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Indonesia News Digest No 8 - February 24-March 2, 2003
Detik.com - February 26, 2003
Danang Sangga Buwana, Jakarta -- Just because they refused to
withdraw a class action launched against Indonesian President
Megawati Sukarnoputri which was linked to prince increases to
fuel, electricity and telephone charges, the offices of the
People's Lawyers Union (Serikat Pengacara Rakyat, SPR) in South
Jakarta, was attacked by a group of unknown assailants.
This was related by SPR spokesperson Hibiburrochman at the
Kontras offices in Jakarta on Wednesday. According to Rochman,
the planned court session of the suit against Megawati was to be
held at the Central Jakarta state court on Thursday.
"Terror and intimidation against SPR is clearly a link in the
chain of terror and intimidation which has occurred in a number
of placing following pro-democratic demands which have called for
the government of Megawati and Vice-president Hamzah Haz to
resign", he said.
Rochman explained that the attack occurred on February 25 at
1.11pm when as many as 12 well-built men wearing smart cloths
arrived at the SPR offices. The wanted to meet with the SPR
spokesperson but then forced their way into the office, smashing
windows and making threats.
"You want to resolve this problem properly or not. [You] want to
be finished off, [you] want trouble, [then] basically you must
withdraw tomorrow's class action, if not we will be back", said
Rochman mimicking the words of one of the men.
As well as making threats, the unknown group also tried to
Rochman to hand over his license to work as a lawyer. "At that
time I was not carrying my licensee so they took a copy", said
According to Rochman, this was not the first attack, as the SPR
offices had been terrorised on February 19. On the basis of this
intimidation, SPR complained to Kontras and the Pasar Minggu
local police so that it would not be repeated.
"This action is a reflection of the slowness of the Mega-Hamzah
government in responding to acts of terror. This is not just
happening in Jakarta, but in Yogyakarta when the local People's
Democratic Party offices were bombed and in Jember, where the
Student Executive Council Offices of the Jember University was
also attacked by unknown assailants", he added.
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Detik.com - February 24, 2003
Hestiana Dharmastuti, Jakarta -- Threats by the Minister of
Labour and Transmigration, Jacob Nuwa Wea, in which he called for
demonstrators to end their actions, if not they will face
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) masses, has been
greeted by cynicism. According to the People's Democratic Party
(PRD), the PDIP masses do not have an ideology to strike back at
"It is meaningless, the PDIP masses do not have the ideology to
strike back at opposition groups. Although 1000 PDIP supporters
can be mobilised, at most their political strength is only 10",
PRD chairperson, Haris Rusli Moti told detikcom in Jakarta on
According to Haris, Jacob's threats reveal the anger of the
government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Vice-president
Hamzah Haz who are incapable to implementing the mandate of
reformasi. "This is thuggery. We only ask that the agenda of
reformasi be implemented and if they are not capable, then [they
should] resign. So don't confront us with repression. This means
that that PDIP is anti-democratic", he said.
Despite this, Haris explained that the PRD would continue to hold
future actions although they may confront the PDIP masses. "We
will continue to demonstrate until the demands for reformasi are
fulfilled. Moreover, we are voicing the aspirations of the PDIP
masses, the majority of which are unemployed and are paid to
demonstrate", he said.
Furthermore, the PRD is prepared to hold an open dialogue and
debate with Jacob to present these aspirations. "We are ready to
have a dialogue and debate in the interests of the long-term. But
there must some outcome and not just to hush the demonstrations",
Aside from this, Haris considered that it is proper if during
demonstrations activist trample on photographs of the president
and vice-president. "This has occurred since the era of [former
president] Suharto though to [the period of former president] Gus
Dur. Why during Mega's term are demonstrators being arrested,
this represents a democratic retreat", said Haris.
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Refusing to withdraw a suit against Mega, SPR offices attacked
PRD: It's pointless for PDIP masses to confront demonstrators
PDI-P leader threatens press, students
Detik.com - February 26, 2003
Danang Sangga Buwana, Jakarta -- Just because they refused to withdraw a class action launched against Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri which was linked to prince increases to fuel, electricity and telephone charges, the offices of the People's Lawyers Union (Serikat Pengacara Rakyat, SPR) in South Jakarta, was attacked by a group of unknown assailants.
This was related by SPR spokesperson Hibiburrochman at the Kontras offices in Jakarta on Wednesday. According to Rochman, the planned court session of the suit against Megawati was to be held at the Central Jakarta state court on Thursday.
"Terror and intimidation against SPR is clearly a link in the chain of terror and intimidation which has occurred in a number of placing following pro-democratic demands which have called for the government of Megawati and Vice-president Hamzah Haz to resign", he said.
Rochman explained that the attack occurred on February 25 at 1.11pm when as many as 12 well-built men wearing smart cloths arrived at the SPR offices. The wanted to meet with the SPR spokesperson but then forced their way into the office, smashing windows and making threats.
"You want to resolve this problem properly or not. [You] want to be finished off, [you] want trouble, [then] basically you must withdraw tomorrow's class action, if not we will be back", said Rochman mimicking the words of one of the men.
As well as making threats, the unknown group also tried to Rochman to hand over his license to work as a lawyer. "At that time I was not carrying my licensee so they took a copy", said Rochman.
According to Rochman, this was not the first attack, as the SPR offices had been terrorised on February 19. On the basis of this intimidation, SPR complained to Kontras and the Pasar Minggu local police so that it would not be repeated.
"This action is a reflection of the slowness of the Mega-Hamzah government in responding to acts of terror. This is not just happening in Jakarta, but in Yogyakarta when the local People's Democratic Party offices were bombed and in Jember, where the Student Executive Council Offices of the Jember University was also attacked by unknown assailants", he added.
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Detik.com - February 24, 2003
Hestiana Dharmastuti, Jakarta -- Threats by the Minister of Labour and Transmigration, Jacob Nuwa Wea, in which he called for demonstrators to end their actions, if not they will face Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) masses, has been greeted by cynicism. According to the People's Democratic Party (PRD), the PDIP masses do not have an ideology to strike back at opposition groups.
"It is meaningless, the PDIP masses do not have the ideology to strike back at opposition groups. Although 1000 PDIP supporters can be mobilised, at most their political strength is only 10", PRD chairperson, Haris Rusli Moti told detikcom in Jakarta on Tuesday.
According to Haris, Jacob's threats reveal the anger of the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Vice-president Hamzah Haz who are incapable to implementing the mandate of reformasi. "This is thuggery. We only ask that the agenda of reformasi be implemented and if they are not capable, then [they should] resign. So don't confront us with repression. This means that that PDIP is anti-democratic", he said.
Despite this, Haris explained that the PRD would continue to hold future actions although they may confront the PDIP masses. "We will continue to demonstrate until the demands for reformasi are fulfilled. Moreover, we are voicing the aspirations of the PDIP masses, the majority of which are unemployed and are paid to demonstrate", he said.
Furthermore, the PRD is prepared to hold an open dialogue and debate with Jacob to present these aspirations. "We are ready to have a dialogue and debate in the interests of the long-term. But there must some outcome and not just to hush the demonstrations", asserted Haris.
Aside from this, Haris considered that it is proper if during demonstrations activist trample on photographs of the president and vice-president. "This has occurred since the era of [former president] Suharto though to [the period of former president] Gus Dur. Why during Mega's term are demonstrators being arrested, this represents a democratic retreat", said Haris.
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Jakarta Post - February 24, 2003
Jakarta -- A senior member of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) warned student protesters as well as a Jakarta-based newspaper not to criticize his party.
Jacob Nuwa Wea, who is also the country's manpower and transmigration minister, said that Rakyat Merdeka (Free People) newspaper and the students had been criticizing the party "too much".
"Rakyat Merdeka, I warn you not to write [articles] that abuse PDI Perjuangan. If they insist on insulting PDI Perjuangan leaders, they will have to 'face' thousands of PDI Perjuangan supporters," he told a large group of PDI Perjuangan supporters during a party gathering in Central Jakarta on Sunday.
Jacob also threatened the freedom of expression of the students who have demanded that President Megawati Soekarnoputri, the party's leader, step down. "Some of them have stepped on her pictures. They've gone too far. If they keep on doing it, they will have to 'face' PDI Perjuangan supporters. I warn you, students, don't repeat your actions," he said.
Two editors of Rakyat Merdeka have been summoned by the police for their article, which allegedly insults the president. The newspapers offers tabloid-style journalism. Its articles and caricatures often criticize politicians from a variety of parties.
Under Megawati's administration, at least five students have been jailed on charges of defaming the president by stepping on her "pretty" picture or painting an X over presidential photos.
Speaking in Kuala Lumpur, President Megawati described anti- government rallies as "interesting scenery", but underlined that the government would be firm in dealing with destructive demonstrations. "Most of the rallies in the capital are held in front of the presidential palace, and I find them very interesting. It's fine for me as long as they proceed peacefully," Megawati told a gathering of Indonesian nationals on Sunday evening.
"However, should they disturb public order and security, I have ordered the police to take them to the police station and question them," the president remarked.
She underlined that rallies were a part of the democratic process, but they should not threaten security, as the Indonesian people must learn to deal with things in an orderly fashion. "Security is one of my main considerations and as citizens, everybody has the obligation to maintain peace," she remarked.
Kusnanto Anggoro, a political analyst from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), criticized both, especially Jacob who maintained a physical threat against the press even while legal proceedings were still underway.
"As a minister, I think Jacob Nuwa Wea should set a good example for the people, not threatening the press with the masses [party supporters]. It is an out-of-date way of doing things," Kusnanto told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
He advised PDI Perjuangan and Jacob to use the proper channels in responding to a media report, such as using their right to rebut, reporting the media to the Press Council, or taking legal action.
Meanwhile, Haris Rusli, chairman of the Democratic People's Party (PRD) -- which often sends its supporters to the streets demanding Megawati to step down -- was unruffled by Jacob's threat.
Instead, he said such a threat could even strengthen the efforts of anti-government leaders grouped in the National Coalition to unseat Megawati. PRD is one of around 50 members that make up the National Coalition.
"The students and anti-Mega groups will continue to up the pressure through various means, including demonstrations. We do not take the threat seriously. Our movement emerged as a response to her bad government," he said.
Kompas - February 24, 2003
Jakarta -- Although the wave of protests and street actions have raised strategic issues, the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri and Vice-President Hamzah Haz has yet to be shaken. This is because the opposition movement is not prepared to work together.
This was the main point of a speech by the Chairperson of the People's Democratic Party (PRD), Haris Rusly Moti, at a public meeting organised by the National Coalition at the Proclamation Monument in Jakarta on Sunday.
Before around 500 workers, students and party activists, Haris Moti said that removing Megawati and Hamzah Haz will obviously not be as easy as bringing down former President Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur). The reason, because the parliament and the military do not wish Mega and Hamzah Haz to step down at this time.
Not wanting to sit down together
However what is most important, said Haris Moti, is that groups in the opposition movement who have come out into the streets have not been prepared to work together. For example, they do not wish to unite or sit at one table. Budiman Sudjatmikjo who was succeeded by Haris as the chairperson of the PRD, also criticised the present student movement which will not learn from the movement of 1998.
"Students need to be prepared to join with workers and other people's movements. Do not repeat the errors of 1998, when students formed their own groups so that the people were without leadership and the riots and burning occurred". Haris Moti hoped that students would now be prepared to join with the ordinary people. "Students mustn't just be immersed on the campuses or meet in hotels. Join with workers and the people", he said.
Haris Moti also said that the past opposition movement easily overthrew Gus Dur because it obtained legitimisation from the parliament. "Now, the political elite in the parliament want Mega to stay until 2004", he said.
The meeting which was designed to compete with a mass meeting of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle [Megawati's party] at the Bung Karno Stadium also presented student figures and opposition group leaders including Ricky Tamba from the National Coalition, Dita Indah Sari and Jusuf Langkasheng.
The event at the Proclamation Monument also provided drama and music which was played by workers from companies in Cakung and the Indonesian Buskers Union from Yogyakarta, was lead by singer I Bob Arief.
The appearance of Bob Arief refreshed the public meeting which could not be attended by Abdurrahman Wahid. Hundreds of workers and student activists danced reggae to accompany a song by Bob Arief. (osd)
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Jakarta Post - February 26, 2003
Moch. N. Kurniawan, Jakarta -- A coalition of minor labor unions are determined to intensify their resistance to the bill on labor protection endorsed by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, claiming that the new law favored the interests of employers and investors.
Dita Indah Sari, chairwoman of the Indonesian Workers' Struggle National Front (FNBI), expressed her optimism that she and other labor activists (from minor labor unions) would be able to pressure both the government and House not to enforce the new law as they had done in 1998.
"We once rejected Labor Law No. 25/1997 and, following a series of actions, we succeeded in pressuring the government not to enforce the repressive law. Why don't we do it now? We will repeat the historical struggle," Dita said on the sidelines of the House plenary session during which the long-awaited bill was endorsed.
The FNPBI and 40 other labor unions grouped under the Coalition Against the Suppression of Workers (KAPB) staged a protest inside the House compound to protest the bill's endorsement. Several demonstrators were injured in a clash with security personnel deployed around the House compound.
Both the KAPB and their activists have were annoyed as they were not invited to participate in a series of talks between workers and employers to solve contentious issues in the bill. And this was why they staged their protest.
Of 64 labor unions and federations registered with the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration, only the Federation of All- Indonesian Workers Unions (FSPSI), the Reform SPSI and the Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union (SBSI) were invited to the series of talks with the Indonesian Employers' Association (Apindo) to discuss the various problematic issues.
The minor labor unions are opposed to the bill because they say it allows child labor, does not require employers to provide service payments for resigning workers and those who are dismissed for committing crimes, and does not allow for leave for women workers during menstruation or following a miscarriage based on a doctor's recommendation.
Dita argued that the present situation was still very unfair for workers, citing that employers could easily force workers to resign voluntarily. "Thus, we must have tight rules and increase compensation for workers to prevent employers from forcing workers to voluntarily resign," she said.
Jakarta Post - February 25, 2003
Tangerang -- Hundreds of workers of bag producer PT Tasindo in Carewet village of Cikupa district and security guard supplier for Soekarno-Hatta International Airport PT Tri Otomat Pratama Guard staged separate rallies on Monday, demanding severance pay.
Some 650 workers of PT Tasindo staged a rally at the Tangerang regency council office in Tigaraksa, asking the council to order the company to pay their severance pay as regulated in minister of manpower decree No. 150/2000 on massive dismissals.
"We staged the protest because the company's management will only pay us the equivalent of one month's salary as severance pay," Sutoyono, who led the workers, said.
He said the company had dismissed workers, mostly women, after they had staged a rally demanding the company increase their monthly wage from Rp 590,000 to Rp 628,000 last month.
"We don't believe the company has gone bankrupt since our rally last month. It was just an excuse," said another worker, adding that they had filed three complaints with the regency's manpower office, but to no avail.
Separately, 350 security officers of PT Tri Otomat Pratama Guard staged a rally at the Tangerang municipal council office on Monday over similar demands.
"We've heard that we will be dismissed because the contract between PT Tri Otomat and PT Angkasa Pura, which manages the airport, will soon end ... We've also heard that no severance pay will be paid even though most of us have worked for the company for three years," M. Sukisno, one of the workers said.
Detik.com - February 25, 2003
Suwarjono, Jakarta -- An action by workers against the promulgation of a new labour law at the national parliament in Senayan, Jakarta, on Tuesday, ended in a clash. The demonstrators who tried to break down the gates, were repelled by water cannon.
Scores secruity personel then chased hundreds of workers from the Committee Against Workers' Oppression (Komite Anti Penindasan Buruh, KAPB) until workers dispersed. Workers saved themselves by runing towards the Manggala Wanabhakti building, at the Department of Forestry -- which is located next to the parliament -- and they
Unfortunately two workers who's identify is unknown were arrested by police. Showing no pity, they were beaten repeatedly. Two of them were seen to suffer serious wounds and were bleeding from the head.
Aside from the two workers, a child of a street trader based in front of the parliament, Abrar Fauzi (12) also fell victim to the anger of security forces. Abrar was also wounded seriously and is now being treated in an ambulance in front of the parliament.
As of filing this story around 3pm, the workers had been cleared from the parliament. However remnants of the action such as banners and posters were scattered in front of the parliament building. The police had also fixed the gate which had been almost destroyed by the workers.
Meanwhile, around five units from a company of SSK riding five trucks were still guarding the front gate and grounds of the parliament.
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Jakarta Post - February 25, 2003
Jakarta -- Police used tear gas, water canons and sticks to disperse 1,000 protesters who attempted to storm the House of Representatives building before legislators approved a new labor bill, Elshinta radio reported.
The rally turned ugly when the protesteers attempted to enter the building compound on Jl. Gatot Subroto, Central Jakarta about 2:15 p.m. Police officers chased the protesters, who later caused major traffic problems.
The House has just endorsed the long-awaited labor bill Tuesday after both employers and several workers' unions reached agreement on about 60 contentious issues.
However, several unions are opposed to the bill, saying it reduced workers' rights, and that the deliberation of the bill was not transparent.
Jakarta Post - February 25, 2003
Moch. N. Kurniawan, Jakarta -- An employers association hailed on Monday the planned endorsement of the labor bill, but trade unions remained divided over the draft.
Djimanto of the Indonesian Employers Association said the final draft of the bill accommodated both employers and trade unions.
"Basically we welcome the new labor protection and development bill. It not only orders us to do many things but also regulates workers," Djimanto told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
The House of Representatives (DPR) is expected to endorse the long-awaited bill on Tuesday after both employers and workers reached agreement on about 60 contentious issues.
The House Special Committee settled over the weekend issues pertaining to, among others, temporary workers, sabbatical leave, paid leave for women workers who have miscarried, strikes and lock outs, and dismissals.
Djimanto, however, said that employers still opposed the requirement they give a maximum severance and service pay to the worker equal to 40 times their monthly salary.
"It is not competitive compared to China which only requires employers to provide severance and service payments equal to one times the salary or Vietnam with five times the salary," he said.
Trade unions, on the other hand, gave conflicting reactions to the bill. The Federation of All Indonesian Labor Union (FSPSI) and Reform SPSI are among those who immediately accepted the endorsement of the bill.
Arif Sujito of FSPSI said many articles such as workers still being paid during strikes, compensation for dismissed workers, sabbatical leave, and legal protection of temporary workers were good enough to accommodate workers' interests.
But Indonesian Prosperity Trade Union (SBSI) head Rekson Silaban urged the House to delay the endorsement of the bill for one week to allow all unions to scrutinize it.
"We are worried that the latest bill does not entirely accept the understanding between labor unions and employers. So why does the House not hold a hearing with us for another week to see whether we accept it or not?" he asked.
Dita Indah Sari of the National Front of the Indonesian Labor Struggle (FNPBI) rejected the bill, saying it and 40 other labor unions planned to demonstrate in front of the House compound on Tuesday. "The bill has reduced workers' rights," she said.
She said, for example, the latest bill allowed children to work, neglecting basic laws banning children from doing so.
Compensation schemes paid to workers who resign voluntarily or are dismissed for committing crimes were lower than those under the current regulations, she said.
She said the deliberation of the bill was not transparent enough and therefore many trade unions had agreed to reject the bill.
Jakarta Post - February 24, 2003
Moch. N. Kurniawan, Jakarta -- The House of Representatives has finally settled the issue of dismissal, the most controversial issue in the bill on workers' protection, paving the way for its endorsement on Tuesday.
Rekso Ageng Herman, a member of the House' special committee deliberating the bill, told The Jakarta Post here on Sunday both commission members and the government had agreed not to pay compensation for workers entering retirement and for those who were dismissed for committing crimes.
"With the completion of the deliberation of contentious issues, our commission will bring the bill to the House's plenary session for endorsement on Tuesday," he said.
Rekso explained that employers had no obligation to pay severance payment nor payment according to the length of service of an employee to workers who were dismissed for committing a crime. He said it was not appropriate to pay compensation for those who through their very actions had tarnished the company's image and were serving a prison sentence.
Regarding workers who resigned voluntarily, Rekso said as with workers dismissed for committing crimes, both resigning and retiring workers only had the right to receive what was due to them during their period of employment.
The agreement on the controversial issue ended employers' long- standing objection to Ministerial Decree No. 150/2000 requiring compensation for retiring workers and those dismissed for committing crimes.
Previously, the special committee and the government represented by manpower minister Jacob Nuwa Wea, agreed to define the type of work that could be handed over to contractual workers, sabbatical leave, lockout and 18-months leave for women who miscarry. The bill on labor protection had more than 60 contentious issues that were settled following a marathon discussion that involved both labor unions and employers in December 2002 and January 2003.
This bill and the other one on the settlement of labor disputes were reviewed after being stalled following strong protests both from labor unions and employers.
Meanwhile, numerous minor labor unions lambasted larger labor unions supporting the two bills as hundreds of workers and activists demonstrated at Hotel Indonesia traffic circle on Sunday to oppose the two bills.
But, Muhammad Rodja, secretary-general of the reformed All- Indonesia Workers Union (SPSI), hailed the special committee's agreement, saying it would give certainty both to workers and employers on industrial relations and settlement of labor disputes. Rekso said that despite the minor unions' protest, the House would endorse the long-awaited bills on Tuesday.
The two bills will replace Law. 22/1957 on settlement of labor disputes and Law No. 25/1997 on the workforce which was made during the New Order era. The latter law was rejected by workers in the reform era, because, in their view it negated workers' fundamental rights.
Agence France Presse - March 1, 2003
Jakarta -- A ceasefire in Aceh's bloody separatist war is already looking shaky and major issues must be settled to salvage what could be the last chance for peace, an international research group said yesterday.
The deal signed on December 9 between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) "is the best -- and maybe the last -- chance that the 4.4 million people of Aceh have for a negotiated peace", the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a report.
"The consequences of failure would be grim and intensified military operations would be all but inevitable," the Brussels- based group said.
The report noted a dramatic drop in violence since the ceasefire began. But a demilitarisation phase which began on February 9 has left major differences unresolved.
"These include how the Indonesian military will relocate as GAM places an increasing percentage of its weapons in designated locations," the report said.
GAM leaders had accepted the concept of autonomy as a starting point for discussions but not as a political end, "and there remains little incentive for the guerilla group to reinvent itself as a political party working within the Indonesian electoral system".
The ICG also warned that the army "is not likely to sit quietly indefinitely if the reduction of violence leads, as appears to be the case, to more organising in support of independence..." It said the provincial government "also constitutes an obstacle to lasting peace because it has such low credibility and is so widely seen as corrupt".
"As long as it is seen to embody 'autonomy', as granted to Aceh under an August 2001 law, many Acehnese will continue to see independence as a desirable alternative."
The research group urged Jakarta to offer GAM more realistic incentives to take part in the political process, including supporting the legal changes that would allow for local political parties in Aceh.
The rebel insurgency has resulted in the deaths of 12,000 people -- mostly civilians -- since 1976.
Jakarta Post - February 28, 2003
Martin Griffiths -- On Sundays at the beach in Lampu near Banda Aceh, young couples stroll across the sand holding hands, laughing and flirting. Children frolic in the surf and sit on its foamy edge building sand castles. Families picnic. Games of football and volleyball seemingly break out spontaneously across the mile-long stretch of sand. Until eight weeks ago, the beach -- Free Aceh Movement (GAM)-held territory and tacitly off-limits -- had been nearly empty for years.
In the cities, the towns, the kampongs, people can be seen along the streets and in the cafes socializing late into the night -- more activities that people have been, for years, afraid to risk.
Take a look around Aceh -- at the smiles on people's faces, the rice farmers knee-deep in their paddies, the general air of relief and optimism -- and you might not realize that this place has seen almost three decades of bloody conflict, that in the last two years alone an estimated 4,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.
For the first time in years, people are beginning to openly criticize, to find their voice. Surely, good signs of peace breaking out. This is what I saw on my first trip to Aceh since the peace agreement was signed December 9.
While I was in Aceh, I met with the leadership of both the government of Indonesia and GAM and both parties expressed their commitment to the peace talks.
Both parties realize that there is no military solution, that armed struggle is not the answer. Both parties agree that moving toward democracy and development is a better way. Both parties recognized there would be problems and there have been. Both parties expressed to me their dedication to solve those problems.
No one imagined the peace process would be so successful, so quickly -- bringing an end to hostilities and making life safe for the people of Aceh. And, certainly, no one wants to go back to the way things were only two months ago.
That's the difference two months can make. Peace in Aceh is far from a done deal but the situation has improved so dramatically in such a short space of time that it's easy to forget that there's a peace process going on -- a very fragile peace process that needs to be very carefully nurtured.
But no one should forget, not in the dense rainforests and coffee plantations of Aceh, not in the halls of government in Jakarta, not anywhere. The month before the Indonesian government and GAM agreed to sit down at a table and work out their differences, more than 200 people died as a result of the conflict.
Just over two months ago, the government and GAM signed the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA) in Geneva. It is important to understand that it is exactly what it says -- an agreement to stop fighting and a framework to negotiate peace. It is important to understand that this is just the beginning, that the end requires hard work and the collective will to make it succeed.
The COHA, as the agreement is called, is meant to create the space and the environment for peace, and, so far, it has worked remarkably well. But there is no quick fix. We must not put the end-game first. Peace processes take time, understanding, compromise and patience. Peace processes require that the parties negotiating them want peace and are willing to work together, despite their differences, to reach a common goal.
And, yes, peace processes require optimism and hope. They require support and advocacy. They need to be allowed the breathing space to flourish.
Above all, peace processes require that the parties involved maintain their eye on the prize -- that a peaceful Aceh benefits every Indonesian. It demonstrates that there are ways to solve differences other than with the gun. It demonstrates that both the government and GAM possess the courage and the foresight to see the economic and strategic benefits -- the "peace dividends" -- of solution through dialog.
The international community recognizes this and they are pledging economic support to bolster the peace process. The peace process demands perspective. Yes, there have been isolated outbreaks of violence. There have been armed clashes and people are still getting killed because of the conflict. But the armed clashes, the deaths are a tiny fraction of what they were just two months ago.
They will likely continue to take place. No one could possibly expect that the residual effects of nearly three decades of conflict would evaporate overnight. On the other hand, who would have thought two months ago that a week could pass in Aceh without an armed clash? Without a conflict-related death? That has happened several times and that is progress no one can deny.
As a result, expectations are high and they should be. Given the dramatic improvements in Aceh, the COHA may seem like a magic elixir but it's not. There is no such thing.
The demilitarization phase over the next five months is the agreement's toughest test yet but both sides are working hard to make it meaningful.
The Joint Security Committee (JSC), the body created to negotiate peace, is a guiding hand but it is not a government.
The JSC and the COHA are only as strong as the sum of its parts -- and the will of the government, GAM and the people of Aceh to make real peace a reality.
[Martin Griffiths is the Director of the Henry Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialog in Geneva.]
Radio Australia - February 26, 2003
A group mediating a peace pact between the Indonesian government and separatists in Aceh province, plans to deploy 15 personnel to promote the peace accord there.
The personnel will shortly be deployed in eight districts to promote the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement.
A spokesman for the Henry Dunant Centre, which mediated the peace accord, said peace promoters must remain neutral in providing Acehnese with information about the ceasefire agreement.
Since the landmark peace signing, reports of serious incidents committed by either party have been reduced to a fraction compared to pre-signing levels.
Both camps have entered the demilitarization phase under the peace pact earlier this month. Under the agreement, the Free Aceh Movement has to place weapons at designated secret locations while government forces halt their offensives.
Jakarta Post - February 26, 2003
Jakarta -- Aceh province will inaugurate its first Islamic sharia court on March 4 as part of the broad autonomy granted to curb separatist sentiment, AFP reported.
"We will begin to implement the Islamic sharia integrally but in a gradual way, not all at once. On the first of Muharram, God Willing, the sharia court will be inaugurated by the Supreme Judge and several related ministers," Aceh Governor Abdullah Puteh said on Tuesday.
The first of Muharram, a month in the Islamic lunar year, falls this year on March 4.
The province will be the only one to implement sharia law. Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim-populated nation but Islam is not the state religion.
A judge at the Supreme Court, Syamsu Hadi, said that the sharia court will mostly rely on the existing state religious court network in Aceh.
There are currently 19 state religious courts in districts and municipalities across Aceh and one appeal court. A total of 121 judges serve onthe courts, which do not enforce sharia law in criminal matters.
The central government in 2001 gave Aceh broad autonomy which allows it to implement partial sharia law and have its own sharia police and education system.
Green Left Weekly - February 26, 2003
Iggy Kim -- The Indonesian government has again violated the December 10 Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA). The agreement was supposed to bring an end to violence in Aceh.
Indonesian authorities have arrested Acehnese civil rights activists and unleashed military raids into territory controlled by the Acehnese independence movement.
Pip Hinman, national coordinator of Action in Solidarity with Asia and the Pacific (ASAP), told Green Left Weekly that Jakarta's actions have revealed the Indonesian government's commitment to peace in Aceh to be a sham.
On February 12, Indonesian forces arrested Muhammad Nazar, chairperson of the Information Centre for a Referendum in Aceh. Authorities are also hunting down Kautsar, deputy chairperson of Students' Solidarity for Acehnese People. On February 16, police issued an arrest warrant for Nasruddin Abubakar, secretary- general of the Aceh Student Front for Reform.
All three activists were targeted for leading a peaceful demonstration on January 9, which called for a referendum to be held on the question of Aceh's independence from Indonesia.
Indonesia's coordinating minister for political and security affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, told the February 15 Straits Times that "peace is on the brink of collapse". He cited the referendum call as the cause, despite the COHA assuring the right of "civil society to express [its views] without hindrance to democratic rights".
Then on February 16, an armed clash lasting almost four hours occurred in Trumon, south Aceh, when the Indonesian military launched an offensive operation into an area held by the Free Acheh Armed Forces (TNA), again in violation of the peace accord. During the skirmish, one civilian was shot dead, another wounded and three were captured and tortured by the Indonesian military.
There are fears of wider military offensives. A TNA commander has called on the Joint Security Committee, which oversees the cease-fire and is composed of representatives from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), the Indonesian military and the Swiss-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, to investigate the Indonesian attack.
Despite such violations of the peace accord in Aceh, both the US and Australian governments have been steadily restoring military ties with Jakarta.
ASAP has called on the Australian government to press Jakarta for the immediate release of Muhammad Nazar and the dropping of charges against the organisers of the January 9 demonstration. ASAP also demands that Canberra end all military ties with Indonesia and push for a full withdrawal of its military from Aceh.
In March, ASAP will host forums in Melbourne and Sydney with researcher Dr Lesley McCulloch, recently released from jail in Aceh, and Nurdin Abdul Rahman, a twice-imprisoned veteran human rights campaigner from Aceh.
Jakarta Post - February 24, 2003
Jakarta -- The military on Monday denied accusations by the separatist Free Aceh Movement (GAM) that troops had raided a rebel base in violation of a peace pact signed in December, AFP reported.
"That is purely their [GAM's] claim. We are continuing to check the claim but I have just talked with the local subdistrict military commander who said there was no such raid in his area," an Aceh military spokesman, Major Eddi Fernandi, said.
Amri Abdul Wahab, a GAM representative on the Joint Security Committee (JSC) overseeing the truce, said that dozens of soldiers raided a GAM base at Linge in Central Aceh on Wednesday, killing one GAM member and injuring five others.
"They should come out with more facts to back up their accusations," Eddy said, adding that if the attackers were in uniform, GAM should knowwhich units they were from.
GAM said the incident had been reported to the JSC, which is supervising the implementation of the peace accord signed in Geneva on December 9, for themto investigate. The JSC could not be immediately contacted for comment.
The two sides on February 9 began the demilitarization phase of the peace pact.
Radio Australia - February 24, 2003
The separatist Free Aceh Movement in Indonesia's restive province of Aceh has accused government forces of several serious violations of the peace pact signed in December.
A Free Aceh Movement or GAM representative in the Joint Security Committee said that dozens of soldiers raided a base in Central Aceh district on Wednesday, killing one rebel and injuring five others.
The incident has been reported to the JSC which is supervising the implementation of the peace accord signed in Geneva on December 9.
Under the agreement, the GAM has to place their weapons at designated secret locations while government forces relocate their personnel and halt their offensives.
Melbourne Age - February 27, 2003
John Martinkus, Jayapura -- The border between the Indonesian province of Papua and Papua New Guinea has become a no-go area for Indonesian police and human rights workers, according to human rights and independence groups.
The groups say the border is home to Indonesian army-run training camps for Islamic militants and Papuan militia groups. They say the militant groups are being used by the Indonesian Army's special forces, Kopassus, to foment conflict between Christian Papuans and Muslim settlers from elsewhere in Indonesia. According to Lawrence Mehui from the pro-independence Papuan Presidium Council, Kopassus had built four training camps in border areas, just 40 kilometres from the provincial capital, Jayapura.
He recently completed a report on the activity for the council and said that since last November Kopassus had conducted meetings in villages to recruit people. He said that in January, Kopassus began recruiting people in the large transmigrant settlements around the town of Arso, south of Jayapura. "There is a direct connection between the Islamic groups and the military because all the weapons used are military standard," Mr Mehui said.
Johannes Bonay, director of the human rights group Elsham, said the situation had deteriorated with the formation by Kopassus of what are called operational support groups, recruited from Laskar Jihad Islamic militants and local Papuans. Mr Bonay's wife and daughter were seriously wounded on December 28 when unidentified gunmen ambushed the vehicle they were travelling in between the border posts of Papua and PNG. An Indonesian police investigation team that went to the border on January 1 was also shot at and forced to leave.
Since then Elsham had been unable to carry out investigations in the area and Mr Bonay said he had received death threats. A preliminary police investigation identified the Indonesian military as being in the area when the shooting occurred. "If we analyse the reports made by the people and the investigation made by the police, we can divine that Kopassus is behind this," Mr Bonay said. Elsham was among the first to blame the military for the ambush on August 31 last year that killed two Americans and one Indonesian, employees of the Freeport gold and copper mine.
Elsham has tracked the arrival of Laskar Jihad in Papua over the past two years, beginning around the western town of Sorong where 12 training camps, guarded by the military, were identified by Elsham investigations last year. Sorong is only nine hours by boat from the Indonesian island of Ambon and as the sectarian conflict there subsided last year, 3000 Laskar Jihad members were reported travelling to Papua.
Last Friday a Pakistani national was arrested in Sorong in possession of 10 explosive devices, raising fears that the Laskar Jihad had international connections. The arrest was just one more incident in a string involving weapons and explosive devices in Sorong that began in 2001. The establishment of Laskar Jihad and militia training camps on the border has increased clashes with Free Papua Movement fighters.
Melbourne Age - February 27, 2003
Martin Flanagan -- Human rights advocate John Rumbiak fled Papua a year ago. Local police had warned him that his investigation into the assassination of Papuan independence leader Theys Eluay in November 2001 had put his life in danger. After he was alerted to this, a group of armed men Rumbiak believes belonged to Kopassus, the Indonesian paramilitary group, took up residence in a house near his own and began monitoring his movements. Since he left the troubled Indonesian province, Rumbiak says one of the directors of Els-ham, the human rights organisation for which he works, had been attacked and shot along with a member of her family.
Rumbiak, who comes from the island of Biak off the north-west coast of Papua and is now a visiting scholar at the University of Columbia in New York, is in Melbourne for tomorrow night's Morning Star Concert at the Victorian Arts Centre. Rumbiak says the concert, organised by musician David Bridie, is an opportunity for Australians "to be really educated about what's going on in West Papua. They're going to learn about Papuans as people, that they have a culture, and the problems they're facing." Rumbiak says the Papuan people will cease to exist as an independent identity within 10 to 20 years if the present rate of assimilation in the province continues. "Their culture will be extinct," he says. As such, he believes Indonesian Government policies in the area come within the definition of genocide. Els-ham estimates that there have been 100,000 extrajudicial killings in Papua since the province was taken over by Indonesia in the 1960s. "That number doesn't include rapes and people who have disappeared. These are only confirmed deaths."
Rumbiak says Papuan culture is also threatened by transmigration, which has brought a million people to the province from other parts of Indonesia, the degradation of indigenous culture, and the accelerating rate of HIV-AIDS. A recent addition to the Papuan scene has been an Islamic militia called Laskar Jihad which, Rumbiak says, has connections with the Indonesian military. "The Muslim community is being manipulated to create conflict." Rumbiak says his inspiration is Tuarek Narkime, chief of the Amungme people who were the original owners of the land now occupied by the giant Freeport gold and copper mine.The impact of the mine and the local activities of the military led an outraged Narkime to paint his body with mud, don his penis gourd and walk from his village to Freeport's company town, Tembagapura, and make a statement of protest.
Rumbiak quotes him as having said: "Gentleman, I am angry with God! Why has He created such beautiful mountains, valleys and rivers, rich with minerals and placed us -- the indigenous peoples -- here in this place that attracts so many people from around the world to come, exploit our resources and kill us? You had better kill me now, kill all of my people, all our livestock, dig a big grave and bury us all, and then you can do whatever you want on our grave!" Rumbiak says Chief Narkime once told him that, as great as the provocation to the Papuan people has been, "our minds and hearts have to be as clean and white as Nemankawiarat (the glacier-capped Carstenz mountain peak) when you fight for truth and justice for your people and your land". Rumbiak says for this reason the Papuan struggle has been built around integrity, non-violent direct action and compassion. Greens senator Bob Brown refers to the Papuans as "our invisible neighbours". Rumbiak agrees. He says the world simply doesn't know about Papua. "To begin with, Papua is isolated. The only way to get there is a six-hour flight from Jakarta. Diplomats say it is too hard to visit. If you're a journalist, you can't get there without a permit from the Information Department in Jakarta and when you arrive you have to go to the police for a pass permit."
Rumbiak says the international perception of the Papuans is of a primitive Stone Age people. Laskar Jihad calls Papua "the Land of No Religion". At the same time, multinational corporations have been given access to the region's forestry and mineral riches.
Rumbiak says these industries have brought with them prostitution, which has inflamed the region's AIDS epidemic. Rumbiak says Australians have a moral responsibility for what is happening in Papua. "Australia is one of the countries that has benefited politically and economically from what is going on in West Papua," he says. Rumbiak believes this is not the struggle of Papuans alone. "This is the struggle of anyone, no matter where they are in the world, who believes in respect for other human beings and their cultures, and for the beautiful natural planet upon which we all depend for life."
Agence France Presse - February 25, 2003
Jakarta -- The Indonesian military has withdrawn from Papua province a special forces unit, some of whose members are on trial for the murder of a pro-independence leader there.
All 250 members of the Kopassus corps who were serving in Indonesia's easternmost province have been pulled out, media reports said Tuesday. Seven Kopassus members are on trial in a military court for the murder of Theys Eluay in November 2001.
"There will be no replacement. The tasks and duties of this task force will be handed over to the Indonesian armed forces, in this instance the Trikora command," Papua military chief, Major General Mahidin Simbolon, was quoted by the Kompas daily as saying at a ceremony to see the troops off. The Trikora command oversees security in Papua, the scene of a sporadic low-level independence revolt.
Simbolon denied that the pullout followed public pressure in the wake of Eluay's murder. He said the decision was made by the armed forces leadership after considering the "situation and conditions" in the field. The Jakarta Post quoted Simbolon as saying the move "is based merely on the consideration that security is conducive now." The troops left on board a navy warship bound for Jakarta.
Eluay was found dead in his car on November 11, 2001. He was abducted the previous evening while driving home from a dinner at the Kopassus task force's base in the provincial capital Jayapura. The court martial at Surabaya in East Java has heard evidence that one soldier clamped his hand over Eluay's mouth to quieten him during an argument about Eluay's plan symbolically to proclaim the province's independence. The pro-independence leader was still alive when soldiers left his vehicle, according to the testimony. Simbolon and his command's spokesman could not be immediately reached for comment on the withdrawal.
Agence France Presse - February 24, 2003
Jakarta -- Lawyers for the Indonesian armed forces said Monday they have agreed to settle their dispute with the Washington Post over a report that implicated senior officers in plans for an attack in Papua province.
Frans Hendra Winarta, representing military chief General Endriartono Sutarto, said both sides "in principle have agreed a settlement" and that documents were to be signed Monday with lawyers for the paper's Jakarta bureau.
In the settlement, the Post "agrees to publish a retraction of their previous article and states that they did not have substantial evidence to back up that article," Winarta told AFP. Local lawyers for the newspaper could not immediately be reached for comment.
The Post, citing a US government official and another US source, said senior Indonesian military officials had discussed an unspecified operation against the Freeport mine before an ambush of Freeport employees was staged last August 31. It said Sutarto was at the meeting whose apparent aim was to discredit separatist guerrillas of the Free Papua Movement. Two American teachers and an Indonesian were killed in the ambush when gunmen opened fire on buses carrying them near the gold and copper mine. Sutarto has denied attending any such meeting.
The retraction for the November 4 article will be published before February 28 and printed on the paper's front page, Winarta said.
Army officials have blamed the ambush on Kelly Kwalik, a leader of the Free Papua Movement. Kwalik has denied any involvement. Papua's deputy police chief, Brigadier General Raziman Tarigan, in November quoted a witness as saying that Kopassus special forces soldiers were suspected of involvement in the attack. He was later transferred to Jakarta.
FBI officers have travelled to Papua at least twice for what officials described as "monitoring" the Indonesian police investigation into the shooting. Reports of any military involvement could seriously undermine US efforts to resume full military ties with Indonesia, which have been restricted since 1999 because of the army-backed violence in East Timor.
Jakarta Post - February 26, 2003
Jakarta -- A leading US newspaper, The Washington Post, on Tuesday said it had found "no substantiation" to one of its reports published last year that implicated senior Indonesian military officers in plans for an attack in Papua, AFP reported.
The paper printed a statement on an inside page, following a settlement with lawyers for the military in Jakarta.
On November 3, the Post ran a report on an ambush at the Freeport Mine in Papua, in which two Americans and one Indonesian were killed. It reported that "senior Indonesian military officials discussed an operation" against Freeport before the ambush and that the discussions involvedthe military's commander in chief, Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, according to the retraction.
Endriartono has denied he or other officers discussed such a scheme. "As a result of the general's denial, The Post investigated the matter further," the paper said.
"The reporting has revealed no substantiation that Sutarto or other high-ranking Indonesian military officers were involved in any discussion orplanning of the attack. The Post regrets publication of this report."
Green Left Weekly - February 26, 2003
Iggy Kim, Sydney -- The Indonesian government's decision to divide West Papua into three provinces is a further attack by Jakarta on the Papuan people's right to self-determination, West Papua Institute for Human Rights supervisor John Rumbiak told a February 20 forum organised by the Uniting Church and the Australia-West Papua Association.
On January 27, President Megawati Sukarnoputri issued a decree to implement a 1999 law to divide the province of Papua into three provinces. On February 13, Indonesia's House of Representatives endorsed the decree.
The original law was not implemented due to widespread opposition both inside and outside West Papua. In October 2001, Megawati's predecessor, President Abdurrahman Wahid, introduced a new law enacting special autonomy for the province. This came into effect in January 2002 but has not been implemented under Megawati's presidency.
Rumbiak explained that the division of Papua province into three provinces will increase Jakarta's exploitation and militarisation of West Papua. Each new province will have a separate military command, troop numbers will be increased and there will be more military control over business operations, especially the lucrative resource industries.
The decree has raised social tensions to an explosive point in West Papua, Rumbiak warned. He recounted that on February 18, a pro-division rally of 1300 clashed with thousands of independence supporters in the West Papuan capital of Jayapura. This social tension has been exacerbated by Jakarta's program of bringing in colonial-settlers from Indonesia.
Rumbiak warned that an additional factor is the relocation in West Papua of the military-backed terror gang Laskar Jihad.
Jakarta Post - February 24, 2003
Kanis Dursin, Jayapura -- The decision to split up Papua into three provinces has eroded what little trust the Papuans had developed toward the government since the implementation of the special autonomy law on January 1, 2002.
This decision also sends out a strong message to other troubled provinces, particularly Aceh, that the central government has no intention to honor agreements into which it voluntarily enters.
President Megawati Soekarnoputri issued Decree No. 1/2003 dividing Papua into the three provinces of Papua, Central Irian Jaya and West Irian Jaya. Dated January 27, the decree serves the political interests of the central government and power-hungry opportunists in Papua more than the well-being of its people.
Dividing Papua, home to 2.3 million people, into several provinces will surely bring the government closer to the people, accelerate development, and boost indigenous Papuans' involvement in developing the province. In comparison, Java, which is one- third the size of Papua, is divided up into six provinces, including the capital of Jakarta.
But the decree -- a copy of which was faxed to the Papua governor's office from a telephone kiosk in Jakarta instead of the office of the home affairs ministry -- violates Law No. 21/2001, article 76 of the special autonomy law, which clearly states that any move to divide Papua into several provinces must be with the approval of the Papuan People's Assembly (MRP).
The Papuan People's Assembly, the highest legislative body in autonomous Papua, has not yet been established, but the central government has already divided the province. This leaves Papuan leaders and intellectuals wondering whether Jakarta is serious about implementing the special autonomy law there.
The Papuan administration, fully backed by its legislature, has set up a joint team to look into legal flaws in the decree and to file a judicial review with the Supreme Court.
"We want to show that we Papuans understand how law works," Papua legislature (DPRP) chairman John Ibo told The Jakarta Post.
However, the Presidential Decree goes far beyond the legal wrangle. By unilaterally dividing Papua into three provinces, the government has taken over the function of the Assembly and has raised questions as to the government's sincerity in granting the special autonomy status to Papua.
Under the special autonomy law, the Assembly has the authority to approve candidates for the positions of governor and deputy governor. It also has the final say in the selection of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) members representing Papua, and enacts bills submitted by the Papuan House of Representatives (DPRP) and the Papuan governor.
The absence of the Papuan People's Assembly has deprived DPRP and the governor their rights to submit badly-needed regulations of the special autonomy law. The law has never been implemented since it came into effect in January 2002, thanks to Jakarta.
The draft of a government regulation on the establishment of the Assembly was submitted to the home affairs ministry six months ago, but has not yet been approved. Jakarta has clearly sabotaged the implementation of the special autonomy law by delaying the establishment of the Papuan People's Assembly.
This explains, at least partially, why Papuan leaders and intellectuals reacted angrily to Presidential Decree No. 1/2003. John Ibo accuses the government of duping Papuans into accepting the special autonomy law. "We have been cheated repeatedly and even now, we are being deceived," John said.
The special autonomy law -- drafted by Papuan leaders and intellectuals -- was adopted to accommodate the Papuans' strong aspirations toward independence, which emerged following the forced resignation of former dictator Soeharto in May 1998.
The law allows Papua to have "its own government", complete with the MRP people's assembly, the House, an anthem, a flag and symbol, as well as a local political party. The role of the central government is limited to foreign policy, defense and security, monetary and fiscal matters, religion and the judicial system.
The province is also allowed to retain up to 90 percent of its land and building tax, 80 percent of its revenues from forestry, fishery and general mining industries, and 70 percent of receipts from the oil and natural gas sector.
Papuans had now finally begun to feel that they were "masters in their own land". Indigenous Papuans have taken over almost 90 percent of all key positions in the province, from the gubernatorial office and the provincial legislature down to the village level. Under the special autonomy arrangement, Papua was basically "an independent province within a sovereign country".
The law somewhat successfully muffled the demands for independence among indigenous Papuans. Since the autonomy law came into effect, pro-independence rallies were conspicuously absent from Jayapura streets, including at the Papua legislature compound -- until the announcement of the above Decree.
Papuan leaders and intellectuals suspect that the division of the province into three smaller provinces stems from "groundless fears" that the special autonomy law, if fully implemented, would lead to Papuan independence; a consequence Indonesia cannot afford, following the loss of East Timor in a United Nations- sponsored referendum in 1999.
Jakarta is particularly suspicious of the Papuan assembly, whose members are to hail from tribal societies, religious leaders and women's groups. Most leaders, if not all, of the Lembaga Masyarakat Adat, or tribal communities, are members of the Papua Presidium Council, a loose organization that has campaigned for and independent Papua. This explains why Jakarta has not endorsed the draft of a government regulation on the establishment of the Papuan People's Assembly.
The government seems to think that dividing the province would weaken the secessionist movement and give Jakarta free reign to monitor and control the leaders of the poorly-organized Free Papua Movement (OPM). If this is true, then the government has not learned its lesson: A small population does not prevent a people from fighting for and achieving independence, as proved by the East Timor experience.
In any case, the welfare of its people seems to have taken a back seat. Papuans were not consulted, and their social and cultural conditions were not taken into account in splitting up the province. In some parts, borders run through ancestral lands and divide people from the same minor ethnic groups into two different provinces. This, according to local leaders, would sooner or later create horizontal conflicts resulting from land disputes along provincial borders.
Consulting Papuans before splitting up the province is necessary, not only because Papua is an autonomous province, but also because the division concerns their lives. Involving the Papuans in decision-making is part and parcel of its right as an autonomous province. Denying them of such an opportunity is tantamount to negating their existence as an integral part of the country, which has fueled renewed demands for independence.
The controversial decree has clearly served as a wake-up call for indigenous Papuans, that not everything is fine with the special autonomy status.
"This [the decree] will harden our struggle for independence," said a prominent youth leader in Jayapura last week, expressing his conviction that, sooner or later, Papua would be independent.
Jakarta Post - February 28, 2003
Berni K. Moestafa, Jakarta -- Indonesian religious leaders rejected on Thursday a statement by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad describing a possible war on Iraq as a war against Islam, but called for a counterforce to balance the world's only superpower.
The leaders, representing Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, agreed however that a war in Iraq could undermine religious harmony in Indonesia and elsewhere.
Returning from a mission to Australia, the Vatican and Belgium, where they were lobbying in favor of Indonesia's antiwar stance, the religious leaders met foreign minister Hassan Wirayuda to discuss the results of their trip.
Chairman of the country's largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Hasyim Muzadi, said Muslims would likely suffer the most from any Iraq war. "But the format [of a possible Iraq war] is not a religious one," Hasyim told reporters after the meeting.
Last week, Mahathir told a business forum at the Non-Aligned Movement summit that fear of Muslims was affecting international policies, and a war on Iraq would be seen as a war on Muslims.
"He [Mahathir] probably has his own opinion, but ours is that a religious format is not consistent with the reality," Hasyim said.
The interfaith delegation was led by Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja, who chairs the Indonesian Bishops' Conference (KWI) and included Hasyim, Muhammadiyah chairman Syafii Maarif, Communion of Indonesian Churches (PGI) chairman Natan Setiabudi, Hindu leader I Nyoman Suwanda, Buddhist leader Supeno Alidjurnawan and Muslim scholar Nurcholish Madjid.
The delegation met Pope John Paul in the Vatican, and members of the European Union parliament in Belgium, hoping to rally what they called a moral movement to counter Washington's war drums.
"I think that it's not all visitors who are granted a 40-minute audience [with the Roman Catholic pontiff]," Hasyim said. He said the interfaith group and the Pope had agreed to strengthen the calls for peace.
As to the meeting with EU parliamentarians in Belgium, the views were mixed. "We came to a visionary agreement that war should be the last resort," Hasyim said.
In Australia, a staunch supporter of the US's war plans, the group met government officials and Indonesians, and it received assurances as to the safety of Indonesian citizens there.
"There is no counterbalance to America as a force ... a new awareness is growing that a force is necessary to counter America, and that is the force of universal consciousness," said Nurcholish, referring to the mass demonstrations worldwide against an Iraq war.
He said this awareness should remind the US of its own democratic principle of checks and balances.
Kompas - February 25, 2003
Jakarta -- Hundreds of demonstrators from the People's Democratic Party (PRD) demonstrated on Monday against US plans to attack Iraq.
They began gathering at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout then moved off to the British Embassy where they held speeches for around 10 minutes then moved off to the United Nations offices.
After holding speeches at the UN offices they went on to the US Embassy and gave speeches for around quarter of an hour.
PRD chairperson Haris Rusli Moti, PRD general secretary Natalia Scholastika and the chairperson of the Indonesian National Front for Workers' Struggle (FNPBI), Dita Indah Sari, took the opportunity to present a statement to a representative of the US Embassy.
From the US Embassy, the demonstrators moved off to the presidential palace. At 2.45pm the demonstration ended. There were no incidents during the action.
In Haris' speech he warned the people to be on guard against three types of global imperialists politics which are driven by the US, intellectual colonialism, political colonialisation through foreign debt and military aggression.
Haris explained that through the power of its intellectual domination, US global imperialist power is striving to destroy nations, the prime target being developing nations which have large significant amounts of natural wealth.
"They poison target countries though their theories of development which are used to drain the wealth of the nation concerned while building permanent economic dependence on the imperialist countries", said Rusly.
Furthermore, though the politics of foreign debt, the imperialist nations create an increasing level of dependence by the target countries. "These imperialist countries trick the target countries by forcing them to pay interest which is many times the amount of the original loan to the target nation", explain Rusly.
"After the target nation is caught up in debt, the imperialist nation force the victims to sell state assets and reduce subsidies to pay for the interest on the debt", continued Rusly.
He express the view that when those two types of colonialist politics by the imperialist countries fail, the US or Britain resort to armed aggression as they are doing with Iraq.
"So what in fact is happening now is a war of capital between the imperialist countries and Iraq. The US and its allies want to take over their wealth by using issues of religion and terrorism", he explained.
Therefore, Rusly in the name of his organisation pleaded with the Indonesian nation -- including the government and representatives of the people, not to be trapped by issues which are engineered by global imperialist powers.
Responding to the rejection by countries of the European Union of US military aggression against Iraq, Rusly said, "This issue should be used by nations in the Asia region to broaden an anti- war alliance". (win)
[Translated by James Balowski.]
Straits Times - February 24, 2003
Robert Go, Jakarta -- As war clouds loom nearer and the prospects for more mass demonstrations against a United States-led invasion against Iraq grow in Indonesia, at least one man is ready to capitalise on a money-making opportunity.
Mr Syahrul Arief thinks his Saddam Hussein T-shirts would make the perfect attire for demonstrating Indonesian Muslims, expected to respond to war in Iraq by taking to the streets by the thousands.
His Quds apparel company started making these T-shirts about a month ago, and although sales have been sluggish so far with slightly over 400 sold, the Jakarta entrepreneur is confident he has a good product.
Mr Syahrul said: "These are different from the Osama T-shirts we sold last year. Saddam is not a bestseller yet because many Indonesians understand he is not a completely pure Muslim. He has done bad things.
"But if war starts, more people would be interested in Saddam T- shirts. Then they would perceive him as a fighter against America and support his cause. When that happens, the T-shirts would move faster."
He has at least three designs -- two show Saddam wearing his beret and bearing slogans "We Support You" and "Ready for War". Another depicts a valiant Saddam defying an imperialistic US President George W. Bush. Each sells for $6, a price Mr Syahrul described as just right for the budget of Indonesia's students.
To some extent, the slack demand -- and the expected pick-up rate -- for Saddam T-shirts so far underlie how anti-American sentiment is a real issue in Indonesia.
Most Indonesian Muslims are moderate and do not necessarily support the Iraqi leader, but they show willingness to mobilise and show solidarity with him in the event of a US attack.
Indonesians are less pro-Saddam than they are wary of what has often been termed here as American imperialism.
As for Quds, it started making Muslim-themed T-shirts in 1992, when Mr Syahrul identified the potential market, especially amongst university students, for politically toned apparel that are "fit to wear" to public demonstrations.
At first, it emblazoned simple slogans such as "Be a good Muslim" or straightforward images of pious Muslims on its products. But political overtones quickly took over and thousands of T-shirts in support of Afghan freedom fighters or the Palestinian intifada appeared on the market. And Quds' owner knows what is good or bad business.
For instance, he has not done Mr Yasser Arafat, arguing that people would not buy his T-shirts because the Palestinian leader is seen as having compromised the Islamic cause. In contrast, Osama bin Laden was identified as a Muslim figure worthy of Indonesians' support.
Osama T-shirts hit the streets last year after US action in Afghanistan began, selling like hotcakes. Mr Syahrul said that to date, over 100,000 Osama T-shirts had been sold through his shop in Jakarta and university campuses nationwide.
Asked what he thinks of criticisms that he is adding fuel to anti-US feelings, he said he is tapping into existing sentiments, and not creating them.
"I wanted to help people express their Muslim pride and support their heroes, those who fight for Muslim causes. I am also doing this to make a living. I can't sell these T-shirts if people don't like the sentiments expressed already. Nobody would buy if they disagree."
|'War on terrorism'|
Strait Times - February 26, 2003
Jakarta -- A prime suspect in the Bali bombing will recant in court his confession implicating Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir in the blasts because it was made under police torture, the suspect's lawyer said yesterday.
Lawyer Qadhar Faisal said Imam Samudra involuntarily implicated Bashir after police stripped him, showered him with water all night long while he was blindfolded and slapped him in the face. Police also inserted iron objects between Samudra's toes and twisted the toes together, the lawyer alleged.
Mr Faisal said investigators had asked Samudra if Bashir is the imam, or leader, of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) regional terror network, which is blamed for the Bali bombing and if he had met Bashir before and after the attack on October 12.
Samudra said "yes" because he could not stand the torture, according to his lawyer.
"The fact that he has put another person's life in danger is excruciating for him," Mr Faisal said. "He will recant his forced confession in court." Bali police spokesman Yatim Suyatmo said he had not heard directly of such claims of torture.
"The fact is there are no signs of torture on Imam's body and investigators have also said they have never used violent means," he said.
|Government & politics|
Jakarta Post - March 1, 2003
Ardimas Sasdi, Jakarta -- A recent admission by a respected Cabinet member that the ruling Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan) was the most corrupt of all political parties merely confirmed the depths of corruption here.
The hard-hitting self-criticism launched by Kwik Kian Gie, Minister of National Development Planning and head of the party's research department, was challenged by the party's top executives, who scrambled to query the validity of his data and the forum in which he communicated his allegations.
However Mochtar Buchori, a scholar and fellow party executive, said he believed that a rational man of high integrity like Kwik had carefully pondered the consequences of his words and that he did it purely to save the party from collapse. The fact that Kwik finally backed off, saying that he was wrong to label the party as the most corrupt and refused to counter challenges from his critics, according to Mochtar, was that he did this all out of respect for, and his desire to serve, Megawati Soekarnoputri, both as president and party chairwoman.
Kwik said PDI Perjuangan was in danger of disarray due to rampant corruption and that it may break down in the next polls.
Yet long before the shock waves raised by Kwik, the party's executives, members and supporters, who contributed greatly to the stunning 33 percent votes garnered by Megawati in 1999 election, have one by one shunned the party for failing to live up to its pledge to fight for the poor. It has also fallen short of expectations in solving internal conflicts and combating corruption.
The exodus includes Dimyati Hartono, Megawati's close aide and a professor of constitutional law, former speech writer Eros Djarot and a group led by businessman Handoko, who have each formed their own parties. In Java, the power base of PDI Perjuangan, many party executives have joined other parties.
An informed source disclosed that even at the party's central board, executives were divided into at least three camps, each with their own political agendas and business interests. The strongest is said to be the group which is loyal to Taufik Kiemas, Megawati's husband.
The party friction has also reportedly affected familial ties among Sukarno's offsprings. Sukmawati Soekarnoputri has long joined the Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI) and Rachmawati Soekarnoputri established the Pioneer Party (Partai Pelopor), cooperating with former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid.
One of the PDI Perjuangan's largest blunders was its decision to endorse the re-election of Army Lt. Gen. (ret) Sutiyoso, a key figure in the brutal attack on PDI headquarters in Jakarta in 1996, in which dozens of party cadres became martyrs.
Another blunder was last month's government decision to simultaneously raise fuel prices and electricity and phone rates amid the gloomy economy -- although the original goal to reduce subsidies which benefit the rich was laudable.
The price hikes were unacceptable as the announcement came on the heels of the government's highly controversial plan on the release and discharge (R&D) policy against problematic bankers. The policy will in effect absolve the business tycoons which have sent the country into virtual bankruptcy, through their abuse of the liquidity credit provided by the government to salvage their banks from debts and criminal charges. PDI Perjuangan's decisions on Sutiyoso and R&D smacked of corruption and collusion.
The party's achievement in financial gains from a poor party in 1999 into a wealthy institution in just four years has also raised eyebrows, as seen by its luxurious headquarters.
The accumulation of this wealth and allegations of involvement of PDI Perjuangan executives in corruption will become ammunition for other parties to attack Megawati in the 2004 election campaign. The party can no longer be defensive by continuing to claim it represents the oppressed or is a nationalistic party, or claim Megawati's legacy as daughter of founding president Sukarno.
The military is projected to take a neutral stand in line with its new mission as the country's guardian, and cannot be expected to stand by PDI Perjuangan as it did with Golkar.
The other parties, including Golkar, National Mandate Party (PAN) and National Awakening Party (PKB) will most likely attack Megawati by exposing her government's weaknesses, as they had done by supporting the nationwide protests on utility prices.
Big parties have also drafted their campaign programs while PDI Perjuangan still grapples with internal conflicts and corruption issues.
The Golkar Party has fielded alternative candidates for its next presidential candidate to gauge public response, realizing the complex problem dogging chairman Akbar Tandjung, who is embroiled in a Rp 40 billion corruption scandal involving the National Logistics Agency.
Golkar, which has trained 1.2 million cadres in a bid to return, will also maximize the growing disappointment in the government and an illusion with the stable past under Soeharto to gain votes among the grassroots and business circles.
PAN has stepped up its support of Amien's campaign for the presidency by portraying him as a pluralistic and visionary leader; the latest move is portraying him as "Mr. Clean" as shown in the new PAN calendar, given to anyone for free.
The direct 2004 presidential election, the first to be held here, will also benefit presidential candidates from Golkar and Amien, who are more communicative, skillful in public debates and rich in ideas compared to Megawati.
Will the election defy predictions by some quarters, including foreign diplomats, that Megawati will be reelected with the support of her diehard supporters from the low income bracket in Java and Bali? This sounds a humiliating assumption to the poor.
Laksamana.Net - February 25, 2003
Vice President Hamzah Haz urges his opponents not to resort to slander to destroy his political career. Meanwhile, labor rights activists clash with police; and President Megawati Sukarnoputri enjoys diplomatic duties.
Haz on Tuesday appealed to his critics not to use smear tactics against him. "Don't use all means to destroy your competitors," he was quoted as saying by state news agency Antara.
Asked who his political opponents are, the vice president and leader of the Islam-based United Development Party (PPP) simply said: "I don't know."
However, he did say the press should not sell cheap news -- a reference to recent media speculation that police arrested one of his daughters during a drugs bust last Thursday night in Jakarta. Haz has described the reports as slanderous and says they are part of a systematic campaign to end his political career. But he is yet to file any lawsuits over the alleged libel.
Turning to next year's elections, Haz said the presidential and vice presidential elections should be held separately from polling for legislative assemblies.
"If the elections for members of the House of Representatives and district/provincial legislative bodies, and the president and vice president are held on separate days, voters will have the opportunity to make their best judgment in voting," he said.
He argued that if elections for the upper and lower legislative assemblies and for the president and vice president are held simultaneously, voters won't have sufficient concentration to make the best choices.
Indonesia is scheduled to hold a general election next year, as well as its first ever direct presidential election. But members of the General Election Commission (KPU) have recently said that separate balloting systems could mean the country's next president and vice president won't be elected until at least January 2005.
In East Java, university students on Tuesday said they would not vote in the general election because of their disappointment with the country's electoral system.
Voting is not compulsory in Indonesia, but in the past political activists have been jailed for encouraging others not to vote.
The East Java Student Executive Body (BEM) insisted that it's not telling the public to boycott next year's election. "It's not a suggestion for the people but merely a discourse," BEM-East Java spokesman Deyisnil Fariadi said at a meeting of 150 student representatives from 80 universities across the province.
Deyis, who heads the Sunan Ampel State Islamic Institute's student council, said choosing not to vote has nothing to do with efforts to boycott the general election.
Former regional autonomy minister Ryaas Rasyid on Monday predicted the 2004 general election will be prone to chaos because certain parties will try to disturb the electoral process.
"Those who do not want the next general election to run unimpeded will likely be represented by parties consistent in maintaining their 'status quo', as well as the parties that have no access to the general election for failing to meet the electoral qualifications," he said.
Rasyid, who leads the small National Unity and Democratic Party (PPPD), said disgruntled parties have the potential to incite chaos on a massive scale. And if millions of people become involved in the mass unrest, the military and police won't be able to cope with the situation, he added.
Islamic Unity An Islamic scholar has called on the country's Muslim parties, both large and small, to merge into two or three parties in order to win more votes.
"If they do not unite, I am sure it would be difficult for these parties to win seats in the legislative assembly in the 2004 elections," said Professor La Odea Abdul Rauf, dean of Southeast Sulawesi's Haluoleo University.
He said the lack of cohesion among Islam-based parties caused their lack of success in the 1999 general election. "Dozens of Islamic parties contested, but only some of them could gain seats in parliament. The number of seats they won was small, less than 25% of the total seats contested."
Rauf said merging the nation's Islamic parties would have two main advantages: competition among them would be narrowed down and voters would not be confused.
Clash over manpower law
Hundreds of students, workers and activists of the Democratic People's Party (PRD) clashed with police on Tuesday when they tried to enter the national parliament building where legislators were passing the manpower bill into law.
The melee erupted when the demonstrators tried to pull down a barbed-wire barricade at the entrance of the parliament compound. Police had earlier reportedly asked the demonstrators to send some representatives to the plenary meeting of parliament, but the offer was allegedly turned down.
At about 2 pm, police used tear gas, water cannons and batons to disperse the protesters. Some members of the crowd responded by throwing stones at the police, while others fled the scene.
The manpower bill covers several important labor issues -- including the recognition of the right of workers to strike, the existence of temporary workers, and sabbatical leave.
But critics say the bill fails to protect workers from unfair dismissal. They also say it fails to recognize the rights of temporary workers, making them vulnerable to abuse by employers.
Megawati on Tuesday met with the leaders of South Africa, Sri Lanka and Vietnam on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said Megawati called on South African President Thabo Mbeki, Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong.
On Monday, the opening day of the two-day NAM summit, Megawati said Indonesia and South Africa have initiated the Asia-Africa Conference II, which will be held in Bandung, West Java, this year.
The first Asia-Africa Conference, held in Bandung in 1955 by Megawati's father founding president Sukarno, led to the birth of NAM. Antara reported that Megawati is scheduled to attend an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in Qatar on March 5.
The president and her entourage are scheduled to depart on March 3 and will be back soon after the OIC meeting winds up on March 5.
Natalegawa said Indonesia fully supports the OIC meeting, during which Islamic countries will discuss their opposition to America's plan to use military action to force Iraq to disarm.
Jakarta Post - February 25, 2003
Jakarta -- In what could mark the country's first judicial review under the amended 1945 Constitution, six political parties, each with less than 2 percent of seats at the House of Representatives, plans to request that the Supreme Court review the new elections law, which had been described as "unfair".
However, a noted expert said Monday that a judicial review was appropriate only if the law violated the Constitution, while in the case of the election law, it could have violated the freedom of association or the articles against discrimination.
"We hope to submit the judicial review request this week," chairman of the Justice Party Hidayat Nurwahid told a press briefing as quoted by Antara on Monday.
Currently the Supreme Court acts as the Constitutional Court, a product of the amended Constitution, that has the power to amend laws after they are enacted by the House.
The Justice Party is one of several political parties now effectively barred from participating in next year's election because of the new law.
Only parties with at least 2 percent of seats at the House are eligible for elections. The rest must either merge with other parties or reapply under a new name.
Now, the Justice Party, the Masyumi Party, the Nahdlatul Umat Party (PNU), the Umat Awakening Party (PKU), the Indonesian Islamic Party (PII), the Just Welfare Party (PAS), and the United Development Reform Party seek to challenge that ruling through a judicial review.
Hidayat called the election law unfair and inconsistent with the law on political parties. Aside from questioning the 2 percent threshold, he also pointed to an inconsistency with the open-list electoral system as required under article six.
Hailed as a major step toward democracy, the open-list system stipulates future legislators are to be directly elected.
A contestant must have a minimum amount of votes to secure a seat at the House. The remaining seats that are left after all votes have been counted and allotted to the eligible contestants, will be spread among others who lack the minimum amount of votes.
But instead of distributing them based on the contestants' highest votes, article 107 allows parties to select the members regardless of how many votes they won. "These two items are very crucial as they are totally unfair, and will lead to a flawed 2004 election," Hidayat said.
Legislators recently passed the election law after months of foot-dragging that nearly risked next year's election schedule. It is one of five laws the House must issue to meet the sea changes necessary under the new political system brought about by the amendment of the 1945 Constitution.
Activists have said the amendment fell short of imposing strict reforms, citing resistance among the political elite. Analysts noted that various problems in the new political laws and bills were the result of this shortcoming.
So far the House has passed two laws, the election law and the law on political parties. In the pipeline are the laws on the direct presidential election, and the composition of legislative bodies.
University of Indonesia constitutional expert Jimly Asshiddiqie, however, doubted the effectiveness of a judicial review, saying that it was effective only if the law violated the Constitution.
According to Jimly, the election law was concerned more with violation of freedom of association and acts of discrimination rather than violation of the Constitution.
He also said that the political parties' planned judicial review could be the first of its kind since it was introduced by the amended Constitution. "If it is felt that the law is the product of the political elite's short-term interests, then it must be repealed," Jimly said.
Jakarta Post - February 25, 2003
Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, Kuala Lumpur -- President Megawati Soekarnoputri made her first address on the Iraq crisis when she spoke before the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit which opened on Monday, but she fell short of detailing initiatives to prevent war.
Representing the world's most populous Muslim country, Megawati simply joined the bandwagon of worldwide opposition to any unilateral action by the United States and that Iraq must comply with United Nations' resolutions.
"Indonesia is firm in its rejection of war as a solution," Megawati told the summit. She even refrained from mentioning the US, referring to it as a "powerful country", which she said had no right to act unilaterally against the other.
As the country with the largest Muslim population, Indonesia has been intensively lobbied by Washington and its allies seeking Jakarta's understanding of any possible attack.
Unlike her move to directly urge North Korea to continue dialogue with South Korea and the US to settle the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula, Megawati gave no signs of taking a more active role on Iraq by approaching either Baghdad or Washington.
But Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Marty Natalegawa said the government had also tried to play a leading role on the Iraq issue, saying that Megawati's special envoy and interfaith group had lobbied many parties on the issue.
"I do not see any differences in our actions regarding the Iraq and Korea issues, as the President's special envoys have gone to many countries to lobby many parties regarding both matters," Marty said.
"We'd rather prove our role by action than by statement." A group of interfaith leaders are in Europe to convey the Indonesian people's united stance against war.
In her speech, Megawati said the case of Iraq was a reflection of the failure of multilateral systems in facing the intention of strong countries, some saying with oil as its motive, to depose President Saddam Hussein.
She further called on Iraq to comply with the UN resolution to avert war and save the lives of the many Iraqis who would die. "Therefore as a friend and fellow member of this movement, Indonesia calls on Iraq to abide by its obligations under the relevant UN Security Council resolutions," Megawati said.
She also urged Israel to comply with the UN resolution in addressing the Palestinian issue. The Indonesian government also threw its weight behind a proposal to send UN security forces to protect civilians in the state.
"From the prevailing problems of different regions, we can identify a growing trend, where the powerful imposes its will on the weak. This trend would only advance injustices, which in turn leads to other forms of violence, namely terrorism," Megawati said.
A stronger statement on Iraq came from Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who said the US plan to strike Iraq "is no longer just a war against terrorism" but "is in fact a war to dominate the world."
A draft statement on Iraq to be presented at the end of the summit Tuesday opposes any war without the support of the UN and calls on Baghdad to "actively" comply with UN demands that it disarm.
NAM groups 114 countries, most of them developing nations who depend on foreign aid, including from the US.
Jakarta Post - February 26, 2003
Dadan Wijaksana, Jakarta -- The Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) said on Tuesday it had found irregularities amounting to the value of Rp 456.3 trillion (about US$60 billion) in the use of state funds in 2001 and 2002, providing yet further evidence that efforts to stamp out graft and corruption have been fruitless.
BPK Chairman Satrio B. Judono disclosed the staggering finding when he delivered the agency's biannual report before a House of Representatives' plenary session.
"The findings were the results of an inspection which covered the implementation of budgets in 2001 and 2002 for regional and central governments, and state companies operating under the central government and in the regions," Satrio told legislators, adding that the size of all of the budgets audited by the agency totaled Rp 2,463 trillion.
As BPK did not specify the irregularities, they could mean outright losses or simply potential losses. But the amount is so huge that it even surpasses the Rp 336.2 trillion achieved in revenue in the 2002 budget.
Judono also expressed disappointment over the findings, especially such a huge potential loss, which only reaffirms the poor supervisory role of the government.
"As a common man of course I'm disappointed. Not only because of the huge loss to the state, but it also shows that, although we do this every time, these things are still happening," he added.
This highlights yet again that the fight against the die-hard practices of graft and corruption has a long way to go.
Since the so-called reform era in 1998 -- which was marked by the downfall of president Soeharto -- pledges to eradicate such practices in the country had been made by succeeding administrations. Tuesday's report, however, shows that as time has gone by, the situation has worsened.
Of the total irregularities, Satrio said that 387.1 trillion in losses due to irregularities had occurred throughout 2001 with the remainder estimated to have occurred in the following year.
Irregularities at state-owned companies were the largest -- in terms of percentage -- they were recorded to have misused close to 50 percent of the budget. Of the Rp 35.4 trillion that was inspected, the potential losses could well reach Rp 17.7 trillion.
The losses due to irregularities were much more staggering the year before, reaching Rp 322.5 trillion.
In the meeting, Judono also said that the report did not represent the actual amount of losses the country might have to suffer, as not all the concerned parties had given their full support to the audit process.
House Speaker Akbar Tandjung, said that he also deplored the huge irregularities, adding that the report was good input for the government to follow up.
"We, along with the government and the related departments will follow this up under the existing procedures, to make sure that we can minimize the amount of funds lost," said Akbar, who is facing a prison sentence in a corruption case.
Based on current regulations, BPK's reports will later be used in all related ministries and other state institutions as a basis to determine the necessary follow-up. Experience has shown, however, that little is usually done as a result of such reports.
Jakarta Post - February 28, 2003
Yuli Tri Suwarni, Bandung -- A local newspaper officially reported to police the maltreatment of its photographer by police during a violent demonstration in Bandung, West Java, on Thursday, as dozens of fellow journalists marched to denounce the incident.
The protesting journalists threatened to boycott the coverage of events concerning Bandung police headquarters until firm action was taken against its personnel involved in attacking demonstrators and a photojournalist with the Pikiran Rakyat daily, Dudi Sugandi.
The violence erupted when hundreds of students from various universities in the province clashed with police on Wednesday during a protest against the rise of utility prices. At least 23 people, including Dudi and a police officer, were injured.
Police officers beat Dudi and seized his camera, as well as prevented other journalists from covering the violent scuffle.
Dindin S. Maolani, a lawyer for the newspaper, accused the police of committing at least two crimes during the clash, which was sparked when the students attempted to force their way into the West Java legislature compound after being denied permission to meet senior councillors.
"They [police] have violated the Criminal Code by maltreating the demonstrators. They have also obstructed the freedom of journalists to obtain information, a crime that breaches the Press Law," Dindin said.
He was speaking after accompanying Dudi in presenting his case against the police to the Bandung military police office, where the victim also provided a medical report of his injuries from the private Borromeus Hospital.
A similar lawsuit against the police would also be submitted soon by the Bandung-based Student Executive Board (BEM) over the beating of its members during Wednesday's clash.
Andreas Manalu, coordinator of the BEM, said lawyers from the local Legal Aid Institute (LBH) had expressed support for the lawsuit.
The students also demanded the police to compensate for damaging a truck they had rented for the demonstration.
Most of the injured students suffered wounds to the head as a result of police beating them with sticks.
One of the students from Bandung Islamic University, Affan, had to undergo minor surgery at Borromeus Hospital for a broken bone. "Affan has fainted several times. According to doctors, he was beaten with a hard tool," said Indra, BEM leader of Padjajaran University.
Meanwhile, around 70 journalists from various print and electronic media protested at Bandung police headquarters to condemn the police's repressive and violent measures against them and the student demonstrators.
"The police are not professional in facing journalists. They looked fearful that the public might learn about what actually happened when they violently pushed back the protesting students," said Sulhan Syafi'i, a protest leader.
The journalists demanded that Bandung Police chief Sr. Comr. Hendra Sukmana apologize publicly through both the print and electronic media, and punish his officers harshly over the violence.
"The police must also compensate for damages to my video camera caused by water cannon spray during the clash," said Rudi Setiawan, a local correspondent for the private TPI television station.
In response, Hendra refused to apologize and defended the police officers' actions, saying it was in line with security procedures. "What apology? We have to examine first if it is true that the police beat students, confiscated a camera and prevented reporters from getting information," he said.
Nor would the police pay the demanded compensation for the damaged camera. "TPI is rich. It should repair the camera itself," Hendra added. Nevertheless, he said the police were ready to face lawsuits from the media and students over the incident.
|Focus on Jakarta|
Sydney Morning Herald - March 1, 2003
Matthew Moore, Jakarta -- They crept up around Christmas. Signs on bridges told of their arrival. Long strips of road were painted red as a warning. Bus lanes had arrived in Jakarta.
In the busiest city in the world's fourth most populous country, traffic jams are so much part of life the wealthy install fridges and DVD players in their cars and sip drinks as they wait.
But now the governor of this megalopolis of 12 million or more people, Sutiyoso, has vowed to do something about it.
It's not Brussels or Berlin that he has turned to for inspiration, but Bogota, capital of Colombia. A version of the Bogota traffic management model is being implemented in Jakarta, where it is being greeted with scepticism as heavy as the traffic.
It's hard not to notice that the new lanes have no buses in them, just the cars and trucks that have always used that part of the road.
Then there is their location: in the far right lane of the roadway, as far from footpaths as you can get in Indonesia, where people drive on the left, as in Australia.
Since the road selected to trial the new lanes is up to 12 lanes wide, a trip to the island in the middle where the buses will stop could require a passenger to cross six lanes of traffic. Surviving that will demand a strong heart and fast feet.
But making it to the middle strip will be only half the battle. With their doors on the left and the buses travelling on the right, will passengers be expected to get on and off in moving traffic?
The man trying to allay these fears is Heru Sutomo, a transport expert from Yogjakarta's prestigious Gadjah Mada University. For cities as poor as Jakarta, he said, dedicated bus lanes were the way of the future. With limited funds, cities like Bogota have learnt how to slash travelling times without plunging their administrations into debt, using a scheme that, his calculations show, should pay for itself.
Mr Sutomo said he could understand why Jakarta residents were dubious about the scheme, especially the idea of putting the bus lane as far from the footpaths as possible.
There were several reasons for doing this, he said. First, Jakarta has long had bus lanes next to the footpath, but they have been clogged with cars and motorbikes stopping to enter car parks and side streets.
And there is the attempt to make buses more desirable. "The whole idea is to put buses in a very prestigious place, and that's why we put them out in the middle." To get people to the middle, pedestrian bridges will have to be built and crossings will be required, although no one has worked out how to get drivers to stop when pedestrians use them.
Despite the strong opposition of Jakarta's city gardens department, bus shelters will be built on the broad median strips where trees and gardens now flourish.
And new buses with doors on the right-hand side will be bought for safer access.
Finally, there's the little wall Mr Sutomo wants built to keep other vehicles out of the lanes.
Without all these measures, Jakarta's bus lane project will never succeed in halving the 90 minutes it takes for a 14-kilometre trip into town.
The head of Jakarta's consumer organisation, Tulus Abadi, is one of 14 prominent residents who have just returned from Bogota. He was impressed by what he saw but fears Jakarta's bid to replicate Bogota's success will be doomed, with funding allocated only a fraction of what was spent there and no attempt to educate people about how the plan might work.
Mr Sutomo sees another problem -- Indonesia's notoriously corrupt bureaucracy. Already the city administration has decided it needs to set up a new authority to administer the lanes -- a move some fear will see money bled out of the project.
"This kind of bureaucracy is so terrible," said Mr Sumoto. "I find it very frustrating." Unless it can be tamed, Jakarta looks destined to retain its bus lanes without buses.
|News & issues|
Reuters - February 28, 2003
Telly Nathalia, Jakarta -- Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir was handed over to prosecutors in Indonesia on Friday to face trial for treason, police said.
Bashir has been described by several Southeast Asian nations as the spiritual leader of the radical Jemaah Islamiah network that officials blame for the Bali bomb blasts. Bashir denies any link and has not been charged in relation to that attack.
"We gave Bashir away to Jakarta's district attorney early this morning," police spokesman Edward Aritonang told Reuters. "The files have been completed and he is ready to be put on trial." Prosecutors accept custody of prisoners only when they consider there is a case strong enough to go to court. While no trial date has been set, the hearing could open within weeks.
Aritonang said the charges against Bashir covered "treason against the state, immigration violation, and documents falsifications, and others".
But Bashir and his lawyers said the case was no longer connected to suspected involvement in the bombings of churches on Christmas 2000 and of plotting to kill President Megawati Sukarnoputri, the crimes orginally cited by the police when they arrested the preacher last year.
"There have been shifts over the accusations imposed on me. It's no longer about the Christmas bomb or a plot killing Megawati. This is bizarre. All the accusations have been bizarre. There must be something behind all of this," Bashir told reporters during the handover.
Police and prosecutors gave conflicting comments when asked about the issue and failed to elaborate on precisely what evidence or events led to the treason accusations against Bashir.
But they did say the treason charge was one defined as seeking to overthrow the government, which would carry a maximum penalty of 15 years, not treason defined as plotting to kill a president, which could bring a death sentence, as could a charge of involvement in fatal bombings.
National police chief General Da'i Bachtiar said the case as presented was the best they could do rather than having one "supported by weak evidence and testimonies". He did not elaborate.
Several officials also have linked Bashir to the deadly October 12 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people.
But police have not named Bashir as a suspect over the attack and the cleric has denied any tie to Jemaah Islamiah, the Bali bombings or any other wrongdoing. Shortly after the Bali blasts, Bashir called them a "brutal act" and said he believed the United States was behind them.
Aritonang said earlier this week police were still probing Bashir's possible role in the Bali attack. The frail cleric, who is in his mid-60s and has had a number of physical ailments in recent months, spent years in Malaysia.
Officials there and in neighbouring Singapore say Jemaah Islamiah was responsible for planning a number of violent acts against Western interests and other targets throughout Southeast Asia in its effort to achieve a pan-Islamic state in the region.
Intelligence sources have also tied Jemaah Islamiah to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda. Bashir, usually clad in white robes and a skull cap, has expressed admiration of the Saudi-born bin Laden but denied he was part of al Qaeda.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim country but the majority of its believers are considered to be moderates.
[Additional reporting by Achmad Sukarsono.]
Jakarta Post - March 1, 2003
Moch. N. Kurniawan, Jakarta -- A controversial plantation bill has come under fire from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and farmer associations, which say that if passed the bill would harm both the people and the environment.
The RACA Institute, in cooperation with a number of farmer organizations and NGOs in North Sumatra, the Working Group of National Independent Farmers and the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, has published a book to campaign against the bill.
"We cannot accept the plantation bill," Ivan Valentina Ageng, a senior official at the RACA Institute, told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
Ivan said the bill would just benefit large-scale plantation firms. "The bill allows plantation companies to occupy land and convert forest areas into monoculture plantations without any limits, as long it is seen as not going against national interests." The bill also allows plantation companies to take out concessions of up to 30 years.
"Plantation companies would not be land users but practically owners if they were given the right to use the land for 30 years," Ivan said.
He said another problem with the bill was that it encouraged farmer to share their land with plantation companies. "The bill wants to kill off the low-income farmers," he said.
The bill also opens the possibility of monopolies, as it would allow plantation companies to run the business from the upstream to the downstream, he said.
Ivan said RACA opposed the bill because it encouraged the authorities to give concessions to plantation companies to convert forest areas into plantations, continuing the exploitation of the country's forests and farmers' dependence on capital owners.
"The bill is a threat to forests across the country," he said, pointing out that the bill did not require plantation owners to finance reforestation programs.
He said it would better for the government to review all of the regulations and laws related to agrarian and natural resources, rather than to create a new plantation law.
A number of NGOs and other organizations have actively campaigned against different bills that would give large companies a greater role in business. The plantation bill and another bill on water resources were drafted by the House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, I Made Urip, a member of House Commission III for plantations, agriculture and fisheries said his commission would continue reading the bill despite the criticism of the NGOs.
"We are trying to regulate the plantation business and allow the fair participation of large and small private companies and state-owned enterprises," he said.
He said, for example, that the bill obliged large firms to allocate a small portion of their land to small-scale farmers. Large companies will also have to implement community development programs to help local people run their own businesses, he said.
The legislator said the House would send the plantation bill to the government immediately so they could both begin deliberating the bill during the next session.
Radio Australia - February 28, 2003
In Indonesia, a radical Muslim group has announced its reviving its paramilitary wing. The Laskhar FPI of the Islamic Defenders Front is known for its raids on nightclubs and alcohol vendors as part of a crackdown on what it describes as dens of sin and immorality. The group disbanded last November but has now re- opened for registration for both old and new members.
Presenter/Interviewer: Kanaha Sabapathy
Speakers: Sidney Jones, Indonesia project director for the International Crisis Group; Ulil Abshar Abdalla, coordinator of the Liberal Islamic Network, Habib Rizieq Syihab, leader of the Islamic Defenders Front
Sabapathy: Formed in 1998 the Islamic Defenders Front or FPI has developed a reputation for attacking bars, nightclubs and gambling venues. Entertainment venues deemed un-Islamic have often been targetted and its most prominent raid was that on Jakarta's Chinatown last May.
But following the Bali bombing of last October the FPI along with the more militant Laskar Jihad disbanded in the face of growing public criticism. So why has the group chosen to regroup and rearm its paramilitary wing now? This is Habib Rizieq Syihab the leader of the FPI.
Syihab: "The armed wing of FPI was made non-active or frozen some time ago for the purpose of evaluation and reorganisation. Now that we see that this process of evaluation and reorganisation during the past four months has run fairly well we start to do it at the grassroots level. That's why since Sunday we have reopened for registration and screening of new recruits."
Sabapathy: Unlike other militant groups like the Lashkar Jihad and the Jemma Islamiah the FPI has never called for an Islamic state ... but rather has called for a strict adherence to the Sharia laws.
While this may be the case, Sidney Jones the Indonesian project director of the International Crisis Group sees its activites as those of an urban criminal gang with an Islamic veneer.
Jones: "They have had a history of attacking nightclubs and discoteques but using sticks to basically smash things up, they don't usually attack people, they attack buildings and property and often make off with the proceeds of the cash register. But it's much more an urban criminal gang in some ways with an Islamic veneer."
Abdalla: I must say that this is a criminal group, they're concerned about prostitution, about the gambling, about the nightclubs, about the drugs, but the problem is that they deal with it badly."
Sabapathy: Ulil Abshar Abdalla is the coordinator of the Liberal Islamic Network. He says it's the failure of the government to address these social issues that led to the rise of the FPI.
Abdalla: "Just due to the inability of the government to deal with this kind of problem, so it is a reaction of the people while are impatient in looking at the problem unsolved there."
Jones: "What they tried to do is to eradicate vice in the name of Islam but there are a lot of allegations that they don't go after some places that are well known to be frequented by police for example."
Sabapathy: Following the events of September 11 ... the world has focused on the activities of militant Islamic groups. The Bali bombing last October brought their destructive activities closer home ... and now with war looming in Iraq ... should we be concerned with the regrouping and rearming of the FPI? Mr Abdalla believes not.
Abdalla: "I doubt that they can rearm themselves here, again because there is no support whatsoever from the people now."
Sabapathy: But what about external support?
Abdalla: "You see FPI is not linked to any international supporter because FPI is different from Laskar Jihad and MMI. MMI and Laskar Jihad is pretty linked to the outside group, but FPI is merely an indigenous group."
Sabapathy: Sidney Jones agrees that the FPI is not a terrorist organisation ... but she sees the group becoming a nuisance factor as Indonesia goes into elections next year. She believes the FPI could leave itself open to manipulation by other parties for very local political ends.
Jones: "I don't think that necessarily there's a linkage between this remobilisation and the war in Iraq. But this is a group that will be active in demonstrations in Jakarta and other cities if there is a war in Iraq."
Jakarta Post - February 26, 2003
Bambang Nurbianto, Jakarta -- The Islam Defenders Front (FPI) is reactivating its feared paramilitary wing, with the same mission as before -- fighting against immorality in its own way if necessary.
FPI chairman Habib Muhammad Rizieq Shihab said on Tuesday that recruitment had already started last Wednesday at FPI headquarters at Jl. Petamburan III, Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, and so far some 80 people had registered.
FPI, which often raided red-light districts, amusement centers and massage parlors, was disbanded early in November following the suspension of detention of Rizieq, who was charged with instigating violence.
Rizieq said the reactivation of FPI's paramilitary wing was a follow-up to its internal leadership consolidation meeting held to evaluate the performance of the organization's four-year existence.
"You should remember that the FPI paramilitary wing was only frozen as we wanted to achieve internal consolidation; we are reactivating it now as the consolidation has been successful," Rizieq told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
He added that the reactivation had nothing to do with external factors, such as the US threat against Iraq or anticipation of the 2004 general elections.
The disbanding of FPI's militia wing came less than a month after Laskar Jihad, a much larger paramilitary group blamed for aggravating sectarian violence in Maluku and Central Sulawesi, dissolved itself on October 12, the day powerful bombs ripped through two popular cafes in Kuta, Bali, killing at least 202 people and injuring over 350 others, mostly foreigners.
FPI was known for its violent activities, which included vandalizing bars and nightclubs it accused of being dens of iniquity. A number of entertainment operators, however, said some FPI members also extorted money from them.
Rizieq admitted the result of FPI internal consolidation showed a number of weaknesses in the organization due to intervention by outsiders like the military, politicians, and businesspeople.
FPI militia chief Jafar Siddiq said on Tuesday that all weaknesses in the past could be eliminated, as strict requirements would be imposed on those who wanted to become paramilitary members.
Jafar said that to be accepted as a member an applicant would have to pass an entrance test and take part in training organized by FPI headquarters.
Jafar said the activities of the FPI militia would not be that different from the previous one, namely fighting against "immorality" like prostitution and gambling.
He added his organization might change the way it implemented its struggle, such as via legal procedures like reporting violations of the law to the police and law enforcement agencies.
"However, if the police and other law enforcers do not respond to our reports, we may still resort to our old ways," Jafar told the Post.
Meanwhile, Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Prasetyo warned the FPI militia not to repeat its old mistakes, like raiding entertainment venues.
However, he added the police would not take action against any organization, including the FPI militia, if it did not violate the law. "But if they repeat their old practices, like 'sweeping' entertainment venues, we'll arrest them," Prasetyo said.
Jakarta Post - March 1, 2003
Jakarta -- The persistence of the Indonesian Military (TNI)'s leaders in defending a bill that could allow the institution to regain its power reflects their failure to comply with the reform movement, analysts have concluded.
Military observer Rizal Sukma of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said on Friday that both the government and the House of Representatives should oppose the bill as it could jeopardize the efforts to uphold democracy and civil society.
He also asked the public to learn from the past, when the military had abused the power awarded by the state, without any control being exercised by civilians.
"There are two critical points that determine whether or not the military complies with the reform process, namely their acceptance of civilian supremacy and civilian control," Rizal told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
He was commenting on remarks by TNI commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, who said on Thursday that an armed forces' commander could deploy troops in an emergency without having to seek approval from the president. He contended that this power was necessary should the president, vice president or a triumvirate of the home minister, foreign minister and defense minister not be available.
Last week, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu had asked for more power in the handling of domestic security. He voiced his request after meeting with 250 active and retired senior Army officers.
People's Consultative Assembly Decree No. 7/2000 stipulates that the TNI serves as a defense force, while internal security is the responsibility of the National Police.
Separately, Mochtar Pabottingi of the National Institute of Sciences (LIPI) called on the public to reject the military bill.
"The institution has lost its credibility. For many years it created conflict across the nation in a bid to serve the authoritarian regime of the New Order," he said.
"The military could no longer claim to be the guardian of the state because it was responsible for almost all of the disturbances in the country. The reform era demanded that the military change, but it has failed to do so," Mochtar told the Post.
Many believe that the Army is playing a prominent role in the promotion of the controversial military bill. Article 19 of the bill gives authority to the TNI commander to deploy troops to strife-torn regions without the prior approval of the president. The TNI would only have to report to the president within 24 hours after such a deployment.
Legislator Hajriyanto Y. Tohari joined the chorus of criticism against the controversial article.
"A decision to declare a state of emergency is very subjective. It depends on various interests. Therefore, it must be the president who holds the power to declare a state of emergency after consulting with the House," he said.
"The involvement of the president and the House will improve the checks and balances mechanism." Hajriyanto likened the declaration of an emergency to the appointment of a TNI chief or the issuance of a government regulation in lieu of law, both of which required the approval of the House. Responding to a promise by Endriartono that the military would not abuse its power, Hajriyanto simply said: "That's only a promise".
Bowing to the intense opposition to the controversial bill, Endriartono said that there was always the possibility that it could be revised during its deliberation by legislators.
"Specific details and arrangements to ensure that the TNI will not abuse its powers can be set out and determined during the deliberations," said Endriartono after receiving the Bintang Jasa Utama award from President Megawati Soekarnoputri at the Merdeka Palace on Friday.
He underlined that the main objective of the bill was to set up rules for the TNI in the exercise of its role as a defense force.
A similar view was expressed by National Intelligence Agency (BIN) director Hendropriyono, who said that the bill was subject to amendment. Hendropriyono is a retired lieutenant general, who spent most of his military service in the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus).
"We are not forcing things so that the bill must be approved as it is. Further discussion is required before its deliberation in the House," said Hendropriyono to the press.
Rizal nevertheless said that even if the military was ready to revise the offending article, "we should not forget that the military has once again tried to regain its dangerous powers".
Jakarta Post - February 28, 2003
Tiarma Siboro, Jakarta -- Despite strong criticism from various sides, the Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto insisted that the military had no plans to review a bill that would give the TNI commander authority to deploy the armed forces in an emergency without the necessity of seeking approval from the president.
Instead, Endriartono defied the critics, saying that even without the legislation, the military could launch a coup at any time it wanted to.
He called on the public not to be suspicious of the bill because, referring to Article 19 of the bill, the TNI commander had the authority to deploy military personnel anywhere in the country in an emergency if the president, vice president or a triumvirate of the Minister of Home Affairs, Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defense, were not available.
"Currently, there are more than a hundred thousand military personnel deployed in numerous regions across the country. Does that mean that I'm going to launch a coup against the legitimate government?," Endriartono said.
He said he would be available to give a full clarification to the House of Representatives during the reading of the bill if he was requested to do so.
The armed forces bill, which was prepared by the military- dominated Ministry of Defense, drew sharp criticism from a number of political analysts, legal experts and human rights activists when it was first made public last week.
The critics called on the House of Representatives to be alert to the various contentious issues in the bill as it threatened the country's nascent democracy, and civilian governance.
Endriartono said further that the bill did not contradict the Constitution or the 1959 Emergency Law as the emergency troop deployment articles would only be applicable in a case where there was no other option.
"We're not talking here about a normal situation. Do you think that we [the TNI] should await the president's orders if a serious conflict erupts in a particular region. It's totally different in an emergency," Endriartono asserted.
According to the Constitution, the president in his/her capacity as TNI supreme commander has the ultimate authority to declare war and deploy military personnel to a war zone. In addition, the president has the power to impose curfews in troubled areas after gaining the approval of the House of Representatives. The widespread criticism of the bill has much to do with Indonesia's traumatic experience during the New Order era when the military unswervingly supported former president Soeharto's repressive regime.
Endriartono declined to give a detailed explanation regarding another contentious provision, Article 7, on the Army's much- criticized territorial function. "There's nothing wrong with the article," he said.
During the New Order era, the military (Army) abused its territorial function to legitimize its control over top political positions in local administrations. Almost all senior positions in the provinces and regencies were occupied by Army generals. The military used the Golkar Party as its political vehicle to monopolize these civilian posts.
The territorial function was also abused to oppress opposition groups, and extort the private sector and state-owned companies.
South China Morning Post - February 25, 2003
Marianne Kearney, Jakarta -- The Indonesian military has drafted a bill that would allow it to deploy troops anywhere in the country without having to inform the civilian government, sparking fears that it could be used to advantage by coup plotters.
The proposed law -- a copy of which was shown to the South China Morning Post -- was quietly drawn up by senior military officers over the past few months. It will probably be presented to parliament in the next three months, said analysts familiar with the bill.
The draft bill allows a military commander to deploy troops in an emergency situation without first consulting civilian officials. It also allows for the military commander to declare emergency law without presidential approval, says Ikrar Nusa Bakti, an analyst who was consulted by the military during the drafting. "This law would make it easy for the military to abuse it, they could move against the president if they wanted," Mr Ikrar said.
Under the present law, the military cannot deploy troops until it has a request from the governor of a province. The governor informs the home affairs minister that he has requested troops and the regional military commander informs military commander of the request.
The draft law may also undermine the reforms introduced after the downfall of president Suharto in 1999, aimed at making the military accountable to the civilian government rather than an equal power, observers say. "What they [military] still don't understand is that they are just one instrument of government. But they think the civilian government is beholden to them," one security analyst said.
But one politician argued that the proposed law might be the military's bid to bargain for a reduced role for the police. "This law is just a way of demanding something greater than they want, so eventually they can demand more power than police, greater budget and more equipment than the police," legislator Alvin Lie said. "Basically I think that the main cause of this law is the military's unhappiness with police revival. There's strong rivalry with the police since the police blamed the military for killing [Papuan independence leader] Theys Eluay," said Mr Lie. Seven elite soldiers are on trial for his murder.
Last week, army chief General Ryamizard Ryacudu suggested that the army be allowed to play a crucial role in Indonesia's defence, rather than be subject to a civilian government. "When people talk about military professionalism by asking us to return to barracks ... I don't think they understand what the Indonesian army is about," General Ryamizard said.
Arguing that the Indonesian army should not become a professional army like that in the United States because it was a "people's army", he hinted that the army should play a role in determining government policy for separatist conflicts in Aceh and Papua. "We cannot leave domestic issues tp just anybody ... because we have different conditions from the US. We are still dealing with disintegration problems," he said.
Djoko Susilo, a member of the parliament's defence affairs commission, said the draft had been shown to the justice and defence ministries, but the authors did not get the support they hoped.
They then showed the proposed law to friendly legislators. While the draft law has yet to be debated, some observers fear that because President Megawati Sukarnoputri depends heavily on the military to stay in power there will be little objection from her PDI-P party which holds the most seats in parliament.
Mr Ikrar said the president and the major political parties were not interested in reforming the military as they feared the armed forces would create "disturbances". In addition, the parliament showed little ability to implement reforms even if it wanted to, he said. "Only one in 10 members from the [parliamentary] defence affairs commission understands and is concerned with defence affairs," he said.
Any opposition to the bill will depend on whether the smaller opposition parties can rally enough support. Ms Megawati's PDI-P party, its coalition partner Golkar and the military hold 311 out of 496 seats. While the reform faction holds only 47 seats, it could get some support from the Muslim PPP Party, which has 58. A large number of dissenting legislators might force parliament to amend the draft. Indonesia's parliament prefers to reach a consensus on laws rather than vote on them, so a minority could win some concessions.
Jakarta Post - February 25, 2003
Tiarma Siboro and Kurniawan Hari, Jakarta -- Two more military analysts have criticized the draft law on the military currently being prepared by the government, saying the bull, which gives more power to the military, could jeopardize democracy.
Daniel Sparringa of Airlangga University in Surabaya, East Java, said the bill was a reflection of the generals' distaste for civilian supremacy over the military.
"It is a setback to the ongoing democratization process, which makes the military subordinate to civilians. Therefore, all policies on the military, including the deployment of personnel anywhere in the country, must be regulated by the state," he told The Jakarta Post by telephone on Monday.
He acknowledged that the military had monopolized three concepts: Pancasila as the state's single ideology, the unitary state and nationhood.
Daniel was commenting on Article 19 of the draft law giving the Indonesian Military (TNI) chief authority to deploy personnel in emergencies without the need for presidential approval.
Ikrar Nusa Bhakti, a military analyst from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), criticized the draft law on Sunday, saying it contravened the 1945 Constitution and democratic principles.
Salim Said, another military observer, concurred and said that according to the Constitution, the president in his/her capacity as head of state was the commander-in-chief of the armed forces -- Army, Navy and Air Force -- and the only party allowed to declare war.
"Based on our Constitution, the military must comply with political decisions made by the state [represented by the government and the House of Representatives]. Thus the president is the supreme commander of the military. This also includes the deployment of armed forces.
"So, it is quite ridiculous if the TNI commander is allowed to deploy personnel without any approval from the president, for whatever reason," Salim told the Post.
Separately, the secretary of the Ministry of Defense, Vice Marshall Suprihadi, said the ministry had set up a team to review the bill, which has been handed over to the state secretariat.
Declining to directly comment on the controversial issues, Suprihadi said that power over the armed forces was still in the hands of president. He added that the government was determined to have the bill passed into law this year.
Earlier, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu voiced a controversial demand for the Army's possible return to its former functions in security matters, in addition to the defense function.
Commenting to Ryamizard's statement, Salim said that he could not blame the Army should it demand a greater role in maintaining security at home, but stressed that all things concerning the military should be determined by the government and the House of Representatives (read: civilians).
Straits Times - February 25, 2003
Devi Asmarani, Jakarta -- A controversial Bill, being drafted, is set to revive the supremacy of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) and even allow its commander to declare an emergency without first seeking the President's approval.
Many see it as a sign that the once-powerful military is capitalising on the frail and divided civilian leadership to make a comeback.
A 42-member team made up of government officials, military officers and academics has been working on the Bill for nearly two years. But progress has been slow as the team members have found it difficult to agree on some contentious articles.
One of these proposes that the TNI commander be given the authority to deploy personnel in an emergency situation and to impose an emergency status in troubled regions without prior approval of the President.
Some members have complained that the TNI clearly wants more clout for itself and its commander. Military analyst Kusnanto Anggoro, who is on the team, told The Straits Times that he felt there was a strong view within the army "that it must be given discretion in emergency situations".
Paradoxically, the Bill had originally set out to curb the military's might and put it under the defence minister and the President, who is the supreme commander of the country's armed forces.
But in the lengthy drafting process, the military members of the team have hijacked the discussion, overshadowing the Defence Ministry which was supposed to lead the process.
The military reportedly replaced its members on the team with more conservative officers to facilitate its agenda, a move that has caused a rift within the team.
Political analyst Arbi Sanit of the University of Indonesia warned: "The military is testing how far it can go to make a comeback because the civilian government is at a low ebb. The civilian leadership is very dependent on the military to safeguard its power in the face of mounting opposition."
After the Suharto regime fell in 1998, anti-military sentiment was high. The TNI was then accused of having abused its territorial function to keep its grip on politics during the 32 years of the administration. But observers said that since President Megawati Sukarnoputri took office in 2001, the military has been making a quiet comeback.
The hardliners have been revving up to revive the military's role in maintaining domestic security, which was handed to the police in 2000.
Last week, the Army Chief of Staff said the country's security problems required the TNI to take on a greater role in the domestic security. General Ryamizard Ryacudu suggested that Indonesia's unique situation would require the TNI to take a greater role in "preventing the country from disintegrating".
Jockeying, in turn, to consolidate its position, the police leadership is continuing efforts to convince the public that the cops alone were up to the task of keeping order within the country and that the TNI should concentrate on defence.
Supporting the TNI's claim, Mr Sudjati Djiwandono, an analyst for the thinktank Ridep Institute, pointed out: "In most countries, it is the military that has the capability to tackle emergency situations. But since its split from the police, the military has been in a dilemma because it has no role in domestic security. The Bill once passed should resolve this problem."
Former TNI chief of general affairs Agus Wijoyo, however, said it was unlikely that the military was trying to make a comeback. He told The Straits Times: "We are in a transitional stage of developing a new system, which often creates ambivalent and confusing situations. But the cost and the risk are too high to return to the way things were."
Straits Times - February 25, 2003
Jakarta -- Choose a rank, the security force, shell out Rp 300,000 (S$59), and a well-known shop in Central Jakarta will outfit its customer with everything one needs to be a military or police officer. From the caps and shirt with all the trimmings, to trousers, belt, boots -- everything is available for a fee.
And those who have ambitions of having subordinates can buy insignias indicating that they are commanders. Don't know which insignia goes where? Not a problem. The shop assistants willingly give instructions.
"Put this 'Metro Jaya' badge along with the 'Polda' emblem on the right arm. And these 'Jakarta' and 'Sabhara' emblems go on the left sleeve," one said, producing a sample of the correct emblem layout.
Pointing at a gold band on a police cap, the shop assistant advised: "An officer's cap has this gold band, that of a soldier has a silver band."
Most of the shops selling police and military uniforms have a wide collection of emblems and pins, and anyone can buy them for any purpose because the assistants usually do not ask too many questions about the buyer.
Officially, they are supposed to ask buyers to prove they are legitimate members of the force by producing official ID cards. But on the ground, anything goes.
Jakarta Post - February 22, 2003
On Thursday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu met hundreds of active and retired top army officers, where he reiterated that the role of the country's army is different from the expected "professional" army role elsewhere, as he claimed there were unique problems in this country such as disintegration.
The Jakarta Post's Ati Nurbaiti talked to former chief of territorial affairs and a former deputy speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly Lt. Gen. Agus Widjojo on the issue. The following are excerpts of the interview:
Question: Thursday's meeting seemed to reflect apparent fears among senior and retired army officers of today's required end to the military's political role, such as losing its seats in the legislature. How do you see this?
Answer: If we see changes as a process we would understand that in the past the Indonesian Military (TNI) had a large responsibility over the nation's fate and it cannot just be indifferent to that. We are now in a transition to place all state institutions within functions to be adjusted with a modern and democratic Indonesia.
This adjustment takes time ... it is a two-way process in which it is crucial to have the effectiveness of the institutions [such as the police - Ed.], which now run the functions which the TNI and particularly the army used to run effectively. If we understand this we would know that this transition needs time and patience [Defense researchers have also cited the need for proper understanding of civil and military relations among both civilians and the military - Ed.].
Nevertheless, the TNI has placed itself as a part of this nation's strategic decision to encourage a national reform towards democratization. Maybe senior officers are among others influenced by the initial statement of the army leadership to end the territorial command structure, which embodies the army's social and political role, while later it was stated that ending the structure would have to be gradual.
Changes cannot be seen partially but they need to be understood as part of a more comprehensive system and eventually they cannot be separated from the above strategic decision towards democratization. The function of the territorial structure has to be seen in the light of what the nation wants because it would relate to the whole authority of the government; so the restructuring of this authority, including the territorial commands, cannot be decided by the TNI alone.
This is because the territorial function is a function of guidance and preparation of national human resources at the local level and to prepare infrastructure whenever needed to support defense efforts. This is a government function.
What about observations that the territorial command structures have led to "excesses" and have been used for economic gains of the military and its officers?
Even if there were excesses it would be handled as part of enforcing law and discipline ... [such excesses] have never been part of the command policy. The TNI leadership is always committed to efforts to enforce the law.
How long would it take for the TNI's young generation to be committed to the reform goals of having a professional TNI that is only engaged in defense of the country?
The preparation of TNI's Army personnel is based on the existing pattern to prepare soldiers to respond to challenges. This is done through education and training which takes into consideration each development in its surroundings, to anticipate necessary capabilities required of each soldier.
The biggest investment which will influence the quality of TNI's performance is human resource development ... So it is important to get an accurate analysis of the kind of TNI that we want and to accommodate this in the curricula. This takes time and if we design the curricula in a wrong way we will feel the effects in the future. The period for a [student] to graduate [from military education] and to reach a position as a mid-ranking officer to be able to influence policy of the TNI command could take 15 years.
Fears of eroding influence seem to be reflected in officers' statements on Aceh, which give the impression of mistrust in the current implementation of the peace pact mediated by the Henry Dunant Centre. Your comment?
A review of the role of the TNI in the Aceh case must refer to the statement of the TNI Commander [Gen. Endriartono Sutarto] who said that TNI carries out the political decisions made by the political authority; however, the TNI can provide suggestions and give input to policy makers about its role and assignment.
Then what is absolutely necessary is to ensure (TNI's) readiness whenever it must do its task entrusted by the people, through a political decision. If there is the impression that cooperation is not going quite smoothly among various institutions, this is a logical consequence from this transitional period, in which we are making functional institutions effective in the restructuring of the role and function of each institution ... But if this phase in Aceh fails, wouldn't we have to expect even more foreign assistance?
The impression that the above cooperation is not going smoothly is still subject to management by the government, which can be improved at any time. And each development in resolving the Aceh issue will first and foremost be dealt with by the political authorities to determine who does what, in accordance with our Constitution.
The functional institutions would then carry out that [decision] such as the foreign affairs ministry regarding diplomacy, the local administration regarding its functions and the police regarding law enforcement and security, and also the TNI will continue its role of supporting the civilian authority in its required role and function.
So you see such problems as basically a management issue?
We still have much political resources to respond to our national dynamics. The measures taken by TNI are based on decisions of the political authority. This means that it is hard to imagine a scenario where the TNI is needed to directly act and make political decisions. So the TNI does not need to directly take political measures.
Do you sense that there are doubts on the part of the political authority regarding TNI's position?
In any transition to a democracy in any place, functional institutions are in a process of becoming effective; because they were never given a chance and were thus untrained to do so in the past. However, there is no choice but to build this effectiveness, and we must support all efforts towards that purpose, so we can quickly overcome this transition and build a mature democratic structure. What if we are unable to do this in a timely manner? As more time passes, the costs will increase.
Jakarta Post - February 24, 2003
Tiarma Siboro, Jakarta -- The government has been preparing a controversial bill giving authority to the Indonesian military commander to deploy military personnel in an emergency without the approval of the president.
Ikrar Nusa Bhakti, a military observer from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), confirmed on Sunday that he was included in the government team to jointly prepare the bill with several teams from the Indonesian Military (TNI) Headquarters, Army, Navy and Air Force.
Ikrar said the teams had worked for almost a year but the bill had not been completed yet. Koesnanto Anggoro, a military analyst from the Centre for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) who was also included in the government team, declined to comment on the slow preparation of the bill.
But, reliable sources told The Jakarta Post that the joint teams' slow work was due to friction among team members over contentious issues in the bill. They were referring to Chapter 7 on the Army and Chapter 19 on the TNI commander's authority to deploy personnel in an emergency situation without approval from the president.
According to the sources, the Army has pulled out pro-reform soldiers from its team and replaced them with those who have an agenda to strive to project a more conservative role of the military in the bill.
They also said that the government team was on the brink of breakdown because the Army was determined to give a leading role to the military and more authority to the TNI commander and not to the defense minister nor the president in his or her capacity as the TNI supreme commander.
Ikrar warned against a powerful Army and possible abuse of power by a TNI commander if the contentious issues are not reviewed by the House of Representatives (read: the civilian).
He said the military's internal reform would be under threat if Chapter 7 was maintained because it stipulates the current military doctrine and operational strategy based on its territorial function. The Army had abused its territorial function to keep its grip in politics during the 32-year New Order regime.
Ikrar also said a TNI commander could abuse his power or do something unlawful if he was allowed to deploy personnel in an emergency situation without any approval from the president.
"This article which gives authority to the TNI chief to deploy troops immediately prior to the president's approval is very hazardous because the TNI chief is also allowed to impose an emergency status on strife-torn regions," he said, adding that it was against the 1959 emergency law.
The amended Constitution stipulates that the president in his or her capacity as supreme commander of TNI has the authority to declare a state of emergency in conflict-torn regions after gaining approval from the House of Representatives.
"What will happen if the military deploys its troops to launch a coup against the legitimate government for the same reason?," he asked rhetorically.
The controversial issues in the military bill has been linked to the gathering of Army officials and retired generals in the Army Headquarters last week.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu who hosted the rare gathering disclosed a controversial demand for a possible return to the Army's former function of upholders of security besides the current defense function.
Ikrar said the military should no longer be given the opportunity to intervene in security affairs or politics and territorial affairs in order to allow them to be more professional in their function of defending the nation.
"Listen to Ryamizard's statement, we can see that the separation between the Police and the TNI has not brought about reformation within the two institutions. And it is not only the TNI that is moving slowly in reform, because the police themselves are currently promoting militarism within their own institution," he said.
Australian Financial Review - February 22, 2003
Tim Dodd, Jakarta -- With Indonesia facing a new round of instability if war goes ahead in Iraq, the country's top political and military leaders say the army will not "return to barracks" but will retain its domestic security role.
Army chief of staff General Ryamizard Ryacudu said his forces would not be pulling out of their domestic function. "When people talk about military professionalism by asking us to return to barracks I don't think they understand what the Indonesian army is about," The Jakarta Post quoted him as saying.
General Ryamizard was speaking after briefing more than 200 serving and retired generals who had gathered for what was described as a keep-in-touch social gathering. The main topic at the closed meeting was the threat to national unity.
Those present included former armed forces chief and security minister General Wiranto, his disgraced rival Lieutenant-General Prabowo Subianto (former son-in-law of former president Soeharto), and current security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Afterwards General Ryamizard said the concept of a professional army in Western countries such as the United States could not be applied to Indonesia. "We are still dealing with disintegration problems, whereas the US is beyond that," he said.
The army chief's views echo those of one of Indonesia's most senior political figures, who told The Australian Financial Review that he was confident the army would be able to control any disturbances by Islamic extremists. "They can be controlled by the security apparatus thanks to the territorial system," he said, referring to the army's practice of assigning personnel to shadow every level of Indonesia's civil government. Speaking anonymously, he said: "It [the territorial system] will not be abolished. This is not America or Australia. It is a different situation. "There will be no back-to-barracks for the army."
The army has enjoyed a resurgence of influence since President Megawati Soekarnoputri took power 19 months ago. Both General Ryacudu and his superior, armed forces commander General Endriartono Sutarto, are regarded as close to the President. Following Soeharto's fall in 1998, the army withdrew from some of its more overt political roles. For example, its representation in Indonesia's two parliamentary bodies has diminished and is scheduled to be phased out over the next few years.
Following the formal separation of the police from the armed forces in 1999 the army was supposed to play no further role in domestic security. In practice, it has continued to do so. If instability grows, and if regions such as Papua and Aceh continue to press demands for independence, the army's internal security function is likely to grow.
Australian Financial Review - February 26, 2003
Don D'Cruz -- When John Howard met recently with Indonesian President Megawati Soekarnoputri he got an important assurance from her: that Indonesia does not regard Australia as anti-Islam. This was crucial in the light of the war against terrorism and possible conflict in the Gulf.
In return, Megawati raised the issue of Indonesian sovereignty, and her concern that Australian government funds to aid Australian non-government organisations were being used to support separatist movements in Indonesia. All Howard could do was to give an undertaking that this was not the government's intent.
As Howard will discover, Indonesia's concerns are valid. Australian foreign-aid NGOs are actively undermining the sovereignty of Indonesia and promoting independence for West Papua. This was alluded to during the recent debate on the proposed anti-terrorism laws. As a member of an Australian foreign-aid NGO noted in The Australian Financial Review last May: "There are concerns if the bill is passed in its present form, organisations that directly support and provide advocacy for independence movements may be deregistered by the attorney- general and face other consequences resulting from a freedom movement being classified as a terrorist organisation." (Nathan Laws, Australian Legal Resources International, AFR, May 16, 2002.)
Although Howard will not find any government grants earmarked for "supporting independence in West Papua", the reality is that its funding often underwrites much of this activity and it is time that Australian official aid agency, AusAID, be made accountable.
For example Union Aid Abroad (APHEDA), the ACTU's own aid agency, states in its annual report that it "campaigns in support of independence in West Papua". While the Australian government does not explicitly fund APHEDA's pro-independence campaign, it does so indirectly.
First, it gives it tax-deductibility status. Second, the government, through AusAID, gives it 70 per cent of total funding. In terms of funding, the term "non-government" is a bit of a misnomer. APHEDA is not the sole Australian foreign NGO to support independence, it is just the most transparent about its intentions.
In a democracy, groups have a right to support causes peacefully. But NGOs that rely heavily on government funding don't have these same unfettered rights. This applies especially to the ABC. The government-funded ABC was supporting the Morning Star Concert, an event designed to raise funds for West Papuan independence, until the Howard government stopped it.
Australia can play a role in West Papua by bringing the parties together and promoting dialogue, like in another troubled province, Aceh. Supporting independence in West Papua is not in our national interest. Nor is letting Australian NGOs run around with government money, seeking regime change in our most important neighbour.
[Don D'Cruz is a research fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs and director of NGO Watch.]
|Economy & investment|
Jakarta Post - March 1, 2003
Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta -- The government's launch of Invest in Indonesia Year 2003 will lead to a dead end because no concrete action has been taken to support the program and political uncertainty will increase ahead of next year's elections, experts said.
They said the government would be busy with political events over the next two years, leaving plans to boost investment forgotten.
"I still don't believe foreign investors will eye Indonesia this year. They will continue to wait and see over the next three years," Dradjat Wibowo, an economist at the Institute for the Development of Economics and Finance, told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
President Megawati Soekarnoputri officially launched Invest in Investment Year 2003 on Thursday. The goal of the program is to improve the investment climate here in order to attract investors to help push economic growth and create jobs.
Megawati, however, failed to outline any concrete measures to address investors' concerns about security, legal certainty and legal enforcement.
Sri Adiningsih, an economist at Gadjah Mada University, said businesses operating in the country repeatedly voiced their complaints to the government, but no action was ever take to resolve these problems.
"Investors will of course remain reluctant to come here if the government fails to take concrete action to resolve all of the pressing problems as soon as possible. "This will require an integrated effort involving various ministries," Sri said.
Anton J. Supit, chairman of the Indonesian Footwear Association, also urged the government to get serious about dealing with the problems facing investors, singling out corruption as particularly worrisome.
"I don't believe promotions are called for at the moment if the situation remains unchanged. But still, we welcome this as better than nothing," he said.
As part of its efforts to promote investment, the government plans to set up the National Investment Team to resolve pressing problems facing existing investors. The team will hold regular meetings with investors around the country and then devise ways to resolve their problems.
The government also plans to establish a one-stop service center for investors in order to speed up investment licensing and cut down on bureaucratic hassles. Currently, investors must go to several ministries to receive a license, a process that can take months.
Dradjat, however, questioned the government's seriousness about establishing the one-stop service center, pointing out that it was still reluctant to give total investment licensing power to the Investment Coordinating Board.
"That will be one of the main considerations for investors considering investing here. Investors want smooth service, like a one-stop service policy," he said.
Sri, meanwhile, said the return of investors to the country depended very much on the seriousness with which Megawati addressed investors' concerns. These concerns include labor conflicts, high tax rates and rampant illegal fees.
"Our taxes are relatively higher than neighboring countries. The government must conduct a careful study of this to make us more attractive to investors," Sri said.
She also suggested the government offer new incentives to investors. "All of the countries in the region, including Japan, are now struggling to attract new investors and are offering them a lot of incentives. So why don't we offer incentives?" Sri asked.
Laksamana.Net - February 24, 2003
The Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) released investment figures for the month of January late last week revealing a steep fall in foreign direct investment (FDI) approvals but an upsurge in domestic investment.
FDI approvals in January totaled $321.8 million compared with $486 million the same month a year before, while the value of approved domestic investment projects rose last month to Rp1.03 trillion ($116 million) compared with Rp674 in January 2002.
For full-year 2002, FDI approvals dropped sharply to $9.74 billion involving 1,135 projects, compared to $15.06 billion for 1,333 projects in 2001, reported Antara.
In 2002, domestic investment project approvals dropped sharply to 181 projects worth Rp25.262 trillion, from 264 projects worth Rp58.816 trillion in 2001.
The BKPM said the approved FDI projects comprised 78 new projects worth $53.8 million, compared to 79 projects worth $366.2 million a year earlier, and 24 expansion projects worth $59.2 million against 27 projects the previous year.
It said a large amount of the FDI approvals in January -- or $208.8 million comprising 12 projects -- were for a change of status from domestic investment to FDI projects, against only seven projects worth $13.7 million in the previous year.
Of the approved domestic projects, 10 were new projects worth Rp440.7 billion, reflecting an increase from the year-earlier 16 projects worth Rp533.7 billion, reported AFX-ASIA.
Separately, the government approved 13 expansion projects, which involved investments totaling Rp563.7 billion, up sharply from six projects worth Rp139.2 billion a year earlier.
The BKPM report said the transportation, storage and communication sector attracted the most foreign investments, with $120.2 million worth of foreign investment approved, followed by other services with $40.1 million, reported Agence France Presse.
By sector, domestic investment approvals in electricity, gas and water supply reached Rp230.5 billion, followed by transportation, storage and communication with Rp148.5 billion; metal, machinery and electronic industry with Rp131.3 billion; and construction with Rp97.5 billion.
It said the approved FDI projects have the potential to absorb 21,357 local workers and 551 expatriates, while the domestic projects may absorb 5,008 local workers and 18 expatriates. Officials have blamed the constant drop in investment on labor problems, a corruption-prone court system and a lack of regulations governing local autonomy, resulting in frequent legal disputes involving investors and regional governments.
Wins and losses In support of claims that the FDI sector is looking increasingly gloomy, Cilegon Industrial Estate [KIEC] official Chosnul Saiin, said at least five foreign investors have cancelled their investment projects in Cilegon, Banten, because of legal uncertainties and rampant levies.
The foreign investors, including companies from France, India and Germany, planned to construct a chemical factory in the industrial estate, Saiin said as quoted by Antara.
While there was bad news, there was also some positive news on the investment front. Lloyd's List reported that a plan for a $200 million hub port in eastern Java would go ahead.
Bambang Darwoto, president of state-owned port operating company Pelindo III, said the new port would allow exporters to save time and money because it would allow shipments to be made direct rather than through Singapore.
The new port would be about 40 km from the existing container terminal at Tanjung Perak, Surabaya.
There was also good news in the components sector, with South Korean interests said to be considering investing in Indonesia to supply components for Korean electronics, automotive and petrochemical industries.
Ten mid-size component manufacturers from South Korea were studying the possibility of making Indonesia the center of component producers for Korean industries in Southeast Asia, The Jakarta Post reported.
The report said newjoint ventures would support existing Indonesian units of Korean corporations such as Samsung and LG.