Indonesia & East Timor News Updates - March 27, 2017

* Indonesia: Jokowi urges tolerance as hardliners fire up for run-off election
* Jokowi accused of promoting secularism
* Hate speech most reported Internet crime in 2016: Indonesian police
* Churchgoers perform service amid rally in Cikarang
* UN support sought to end death penalty in Indonesia
* PKB chairman pokes fun at Luhut for 'failing' to prevent Gus Dur's downfall


Indonesia: Jokowi urges tolerance as hardliners fire up for run-off election

Asian Correspondent - March 27, 2017

"Do not confuse politics and religion," Indonesia's President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said on Friday as he sought to drive home a crucial message on the merits of diversity to a nation still struggling between secular and religious politics.

"They should be separate so people know what is religious and what is political," he said.

Jokowi was urging tolerance in the face of rising religious tension while speaking at the opening of the Tugu Titik Nol Pusat Peradaban Islam Nusantara, a monument representing the symbolic home of Indonesian Islam in Baru, North Sumatra.

"Let us always maintain harmony. It should not reach the point where there are disputes between cultures and religions," he said.

According to Jakarta Post, Baru "is a place where Islam harmoniously blends with not only local cultures but also influences from other great civilisations."

Islam Nusantara or "Islam of the Archipelago', as opposed to Middle Eastern conceptions of the religion, and has long been promoted by the country's largest Islamic organisation, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).

Tensions high again in Jakarta

Police in Jakarta have spent weeks removing similarly provocative and religiously-charged banners from across the city -- primarily aimed at Muslim voters who put the incumbent governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama first on the ballot sheet in February.

Hardline Muslim groups have long campaigned against Jakarta's first Chinese-Christian governor and are now rallying around Ahok's opponents, Anies Baswedan and running mate Sandiaga Uno.

"Muslims who vote for an infidel or a blasphemer do not deserve a funeral prayer," read one banner hung outside numerous mosques in Jakarta.

Deputy Governor and Ahok's running mate Djarot Saiful Hidayat said "these things have got to stop. You can't exploit religion to get into power."

But in Muslim-majority Indonesia -- one of the most ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse countries on the planet -- candidates certainly can and will exploit religious sentiment for political gain.

A spokesman for the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), which issued a fatwa in light of Ahok's alleged blasphemy and has spearheaded protests against the governor, criticised Jokowi's comments last Friday as "promoting secularism."

But NU deputy chairman Maksum Machfoedz backed Jokowi's calls for separating religion and political matters, accusing conservative groups of "transactional politics."

Team Ahok shifts focus

Meanwhile, the Ahok camp has changed tactics in the lead-up to the April run-off election.

Famously outspoken and hot-headed when confronted in public, the incumbent's team Teman Ahok will focus on online campaigning, while Ahok is taking a back seat to his running mate Djarot.

The campaign is now explicitly positioning itself as one of tolerance and aiming for a Jakarta that benefits all, regardless of ethnic or religious background.

A new campaign video, released via the governor's Instagram account, depicts diverse residents of Jakarta and the candidate engaging with his constituents, including a man clearly dressed as an ustaz or Islamic scholar.

"Jakarta belongs to us all. It doesn't matter your culture or religion, whether you're young or old, everyone has the same rights," says the song's hook.

Ahmad "Buya" Syafii Maarif, the respected former leader of Indonesia's second-largest Muslim organisation Muhammadiyah, last week slammed hardline groups' banners around the capital as inhumane and un-Islamic.

"They have sold these religious verses at a 'cheap price.' It is unfortunate people as savage as these can exist in our nation."

Jakarta police have asked people not to participate in a so-called Al-Maidah Tour, where Islamic groups urge Muslims to attend polling booths during the run-off election and convince voters not to vote for Ahok because he is not a Muslim. "Our law enforcement should not take the side of radical groups," Buya said.

Despite the religiously-charged campaign against him, Ahok won the most votes in the first-round election in the capital, which comprises 85 percent Muslim. People of Jakarta will vote in the run-off election on April 19.



Jokowi accused of promoting secularism

Jakarta Post - March 27, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta -- President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's call for religious leaders and politicians not to mix religion and party politics has received a skeptical response from some quarters, with the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) dismissing the statement as the promotion of "secularism" in an otherwise religious country.

Faced with worsening sectarian tension in the lead-up to the runoff round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election, President Jokowi warned over the weekend that mixing religion and politics was dangerous as it could lead to divisions within society.

"[The two] should be separate so people can know what is religion and what is politics," Jokowi said during the unveiling of a monument to the birthplace of Islam Nusantara (Islam in the Archipelago) in South Tapanuli, North Sumatra, on Friday.

Responding to the statement, MUI deputy secretary general Tengku Zulkarnain said that in making the statement, Jokowi was promoting liberal values of a type that should prevail only in western countries and that the organization would oppose any efforts to promote them.

"That's secularism. We haven't yet convened a meeting to respond to it but I am sure [all MUI members] will oppose and criticize it," Tengku told The Jakarta Post.

In 2005, the MUI issued an edict outlawing secularism, pluralism and liberalism, considering them to be western values that were not compatible with Indonesian society.

Last year, the organization also issued an edict stating that Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja "Ahok" Purnama blasphemed against the Quran after suggesting that Muslim leaders had duped voters by using a verse in the Quran that instructs the faithful only to vote for Muslim candidates. Ahok is currently standing trial for the alleged blasphemy.

In recent months sectarian tension has risen, especially in Jakarta, where the stakes in the gubernatorial election are so high. Many observers regard the Jakarta election as the harbinger of things to come in the 2019 presidential election.

In an unprecedented move against Ahok and his supporters, a number of Muslim clerics have launched a campaign to deny proper burial rites to deceased Muslims who had voted for Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent, in the election.

Contacted separately, Sohibul Iman, the chairman of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), which backs Ahok's rival, Anies Baswedan, in the Jakarta election, said Jokowi's statement ignored the Islamic character of the country and its history.

Sohibul claimed that the country's struggle for independence from colonial rule had been motivated by religion and it was religious values that lay at the nation's foundation.

"I suspect the statement reflects his incomprehension and his inability to manage diversity in this country. The fact is that tension has risen during his time in office," Sohibul told the Post.

The PKS chairman said Jokowi's call for a separation of faith and politics could in fact increase tension. "I wish the President would think wisely before making such a sensitive statement [...] this could create more tension," Sohibul said.

Meanwhile, the deputy chairman of the country's largest Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Maksum Machfoedz, said he backed Jokowi's call, insisting that it was dangerous to drag religion into what he called "transactional politics."

He said religious leaders should take the high road and remain aloof from electoral politics, maintaining that religion should only be used to inspire political leaders and the public in general to do good. "NU has opted to stay away from promoting political interests," Maksum said.

NU and Muhammadiyah, the country's second-largest Islamic organization, have been the champions of a moderate version of Islam in the country while allowing political parties that have their roots in their organizations, the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN), respectively, to engage in politics.



Hate speech most reported Internet crime in 2016: Indonesian police

Channel News Asia - March 27, 2017

Chandni Vatvani, Jakarta -- Hate speech was the most reported form of online crime in Indonesia in 2016, according to Indonesian police.

The national police cybercrime chief Himawan Bayu Aji told local media on Sunday (Mar 27) that hate speech, especially concerning race and religion, featured most prominently in reports from netizens. Other cases included defamation, harassment, slander, provocation and threats against individuals or groups.

In 2015, there were as many as 671 reported cases related to hate speech. Without specifying figures, Himawan said that in 2016, the number was just as high. Out of the cases reported last year, police have handled 199 of them, he told the Jakarta Post.

Online fraud reportedly ranked second, with as many as 639 reports. Of that number, only 185 cases have been resolved.

Social media tools such as Facebook and WhatsApp have only exacerbated the spread of hate speech as well as fake news, said Himawan. He added, however, that differences in regulations between Indonesia and the United States have hindered the investigation process for a number of hate speech cases on these social media platforms.

"They won't give us data because in the US, hate speech is (a common crime)," local news agency Antara quoted Himawan as saying.

Currently, a number of hate speech cases on Facebook have been resolved by what police call a "justice restore" system, where perpetrators are encouraged to become agents of change who can educate the community.

"If (the perpetrator) has shared his post, but it hasn't gone viral yet, we perform a 'justice restore,' we ask them to apologise for their post, delete its content and engage in familiarising the community (with the incident and action taken)," Himawan told local media.

"Law enforcement alone is not 100 per cent effective. We catch one suspect, three more appear. We catch three, 10 appear," he added.

Indonesia is one of the top five social media markets in the world, with more than 100 million social media users currently, according to a recent report by social media consultancy We Are Social and social media management platform Hootsuite.

Police have predicted that in five years' time, social media will be used by two-thirds of the population.

To tackle the rise in online crime, especially on social media, police formed several new units last month.

One of them is the directorate of cybercrime, a sub-division of the economic and special crimes division. The cybercrime unit reportedly has 47 personnel and one sub-division. Police have plans to increase this to three units, and 120 personnel.

Officers in the cybercrime unit are trained in technology by cyber-communities in Indonesia and overseas.

Police have also formed a multimedia bureau tasked with educating the community and raising awareness about social media through the same medium. -- CNA/nc



Churchgoers perform service amid rally in Cikarang

Jakarta Post - March 26, 2017

Devina Heriyanto, Cikarang, Bekasi -- Dozens of protesters gathered in front of HKBP Karang Bahagia Church since Sunday morning did not dampen the spirit of worshipers attending their weekly service.

The protesters oppose the presence of the church in that location, arguing that it has no legal grounds. "We are not seeking to limit religious freedom. We only oppose the presence of illegal places of worship," said rally leader Idam Kholid.

The protesters were being monitored by several officers from Sukaraya village and policemen.

HKBP Karang Bahagia Church opened on Oct. 16, 2016, after collecting 149 signatures from its neighbors to obtain a permit to hold services in a house the church bought from a local resident. There have been meetings between the protesters and members of the church.

HKBP Karang Bahagia Church spokesman Jonri Sitio told The Jakarta Post that representatives of the church had previously agreed to temporarily stop holding services following a meeting between the church representatives and protesters. However, since the agreement took place "under duress," the congregation has decided to perform the service anyway.

HKBP Karang Bahagia church leader Edward Pandjaitan said worship at the church would continue. "Freedom of religion is not limited in this country. We surrender to God, but worship will continue," he said.

Aside from HKBP Karang Bahagia church, Jl. Ki Hadjar Dewantara is also home to two other churches and one Buddhist temple. (dmr)



UN support sought to end death penalty in Indonesia

Jakarta Post - March 27, 2017

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta -- Indonesia's human rights groups are bringing the country's controversial capital punishment into the global spotlight after demands to abolish it back home had fallen on deaf ears.

Several civil society organizations are set to present the problems revolving around the practice of the death penalty in the country when Indonesia's human rights records are reviewed during the upcoming United Nations Human Rights Council's (UNHRC) Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva in May.

UPR is the UN's quadrennial assembly, which aims to examine the performance of all members in protecting and upholding human rights in their respective countries. The UNHRC will gather governments and rights groups of all member countries in order to collect comprehensive information for review. The upcoming meeting is the third cycle of meetings, which will result in recommendations to each country.

Civil society groups, such as the Institute for Criminal Justice (ICJR), the Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH Masyarakat), Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), Imparsial, the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (ELSAM), the Association for International Human Rights Reporting Standards (FIHRRST) and the IndonesianLegalResourcesCenter (ILRC) have prepared a joint report that was submitted recently to the UNHRC.

The report by the rights groups lambasted the government, as well as the House of Representatives for maintaining the death penalty in the Criminal Code (KUHP) that is currently under ongoing processes of amendments at the House.

The revision bill actually softens the government's stance on the death penalty, stipulating that it serves as a special and alternative punishment. Articles 89 through 91 of the draft regulate the conditions and procedures for death row convicts to have punishments reduced to life imprisonment.

Article 89, for example, states that the "death penalty should be the last option taken to protect the public." Article 91 further elaborates that convicts may have their sentence reduced if they behave well during their imprisonment. The bill however has yet to define the guidelines of assessment and the determining authority.

The joint report highlights one core problem: on government's persistence in implementing capital punishment when the country's judicial system is still marred with rampant corruption.

The groups also cite lack of access to legal aid, interpreters and consular representatives on top of unfair and improper legal procedures faced by inmates.

One of the groups, the legal think tank ICJR mentioned that it found at least 11 out of 47 death row convicts who were not accompanied during preliminary examinations. This includes, among others, Indonesian Merri Utami and Pakistani Zulfikar Ali, who are on death row for drug trafficking allegations.

Ricky Gunawan, the director of LBH Masyarakat, said the aforementioned concerns included foreign nationals Zulfikar and the Philippine's Mary Jane Veloso.

Veloso was sentenced to death in 2010 for smuggling 2.6 kilograms of heroin in a suitcase to Indonesia. She was spared from execution in 2015 in the 11th hour after a woman came forward in her home country to admit that she had duped Veloso into smuggling drugs into Indonesia. Meanwhile, Zulfikar escaped last year's execution. He was sentenced to death in 2005 for possessing 350 grams of heroin.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration had so far executed 18 death row drug convicts.

The inclusion of the death penalty in the KUHP is not yet final as lawmakers and the government are still discussing the matter. The deliberation has taken place for 572 days.

So far, the majority of political factions at the House have agreed to maintain capital punishment, excluding the Democratic Party.

"Making it an alternative punishment is a compromise to accommodate different opinions and values regarding the death penalty," lawmaker Arsul Sani, a member of a working committee assigned to deliberate the bill, said.

The Human Rights and Humanity director at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Dicky Komar. said the government had engaged all relevant parties including civil society in preparing the report set to be presented in the UPR's session.



PKB chairman pokes fun at Luhut for 'failing' to prevent Gus Dur's downfall

Jakarta Post - March 27, 2017

Safrin La Batu, Jakarta -- A funny moment occurred when Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan visited the National Awakening Party's (PKB) headquarters in Central Jakarta to give a speech in a training program for the party's politicians on Sunday.

PKB chairman Muhaimin Iskandar praised the political dexterity of Luhut, who is among the closest aides of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. He said that if Luhut had possessed it earlier he could've prevented the downfall of PKB founder and former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid.

The late Gus Dur, an old friend of Luhut who also appointed him to his Cabinet, was impeached by the House of Representatives in 2001 in the wake of corruption allegations surrounding the State Logistics Agency (Bulog).

"Imagine if Pak Luhut's political prowess had come at the time when Gus Dur was still president, he would not have been impeached," Muhaimin said, triggering laughter among the more than 150 people participating in the training, including Luhut.

The retired Army general replied by jokingly raising his fist toward Muhaimin who was speaking at the podium.

"Pak Luhut's power came out only recently. Just like a hero [in movies] who wins at last," Muhaimin said.

"That left only us [PKB] defending Gus Dur, which succeeded in keeping him in power for 22 months. But, that's not bad," he added, triggering more laughter.

Luhut served as industry and trade minister when Gus Dur was in office from October 1999 to July 2001. (wit)



Asia Pacific Solidarity Network (APSN)