Indonesia & East Timor News Updates - October 19, 2018

* Indonesia: Pro-LGBT Facebook post draws anti-gay reaction
* Despite FPI warning of God's wrath, Gandrung Sewu Festival will go on
* Two retired army general groups back Jokowi in 2019 election
* Hand gesture at IMF gathering deemed as campaign violation
* 56,000 state assets still missing: Ministry
* Agrarian Ministry distributes 6.2m land certificates


Indonesia: Pro-LGBT Facebook post draws anti-gay reaction

Eurasia Review - October 19, 2018

Ahmad Syamsudin (Benar News) -- LGBT people in Indonesia are facing renewed pressure after a ride-sharing company's message of support triggered an anti-gay response in the world's largest Muslim-majority country.

In a message on Facebook that has since been deleted, Brata Santoso, a vice president at the ride-sharing company Go-Jek, wrote about a campaign called GOingALLin to celebrate Coming Out Day on Oct. 11.

"I'm happy to say that Go-Jek is taking diversity to the next level by the adoption of non-discrimination policy toward the underrepresented group, ie LGBT," Brata wrote, referring to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

"In the spirit of Coming Out Day, we wanted to give space for the brave ones who embrace diversity and share what freedom, self-acceptance, authenticity, equality and tolerance really means to them," Brata wrote.

A screenshot of the message went viral on social media and led to calls to boycott the app using the hashtag #uninstallgojek on Twitter.

Since then, the company released a statement that the post was Brata's personal opinion. "Go-Jek strives to hold up high the culture and values of Indonesia," it said.

On Thursday, a Go-Jek spokesman said the company required that Brata take part in social activities "to make him more sensitive," news website reported.

A day earlier, Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin urged Indonesians to treat the LGBT community with empathy and respect, but he called their behavior deviant.

Conservative Muslims have accused Lukman of supporting the LGBT community because of his moderate views and because he attended an event in 2016 organized by the Indonesian Alliance of Independent Journalists where LGBT members were honored.

"It is our obligation as religious people and religious leaders to provide guidance to them with empathy so that they cease doing what they do," he said in a video message posted on the ministry's official Twitter account.

Homosexuality is not a crime in Indonesia except in Aceh where Sharia law is in force. That could change.

Under a draft revision to the criminal code being debated in the House of Representatives, a person engaging in "a lewd act" with another person of the same sex who is younger than 18 could face 12 years in prison. If the act involves violence, the penalty is up to 15 years.

The draft stipulates that a lewd act committed in public between two people of the same sex is punishable by up to 18 months in prison. It also says sex between a man and a woman who are not married to each other is punishable by up to five years.
Pressure on LGBT community

Police have raided places frequented by gay people and briefly detained hundreds suspected of being homosexuals. Officer filed charges against some of them for committing prostitution or pornographic acts.

The government of Cianjur regency, in West Java province, issued a circular urging Muslim preachers to talk about the dangers of homosexuality during their Friday sermons.

"It's one of the efforts to prevent the spread of LGBT in our area," said Gagan Rusganda, a spokesman for the regency office.

Arus Pelangi, an LGBT advocacy group, said anti-gay sermons would endanger members of the community. "Such calls will only increase the persecution of LGBT people. Even without it, LGBT people are already threatened," Arus Pelangi chairwoman Yuli Rustinawati said.

The mayor of Balikpapan, in East Kalimantan province, said he would issue an anti-gay regulation in response to the emergence of a Facebook group "Pin Gay Balikpapan." He said such a decree did not require the approval of the city council.

Meanwhile, Cholil Nafis a leader of the Indonesian Council of Ulema, said he supported the crackdown.

"We are facing an LGBT emergency, because people with the disease now feel normal," Cholil said. "Sermons calling for avoiding LGBT are necessary. We have to counter this," he said.

Slamet, an activist for Gaya Nusantara advocating for LGBT rights, said the reactions by officials were political posturing during the election season.

"This is just a repeat of old stuff, because I think they know that LGBT isn't a disease or deviance," he said. "The political undertone is very strong, because people are passionate about the LGBT issue."

Most of the country sees the LGBT community as a threat, according to a survey last year by a Jakarta-based firm, Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting. The survey showed 85.4 percent of the nation felt threatened by LGBT people -- a figure that increased to 87.6 percent three months later.

Additionally, 79.1 percent of respondents objected to having LGBT neighbors. Despite those concerns, 57.7 percent of Indonesians believed that LGBT members had rights and about 50 percent believed the government was obligated to protect them, according to the survey.



Despite FPI warning of God's wrath, Gandrung Sewu Festival will go on

Coconuts Jakarta - October 19, 2018

Following an attack by masked assailants that led to cancellation of the traditional Javanese sedekah laut ceremony in Cental Java's Bantul regency on Saturday, another cultural festival in Banyuwangi, East Java, has decided to carry on despite opposition from a local hardline Islamic group.

The celebration in the spotlight is Saturday's Gandrung Sewu Festival, the highlight of which is a massive dance exhibition. Gandrung is a form of traditional dance performed in many parts of Indonesia but which is especially closely related to Banyuwangi. Originally performed as a ritual for Dewi Sri, a goddess of rice and fertility, it evolved into more of a courtship dance and, now, a major tourist attraction. This year's festival is set to feature a record breaking 1,314 dancers.

Although the festival is generally very popular, this year it was denounced by the Banyuwangi branch of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which issued a letter saying they officially rejected the event.

Essentially, the reasoning in the letter is that, because the Gandrung Sewu festival has animistic origins and associations, it could trigger the wrath of God in the form of a natural disaster similar to the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Central Sulawesi on September 28.

Banyuwangi FPI leader H. Agus Iskandar told the media that the letter, and the threat of God's anger, were both very real.

"Yes, that is our statement. The point is to warn people so they are not punished by God for indulging in such disobedience. The disaster in Palu must be a mirror for Banyuwangi residents," Agus told reporters on Thursday as quoted by Detik.

However, Agus also said the letter was just a warning and if the organizers decided to carry out the festival then FPI would not take action against it.

The chairman of this year's festival, Budianto, said the festival would go on as planned as they did not think FPI's rejection constituted a significant problem. He also argued that the dance was purely an art performance without any religious connotation.

Hopefully the festival will go off tomorrow without having to deal with anything like what happened to last week's sedekah laut ceremony in Bantul. On the night before that event was set to take place, a group of about 50 masked men went to the beach and started destroying tables and chairs set up for the ceremony. The ceremony was ultimately canceled while the assailants remain unidentified.

The sedekah laut ceremony in nearby Cilacap did take place last Friday, but in the week before, banners denouncing the event, carrying messages like "Jangan Larung Sesaji Karena Bisa Tsunami" (Don't do offerings because it can cause a tsunami) and "Make a Tourism Program that Doesn't Incur God's Wrath" caused controversy in the area.

Those banners had been put up by the Cilicap branch of the hardline Muslim People's Forum (FUI), who eventually agreed to take down the banners following severe criticism by locals.

The mention of a tsunami in the banners was also no doubt a reference to the disasters in Central Sulawesi, with the implication being that the sedekah laut ceremony is a form of shirik (in Islam, actions that support idolatry or polytheism) that could make God angry and thus cause natural disasters.

The idea that those disasters were caused due to God's anger has unfortunately found a strong following among some Muslim in Indonesia. In addition to numerous anecdotal reports we've heard about Muslim preachers blaming immorality for the disaster in Central Sulawesi, there is actually a conspiracy theory that it was caused by the existence of a monument that resembled the shape of an eye -- which is a sign of Dajjal, the Islamic Anti-Christ -- in the nearby regency of Mamuju in West Sulawesi (the monument was even destroyed by the local government on Oct. 11 due to fear caused by the conspiracy theory).

The theory says that the people of Mamuju were going to carry out a sacrificial ritual for the sea gods on the day of the disaster. Some, such as preacher Zulkifli M Ali in the video below (which has over 2 million views) claim that it was that blasphemous idolatry that led to the disasters which, back in the real world, caused over 2,000 people to be killed and over 5,000 feared to be missing.



Two retired army general groups back Jokowi in 2019 election

Tempo - October 19, 2018

Dewi Nurita, Jakarta -- As it turns out, several retired Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) Generals have not gone entirely into retirement heading toward the 2019 Presidential Election. Two notable teams that consist of former TNI generals, Bravo-5 and Team Cakra 19, are set to back the incumbent candidate Joko 'Jokowi' WIdodo-Ma'ruf Amin.


Around five years ago, the Bravo-5 team was established to help the presidential campaign of Jokowi-Jusuf Kalla in the 2014 presidential election, which was led by retired TNI General Fachrul Razi. This team was deactivated after the pair won the election.

"On October 2017, we sat together and decided to reactivate the [Bravo-5] team," said Fachrul.

The birth of Bravo-5 was driven by, at the time, General Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan who was Commander of the Army Training and Education Center. The TNI retirees joined in Bravo-5 were graduates of the 1970 Military Academy. The name itself took inspiration from a house in Central Jakarta.

The team currently still headquarters at Menteng, Central Jakarta, but is in another location at Jalan Maluku No 32. They routinely hold meetings upon discussing their strategy that is similar to the one in 2014 where they will face Prabowo Subianto, a former fellow soldier in the military.

Tim Cakra 19

Bravo-5 is not the only former TNI generals that have set a group to help Jokowi face the election. This latest group called the Cakra 19 was introduced in August that was initiated by Minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan.

The difference is that the Cakra 19 consists of TNI retirees that have just freshly retired, which are mostly from the Indonesian Army's Special Forces (Kopassus) and are headquartered at Setia Budi, South Jakarta. This team was established by the end of 2017.

This team consists of members from general citizens and led by former cabinet secretary Andi Widjajanto, Eko Wiratmoko, former Deputy V of the Presidential Chief of Staff Andogo Wiradi, and the former head of Indonesian National Army Information Center Iskandar Sitompul.



Hand gesture at IMF gathering deemed as campaign violation

Jakarta Post - October 18, 2018

Nurul Fitri Ramadhani, Jakarta -- Presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto's Gerindra Party has accused two of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's ministers of publicly demonstrating political partisanship while representing Indonesia at the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Group in Bali over the weekend.

Video footage went viral on Wednesday showing Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan and Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati allegedly telling World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and IMF director Christine Lagarde to pose while making a "partisan" hand gesture during a photoshoot.

"That was a very unfair and unwise action. They [Luhut and Sri Mulyani] were unprofessional and partisan. They were supposed to be neutral," Gerindra executive Ahmad Riza Patria told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

In the footage, Luhut first makes a hand gesture spreading five fingers, like a high five or a hand wave, while the foreign guests give a two-fingered V-sign, a sign commonly used to symbolize either peace or victory.

Sri later told Luhut to tell the apparently unaware guests to make a one-finger gesture using the forefinger, which symbolizes the ballot number of the Jokowi-Ma'ruf Amin ticket in next year's presidential election.

It is common in elections in Indonesia to see candidates and their supporters using hand or finger gestures to symbolize support for their campaigns.

"No, no, no, not two [fingers], not two," Luhut is heard telling his two foreign guests, who later mimic what Luhut did with his index finger.

Luhut and Sri Mulyani, as well as the guests appear amused at this point in the video, and within seconds the audience witnessing the incident also bursts into laughter.

"Two is for Prabowo; one is for Jokowi," Sri Mulyani explains to Lagarde, who seems to be clueless about the meaning behind the hand gesture she has just made.

But Gerindra has not taken it lightly, with Riza saying that the Prabowo-Sandiaga Uno campaign team will file a report against Luhut and Sri Mulyani with the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu).

"This [the report] will be a reminder for other public officials that they have to be independent [during presidential elections]," Riza said.

Bawaslu has yet to receive any report. Bawaslu commissioner Fritz Edward Siregar said the alleged incident, however, would be examined thoroughly and in context to avoid misinterpretation.

"Well, perhaps it can be [reported] as an alleged violation of articles 282 and 283. Article 282 is about public officials' actions benefiting certain candidates," he said, referring to the 2017 Elections Law, which prohibits public officials from using state facilities for campaigning or for encouraging others to support certain candidates. (ipa)



56,000 state assets still missing: Ministry

Jakarta Post - October 19, 2018

Jakarta -- The Public Works and Housing Ministry has said it was still trying to find some 56,000 missing state assets under its control.

"We are coordinating with the relevant institutions to find the assets," Public Works and Housing Ministry secretary-general Anita Firmanti said in Jakarta on Thursday, on the sideline of the state asset handover ceremony from the ministry to other institutions.

Anita said the ministry currently controlled about 40 percent of state assets across the country.

She said the ministry would further investigate the assets that had not been found because she believed they might be used or controlled by other government institutions.

She pointed to a case where a regional government had constructed an irrigation facility on a plot of land originally controlled by the ministry. "It means that the assets are still there, but we need to do research to find them," Anita said as reported by

Accelerating the handover of ministry assets to other institutions, including to regional administrations, would help in better managing those assets because it would be clear which institutions control them, she added.

A lack of clarity over who is responsible for state assets often sparks problems in the assets' management and maintenance. She said the maintenance of low-cost apartments, for example, often causes disputes between the central and regional governments.

Regional administrations often refuse to repair or to carry out maintenance of low-cost apartments in their regions. "The problem is that the central government does not allocate a budget to carry out repairs or maintenance of low-cost apartments," she added. (bbn)



Agrarian Ministry distributes 6.2m land certificates

Jakarta Post - October 19, 2018

Jakarta -- The Agrarian Spatial Planning Ministry has as of October distributed 6.2 million land certificates, nearly reaching its target of handing out 7 million throughout the year.

Agrarian Spatial Planning Minister Sofyan Djalil said he was optimistic the target could be reached by the end of 2018.

"Our ambitious target is to completely distribute all plots of land by 2025," said Sofyan in Jakarta on Thursday, as reported by, adding that next year, the ministry would distribute 9 million land certificates.

He emphasized the importance of the land certification program, which aimed at providing people with certainty over the ownership of their own land. It also helps push the government's financial inclusion program because the certificates could be used as collateral when applying for bank loans. Sofyan said the program would also minimize agrarian conflicts.

The distribution of land certificates is one of the prioritized programs introduced by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. His administration aims to distribute 23 million land certificates by the time Jokowi ends his first five-year term in 2019. (bbn)



Asia Pacific Solidarity Network (APSN)