Thousands support Indonesian petition to repeal blasphemy law

Asia Pacific Report - May 20, 2017

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta -- Indonesians have called on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to immediately repeal Article 156a on religious blasphemy of the Criminal Code (KUHP), with thousands of people having signed an online petition urging the government to do so.

Through an online petition entitled "President Jokowi, Scrap Article 156a on Blasphemy from KUHP Revision" registered at, two petitioners, Gita Putri Damayana and Gita Syahrani, raised the call.

In less than a week since the petition was submitted online, more than 10,000 people have endorsed it.

The petition was created following the decision of the North Jakarta District Court to sentence non-active Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian and ethnic Chinese, to two years in prison for "defaming religion" last week.

"Ahok's conviction is one among many cases [...] that shows that Article 156a of the KUHP is used to judge someone's beliefs and ideas, and that difference is something that is seen as wrong," the petitioners wrote in the petition as quoted by

The petition, directed toward Jokowi and Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly, urged the President through the minister to push legislators at the House of Representatives, which is currently amending the KUHP, to scrap the article.

"There is still time for the public to push for the agenda to scrap Article 156a from the KUHP," the petition read.

The online petition can be signed here:



Jokowi, Kalla are fine, says Luhut

Jakarta Post - May 22, 2017

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta -- Responding to rumors of disharmony between President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla, senior Golkar Party politician and senior Cabinet member Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan said that relations between the two were "definitely fine."

Speculation of tensions between the two has escalated following the revelation that Kalla, also a Golkar politician, had aided the nomination of former education minister Anies Baswedan, who later trumped non-active Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in the Jakarta gubernatorial election.

Ahok was nominated by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which is also Jokowi's party, and Golkar.

"Many people ask me about what happened [between Jokowi and Kalla]. I can assure that Jokowi and Kalla are fine," Luhut said on Sunday. "As a Javanese, Jokowi was able to embrace people who are more senior than him."

Luhut was speaking in front of around 650 Golkar members and party executives during a rapimnas (national leadership meeting) in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan.

Jokowi, he said, is a firm president. "I have met so many commanders, some of them are firm, some are not. But Jokowi is a firm one, he always stands by his decision and he never changes," Luhut said. (wit)



Ex-Jakarta governor Ahok appeals blasphemy conviction

Asia Correspondent - May 22, 2017

Jakarta's former governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama on Monday appealed his two-year jail sentence for blasphemy, amid increased international pressure on Indonesia to overturn his conviction.

The AFP (via Channel News Asia) said in a report that lawyers for Ahok filed the appeal on his behalf at the High Court in Jakarta.

Lawyer Ronny Talapessy told the newswire service the appeal was filed on grounds that the judges, in their decision earlier this month, had not properly taken into account testimony from defence witnesses during the hearing.

"The verdict not only stunned us and the prosecutors, the whole world was left in disbelief," he was quoted saying. The lawyers also urged the court to consider releasing Ahok on bail pending his appeal.

Earlier Monday, UN human rights experts in a statement urged Indonesia to review and repeal its criminalisation of blasphemy, calling it an "unlawful restriction on freedom of expression".

The experts also said such laws against blasphemy tend to "disproportionately target persons belonging to religious minorities or traditional religions, non-believers and political dissidents".

Expressing disappointment at Indonesia's authorities for failing to speak out against the hate speech used by leaders of the numerous protests held against Ahok before his jailing, the experts called for the politician's immediate release from prison.

"Mr. Purnama's blasphemy conviction and imprisonment will undermine freedom of religion or belief and freedom of speech in Indonesia," they said.

The statement was signed by the UN Special Rapporteurs on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed, on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye; and the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas.

Ahok, Jakarta's minority Christian governor, was on earlier this month found guilty of blasphemy against Islam and sentenced to two years' jail in a case widely described as a test of religious tolerance in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation.

He was charged with blasphemy last year after he made comments in September about the Al Maidah 51 verse of the Quran, regarding whether Muslims can elect a leader of another religion.

The court's decision came as a surprise to many as prosecutors had only weeks prior called for charges against the leader to be downgraded and for the court to hand down a much lighter punishment of a year's suspended sentence on charges of hate speech.

Reaction to the verdict around the world has been one of alarm and concern as observers questioned the future of religious tolerance in democratic Indonesia.



Indonesian student Afi's blog items inspirational -- but her FB 'frozen'

Asia Pacific Report - May 22, 2017

Khairiah Rahman -- The Facebook account of Afi Nihaya Faradisa, an Indonesian high school student from the village of Banyuwangi in eastern Java who has inspired thousands of netizens, has been suspended.

This suspension of Afi's account has raised many questions on social media since she has been posting many inspirational entries that are loaded with values and insights about nationality and nationalism.

At the same time that the account was "frozen", Afi was featured on TV as a valued inspirational figure. The following is Afi's last entry, entitled "Heritage":

As it happens, I was born in Indonesia from a Muslim couple, therefore my religion is Islam. If I had been born in Sweden or Israel, from a Christian or Jewish family, is there any guarantee that today I would embrace Islam as my religion? No.

I cannot choose my place of birth and where I will live after I am born. My citizenship is inherited, my name is inherited, and my religion is also inherited.

Fortunately, I have never argued with those of different heritage because I know they too cannot choose what they have inherited from their parents and nation.

A few minutes after we are born, the environment decides our religion, race, clan and nationality. After that, we defend till death all matters that even we have never decided for ourselves.

Since infancy, I have been indoctrinated that Islam is the one religion that is true. I pitied those who are not Muslim, as they are non-believers and upon death will go to hell.

Clearly, my friends who are Christian also has the same supposition about their religion. They pity people who do not take Jesus as God, because such people will go to hell; that is the teaching of their religion.

Therefore, imagine if we do not stop pulling one another to convert to another faith, imagine if the followers of different faiths continue to compete for superiority like that, even though there will never be a meeting point.

Jalaluddin Rumi said, "The truth is a mirror in the hands of God. It fell and broke into pieces. Everybody took a piece of it, and they looked at it and thought they had the truth." Indeed, one characteristic of followers of a religion is to claim the truthfulness of their religion. They also do not need verification; this is "faith".

Indeed, people have the right to convey the words of God, but do not occasionally try to be God. There is no need to label others as entering heaven or hell for we are also servants.

The background of all disputes is because each heritage claims, "my group is the best because God himself said so."

So, my question is if not God, who else created the Muslims, Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindu, even Atheists and looked over them all until today?

There is none that question the power of God. If He wanted, He could easily have made us all the same. Identical. One religion. One nation. But no, right?

Does it mean that if a country is occupied by citizens of the same religion, it would guarantee harmony? No!

In fact, several countries are tumultuous even though their citizens share the same religion.

Do not be surprised that when the sentiments of the majority versus minority dominate, then our humanity suddenly disappears to who knows where.

Imagine also if each religion demands that their holy book be used as the country's foundation. Then just wait for the downfall of our Indonesia.

Because of this, what is used by our country for policy making in politics, sentencing or humanity is not Al Quran, the Bible, Tripitaka (Buddhist scripture), Weda (Hindu scripture) or the holy book of any religion, but Pancasila, Foundational Law '45, and the motto "Unity in diversity".

From the perspective of Pancasila, everyone who embraces a religion is free to believe and practise their faiths, but they have no right to impose their views and religious teachings as a benchmark for assessment against the believers of other faiths.

Just because of self-righteousness, the believer of religion A has no right to intervene in the policy of a country that consists of various beliefs.

One day in the future, we will tell our descendants how the country came close to destruction not because of bombs, weapons, bullets, or missiles, but because its people claim superiority over one another, fussing over their respective heritage on social media.

While other countries have been to the moon or are planning technology that advances civilisation, we are still fussing over the question of heritage.

We don't need to have the same thinking, but let us all have the same thought.



Banning Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia: Freedom Or Security? -- Analysis

Eurasia Review - May 21, 2017

Alexander R Arifianto -- On May 8, 2017, retired general Wiranto, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, issued a statement stating that after a careful study, the Joko Widodo (Jokowi) administration will start legal proceedings to declare Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) a prohibited organisation throughout the country.

He stated that his rationale to ban the organisation is because HTI's ideology which promotes a global Islamic caliphate is contradictory to Indonesia's national ideology Pancasila. Thus, it has violated Law No. 17/2013 on Civil Society Organisations (CSO), which authorised the government to prohibit any organisations which "propagates any ideological or philosophical teachings which violates Pancasila and Indonesia's 1945 Constitution".

Payback or crackdown?

Some critics have accused the Jokowi administration's action as retaliation against HTI for its active role in the movement directed against former Jakarta Governor's Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (popularly known as Ahok) that ended his re-election bid last month. However, Wiranto strongly denied this accusation.

The Indonesian government, he said, would begin the legal proceedings to ban HTI, which requires the government to file a motion in a district court to revoke HTI's permit to operate as a CSO in Indonesia. If granted, the organisation has the right to appeal the court's ruling in an Appellate Court, and finally in the Indonesian Supreme Court.

HTI has received legal recognition in Indonesia since 2000, after operating underground for more than two decades during the Suharto regime. An affiliate of the global Hizb ut-Tahrir (Party of Liberation) movement, it was first introduced in Indonesia around 1980 by a West Java-based cleric named Abdullah bin Nuh and an Australia-based preacher named Abdurrahman al-Baghdadi.

They founded a campus preaching (da'wa) centre at Bogor Institute of Agricultural Studies (IPB) that became the cornerstone for Hizb ut-Tahrir's activities in Indonesia. Over the next two decades the movement managed to gained membership at state university campuses as well as in professional associations.

HTI's influence in Indonesian society

HTI maintains its strong presence at Indonesian state universities during the post-Reformasi period. Unofficial estimates put its membership to be at least one million followers. It is especially strong at state universities which specialise in training public school teachers -- the so-called teacher's training and educational universities (IKIP). It is strong in these universities because it seeks newly minted public high school teachers as potential recruits.

After being inducted as its cadres, these teachers could assist in spreading HTI's ideology to promote a global caliphate among their junior and senior public high school teachers throughout Indonesia. Serving as rohis (short for rohani Islam or high school propagation teachers), these teachers are able to control the rohis classes' curriculum and to pass on HTI's ideology among their high school pupils.

Recent surveys done by a number of research institutes have confirmed HTI's influence among public high school teachers and their pupils. A survey released in January 2017 conducted by the Institute for the Study of Islam and Society (PPIM) of Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University finds 78 percent of surveyed Indonesian Islamic religious teachers in public schools support the implementation of Islamic (shari'a) law in Indonesia, while 77 percent supports conservative Islamist organisations which are advocating for this goal.

A 2016 survey by Maarif Institute -- a think-tank affiliated with Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organisation -- shows more than half of public high school students in West Java province are supportive towards the establishment of a caliphate-based state.

Freedom of expression vs security consideration

There are other aspects of HTI strategies that have attracted attention. Its nusrah (seeking allies) strategy aims to invite national and local civil servants, politicians, and security apparatus to HTI events, to turn them to become potential sympathisers, if not cadres.

HTI provincial board members from East Java province have revealed in an interview with the author that it has engaged in extensive dialogues with a number of local politicians, including the province's deputy governor who is widely anticipated to seek the gubernatorial position during the 2018 regional election, to "educate" them regarding HTI and its ideology. They also claim HTI currently has several dozen mid-level officers of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) who have been inducted to become its cadres.

A number of observers have criticised the Indonesian government's proposed ban against HTI by stating that Law No. 17/2013, which forms the legal foundation of the government's case against the organisation, is legally vague. If interpreted broadly, it can open a pathway for potential abuse of power by the Jokowi administration to silence its critics, including but not limited to, hard-line Islamic groups.

While these criticisms do have merit, the above evidences show that by expanding into public high schools and universities and recruiting politicians, civil servants, and TNI officers as potential sympathisers, HTI may endanger Indonesia's domestic security, with implications for regional security as well.

At a time when the possibility of regional extremism is at an all-time high, the Indonesian government has placed a premium on security considerations over an organisation's right to freely express itself, especially when such expressions are in clear contradiction of Indonesia's national ideology.

However, even if it was successfully enacted, the proposed ban against HTI would not stop its da'wa campaign in Indonesia. Hizb ut-Tahrir branches elsewhere have proven themselves to be very effective when they are being forced to operate underground. How the Jokowi administration would enforce the prohibition once it is enacted remains an open question.

[Alexander R Arifianto PhD is a Research Fellow with the Indonesia Programme, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.]



Asia Pacific Solidarity Network (APSN)