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Indonesia News Digest No 24 - June 16-22, 2005

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 News & issues

Nias residents warn of child trafficking

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2005

Abdul Khalik, Jakarta -- Several prominent figures from Nias alleged on Monday that dozens of children had been taken off the island illegally since the tsunami in December.

Director of Jakarta-based Nias Potential and Empowerment Council (LP2N) Ebenezer Hia said that in addition to the 10 children now under the social affairs ministry's custody, some 30 others had been taken to the capital in the past few months without going through proper procedures.

He said he had received many requests from Nias parents asking the council to trace their children's whereabouts after being taken to Jakarta by different foundations.

"The foundations left no addresses or contact numbers. They just took the children away without any letter of approval from their parents or documents from local authorities as we've found no records in the local administration office," Ebenezer said.

Ebenezer, together with several other Nias figures, arrived at the city police headquarters on Monday to demand that the 10 children under the social welfare ministry's care in Jakarta be returned to Nias as soon as possible.

The 10 were taken to Jakarta by four people identified as Hendra, Hikua, Yohana and Halana, workers with the Youth Foundation (YWAM) in Cipayung, East Jakarta and the Nation's Hope Foundation (YHB) in Parung, Bogor, West Java.

The four, however, failed to produce letters of consent from parents and approvals from local administrations as required by law in order to take children from their parents.

The four were subsequently arrested for questioning before they were released 24 hours later. After that police arrested the head of YHB in Parung, where the children were supposedly taken to.

The 10 children are Adil Putra Jaya Lombu, 3, Fiberman Lombu, 7, Pontianu Lombu, 4, Beziduhu Lombu, 6, Jois Dorkas Orienti Lombu, 4, Yuferius Lombu, 8, Miralina Lombu, 7, Yujuniman Lombu, 7, Jhoni Alexander Hululu, 5, and Dirman Pati Yulianu Ulu, 7.

Another prominent Nias figure S. Laoli, chairman of the Nias Society Association (Himni), claimed that hundreds of Nias children had been taken to many areas in Indonesia since the massive flood in 2001, and the trafficking worsened after the tsunami.

"We just have to do a survey to find out how many children have actually been taken from our island. Several mothers said to me that they had lost their children after a foundation took them away," he explained.

Chief of the women and children unit at the city police Comr. Sri Suwari said that the police would soon return all the children, who are now in a state-run orphanage in Bambu Apus, East Jakarta, to their parents in Nias.

"Hopefully, we can return the children to their parents on Wednesday. We have questioned all witnesses, including two men identified as Edo and Benny in Nias. For now, we haven't found a criminal offense in the case," she said.

Forty-eight name suspects after Kembangan clash

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2005

Abdul Khalik, Jakarta -- At least 48 of over 100 people who clashed with police at the Taman Permata Buana housing complex in Kembangan, West Jakarta over the weekend were declared suspects on Monday. However, only 25 of the 48 suspects were detained.

City police spokesman Sr. Comr. Tjiptono said police would be firm in dealing with the suspects, as many of them were not residents of the area but gang members hired by a party with an interest in the conflict.

"Most of them are gang members, not local residents. We will not negotiate with them. We regret that local residents hired such people to resolve their problem," he said.

Tjiptono said the 25 people had been charged under Articles 160, 167, 170 and 406 of the Criminal Code on instigation, trespassing, mass assault, and destruction respectively while the others had been charged with trespassing only.

He said the 25 people had been detained as they faced a maximum punishment of nine years' imprisonment, while the others faced a maximum of nine months in jail.

A mob of over 100 men attacked the marketing office of the housing complex on Saturday morning, burning virtually all documents inside and breaking windows.

The attackers, claiming to represent local residents Aminah binti Ilyas and Aisyah, demanded that developer PT Mustika return a 5,500 square meter plot of land, which they said belonged to Aminah.

The mob vowed to occupy the office until Monday but by 1:15 p.m., police had forcefully dispersed the group, triggering a clash, in which many people were injured.

The clash was but one in a series of attacks over the last few years, mostly sparked by hired men. Early this month many residents were forced to flee their houses after a clash broke out over land ownership.

A resident of Serang, Banten province, identified as Jahuri, 22, was killed during the clash between a group of people identified by the police as the Banten Warrior's Association (BPPKB) -- the group hired by PT Mustika Karya Sejati, the developer of the complex -- and groups of Betawi people (native Jakartans) led by the Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR) and a group from Maluku. Both the FBR and the Maluku group claimed to represent Aminah and Aisyah.

PT Mustika insists it has bought the land, while Aminah and Aisyah claim to have received no payment from the developer.

The police said they had arrested a member of the group from Maluku, identified as John Atambua, who is suspected to have killed Jahuri.

"We hope that residents who have problems don't turn to hired thugs as this only causes new problems. I am sure that Aminah and Aisyah are just the victims of people who want to profit from the conflict," Tjiptono said.

Clashes between groups, often triggered by power struggles, have been common since the fall of Soeharto in May 1998. There are hundreds of paramilitary command posts belonging to several paramilitary groups, including the FBR, the BPPKB and the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) across the city.

Although the public has expressed concern over the excessive power of paramilitary groups, authorities have not stopped conflicts among them.

House to propose new bill on citizenship

Jakarta Post - June 20, 2005

Tony Hotland, Jakarta -- After years of delay, the House of Representatives legislation committee will propose a new bill on citizenship, which aims to eliminate discriminatory articles under the current problematic law.

Legislation committee chairman Muhammad A.S. Hikam said a new law was important because the existing Law No. 62/1958 was no longer appropriate at a time when democracy and equality should reign.

"There are still discriminatory items in the existing law, especially those on foreigners wishing to become Indonesian citizens as well as on former political prisoners," he said on Saturday.

Hikam, also a member of House Commission I on defense and foreign affairs, further said a law on citizenship must not be restricted only to matters of citizenship, but also embody the basic civil rights that come with citizenship.

"It's more fundamental than simply determining the status of someone or the implications of marrying foreigners. If we're going to talk only about status, we have a law on civil records. It needs to be seen as a law to protect citizens' basic rights," he said.

Legislation committee member, Nursjahbani Katjasungkana, said she would push for the inclusion of dual citizenship in the new law as it would indeed bring substantial benefit for the country in terms of better quality human resources as overseas-educated children of mixed parents could come here without the legal barrier of their citizenship.

"Most modern countries are applying it as it makes it easier for mixed parents and their offspring to use facilities in the two countries in question. This is also to cut all the red tape and erase problems that mixed parents face because of the uncertain status of their children," she said.

Nursjahbani said children of an Indonesian woman married to an expatriate should be entitled to the right to vote and also be exempted from the requirement to possess stay or work permits. "Moreover, an expatriate wife of an Indonesian man should also be allowed to work," she added.

She said the purpose would be to erase as much as possible all discriminatory items in the existing law -- especially those regarding women and children.

However, Nursjahbani disagreed with her fellow legislator Hikam, saying the articles concerning basic civil rights were already accommodated in the Constitution itself. "This is a matter of the status of a citizen, about obtaining or losing it. The Constitution already stipulates that basic civil rights are guaranteed," she said.

She also said challenges to a more democratic and flexible law on citizenship would likely come from those with little understanding of nationalism.

A bill to replace the existing law was actually drafted by legislators during the previous term, but was never deliberated. The legislation committee is scheduled to bring the draft as a House-sponsored bill to a plenary session on Tuesday.

If the House agrees to adopt the bill, the legislation committee will set up a working committee and produce a new draft to be deliberated later with the government.


Army chief: Don't hesitate to crush separatist groups

Kompas - June 22, 2005

Jayapura -- If there are armed separatist groups in society which want to separate West Papua from the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI), the TNI (armed forces) must not hesitate to crush them. Every single member of the TNI must continue to build self-integrity, professionalism and develop cooperation with the public in the framework of integrating the TNI into society.

These remarks were made by army chief General Djoko Santoso during a ceremony at the Trikora XVII Regional Military Command headquarters in Jayapura on Tuesday June 21. Santoso was presiding over the transfer of command from Major-General Nurdin Zainal MM to Major-General George Toisutta Zainal who will become an intelligence aide for the TNI's general chief of staff.

During the event, which was attended by the governor of West Papua and other local government officials, Santoso explained that the territory of West Papua is vast, 3.5 times the size of Java Island, but its infrastructure is extremely limited. Geographic conditions make it difficult to traverse by land while it has a direct boarder with its neighboring country, Papua New Guinea.

In the framework of empowering society, every soldier from the Trikora command is being called on to continue to develop creativity, innovation and to have the highest respect for humanitarian values. The Trikora command must emerge as the motivator to develop the region. "Solicit all parties which exist in the region to support the government's development program", said Santoso.

Referring to specific parties (the Free Papua Movement - Editor), the army chief asserted that those who are clearly seeking to destroy national unity through systematic efforts, including conducting an armed struggle to disrupt social peace and even to separate from NKRI "I order all soldiers from the Trikora Regional Military Command, to never hesitant in acting resolutely. Uphold the integrity and sovereignty of NKRI in accordance with prevailing laws".

Members of the TNI from the Trikora command must continue to increase vigilance by constantly paying close attention to and anticipating developments in the situation, especially with regard to the threat of disturbances from within and outside the country. (kor)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Acehnese in Jakarta call for ceasefire, negotiations

Tempo Interactive - June 20, 2005

Purwanto, Jakarta -- Around 50 people from the Aceh Care for Aceh (Acheh Peduli Acheh, APA) held a protest in front of parliament in Jakarta on Monday June 20. They were demanding that the TNI (armed forces) and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) implement a cease-fire. They also criticised the attitude of the People's Representative Assembly's (DPR) Defense Commission, which opposes the peace negotiation with GAM in Helsinki.

"We want Indonesia and GAM to implement a cease fire until there is peace", said Helmy Nugraha, the demonstration spokesperson. They also support the involvement of a third party in solving the Aceh question. They believe that it is correct to internationalisation of the Aceh question. "Internationalisation isn't a negative thing", asserted Nugraha.

Thamrin Ananda meanwhile, said that the Defense Commission's attitude indicates the ambiguity of the assembly and that the statements by the assembly do not represent the Acehnese peoples' wishes.

The protest proceeded in a peaceful manner with representatives taking turns to give speeches. The demonstrators brought a number of posters with messages such as "Permadi(1) just worry about your own evil spirits", "Don't involve the military in solving the Aceh question" and "The war in Aceh is unjust".


1. Permadi - A member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle fraction in the DPR.

[Translated by Risna.]

Acehnese in Jakarta support peaceful resolution to conflict

Aceh Kita - June 20, 2005

AK-34, Jakarta -- On Monday June 20, hundreds of Achenese citizens living in Jakarta calling themselves Aceh Care for Aceh (Acheh Peduli Acheh, APA) held a peaceful protest in Jakarta.

The action, which began in front of the parliament, was held in response to statements opposing a fourth round of peace negotiations in Helsinki which were issued by the members of People's Representative Assembly's (DPR) and the armed forced (TNI). According to APA this poses a dangerous threat to the peace process in Aceh.

APA spokesperson Helmy said that the action was held in order to urge DPR members, especially members of Commission I and TNI, to think clearly. "Millions of Acehnese have great hopes that this conflict can be resolved peacefully, not by arms", said Helmy. By this he meant efforts to solve the Aceh question through the negotiations which are being conducted by the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

Thamrin Ananda, one of the protesters, said that the action is intended to pressure to the assembly, particularly Commission I, who opposes continuing the Helsinki negotiations. "We should appreciate the government's efforts to solve the Aceh question peacefully. And to ensure the outcome of the negotiations [is successful] there must be a monitoring team", said Ananda.

After holding the peaceful protest in front of parliament, protestors will then rally to the Hotel Indonesian roundabout in Central Jakarta, the Japanese Embassy on Jalan Thamrin, the Belgian Embassy and finally the US Embassy. [asf]

[Translated by Risna.]

Aceh remains in tatters

Business Times (Singapore) - June 21, 2005

Shoeb Kagda, Jakarta -- With the wet season fast approaching, patience is running thin in Aceh. More than six months after the province was devastated by an undersea earthquake and the ensuing tsunami, life has yet to return to any sense of normality for the half million Acehnese who lost family and homes.

According to the latest statistics from the Aceh Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (BRR), 500,000 Acehnese lost their homes to the tsunami. Of these, 250,000 are still living in tents while another 150,000 are being housed in temporary shelters. The remaining 100,000 are either living with host families or have rebuilt their houses.

Enabling these displaced people to return to permanent homes is the most pressing task before the government and the reconstruction agency. With heavy rains on the way, life in the tent cities and temporary homes will become even worse. And with the rains will come disease.

After six months of putting up with squalid conditions, most Acehnese are impatient to move out, with a growing number now willing to return to the sites of their former homes, despite their fear of living next to the sea.

In terms of damage to physical infrastructure in the province, the scale of the task before the authorities is daunting. According to BRR official Eddy Purwanto, 116,880 houses were destroyed or damaged in 2,496 villages throughout 17 affected kabupaten (regencies) from a total of 21 regencies and municipalities in Aceh.

Of these houses, 57 per cent were destroyed and 12 per cent sustained major damage. The total area of settled land affected by the tsunami was 173,673 hectares, in which 35 per cent of the homes were completely destroyed.

The number of public facilities and buildings destroyed is no less staggering. Of 693 hospitals or clinics, 66 per cent were destroyed; 46 per cent of the 1,662 schools were destroyed; more than 40 per cent of the 2,580 mosques and religious buildings wiped out; 71 per cent of 1,412 government buildings destroyed; and 75 per cent of 1,416 units of kiosks and markets destroyed.

This does not include the thousands of kilometres of roads that have to be repaired or rebuilt and the hundreds of bridges that have to be reconstructed.

The BRR and the government have been working hard to get the reconstruction and rehabilitation phase of the five-year plan to rebuild Aceh fully under way. This week, BRR will hold the ground-breaking ceremony for the Meulaboh Port with ground- breaking for the Banda Aceh to Meulaboh road expected to be organised in a couple of months. All in all, some US$1.8 billion in projects have been approved.

Housing construction has started in numerous villages, with 91 houses completed and 792 being built in Sengkau, Mulat and Lhoong. The government in Jakarta, despite its best efforts, has found itself facing increasing criticism as the billions of dollars in aid and reconstruction funds have yet to materialise. International donors and non-government organisations have been slow to disperse the money they promised, as they are seeking greater accountability and transparency in how the money will be spent.

The government has also faced problems on the ground, chief among them lack of coordination between ministries, in the donor community, and between donors and the government. In rebuilding houses, the government has had to navigate through the problem of land rights.

Then there is a lack of building materials, as all Aceh's major ports were destroyed, so large container ships have nowhere to dock. These are pressing issues for the BRR and the government to resolve.

Thousands of young Acehnese have begun to return to their native land in search of jobs and with high expectations of starting a new life, given the huge amounts of money promised to flow into the province. Up to now, they have faced one disappointment after another, and it is only a matter of time before hope turns into anger.

Given the historic distrust between the Acehnese and Jakarta, any hint of corruption or even sluggishness on the part of the central government will be disastrous in terms of winning the long-term trust and confidence of Aceh people. Jakarta needs to move much faster to grab this one opportunity it has been presented to reshape a society long used to war and conflict.

Lemhanas slams Helsinki talks

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2005

Jakarta -- The National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas) has criticized the informal talks between the government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), urging the exclusion of foreign parties and saying the steps taken so far are unconstitutional.

Lemhanas Governor Ermaya Suradinata said on Monday the talks had crossed the line to become unconstitutional, with rebel group GAM wishing to establish a self-governing territory and a separate mechanism to govern the economy of the resource-rich province.

"I think the government should reconsider (pursuing) more talks, as this could give GAM the chance to internationalize the issue," he told legislators at a meeting with House of Representatives Commission I for defense and foreign affairs.

He said the talks, held in Finland's capital of Helsinki, should be held in Indonesia, as the issue was between the Indonesian government and its citizens.

"The Helsinki talks have also helped sustain the rebels' position in the eyes of the international (community), the European Union in particular, especially after the acquittal of their top brass by a court in Sweden for terror and separatism charges," said Ermaya.

The government and GAM have engaged in four rounds of talk over the course of the year in a bid to end decades-long armed conflict in the province, after the rebels launched a pro- independence movement in the 1970s, which has killed over 12,000 people.

Both parties have said that most issues blocking peace have been settled, except the major ones concerning Aceh's administrative status and a GAM demand to set up a local political party.

The talks were facilitated by the Helsinki-based Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), with GAM representatives including several foreigners.

Legislators have slammed the latest round of talks for failing to arrive at a final agreement, and forced the government to quickly impose a deadline for the conclusion of the talks.

They also criticized the inclusion of more foreign parties in the talks, a complaint that has apparently fallen on deaf ears.

The government said the fifth round of talks would commence on July 12, stressing that the talks were informal by nature and no outcomes were as yet legally binding.

Meanwhile, about 50 people rallied outside the House of Representatives to protest the House's objection to the peace talks in Helsinki. They said the talks were producing significant results, and the inclusion of foreign parties in such a negotiation was not unusual.

The demonstrators urged both parties to suspend active hostilities for the duration of the talks, particularly as the province is struggling to establish normalcy after being devastated by last year's tsunami that killed over 128,000 Acehnese.

Illegal timber used in Aceh reconstruction: activist

Agence France Presse - June 21, 2005

Timber felled illegally is being used to rebuild houses in tsunami-devastated Aceh province, a conservation group said, warning the practice could create another disaster.

Unauthorised logging has increased dramatically since the December 26 tsunami disaster as demand for the wood to be used in reconstruction phase has soared, said Frank Momberg of Fauna and Flora International.

"To prevent a bigger disaster in Aceh, illegal logging must be stopped," Momberg told AFP on the sidelines of an environmental conference in the provincial capital Banda Aceh.

He said 1,000 hectares of forests in Aceh Jaya district had been destroyed by illegal logging and only a small amount of legal wood was being used in Aceh's reconstruction.

"After the tsunami, illegal logging is rampant. If this practice continues, there will be more problems. Illegal logging can cause landslides and floods," he said.

Foreign and local aid groups helping the reconstruction of Aceh are aware that they are using illegally-felled timber, Momberg said.

Countries like the United States, Australia and New Zealand have promised to supply timber to Aceh to meet reconstruction needs, but such assistance has yet to arrive, officials said.

Environmentalists have said that three decades of separatist conflict in Aceh had protected the region from illegal logging that has destroyed vast tracts of Indonesia's forests.

But they said with peace talks underway in the wake of the tsunami disaster, the region may be targeted by timber barons keen to make fast cash supplying wood for the province's resconstruction.

The tsunami killed more than 128,000 people in Aceh left another half-a-million homeless. Rehousing them involves a massive construction project requiring thousands of tonnes of wood and other raw materials.

Acehnese uncertain about housing, work

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2005

Annastashya Emmanuelle, Contributor, Aceh Besar -- Six months after the tsunami wrought havoc in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, destroying lives and dimming the hopes of thousands who were already living in uncertainty, Acehnese are still waiting for the promised rebuilding to start, while others have become apathetic and are simply grateful to be alive.

Pulot village in Leupung sub-district, 25 km from the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, used to be a vibrant fishermen's village. The deadly wave of Dec. 26 turned part of the village into a sandy, golden brown beach, and the other part into empty space.

Houses, the market, and the fishermen's dock were all destroyed, and 750 residents killed. Today, the 120 survivors of the village, located in worst-hit Aceh Besar regency, are still building makeshift houses from debris, just as they were doing in January.

"I collected what was left after the tsunami to build this house. This is my village. I was born here and the sea is close by," said the fisherman turned debris cleaner Suardi.

After spending three nights in the nearby hills after the tsunami, he walked to the Matai'ie camp in Banda Aceh and stayed there for nearly a month before returning to Pulot.

Claiming to have no other skill than fishing, he hopes to be able to return to his old profession, and thus considers it necessary to live by the sea.

But because he lost his boat, Suardi along with other surviving fishermen in the village have been taking part in a debris cleaning program run by Mercy Corps, with each of them being paid Rp 35,000 (about US$3.65) per day.

While he is grateful to be alive and have his family intact, he finds it difficult being without a permanent job or a proper house. Now that the debris in their village has been cleared, his income has also come to an end.

Suardi laments the fact that very little assistance has come from the government since the disaster. So far, it has been various non-government organizations who have provided him with foodstuffs, medicine and drinking water.

Three months ago the central government announced that each displaced person would receive payments of Rp. 90,000 per month.

After hurdling all the bureaucratic procedures, Suardi got his first, and last, payment from the government in March.

"They said there would be reconstruction, but where is it? We're still in tents, aren't we?" he exclaimed, when asked about government assistance and the master plan to reconstruct Aceh.

In mid-April the government enacted a master plan for reconstruction of Aceh and Nias that comprised a wide-ranging four-year development program, estimated to cost around $4.8 billion.

"I hope in the future the government can help restore our livelihoods and provide permanent housing," he said, suggesting that the government come up with loan schemes and accommodate people who would like to return to their original locations.

Fishermen cannot live in the mountains, just as farmers cannot make do on the seashore, he reasoned.

Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, chairman of the Aceh and Nias Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (BRR) established in April, said it was not compulsory for displaced people to live in safer areas designated in the master plan.

He is now collecting input from village chiefs and community leaders whose residents aspire to return to their original locations, as well finding out what is needed to restore their livelihoods.

Kuntoro's other important task is to get amounts pledged by donors realized, and assuring that none of the funds will become entangled in Indonesia's notorious system of corruption.

However, not all Acehnese are aware that the rehabilitation process has only now just started, after a magnitude nine earthquake off the coast of Sumatra triggered a massive tsunami that left 128,803 people dead, 32,066 missing and 513,278 displaced.

"I heard that many countries gave donations to our government to rebuild Aceh. I don't know where all that money went," Suardi said, voicing an opinion common to many Acehnese.

Meanwhile in the provincial city of Banda Aceh changes are becoming noticeable. Most of the debris that covered the main streets and residential areas has been cleared.

But this is just physical, said a public school teacher Khairul Razi. Too many are still without a house, and the economy is stagnant, he said.

He also thinks the government is not providing enough assistance to the devastated province. The legacy of distrust and suspicion between the Acehnese and the central government during the period of martial law imposed in 2003 to curb local rebel groups did not help matters.

"We (Acehnese) have learned not to expect too much when the government airs promises; there have been too many promises back then as well as now, and conditions are still the same," Khairul said.

Kuntoro said that housing and jobs were urgent for the people of Aceh as people could not live on donations forever.

For some, a job is more than just a source of income, it is also a way to heal the soul.

Nuraini, a Pulot seamstress who lost her two children, a house and all her belongings in the tsunami, thinks the same.

"If I can do my old job then I would have something to occupy my thoughts while I learn to let go... rather than just sitting around like this filled with regret that I didn't hold them tight enough when the water engulfed us," she says.

Rebuilding in Aceh painfully slow

Jakarta Post - June 20, 2005

Harry Bhaskara, Aceh -- The tsunami may have occurred six months ago but reconstruction work on the northeastern side of Aceh has only just commenced.

"It was only three days ago that construction work started here," said former Cabinet minister Kuntoro Mangkusubroto recently in Deah Baru village, Lhok Nga, one of the hardest hit areas on the northern tip of Sumatra.

"Nothing has been done so far," said Kuntoro, who is now serving as the head of the Aceh and Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Executive Agency (BRR).

"Uncertainty on the part of the government is responsible for the delay in reconstruction," he said in reply to a question.

"There was no specific body with authority previously and frustration was rising in the refugee barracks," Kuntoro said, referring to the places where survivors have temporarily been taking shelter.

The government initially banned villagers who used to live close to the coast from rebuilding their homes and was toying with the idea that they should move at least three kilometers further inland.

"But they are fishermen. How could they live two or three kilometers from here? I decided that they had to be allowed to rebuild their houses," said Kuntoro, a highly respected bureaucrat with an impeccable track record.

It was only after Kuntoro was assigned to head the new executive agency in April that things started to happen.

Departing from the norm for Indonesian government officials, Kuntoro openly acknowledged soon after he was installed on April 30 that reconstruction work had been progressing too slowly in Aceh.

In Deah Baru village, local and foreign NGOs are working hard to speed up the rebuilding of survivors' homes.

Kuntoro said a microfinancing scheme was in the offing for survivors, and vocational training would also be provided.

"This will involve low-level skills like how to put steel frames together," he said.

Asked about funding disbursement, he said that less than US$2 billion out of US$7.6 billion was even close to being disbursed.

An 800-kilometer stretch of coast to an average distance of two kilometers inland had been totally devastated by the tsunami, Kuntoro said.

Located on the northern tip of Sumatra, cone-shaped Aceh province was hardest hit on its western side, which was closest to the epicenter of the quake.

Hendro Suwito from World Vision said some main roads were in a very bad condition. The eastern side was less badly hit, leaving the roads still passable, he said.

Although reconstruction has started, seismic activity does not seem to have subsided in Aceh. Locals say that earthquakes and tremors occur every two or three days. "The last one was on Sunday, it was a big one. People had to run out of their homes," said Mo Li, from Banda Aceh.

Aceh tsunami survivors fight frustrations, demons

Reuters - June 19, 2005

Dean Yates, Aceh West Coast -- High school students in the Acehnese town of Teunom drain rain water off the top of their tent before they begin lessons. They want a new school to replace the one taken by giant waves six months ago.

The village chief in Lhok Kruet wants to know when he can move his people out of leaking tents and rickety wooden shacks to a place beyond the reach of waves, real or imaginary.

In the city of Meulaboh, Mizuar asks why no one will give him money to get his grave stone business back on its feet. In large black letters above his partially rebuilt shop, he has painted a plea, in English, asking for help.

All along the west coast of Indonesia's Aceh province where the Dec. 26 tsunami vented its fury the worst, from the local capital Banda Aceh to Meulaboh 250 km to the south, frustration is growing at the slow pace of reconstruction.

Donors say rebuilding is up to two months behind what it should be because of delays in setting up an agency to oversee reconstruction. It only began approving projects in early May. "I am not a little disappointed, I am really disappointed. I know a lot of money is coming in for Aceh," said Mizuar, 32.

In scores of conversations along this battered and muddy stretch of recently reopened west coast road, people said they were sick of living in tents or government built barracks and needed jobs.

Most had never heard of Jakarta's plan to compensate them for the loss of their homes. There is little electricity or running water apart from Banda Aceh and Meulaboh.

People said they were not going hungry, but complained there was not enough food. The World Food Programme expects to be feeding up to 800,000 people for another year.

"Each day we wake up confused. We don't know what to do with our lives," said Abdul Malik, 25, at a military style barracks for refugees in Leupung town. He was selling handphones in Jakarta when the waves crashed ashore, killing his parents.

Rubble and bodies

The 9.15 magnitude earthquake that erupted off this coastline six months ago was the world's third biggest in 100 years. It sent walls of water as high as 10 metres barreling into 13 Indian Ocean nations.

No place suffered more than Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatra island. As many as 1,000 villages and towns were either damaged or wiped off the map. The number of dead bodies found and buried stands at around 130,000. Some 37,000 are still missing.

From the air in the days and weeks after the tsunami, as relief helicopters flew mercy missions, most of this stretch of once pristine coastline looked like it had been abandoned. Many survivors have since returned to reclaim their villages from nature, pitching tents or erecting wooden shacks.

Tree stumps, metal and rubble still litter some places. The skeletons of dozens of steel bridges lie on their side in estuaries or rivers, replaced by green military built pontoon bridges.

Some markets were selling vegetables and fish. But farmers are not planting rice, either because they died or their fields were salinated by waves that swept 5 km inland.

And bodies are still being found. The district secretary in Teunom, Mohamad Ansari, said the remains of 11 people were found under rubble and scrubland only a week ago.

Since Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, a respected former energy minister, took the reins of the Aceh Reconstruction Agency less than two months ago, he has quickly approved projects worth $1.8 billion. He will manage $5 billion over several years.

Among the major tasks will be to build 130,000 homes and construct or repair 1,226 schools. Donors say rebuilding must balance speed with quality. They say it is unfair to be too critical of the current pace of one of the biggest peacetime reconstruction efforts in history.

In a few places, survivors are just getting on with it. Alang was home to 9,000 people on a pretty peninsula about halfway between Banda Aceh and Meulaboh. The waves roared in from both sides and destroyed every building in sight. Less than 20 percent of the town's people survived.

Under energetic mayor Zulfian Ahmad, who was in Jakarta at the time, workers have built 1,000 temporary wooden homes, government offices and shops.

"If I waited for decisions in Jakarta, maybe only now would I be starting reconstruction," said Ahmad, wearing the crisp light green uniform favoured by provincial officials.

"I just got together those who had tools and we began." Like so many in Aceh, Ahmad has another reason to focus his mind on rebuilding Calang -- the tsunami killed his wife and all his children. Just thinking about them hurts.

"It's unimaginable to lose your wife and children. Even now, I cannot begin to describe it," he said.

Policewomen deployed as concerns rise for child survivors

Agence France Presse - June 17, 2005

Barry Neild, Banda Aceh -- While most Indonesian child tsunami victims are being cared for by family or friends six months after the disaster, new fears are emerging that young survivors living in tightly-packed camps are being exposed to new dangers.

Several incidents of crimes against children, including one possible case of paedophilia, are currently under investigation in devastated Aceh province, aid agencies and police say, warning that child trafficking also remains a threat.

In an effort to stave off a new crisis, the police in conjunction with the UN Children's Fund are deploying a new force of women officers, sidestepping delicate political issues to provide a lifeline for those most at risk.

Some 40 women officers completed their training earlier this month and will augment another 50 who have been paying regular visits to UNICEF children's centres on the fringes of survivor camps to keep tabs on abuse cases.

While domestic violence and crimes against children have never been a major problem in staunchly Muslim Aceh, relief organisations say the trauma of the disaster coupled with uncomfortable accommodation is a recipe for trouble.

"Because people are living in cramped conditions, there is constant friction, sometimes this can blow up," UNICEF spokeswoman Lely Djuhari told AFP.

"There have been dozens of incidents, including a possible paedophile case, a possible trafficking case, one of sexual harassment and a case of violence against children," she said.

UNICEF says 1,082 children in Indonesia are listed as "separated" from their families -- a euphemism which, in most cases, now means orphaned. Of these, all but 70 are living with relatives or other families in their communities.

But even within this tight-knit support group, there is a risk that problems could develop as the stresses of living in close quarters under canvas or temporary wooden barracks manifest into domestic violence or child abuse.

That is where the policewomen come in. Teams of four officers, wearing plain clothes to reassure wary youngsters, have been making regular contact with children's centres at camps around region.

The deployment of women officers in Aceh is a breakthrough for a province where the government has previously used hardline Muslim sharia law -- often seen as oppressive to women -- as way of keeping a lid on a local insurgency.

However, concerns that they might be mistaken for government spies by rebel sympathisers means the policewomen do not enter the children's centres or camps and rely on referrals, possibly denying them access to those most in need.

Nevertheless, says senior officer Lieutenant Colonel Nunung Priatni, they believe they can make a difference, even if at the moment this is largely just spreading a message that there is somewhere for children and women to turn to.

"What we want to do is minimise the number of cases of abuse and send the important message that women and children do have rights and they are entitled to protection from the law," she told AFP.

The introduction of the policewomen has been welcomed by non- governmental groups involved in running the child centres. They say the new officers are a timely intervention at a time when social cohesiveness is coming unglued.

"We haven't found any cases of child abuse so far, but we are counselling parents against using violence against children and the importance of their education," said Inrayanto of the Jakarta-based Muhammadiyah organisation, which runs a child centre near Banda Aceh.

"The policewomen give us a useful back-up to reinforce our messages, particularly against drugs, which are a major concern since we found at least one case of parents abusing drugs." According to Djuhari, the one-year policewomen deployment is part of a broader programme of changes to law-enforcement in Aceh aimed at heading off any widespread victimisation of children. These include the setting-up of child-friendly courtrooms and improving services at police stations to ensure that crimes against youngsters are dealt with in a sensitive and appropriate way.

"Domestic violence is something we're very, very concerned about. But we do now have preventative mechanism which will help enormously," she said.

"This programme will have a positive effect on the mental welfare here. If people realise that criminal cases are being followed up, it will bring a lot of reassurance."

New Aceh commander vows to bring peace to Acehnese

Jakarta Post - June 16, 2005

Along with foreign and local volunteers, the Indonesian Military has been instrumental in rebuilding Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam following the total destruction brought about by the Dec. 26 tsunami. The following is an interview with Maj. Gen. Supiadin A.S., the new military commander in the province, by local journalists including Harry Bhaskara of The Jakarta Post and Australian journalists sponsored by the Asia Pacific Journalism Center. The interview took place last Tuesday in Banda Aceh.

Question: Could you describe the massive rehabilitation work being carried out in Aceh by the military forces?

Answer: The destruction after the tsunami was massive. More than 200,000 people died, including civilians and military members. Heart-wrenching is the loss of firearms and ammunition, buried under the sand. It was clear that emergency work had to be on the top of the priority list. This included saving the lives of the wounded, getting people into refugee camps and recovering bodies. The next step was the construction of refugee shelters, fixing the 235-kilometer-long road from Banda Aceh to Meulaboh and 85 bridges. We accomplished this in 36 days.

You are facing the twin challenge of rehabilitation work and fighting GAM (Free Aceh Movement) rebels. How do you divide your forces between those two tasks?

Almost two-thirds of the forces are fighting GAM, the rest are deployed for post-tsunami rehabilitation work, including securing transportation for the NGOs and UN agencies to operate and manning the security posts. (The military force in Aceh numbers about 30,000 troops -- Editor). If you travel from Banda Aceh to Meulaboh you will know that it is very secure.

Any change in the people's attitude toward the military since the tsunami?

Long before the tsunami, when we imposed a state of civil emergency in Aceh (May 2004 to May 2005 -- Editor), the situation had become very conducive because the people could feel the peaceful atmosphere. It is true, though, that total comfort has yet to materialize. During the military emergency status (May 2003 to May 2004 -- Editor), at the request of the people, most district heads were military officers. All towns at the district level are peaceful as a result. I make an appeal to GAM to trade in their firearms for hoes. We are readying hundreds of hectares of farmland for people to work on and grow coffee and oil palms.

In the wake of the unofficial Helsinki peace talks, do you still need troops in Aceh?

Troops are still needed in Aceh. GAM has a force of about 1,300 to 1,400 people with around 400 weapons. From the end of the state of civil emergency on May 19 to today, a total of 180 people have either died, been detained or surrendered. Most of them surrendered, only 28 people were killed. We gave them a guarantee that they would be treated well, there would be no torture, and we provided them with clothing and food.

Has there been any change in the approach toward GAM so far?

No, except that it now appears that the rebels are gathering near the refugee camps. Flash points now occur more often in the vicinity of refugee camps.

What about human rights violations in the conflict?

To win the hearts and minds of the people, one thing is certain: TNI (the Indonesian military) never hurts the feelings of the people. There are no human rights violations by TNI, this I can guarantee. On the contrary, it is GAM that violates human rights. Not a single one of the rebels we have nabbed has been tortured. All of them are in good health. I challenged the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) to make it public if they found any detainee in bad health. For those rebels who died, we washed their bodies, said prayers and gave them a proper burial. But those who were killed by GAM, almost all of them were tortured. Some with their hands tied, cut up with knives and their bodies thrown into the wood.

How do you prevent your troops from violating human rights?

I talked to the Acehnese and gave them assurances that not a single person will be tortured. I asked them to report to me if any one of my troops ever beat them. I have an investigation team that probes every single incident. The team will reconstruct any incident. I do not want to be lied to by my subordinates.

With the implementation of regional autonomy in 2001, have there been any changes in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam?

There have been some changes. The local government is now responsible for the welfare of the people. But with GAM around, the government cannot do much. That is why I looked to the plantations to create job opportunities. In Takengon, Central Aceh, there is a 30,000-hectare coffee plantation. As long as the plantation is productive, I am ready to protect it. There is also an investor with a forestry license. I will give a guarantee to secure whatever project there is as long as it benefits the Acehnese. I would like to see the Acehnese work on their own land and reap the benefits for themselves.

 Military ties

Activists: No military help for Indonesia

University of Indonesian Education - June 16, 2005

Katherine Torres, Washington -- The US renewal of military aid and training assistance to Jakarta continues to spark criticism and activists accuse elements of the Indonesian military of continuing to kill and violate human rights.

The East Timor and Indonesia Action Network/US -- a US based grassroots human rights organization working with the people of East Timor and Indonesia -- is one of many groups that opposes the United States providing support in the form of resources and monetary aid to the Indonesian military.

"The US foreign policy is drastically affecting the human rights situation in East Timor and in Indonesia," John Miller, ETAN's media and outreach coordinator told United Press International.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice deemed Indonesia to be eligible to receive the International Military Education and Training after she determined Jakarta "has satisfied legislative conditions for restarting" IMET. Some members of Congress and non-governmental organizations such as ETAN objected to her decision.

Aid to Indonesia is increasing, according to a report by the World Policy Institute in New York. For 2006, President Bush has requested $800,000 in IMET, up from the $459,000 that Congress froze in 2004.

Miller, ETAN volunteers and other activists -- some from East Timor and Indonesia -protested outside the Indonesian embassy in Washington Monday against the plan, asking for restrictions on military engagement.

ETAN also went to Congress during its three-day stay in Washington to talk to lawmakers about the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Indonesia's West Papua and Aceh regions, as well as seek investigations on killings of human rights activists in East Timor, a former Indonesia province now called Timor Leste.

"It is obvious that Indonesian military repression and human rights violations have not been restricted to East Timor," Miller said in a statement. "While both countries have made progress, we continue to believe that justice for past violations and restrictions on US security assistance to Indonesia are essential to building a just and democratic East Timor and Indonesia."

The group said it was confident members of Congress would take their appeals seriously. "The attention being given to this situation by Congress is generally positive," Miller said. "There is a lot of understanding in Capitol Hill about the Indonesian military."

Edgar Vasquez, a spokesman for the US State Department said the decision to renew IMET stemmed from progress being made in Indonesia to establish democracy. "The Indonesians have been successful in holding free and peaceful elections and the military police have lost their seats in parliament," he said.

Post-tsunami relief efforts would have been more effective had the Indonesian military been more experienced in working with the international community and had knowledge of handling different types of equipment, Vasquez said. He added that the human rights situation in Indonesia had not escaped US attention.

"We don't shy away from the fact," he said. "We want to continue to support Indonesia to improve its performance and accountability."

Indonesia is a key US ally in the war on terror and has arrested and tried several militants linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. The country has also been hit by terror attacks such as the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people and the 2003 bombing of the Marriott hotel in Jakarta that killed 12 people.

Aceh, the region hardest-hit by the Dec. 26 tsunami, has since 1976 been the scene of a violent struggle between the Free Aceh Movement, or GAM, and the Indonesian military, which is also trying to control a smaller insurgency in eastern Papua province.

Some 12,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in the battle for the resource-rich Aceh since GAM rebels began their campaign for independence.

The conflict intensified in May 2003 when a truce collapsed and Aceh was put under temporary martial law, but the December tsunami prompted Jakarta and the rebels to reopen a dialogue.

Both sides have been criticized for killings, kidnappings and extortion, but the Indonesian military has received the heaviest criticism.

"This is a military that works side by side with Jihad terror groups," said Edmund McWilliams, a retired senior foreign officer who lived in Indonesia for 21 years, to UPI. "If the United States wants to challenge terrorism, they can't do that by supporting a military that is consistently terrorizing its people," Miller added.

Aceh wants to independence from Indonesia, but in a peaceful manner, said Khatab, an activist from Aceh, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. "We need to lobby the US government to ensure that we (Aceh civilians) get a right to a referendum," he said.

Amnesty International reports that human rights violations such as extrajudicial executions, torture and the rape of women and girls, have been "so pervasive that there is virtually no part of life in the province which remains untouched."

Timor-Leste, an independent country since 2002, is also no stranger to violence. During its struggle for independence, the Indonesian military was accused of killing hundreds. The former Portuguese colony was invaded by Indonesia in 1975, which occupied it until 1999.

Miller said about one-third of the Timorese population had been wiped out during the occupation. No Indonesian military or police officials has been brought to justice for crimes committed against civilians, including 14 human rights activists, McWilliams said.

Jose Turquel, an activist and former East Timor resident, said he believed if the Indonesian military was not stopped, the country's democratization and transformation would end.

"The military institution should be under civilian control if we want democratization for Indonesia," he told UPI. "However, without US involvement, this will not happen."

 Human rights/law

Hendropriyono: Munir TPF is treating me unfairly

Sinar Harapan - June 16, 2005

Jakarta -- The former director of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN), AM Hendropriyono, says there is no requirement for him to fulfill the summons from the Fact Finding Team (TPF) investigating the murder of human rights activist Munir. According to Hendropriyono, with regard to the TPF's summons it is acting unfairly towards him as an ordinary member of the public.

Hendropriyono conveyed this statement along with his legal attorney Syamsu Djalal at his offices on Wednesday June 15. "Right or wrong, I should provide [any] information [I have]. But, why is it me that has to go to them. As an ordinary person I also have a schedule. I have a wife and child, I have to feed them. I also have social responsibilities. So, of on some date [I am] summoned all of a sudden, I can't [fulfil it]", he said to dozens of journalists who were invited to yesterday's press conference.

Hendropriyono had in fact planned to use the occasion to meet with the TPF who he invited to his offices to give them the information they are seeking. After waiting for an hour-and-a- half however, the TPF did not arrive so Hendropriyono used the occasion to explain to journalists about his unwillingness to fulfil the TPF's summons.

"What with the TPF failing to attend this meeting, I'm actually [becoming] suspicious of them. Do they really want to solve the case of Munir's death or are [they] just seeking popularity. In fact there is no difference between me going to there or them coming here", he said. Hendropriyono added that the door to his office and his home is open 24 hours a day.

According to Hendropriyono, he will fulfill the TPF's summons if the time is appropriate and it does not violate his basic rights. "Let's agree on a time. Don't keep summoning me whenever you like", he said.

Hendropriyono explained that although he was summoned in accordance with the protocol agreed to by BIN and the TPF, this does not mean that he must turn up. What's more, he must first comply with BIN's protocols and discuss what can and cannot be said in response the TPF's questions. Notwithstanding, he will respond immediately if summoned by the police. His refusal to respond to the TPF's summonses was because he believes that it is politically motivated.

BIN's involvement

Hendropriyono also took the occasion to reveal that he doesn't know whether or not BIN is involved in Munir's murder. "Within Indonesian intelligence, a system of compartmentalisation is in place. This means, what is being done by one member of BIN isn't known by another member of BIN. As the director of BIN, I wasn't allowed to know too much. As members of BIN they only know about what they are working on", said Hendropriyono.

Hendropriyono believes that Munir's death is just an ordinary case. Because of this therefore, he didn't give it any special attention. Furthermore, he heard that Munir died because he was sick. "I heard it said that he died because [he was] sick. I was also profoundly sorry. [But] I didn't have any interest in it. I thought it was an ordinary case. I didn't suspect [it would go] this far. If there's a murder, leave it to police to investigate", he said.

He also explicitly stated that he was not aquatinted with Pollycarpus(1) nor was Pollycarpus acquainted with him. When queried about the evidence that Pollycarpus telephoned a member of BIN around the time of Munir's death, he responded diplomatically saying that they should refer the question to the police.

Social affairs observer Professor Dr. Matondang from the Jakarta State University meanwhile believes that the war of words which has broken out in the Hendropriyono case has given a poor lesson and a bad example to the public. "Once again, ordinary people are [having to] accept shabby behaviour from a public official who gives statements which are bias and only based on suspicions without having clear evidence", Matondang said in Jakarta on Wednesday. (emy/edl)


1. Garuda Airlines pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, the prime suspect in Munir's murder aboard a Garuda flight to Amsterdam on September 7, 2003. Priyanto has claimed repeatedly that he was recruited by BIN in 2002.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

BIN officially asks Hendropriyono to cooperate with TPF

Kompas - June 16, 2005

Jakarta -- Room to maneuver by the former director of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) Hendropriyono is shrinking after BIN formally wrote to him telling him to fulfil the summons by the Fact Finding Team (TPF) investigating the death of human rights activist Munir. This means that it is now up to Hendropriyono as an individual to determine whether or not to fulfil the summons.

This was revealed by BIN director Syamsir Siregar following a working meeting with the People's Representative Assembly Commission I, which took place on Wednesday June 15. "We have recommended both verbally as well as in writing that Mr. Hendro and Mr. Muchdi(1) can meet with and be asked [to provide] information to the TPF", said Siregar answering questions from the press.

Nevertheless, because this is a question of personal rights, Siregar is also leaving it up to Hendropriyono to decide if he will attend or not. On Thursday the TPF plans to summons Hendropriyono for the third time. Hendropriyono failed to respond to the first and second summonses.

With regard to their own efforts to solve Munir's murder, Siregar said that BIN had already conducted an internal review and investigation. "Around six BIN personnel have already been summoned [for questioning]" he said. Siregar declined to name the individuals but said Hendropriyono and Muchdi are not among the six because they are no longer considered to be part of BIN.

Siregar said that BIN has yet to be able to determine whether Munir was murdered in the manner suggested by the TPF(2). "In terms of the legal evidence so far, BIN doesn't know yet. But BIN is also being proactive in solving the case", he asserted.

At a press conference yesterday meanwhile, Hendropriyono said he doesn't have any information about Munir's murder. He also repudiated the view that he knew exactly what was being done at the time by hundreds of thousands of his subordinates, agents at BIN, when he still held the position of BIN director because what is termed a system of compartmentalised operates in the intelligence community.

With regard to the TPF's summonses, he believes that the TPF has misused its powers, which were mandated by the president through Presidential Decree Number 111/2004. Hendropriyono said the TPF couldn't just summons people to provide information. The TPF he said must work in accordance with his schedule of activities and ask him first when he want's to meet with them.

With regard to Hendropriyono's continued refusal to meet with the TPF after being summoned twice, TPF chairperson Police Brigadier General Marsudhi Hanafi said that the matter is up to the person concerned. The TPF he said has fulfilled Hendropriyono's wish that his questioning conforms to the protocol of cooperation between the TPF and BIN.

"Yeah [he is just] hurting himself by not responding to our invitation. What ever our findings are we will of course hand them over to the president. Our invitation is in fact an opportunity for him (Hendropriyono) to provide a clarification", said Hanafi.

TPF deputy chairperson Asmara Nababan says that the TPF has rejected Hendropriyono's invitation to be questioned at his home(3). (WIN/SUT/DWA)


1. Major General Muchdi Purwopranjono was replaced as the deputy director of BIN in early August. He is also the former head of the Army Special Forces, Kopassus, a post he was removed from following an investigation into the 1998 kidnapping and torture of pro-democracy activists, 13 of whom are still missing believed dead.

2. On June 14 the TPF revealed that they had found documents detailing four plots to murder Munir. In the first plot, Munir was to be killed by black magic. In the second, he would be killed in a car accident. In the third Munir was to be poisoned at his office. The fourth was to murder him aboard an aircraft.

3. On June 15 Hendropriyono invited the TPF to meet him at his office. When they failed to turn up he used the opportunity to hold a press conference to explain his position with regard to the TPF, his views on Munir's murder and the involvement of BIN in the case.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Spy agency implicated in activist's murder

Green Left Weekly - June 22, 2005

James Balowski, Jakarta -- Although no-one has been charged with last year's murder of Indonesia's foremost human rights activist, Munir Said Thalib, evidence is mounting that the prime suspect in the case, Garuda Airlines pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, was a member of or working with the National Intelligence Agency (BIN).

Lack of cooperation by BIN and hysterical statements by its former director Ahmad Hendropriyono belittling the investigation, plus his refusal to be questioned, have only strengthened suspicions that BIN masterminded the murder.

Thirty-eight-year-old Munir died aboard a Garuda flight shortly before it landed in Amsterdam on September 7. His death was originally blamed on a heart attack but the autopsy found he died as a result of arsenic poisoning.

Priyanto gave up his business-class seat to Munir on the Jakarta-Singapore leg of the flight. Why Priyanto who was off duty at the time and was on the flight has not been explained and his travel authorisation issued by Garuda's vice-president of corporate security, Ramelgia Anwar, was later found to have been signed and typed on September 17, more than a week after the incident.

Two flight attendants who prepared and served Munir's meal are also suspects.

Munir rose to prominence in 1998, when he was involved in investigating the abduction and torture of pro-democracy activists by the notorious elite special forces, Kopassus.

Kopassus, which has enforced terror in East Timor and Aceh, has also been linked with Islamist terrorist groups such as Laskar Jihad and Jemaah Islamiah - the latter group has been blamed for the 2002 Bali bombing and the September 9 bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta.

Munir had criticised BIN over its anti-democratic terrorism bill and colleagues say that at the time of his death he was investigating a corruption case involving Garuda.

Although Priyanto claims he was recruited by BIN in 2002, the first concrete evidence linking him with BIN was revealed on May 18 when the Fact Finding Team (TPF) established by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and tasked with assisting the police investigation revealed that Priyanto had been in phone contact with BIN.

TPF deputy head Asmara Nababan said Priyanto had called a BIN official via his mobile phone several times after Munir's death. "We reported to the president that Polly [Priyanto] had direct contact with someone in BIN", Nababan said. "It means there is a connection [between BIN and Priyanto], which BIN had previously denied. But, we must be cautious as we don't want to implicate BIN as an institution."

Nababan declined to identify the official but according to the Jakarta Post, sources close to the TPF have said they have phone company documents proving calls were made by Priyanto to BIN's"deputyfive" between September and October.

Deputy five at that time was Major General Muchdi Purwopranjono, a former Kopassus commander who was sacked following Munir's investigation into the 1998 abductions. He was replaced as the deputy director of BIN in August and although police interviewed him on May 18 they have refused to disclose what they learned.

Priyanto also received calls from Purwopranjono's office over the September-October period. "At least five calls were made from that number to Pollycarpus' mobile phone", Nababan told reporters.

Yudhoyono has formally asked BIN to cooperate but its current director, Syamsir Siregar (who replaced Hendropriyono in October), has so far avoided questioning.

The May 28 Jakarta Post reported that BIN is refusing to provide the TPF with documents on former BIN agents allegedly implicated in the killing."We need BIN's documents that show whether Pollycarpus was recruited by BIN in 2002 as he has repeatedly claimed. We also need to clarify whether his recruitment was in line with BIN's anti-terrorism policy", said TPF member Rachland Nashidik.

Former BIN secretary general Djazuli has testified to the TPF that Hendropriyono endorsed Priyanto's recruitment. Priyanto also named two other former high-ranking members of BIN who were suspected of knowing about Munir's murder - former BIN deputy chief overseeing the anti-terrorism desk, retired Major General Muchdi and former BIN agent Colonel Bambang Irawan.

The May 27 Jakarta Post reported that a source has said Bambang was the passenger who was seated in the same flight's business class and was believed to"have given a glass of drink mixed with poison to Munir".

"Questioning of the three men concerned and checking all related BIN documents are necessary to clarify all of Pollycarpus' statements", Nashidik said. "We have prepared summonses for the three and are expecting to question them by mid-June. But I'm worried that they are just trying to buytime", he added, pointing out that the TPF will end its six-month term on June 23.

One of the team's highest priorities is to question Hendropriyono. He was one of the Suharto dictatorship's most prominent thugs and was the Jakarta military commander in 1996 when the headquarters of Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party was attacked by military-backed thugs. The attack resulted in the death of at least 50 people and sparked three days of mass rioting.

Ironically, Hendropriyono is now a close aide to Megawati and a member of her party.

Questioning Hendropriyono has not proved easy. For some time his whereabouts were unclear. Then, on May 30, Hendropriyono suddenly lodged a complaint with the police against the TPF saying it had tarnished his reputation by repeatedly connecting him with Munir's death.

Hendropriyono said the TPF had told the media he was in the US and was difficult to track down for questioning. He said he had in fact been in Indonesia since April.

He also lodged a complaint with the Indonesian parliament and is asking it to form a new team that can "work more effectively".

Hendropriyono has also tried to belittle the case by asking what was so special about Munir's death. At a May 30 press conference, Hendropriyono's lawyer, Sjamsu Djalal, said: "And I'm sorry to say this, but who's this Munir anyway that a presidential regulation had to be issued? A lot of people die, but no regulations are ever made [for them]."

When asked if he was willing to appear before the TPF, Hendropriyono remained elusive, saying he had yet to receive a summons. "Where's the summons letter? Send it to me. I don't answer hypothetical questions, such as [would I attend] if I received a summons."

At a press conference the following day, Nashidik told reporters that "the erroneous issue of [his] place of residency, in the United States, actually could have been resolved directly by explaining it to the chairperson of the TPF. [He] could have used the phone [and told us] that he is in Jakarta, not by measures which demonstrate a kind of excessive fear."

Following an interview with Hendropriyono aired on Metro TV on May 31 in which he accused the TPF of "lacking professionalism", human rights activists called on police to detain him for "attempts to avoid investigation".

At a press conference on June 1, Edwin Partogi from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence questioned Hendropriyono's motives saying that while he claims to respect the legal process he is unwilling to give any information to the TPF.

"We certainly suspect Hendropriyono's sensationalist posture and statements are no more than an effort to provoke the TPF to become caught up in unnecessary matters. It also aims to distract the tremendous amount of public attention [away from] the Munir case", Partogi said.

"The police have sufficient reason to detain Hendropriyono because he has tried to block the investigation", Johnson Panjaitan of the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association said.

Panjaitan told journalists that Hendropriyono is trying to intimidate the TPF, citing previous cases where the former BIN boss has sued human rights lawyers to prevent them from proceeding with cases. Panjaitan warned that Hendropriyono still has a lot of power and asked police to prioritise his questioning.

On June 6, Hendropriyono again failed to turn up for a meeting with the TPF, citing unspecified business out of town. Djazuli and Suparto were also due to appear for questioning but neither turned up.

TPF chairperson Police Brigadier General Marsudhi Hanafi announced on June 14 that the team had found documents detailing four plots to kill Munir, involving engineering a car accident and poisoning his food at his office. The fourth plot was to poison him aboard an aircraft."It was this [plot] which then succeeded", Hanafi told journalists.

Although Hanafi declined to say where the documents were found, he said the TPF now knows where the arsenic was purchased. He said the findings strengthen the suspicion that there was a conspiracy to murder Munir.

Government won't revoke property decree

Jakarta Post - June 22, 2005

Rendi A. Witular and Tiarma Siboro, Jakarta -- The government has stated that it would not withdraw nor revise a regulation on land acquisition for public development purposes, despite strong protests from some sections of the public.

Minister of Public Works Djoko Kirmanto said that because many infrastructure projects had run aground due to problems related to land acquisition, there was no other way for the government to resolve the problem other than to issue such a regulation.

"There are many cases in which the construction of infrastructure projects become stalled due to rejection by a single landowner," Djoko explained during a press conference after a meeting with Vice President Jusuf Kalla and other government officials to discuss the issue.

The government issued last month Presidential Regulation No. 36/2005 on land acquisition for public development purposes, which effectively allows the government to acquire land for crucial infrastructure projects even if the landowners have not agreed on the amount of compensation offered to them, thus providing certainty for crucial infrastructure development.

The stipulation, which allows the government to revoke the property rights of dissident landowners for the sake of the wider public good, has been the subject of heated protests by a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The NGOs suspect that the ruling actually was issued to serve the interest of the wealthy infrastructure developers at the expense of the poor.

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) on Tuesday sent a letter to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, urging him to revoke the new regulation as it was against human rights.

Komnas HAM described the regulation as "crueler than the land regulation issued under the previous New Order regime" and was similar to a ruling imposed by the Dutch colonial government, which could revoke private property rights.

Komnas HAM said that the use of the term "public interest" in the regulation to refer to the development of infrastructure facilities such as toll roads and airports does not necessarily serve the interest of the poor people.

"The development of toll roads has nothing to do with public interest because such roads will only serve the interests of the wealthy car owners," he claimed.

Meanwhile, head of the National Land Agency (BPN) Muhammad Lutfi, said that the government was committed to provide competitive compensation to landowners whose land would be affected by development projects.

He said that the amount of compensation offered to landowners would be based on the taxable value of their land and property (NJOP), as determined by an independent appraisal team.

However, the amount of the compensation would not exceed 20 percent of the NJOP, said Lutfi.

Critics, however, have said that such a mechanism would not necessarily ensure fair prices, especially if local administrations had not revised the NJOP each year -- especially in rapidly developing cities.

Meanwhile, Minister of Information and Communication Sofyan Djalil said that the new land regulations would allow the government to press ahead with the construction of the East Flood Canal in the eastern part of Jakarta, and the construction of a few sections of the Jakarta Outer Ring Road toll projects, which have been stalled due to problems in land acquisition.

Hendro 'disappoints' President

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2005

Rendi A. Witular and Tony Hotland, Jakarta -- President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expressed disappointment on Monday over the refusal of A.M. Hendropriyono, the former chief of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN), to be questioned by a government sanctioned fact-finding team assigned to help the police in the investigation of the murder of top human rights campaigner Munir.

But the President did not say whether there would be tougher measures taken against his senior in the military.

The team's coordinator Brig. Gen. (Police) Marsudhi Hanafi said the recent refusal of Hendropriyono to be questioned had not only disappointed the team but also the President, since the team was formed to help the police solve the high-profile case.

"President Susilo has expressed disappointment over the refusal of Hendropriyono to be questioned by us because this team is an extension of the President's authority," said Marsudhi after meeting Susilo at the State Palace.

Meanwhile, Hendropriyono said he found it hard to believe that the President was disappointed with him. "I mean, he was once my subordinate. Even if (the President) said he was disappointed, I'm sure the fact-finding team must have twisted the facts and made misleading reports about me," he said on Monday during a meeting with a team of legislators assigned to monitor the investigation of the Munir case.

He also defended his decision to ignore the summons given by the fact-finding team, saying the summons was not a polite way to treat someone in his position and the team had acted arrogantly.

The team wanted to question Hendropriyono, a retired army general, to seek clarification over the alleged role of BIN in the murder case, which took place last year when he was still in charge of the intelligence agency.

Susilo set up the fact-finding team on Dec. 23 to help the police solve the case, which has also drawn international attention. Munir died while aboard a Garuda flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam on Sept. 7 last year. An autopsy by the Dutch authorities discovered excessive levels of arsenic in his body, indicating that he had been poisoned.

Marsudhi said that while Susilo had not yet decided whether to extend the team's mandate, the team had suggested that the government dissolve it because it had managed to gather sufficient facts that could be followed up by the National Police.

"We have suggested that our task not be extended. The case should be followed up by the police, and the government should form a special body to supervise this task to ensure they are serious about pursuing it," he said.

During the meeting, Marsudhi said, the President said he was pleased with the work carried out by the team since it had managed to gather crucial information to solve the case, in spite of the fact that it had limited authority.

The team asserted that Pollycarpus, a Garuda pilot, who was off duty during the flight and had offered his business class seat to Munir during the first leg of the trip (when it is believed he was poisoned), is a BIN agent. It also revealed intelligence documents last week, describing a plan that outlined four optional methods to kill Munir, who was a strong critic of human rights violations committed by the military.

Elsewhere, Hendropriyono told lawmakers that he was not involved Munir's murder. He also said he suspected political maneuvering behind the fact-finding team's move to summon him for questioning over the murder case.

He said that the team had not produced any significant results during its six-month tenure, aside from a character assassination of people like himself.

TNI should be allowed to be prosecuted in civilian courts

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2005

Tiarma Siboro, Jakarta -- Observers demanded the House of Representatives on Monday to amend its bill on the military tribunal so as to pave the way for trials of soldiers in a civilian court for crimes they commit.

Hari T. Prihantono of the ProPatria think tank for military reforms said the bill should make it clear that soldiers would be court martialled for violations of the military's code of ethics, but they have to stand trial at a district court for criminal charges.

"The leadership of the Indonesian Military must allow soldiers to stand trial in civilian courts if they face criminal charges," Hari said.

He was responding to the bill proposed by a group of lawmakers to amend Law No. 31/1997 on military tribunals, which is supposed to bring it in line with the People's Consultative Assembly decree in 2000 to separate the police from the military.

The Assembly said in its decree that as a consequence of the separation, soldiers were subject to trial at the military tribunal for violations of the Military Law, and the public court for violations of the Criminal Code.

No radical changes, however, are found in the current bill of amendment to the military tribunal, as it authorizes the military tribunal to hear criminal cases involving soldiers or those considered servicemen. In its appendix, the bill states that military offenses are termed as all violations perpetrated by soldiers.

With public monitoring largely non-existent, military tribunals have been accused of providing protection for soldiers who commit serious crimes, thus maintaining the culture of impunity.

Without public scrutiny a few years ago, an officer, who is a son of a former Army general, got a light sentence and eventually had his jail term cut short despite being convicted of a drug crime -- one which carries a maximum sentence of death under the antinarcotics law.

Hari said military tribunals were commonly set up during periods of martial law, while during peace time it would hear violations of the military code of ethics, such as desertion and insubordination.

According to the draft amendment of the military tribunal law, civilian investigators can only intervene in the legal process against soldiers who are accused of committing crimes in collaboration with civilians.

"It should be the police who have to investigate such cases, unless when martial law is in effect," Hari said.

A joint military-civilian court was established in 2000 to try soldiers involved in the killings of Aceh Muslim cleric Tengku Bantaqiyah and dozens of his followers in November 1999.

Joint civilian-military investigation teams have also been set up to investigate retired military officers accused of involvement in crimes, in a move critics deemed as a compromise.

As part of general judicial reforms, the Indonesian Military (TNI) has surrendered the administration of the military court to the Supreme Court. But it will take years to place the military court under full supervision of the Supreme Court, due to the "unreadiness" of the investigators.

Ikrar Nusa Bhakti of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) urged the lawmakers to define a mechanism, which would enable civilian investigators to probe abuses against civilians involving military personnel while conducting operations.

He warned that the military had frequently covered up such violations in the name of state secrecy.

Ikrar, however, would not object if the soldiers were court martialled for abuses against civilians as long as the court handed down heavier punishments than civilian courts.

Bill helps to maintain military impunity

Jakarta Post - June 20, 2005

Tiarma Siboro, Jakarta -- The House of Representatives has proposed a bill to revise Law No. 31/1997 on military tribunals, but efforts to do away with impunity for soldiers has many obstacles as the draft fails to specify offenses that requires soldiers to stand trial in a civilian court.

Article 9 of the bill spells out the authority of the military tribunals, which hear criminal cases involving soldiers or those considered to be soldiers. The appendix of the bill says that military offenses are classified as all violations perpetrated by servicemen.

In accordance with judicial reforms, the Supreme Court has introduced a new system, which requires military personnel charged with violating the Criminal Code to stand trial at a district court. The proposed reforms followed People's Consultative Assembly Decree No. VII/2000 on the roles of the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police.

Article 3 paragraph 4 of the decree says that soldiers are subject to trial at the military tribunal for violations of the Military Law, and the public court for violations of the Criminal Code. While the police force has complied with the MPR decree, the TNI has refused.

One of the lawmakers who sponsored the draft, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, said the bill did not categorize which crimes could send soldiers to military court or civilian court, for fear that "the more crimes that are listed, the more legal loopholes may appear." But Lukman of the United Development Party (PPP) said the bill was not yet final. "We welcome more suggestions," he added.

Lukman denied allegations that the bill was a setback for the ongoing attempt to reform the military, saying the draft suggests that soldiers be tried in the ad hoc human rights court for allegedly perpetrating institutional crimes.

"A soldier who allegedly commits a crime in his capacity as a serviceman must face the rights tribunal if there are indications that he or she was merely following an order. To determine that, however, requires more investigation," Lukman said.

Debate has been rife for decades over military personnel who are court-martialled. Such trials have been largely used as attempts to protect, instead of punish, the soldier, thereby keeping the military's impunity intact due to a lack of public access to the trial.

The chain-of-command issue has often been a stumbling block for investigations into active or retired military officers accused of corruption or gross human rights violations.

Hari T. Prihantono of the ProPatria think tank, which campaigns for military reform, said that while the TNI had acknowledged the supremacy of the Criminal Code following the endorsement of the TNI law last year, no actual changes had been made, and the military tribunal law remains unchanged.

Law against human trafficking 'urgent'

Jakarta Post - June 18, 2005

Jakarta -- The House of Representatives is being urged to immediately deliberate on the much-waited bill against human trafficking, a serious problem in the country, which mostly affects women and children.

"We want the draft law on human trafficking discussed and endorsed soon because our law enforcement people find it difficult to arrest human traffickers under the current laws," said Syafira Hardani, an officer overseeing the counter- trafficking program at the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS).

The bill is intended to go beyond Article 297 of the Criminal Code, which is meant to ban woman and child trafficking, but is not applicable for international or transnational crimes, while Article 324 on slavery is also inadequate.

Syafira said the bill was drafted to strengthen the commitment and efforts to prevent human trafficking crimes.

Under the bill, investigators are allowed to tap conversations by telephone or other types of communications devices suspected of being used to prepare, plan or commit human trafficking.

The draft law stipulates that human trafficking carries a minimum penalty of four years in prison, but if that crime causes the death of a victim, a suspect is subject to life imprisonment and fines ranging from Rp 60 million (US$6,315) to Rp 300 million.

The bill also includes articles on providing protection for victims and witnesses.

Several House members gave support for the call to immediately discuss the bill.

Latifah Iskandar, a member of the House's Commission VIII for religious, social and women's affairs, said the legislature was scheduled to begin deliberating on the bill later this year.

Asked why the plan for the deliberations was delayed, she explained that it was because of the change of the country's national leadership. "We'll respond to it (the call) in a positive manner and urge the government to finalize the human trafficking bill together with the House," Latifah said, adding that lawmakers should take the initiative and find faster ways to deliberate on draft laws, especially very urgent ones such as these.

Anis Hamim, an activist from the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC), said that existing Indonesian laws had no legal foundation for the fight against human trafficking.

"A new law is therefore desperately needed to curb human trafficking practices," he said.

In the year 2000, Indonesia signed the United Nations Convention against transnational organized crime, the protocol to prevent, suppress and human trafficking and punish its perpetrators, as well as the protocol against people smuggling via land, sea or air.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception, abuse of power or a position, vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person.

Human trafficking, by that definition, is what many illegal or undocumented migrants suffer. Data from non-governmental organizations shows that currently between 1.4 million to 2.1 million of Indonesian female workers live abroad, including illegal or undocumented migrants.

According to a 2002 report from the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration, there were only 500,000 Indonesians who have gone overseas to work through legal channels.

In the same year, the Kramat Jati Police Hospital in Jakarta reported the number of migrant workers, who were treated there for mental illnesses and other diseases due to physical abuse, reached 449 people.

In 2003, the number of victims decreased to 392 people. However, in 2004 the number of victims increased again to 435.

Time is up for BIN agents 'to clarify'

Jakarta Post - June 17, 2005

Tiarma Siboro, Jakarta -- Former BIN chief A.M. Hendropriyono has missed his chance to clarify the facts obtained by the fact- finding team investigating the murder of rights campaigner Munir, as the Thursday deadline set by the team has passed.

Speaking at a press conference held at the team's office on Jl. Latuharhary in Central Jakarta, deputy chairman of the team and rights activist Asmara Nababan said Hendropriyono's failure to respond to summonses would not be left out of the team's report to the President.

"We will also consider that he (Hendropriyono) does not dispute any of the facts obtained by the team, and that the team shouldn't have to seek (further) clarification from him," Asmara said. A similar stance has been taken regarding other BIN agents, including former deputy BIN chief Maj. Gen. (ret) Muchdi PR and Col. (ret) Bambang Irawan.

Asmara said the team had fixed its investigation on several suspects but refused to disclose their names. The team's secretary-general, Usman Hamid, said several BIN officials had had an incriminating involvement in the murder, "but we don't have the authority to name this person or that person as suspects."

Separately, National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar promised to follow up the team's recommendations, and "if it is necessary, we (the police) can summon Hendropriyono for clarification." President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono set up the team on Dec. 23 to assist with the police's investigation of the murder.

Many people have linked BIN to the murder as Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, the only suspect to be detained so far, is believed to be a BIN agent.

The team has summoned Hendropriyono -- who headed the intelligence institution when Munir was murdered -- three times, and Thursday's deadline was the last chance for Hendropriyono, who is alleged to have known about the murder, to clarify as the team will make its final recommendations to the President on June 23.

The team will also detail in its report problems faced while accessing related documents at BIN's office, despite a signed protocol between the team and the current BIN Chief Maj. Gen. (ret) Syamsir Siregar.

The team is seeking to clarify seven documents, including -- according to a reliable source -- a list of BIN employees and agents, reports on BIN's weaponry and BIN's storage facility for weapons, as well as records on the handover of the BIN secretary-general post from Nurhadi Djazuli to Soeparto.

Nurhadi, whose ambassadorial assignment was suspended following the case, is believed to be the BIN official "who recruited and introduced Pollycarpus to BIN's top authorities." Separately, Hendropriyono's lawyer Maj. Gen. (ret) Syamsu Djalal said there was still time for the team to question his client, even though the team had not shown up when Hendropriyono invited it to his office.

Earlier, the team disclosed that based on documents found during the investigation, there had been four attempts to murder Munir. The first attempt was to kill Munir while in a car, presumably through a road accident, while the second method was to use black magic. The third and the fourth methods were similar in that they both involved the poisoning of Munir, but only the fourth method succeeded, which involved the poisoning of Munir with arsenic on board a Garuda Indonesia flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam on Sept. 7 last year.

Seven year's jail for Jakarta killer

Melbourne Age - June 17, 2005

Mathew Moore, Jakarta -- A businessman from one of Indonesia's wealthiest families has escaped with a seven-year jail sentence after murdering a waiter who told him a credit card had been rejected.

Adiguna Sutowo shed a few tears but appeared otherwise unmoved as judges in the Central Jakarta District Court read out the sentence to a room packed with some of the hired thugs he brought with him.

Adiguna congratulated his legal team led by Mohammad Assegaf, the same lawyer used by former president Soeharto, who was a great friend of Adiguna's father, Ibnu Sutowo.

In a country where heavy sentences are often handed out for small offences and money sometimes influences a verdict, the case has created huge interest.

With Indonesia's new President promoting his drive against corruption, the case has been seen as a test of whether the Sutowo family's enormous wealth and connections were enough to ensure a light sentence or even acquittal.

The court heard that Adiguna committed the murder in the Fluid nightclub in Jakarta's Hilton Hotel, one of five Hiltons owned by his brother Ponco.

It was New Year's Eve and Adiguna had been drinking and allegedly using drugs when Rudi Natong, a 25-year-old law student, returned the credit card of his partner, Novia Herdiana, which had been declined. Adiguna pulled out a pistol and shot Mr Natong in the side of the head before wiping the prints off the gun handle and fleeing.

Before the case got to court, the Sutowo family made considerable efforts to placate the victim's family. Ponco Sutowo travelled to Flores Island to deliver a traditional condolence gesture of a cow's head, along with an envelope containing an undisclosed amount of money. Mr Natong's father gave Adiguna's lawyers a letter asking the judges to give a light sentence to the man who shot his son.

Outside the court yesterday, Hendrik Jehaman, the lawyer representing Mr Natong, condemned the verdict. "If he was an ordinary person, the sentence would be much, much higher, not seven years," he said. "It's just possible the judges were influenced by the big name or by other things that we still have to look for." Asked if bribery was one of those things, he said "there are a lot of rumours but no proof".

He said the only time a lighter sentence had been given for murder was when a defendant had co-operated and admitted the offence, something Adiguna refused to do.

Even though prosecutors had asked for life, they seemed untroubled by the sentence. "It's no problem, it's normal," said chief prosecutor Andi Herman. He was unsure whether prosecutors would even appeal. But Adiguna's lawyer was in no doubt that his client would.

BIN attacks team for going public on Munir case

Jakarta Post - June 16, 2005

Jakarta -- As the end of its tenure nears, the fact-finding team probing the murder of top human rights activist Munir dealt another blow on Wednesday when it was accused of exceeding the scope of its jurisdiction.

State Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Maj. Gen. (ret) Syamsir Siregar said the fact-finding team, set up through a presidential decree, had overstepped its authority by widely disclosing information it had collected in the investigation of the murder.

"We object to the way the team has worked. The decree says in the sixth article that the results of its investigation shall be reported only to the President, thus we question its wide publication," he said after a closed-door meeting with House of Representatives Commission I on defense and foreign affairs.

Syamsir did not specify any findings or publication by the team. His comment, however, came just one day after the team disclosed that they had discovered documents setting out four methods to murder Munir, a staunch critic of the military. Syamsir said he had never seen any such documents.

BIN has been closely linked to the murder as Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto, the only suspect to be detained so far, is believed to be a BIN member. A team finding revealed that Pollycarpus, a Garuda Indonesia pilot, had made numerous telephone calls before and after the murder to a BIN official.

Munir was killed on board a Garuda flight in September last year on his way from Jakarta to Amsterdam. An autopsy conducted by the Dutch government revealed he was poisoned. Pollycarpus was on the same flight (as an off-duty pilot) when the murder took place, and he offered Munir his business class seat.

Syamsir added that his agency was still working closely with the fact-finding team, but the results were confidential.

Syamsir's criticism was echoed by two legislators from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) Effendi Simbolon and Permadi. Both said that the team had exceeded it mandate in investigating the case. They said the team was simply tasked with collecting data and reporting its findings to the police and the President.

Separately, former BIN chief A.M. Hendropriyono said he was disappointed after the team failed to appear on Wednesday upon his invitation to discuss his alleged involvement in the murder.

Hendropriyono, a PDI-P member and close aide of PDI-P leader Megawati Soekarnoputri, is alleged to have known about the murder -- an allegation he has denied so far. He himself has failed to fulfill three summonses sent by the team.

Team member Asmara Nababan said on Tuesday that the team would not fulfill the invitation because Hendropriyono had requested that it exclude two members -- Munir's close friends Rachlan Nashidik and Usman Hamid. Hendropriyono is suing the two for defamation.

"I feel disappointed with the team because it didn't come, which means that it does not respect the presidential decree that assigns them to collect facts," he said.

He said the team should have come to meet him privately instead of sending a summons. "Collecting facts is not done by summoning people. Even I never summoned people when I was the BIN chief. They should be proactive," said Hendropriyono.

 Labour issues

A million rural workers get jobs in formal sector

Jakarta Post - June 22, 2005

Zakki P. Hakim, Jakarta -- Despite constantly rising unemployment, the country last year saw more of its workers enjoying regular incomes and job security as an increasing number of rural workers moved into the formal sector, according to the latest government labor data.

The 2004 National Labor Force Survey (Sakernas) revealed that at least 1.19 million jobs were created last year in the formal sector in rural areas, spread evenly between manufacturing, trade, transportation and services.

Rural areas have apparently been able to develop the manufacturing sector despite the continuing trend of job losses in industry overall.

The report, published by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), shows that the overall manufacturing sector lost about 430,000 jobs last year so that it was only able to provide 11.07 million jobs, compared to 11.50 million in 2003.

Meanwhile, the manufacturing sector in rural areas created at least 226,000 new formal jobs last year, according to the report, which has been obtained by The Jakarta Post.

The manufacturing sector in rural areas employed 2.07 million workers last year, compared to 1.84 million in 2003.

The positive manufacturing trend in rural areas, which was followed by similar positive trends in the trade, transportation and services sectors, could be attributable to the strong performance put in by small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Aden Gultom, head of the BPS workforce sub-directorate, said that SMEs, such as household industries, could be the key drivers of job creation in rural areas. "But we need further studies to confirm this," Aden told the Post on Tuesday.

SMEs serve as the backbone of the country's economy. The government and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) say that 99.9 percent of Indonesia's total manufacturing establishments are SMEs.

SMEs provide 99.5 percent of jobs, 57 percent of goods and services, and contribute 19 percent of total export value. However, the government says that only 13 percent of the 42 million SMEs are capable of accessing banking and financial services.

The government hopes to raise SME productivity by 6 percent per year, increase employment by 3 percent per year per sector, boost the export value of SME products by between 5.2 percent and 9.8 percent per year, and cultivate the emergence of new entrepreneurs.

Overall, the formal sector created 1.61 million new jobs last year, with three-fourths of these being in rural areas.

Jobs in the formal sector increased to 28.43 million last year compared to 26.82 million in 2003, while the number of workers employed in the informal sector fell to 65.30 million from 65.99 million in 2003.

Aden, however, suggested that the increased number of jobs in the country's formal sector could also be attributed to a civil service recruitment drive last year.

He further said that the government might want to recruit more civil servants in order to achieve its target of reducing the open unemployment rate to 8.9 percent next year and 6.7 percent in 2008. Last year, the government recruited about 200,000 new civil servants nationwide.

The report said that the open unemployment rate rose from 9.67 percent in 2003 to 9.86 percent last year, with the total workforce standing at 103.97 million.

With an average of 2.5 million new workers entering the job market each year (not one million as reported earlier), Indonesia's economy needs to expand by at least 6 percent to be able to provide jobs for them all.

The government is thus hoping for economic growth of 6.1 percent next year, following estimated growth of 5.5 percent this year.

Jobs numbers drop due to unfavorable labor regulations

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2005

Zakki P. Hakim, Jakarta -- The still unfavorable labor environment continues to be the main cause for the declining number of jobs in key sectors, especially manufacturing, all of which has increased the unemployment rate, according to the latest government labor data.

The 2004 National Labor Force Survey (Sakernas) report published by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) showed that the number of jobs in the manufacturing sector shrank by 3.6 percent to 11.07 million last year from 11.50 million in 2003.

According to the report, obtained by The Jakarta Post, the open unemployment rate rose to 9.86 percent last year from 9.67 percent in 2003.

The absolute number of unemployed had expanded to 10.25 million in 2004 from 9.94 million in the previous year.

BPS data shows that the country had 1.22 million new job seekers in 2004 to put the year's total workforce at 103.97 million compared to 2003's 102.75 million.

The National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) chairwoman Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the decline in the number of jobs was linked mainly to unfavorable labor regulations, which had discouraged firms from hiring more people.

"The labor regulations are still too rigid," she told the Post on Monday.

She went on to add that such labor regulations were good for workers in terms of higher wages and other benefits, but it eventually increased costs for firms, however, business has been relatively slow in the country and not able to compensate.

The report, however, said that the number of jobs in the agriculture sector (including forestry and fishery) had declined to 40.61 million last year from 43.04 million in 2003.

But jobs in the mining and quarrying sector rose from some 733,000 in 2003 to 1.03 million last year. The construction sector had 4.54 million workers last year, absorbing an additional 486,000 laborers.

In wholesale and retail trade as well as restaurants and hotels, this sector last year absorbed 1.87 million workers, for a total of 19.12 million jobs in 2004.

In April, Mulyani said the government had hoped to reduce open unemployment to 8.9 percent by 2006 by boosting economic growth, through increasing exports and investments by 5 percent and 1.2 percent next year, respectively.

According to BPS, Indonesia's exports reached US$75 million in 2004, while foreign direct investment reached $10.27 million.

The government expects economic growth to hit 6.1 percent next year, following an estimated 5.5 percent growth this year.

With an average of more than a million new workers entering the job market each year, Indonesia's economy needs to expand by at least 6 percent to be able to absorb them.

BPS has revised the 2003 Sakernas report in February, after it was realigned to accommodate surveys conducted by the committee for voter registration and continuous census (P4B) during the 2004 general elections.

Aden Gultom, head of the BPS workforce sub-directorate, said the revision changed the total working age population in 2003 to 151.41 million from the earlier 152 million.

The 2003 Sakernas report initially suggested that the workforce in that year stood at 100.32 million, declining from 100.78 million in 2002.

Many child workers beaten, raped in Indonesian homes

Reuters - June 20, 2005

Dan Eaton, Jakarta -- The Indonesian government is ignoring the widespread physical and sexual abuse of hundreds of thousands of young girls working as maids in homes around the country, an international human rights watchdog said on Monday.

Human Rights Watch said in a 74-page report that children interviewed had described being denied food and wages and were beaten and raped by their employers.

The New York-based group said it also interviewed 19 Indonesian officials, most of whom acknowledged abuse existed but were quick to argue it was limited to a few cases and did not require fundamental changes to the government's approach.

"Out of 44 girls interviewed, all of them are talking about the long hours of work and not being paid decent wages. More than half of them had suffered some form of physical and sexual abuse," Sahr MuhammedAlly, the author of the report, told Reuters in an interview. "The Indonesian government has left child domestic workers at the complete mercy of their employers," MuhammedAlly said.

The report, titled "Always on Call: Abuse and Exploitation of Child Domestic Workers", said the attitude of authorities contrasted sharply with vocal official condemnation of the often poor treatment of adult Indonesian labourers working abroad in Malaysia, Singapore and the Middle East.

Investigations rare

It said 640,000 girls between the ages of 12 and 18 years were working as "helpers" in Indonesian households, out of a total 2.6 million domestic workers. The legal minimum working age in Indonesia is 15 years.

"Many Indonesians believe that working as a domestic is a safe option out of poverty for children," a statement issued with the report said.

"But Human Rights Watch interviewed children who described being denied food, being beaten and raped, and refused wages. Indonesian authorities rarely investigate or prosecute abuses, and many deny that such abuse occurs." The report said only one of the 44 domestic child workers interviewed was allowed to attend formal school by her employer.

"The Indonesian government must no longer turn a blind eye to such abuse," MuhammedAlly said.

The report urged the government to amend labour laws to afford domestic workers basic labour rights such as an eight-hour work day, days off and the minimum wage. The report also said the minimum working age should be enforced as well as the right to education.

But it acknowledged that the practice of using young domestic helpers, the vast majority of whom are girls, would be hard to eradicate and therefore the government must focus on the worst forms of abuse.

"We are not going to change what happens overnight, but the government can take steps to enact core labour standards for domestic workers," MuhammedAlly said.

Workers protest over low pay

Jakarta Post - June 16, 2005

Bandar Lampung -- Hundreds of workers of PT Sweet Indo Lampung protested outside the sugar producer's factory complex in Gedungmeneng, Tulangbawang on Tuesday.

The workers, who arrived in several trucks, were continuing their sometimes violent protest on Wednesday. Two cars and a truck were set on fire and several windows were broken inside the complex. Police on the scene have attempted to maintain peace.

The protesters are upset over low pay. They said the company paid them Rp 17,500 (US$2) per ton this year, down from Rp 25,000 per ton last year. Workers spend an average of Rp 17,000 on meals each day.

Heru Sapto, the head of the company's administrative affairs office, said the protest was the result of a miscommunication. "The protesters think they are not getting paid (the same as last year) for cutting the sugar cane, while in fact they are," he said.

 Land/rural issues

Thousands protest land decree

Jakarta Post - June 17, 2005

Semarang -- Approximately 5,000 farmers in Central Java protested here on Friday against a controversial decree on land procurement for development projects.

The protesters, from the regencies of Batang, Pekalongan, Kendal, Pati and Semarang, arrived in trucks at the Central Java National Land Agency.

They are opposed to Presidential Regulation No. 36/2005, which allows the government to take over land needed for development projects if the owners refuse the offered compensation. "This is like what has happened to farmers in Tugurejo, Semarang and Demak. They were evicted and their ownership of their land revoked even though the question of compensation had not been settled. That is a bad precedent for us," said Saiful Umam, who chairs the Central Java Farmers Organization, which organized the protest.

He said the protesters were demanding the new decree be revised or revoked.

 War on terror

Bashir appeals to Indonesian court

Sydney Morning Herald - June 21, 2005

Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir has appealed to Indonesia's Supreme Court to overturn his conviction and 30-month jail term for involvement in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings.

Bashir's lawyers argued that a high court decision last month confirming the sentence handed to him by a lower court was reached on the basis of false evidence.

Attorney Achmad Michdan told reporters on Tuesday that a police report alleging a conversation between convicted Bali bomber Amrozi and the 66-year-old cleric was made up.

"The statement that Abu Bakar Bashir is behind the Bali bombing was based on Amrozi's dossier which was untrue. Amrozi has informed us the content did not match the reality," said Michdan.

Bashir's lawyers have claimed since the start of his trial late last year that the police dossier was fabricated.

Authorities have said Amrozi, now on death row in a Bali prison, refused to testify in person during Bashir's trial.

Bashir is accused by authorities in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, and by some foreign governments of leading the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah network operating in South-East Asia. The Bali bombings killed 202 people, among then 88 Australians.

A court jailed Bashir for 30 months but acquitted him of charges that he led Jemaah Islamiah, ordered the Bali bombings or was involved in a 2003 blast at Jakarta's JW Marriott Hotel that killed 12 people.

The March 3 verdict prompted Australia and the United States to call for a review on the grounds the sentence was too lenient.

 Politics/political parties

Political parties a safe haven for corrupt politicians

Jakarta Post - June 22, 2005

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta -- A progressive-thinking Cabinet member during the New Order era once said that to cover up past wrongdoings and avoid prosecution, one had to cling to the power he now had and if possible accumulate even more power. There is no way to go but up, he said.

Although this statement described former president Soeharto's last-gasp efforts to stay in power and protect the interests of his family and cronies, it still rings true in light of current events, which have seen politicians seeking a safe haven in political parties from prosecutors who are after their scalps.

A blatant example of this worrying trend occurred last week when a beleaguered member of the General Elections Commission (KPU), Anas Urbaningrum, resigned from his post only to join the ranks of the Democratic Party, the political vehicle of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Anas made the move in the midst of the legal quagmire all of the commission members have become caught up in as a result of corruption allegations.

Two senior members of the elections commission, chairman Nazaruddin Syamsuddin and Mulyana W. Kusumah, are already behind bars, while others are still being questioned by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

Anas did not admit his move was inspired by the desire to obtain protection from his legal entanglements, saying he had been offered a position in the party three months before the Democratic Party convened in May to elect new leadership.

But people could be forgiven for thinking that even if Anas had been offered the position nine months ago, he would have accepted it as he must have sensed the approaching danger.

A coalition of non-governmental organizations filed a complaint with the Corruption Eradication Commission about alleged corruption in the elections commission as early as August 2004.

The move by the former chairman of the Association of Islamic Students was the latest instance of an individual with a troubled past jumping on the bandwagon of a political party.

Less than two months after taking over the helm of the National Mandate Party (PAN) from charismatic leader Amien Rais, new party head Soetrisno Bachir already had landed in hot water.

The businessman-cum-politician was caught up in the loan scandal at state Bank Mandiri after his name was included on a list of businesspeople with bad debts issued by the Ministry of Finance.

Rumors of Soetrisno's possible link to the scandal were already circulated during PAN's congress last May, but he was still elected as the party's new leader in Semarang, Central Java, thanks to support from Amien, who still has the greatest say in the direction of the party.

Other politicians whose names appear on the list issued by the Ministry of Finance in connection with the Bank Mandiri scandal are Habil Marati and Osman Sapta.

The former is a central board member of the United Development Party (PPP) and a member of House of Representatives Commission XI on finance and banking affairs. A company owned by Habil allegedly owes a debt of Rp 54 billion to Bank Mandiri.

Osman was head of the Regional Unity Party, a political party that failed to pass the electoral threshold of 3 percent of the total national vote in the last general election.

He is accused of having a bad debt of US$23 million to Bank Mandiri. Following an audit by the Supreme Audit Agency, the Attorney General's Office is now investigating the case.

All of the politicians, aside from Anas, made their names as businessmen before making the plunge into politics. The inevitable impression is that these people have built up power bases in political parties in order to help protect themselves from prosecution related to their business dealings.

Faced with the need to protect themselves, they may have seen the possibility of manipulating political parties to shield themselves from any legal hassles.

Business and politics was the perfect marriage.

Late last year, corruption watchdog Transparency International Indonesia published a report that said political parties, along with the House of Representatives, were the two most corrupt institutions in the country.

Although the report was hardly prophetic given that most people already had a pretty good idea the two institutions were corrupt, it once again raised disturbing questions about the state of our political system.

It is time for civil society to revive the short-lived campaign against crooked politicians, or our political parties will become a clearinghouse for corrupt individuals and our last chance for empowering democracy will wither away.

[The writer is a journalist at The Jakarta Post.]

 Regional elections

Poor campaign turnouts big headaches for candidates

Jakarta Post - June 18, 2005

Oyos Saroso H.N., Bandarlampung -- Candidates for mayor Sjachrazad Z.P. and deputy mayor Rudy Syawal were surely disappointed when 2,000 people turned up at their election rally last Friday, as they had earlier declared there would be 20,000. The rally, held in a field in Bandarlampung, marked the first day of their election campaign.

Most of those present were Golkar Party members and their families.

Despite the poor turnout, Sjachrazad addressed the crowd with enthusiasm. "I am counting on you for my election as mayor for the 2005 to 2010 term. I can assure you of progression in Bandarlampung," said former Bandarlampung municipal secretary Sjachrazad.

Hundreds of pedicab drivers were seen at the event, but after obtaining T-shirts bearing the likeness of the pair, they returned to work.

"Not bad. We now have T-shirts to change into," said Parjiman, 27, a pedicab driver who usually waits for passengers around Saburai Field.

A poor turnout was also noticed in another place on the same day organized by nominees from the Democratic Party Nuril Hakim and Zamzani Yasin. Only 1,500 people attended the campaign in the parking lot at No. 38, Jl. Yos Sudarso.

Pedicab driver Syahrudin, whose usually waits for passengers at the Tugu market, said he was tired of listening to candidates' promises.

"Take, for instance, the last elections when every candidate vowed to improve social welfare. We have, in fact, been further burdened by the fuel price increase as the prices of basic goods have soared," said Syahrudin.

He acknowledged that he would accept a T-shirt from any candidate, but did not trust a single one of them.

"I have six T-shirts from six candidates already. If they want to give me money, I'll accept that too," said Syahrudin.

Poor election campaign turnouts have not just been reported in Bandarlampung but in South Lampung, East Lampung, Way Kanan and Metro.

No more than 400 people turned up at the fourth-day campaign event of candidates for regent Fadhil Hakim and deputy regent Emi Sunarsih in Kalianda, South Lampung. This was in spite of the presence of Lampung's Malay music band, the Sindy Group, famed for its provocative dance routines.

Rallies are likely to be more lively if candidates invite dangdut singers or famous Muslim preachers to entertain the crowd. In Bandarlampung, around 3,000 people turned up when candidates for mayor Irfan Nuranda Djafar and deputy mayor Kuswandi invited Yuke of the AFI TV talent show to sing.

In East Lampung, after four days of quiet campaigning, candidates for regent Mawardi Harirama and deputy regent Amin Tohari employed dangdut singers Ine Cyntia and Solid AG to put in an appearance at the Sekampung field, attracting 4,000 people.

Aware that people's interest in attending rallies has lessened since last year, many candidates have been spotted at traditional markets and campaigning door-to-door over the last three days.

Besides chatting with traders and customers, they have also distributed stickers and posters.

Ari Darmastuti, a social observer, said the public was sick of campaigns. People, he said, would only turn up if they thought there was something in it for them.

Local elections could result in lack legitimacy: Survey

Jakarta Post - June 17, 2005

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta -- A new survey has suggested that the direct elections being planned in over 140 regions across the nation this month should be delayed due to lack of preparations, or else they would spark conflicts and produce illegitimate leaders.

The insufficient preparedness on the part of all relevant parties in the regions to hold the elections would not contribute to the desired development of democracy, it argued.

The study, jointly conducted by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and the Partnership for Governance Reform in Indonesia, found that most regions, including election organizers, local administrations, political parties, eligible voters and independent supervisory agencies, were not prepared for the planned democratic events.

The survey was conducted simultaneously in 14 regencies and municipalities in North and West Sumatra, Java, Bali and South Sulawesi. It involved local elite figures, including government officials, local election commission members, informal leaders and journalists.

The 14 regions, including the regencies of Kutai Kartanegara, Pekalongan, Kebumen and Cilegon, were part of more than 140 regencies and municipalities scheduled to hold local elections in June.

According to the survey's findings, the local branches of the General Elections Commission (KPUD)s could not work optimally to prepare direct elections because of the late disbursement of election funds from the central government.

"The registration for eligible voters was also chaotic because many people had never been registered, while many others received more than one voter card. This has happened in Kutai Kartanegara and Cilegon," Syamsuddin Harris, who coordinated the survey, said when presenting the survey results on Thursday.

He said the establishment of a special regional election desk by the central government was disturbing rather than helpful for KPUDs, while local administrations have played no role other than cashiers.

"The civic education campaign by the KPUDs have failed to reach a majority of eligible voters and they are not given a chance to vote," he claimed.

Syamsuddin, also a political analyst with LIPI, said the most crucial problem was serious and widespread corruption and vote- buying, while most regions had no independent supervisory bodies.

"Independent candidates have to pay more for their nominations and have to secure political support from one or more of the large political parties," he said.

It was also difficult to find independent election monitoring bodies due to the absence of foreign aid and foreign election monitoring organizations, Syamsuddin added.

Hadar Gumay, coordinator of the Center for Electoral Reform (Cetro), concurred and said the regions' lack of preparedness was evidenced by the recent local elections in Pekalongan, Kutai, Kebumen and Cilegon.

"According to Cetro's observations, the number of illegal votes during the local elections is around two percent higher than that during the second round of last September's presidential election in the four regions, while the participation of eligible voters is around 30 percent lower than that during the presidential election. This indicates that the registration drive for the local elections among eligible voters were not conducted properly," he said.

Syamsuddin and Hadar were of the same opinion that the decision was in the hands of home affairs minister M. Ma'ruf and KPUDs whether they had the courage to postpone the elections, especially those scheduled for June 27-28, to avoid widespread public disappointment and social conflict.

"The quality of local elections and the legitimacy of elected leaders will be questioned and social conflict will be a distinct possibility among local elites and their supporters as is currently happening in Kutai and Cilegon," said Hadar.

Graft suspects contesting polls

Jakarta Post - June 16, 2005

Andi Hajramurni and A'an Suryana, Makassar/Jakarta -- Building a clean government! This was the vision expressed by Ichsan Yasin Limpo, a candidate running for regent, when he delivered his manifesto to Gowa regental councillors a few days ago in an attempt to prove his anticorruption credentials ahead of the June 27 local leadership election in the regency.

Such visions appear to be a dime a dozen as almost all candidates in local leadership elections around the country have waxed lyrical on the same theme. Even at the national level, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono himself has repeatedly said that the war on corruption would be the first priority of his government.

However, Ichsan's noble vision becomes somewhat ironic given that he is facing serious graft charges. He is one of 14 former South Sulawesi councillors being charged with jointly misappropriating Rp 18.23 billion (US$1.9 million) from the 2003 provincial budget.

Such ironies are commonplace throughout the entire nation. In South Sulawesi alone, besides Ichsan, there is another candidate running for regent and two candidates running for deputy regent in the elections on June 27 even though they have been named suspects in corruption cases. The three candidates are Ince Langke, candidate for regent in Selayar, Andi Muhtamar, candidate for deputy regent in Bulukumba and MT Allorerong, candidate for deputy regent in Tana Toraja. The candidacies of these three Golkar Party members have been roundly condemned by many sides, but all the protests have fallen on deaf ears.

A similar story is to be found in the Central Java capital of Semarang and the North Sumatra regency of Serdang Bedagai. Candidate for Semarang mayor Sukawi Sutarip and candidate for Serdang Bedagai regent Chairullah are both insisting on running for office even though they are being charged for corruption.

Aidir Amin Daud, the chairman of the South Sulawesi General Elections Commission, said they were allowed to stand as they had not violated any electoral rules. In fact, there were no rules prohibiting a suspect from running for public office, including under the Local Government Law (No. 32/2005). "A person may be barred from running for public office only if he or she has been convicted of a criminal offense and sentenced to a jail term of more than five years, and the verdict has achieved conclusive legal effect," said Aidir.

If a person is convicted and jailed for more than five years but the verdict has not achieved conclusive legal effect, he or she is still entitled to stand in a local leadership election, said Aidir. "Given all this, the election commission has no right to reject the candidacies of persons charged as suspects in criminal or corruption cases," said Aidir.

However, legal observer Aswanto of Hasanuddin University tells a different story. According to Aswanto, a suspect in a corruption or criminal case should be barred from contesting public office. "If somebody has officially been named a suspect, then there will be strong prima facie evidence that he or she has committed a crime. Legally speaking, the election commission should prohibit him or her from running for a local leadership post," said Aswanto.

In addition, he said, if a suspect was elected to a local leadership post, whether it be as governor, regent or mayor, and was subsequently found guilty of corruption, this would disrupt the wheels of the administration and government in the region concerned. In order to prevent such a scenario from becoming reality, Aswanto called on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and academics to persuade the public not to vote for criminal or graft suspects in the local elections.

 Government/civil service

Susilo announces new public hotline number, 9949

Jakarta Post - June 16, 2005

Rendi A. Witular and Yuli Tri Suwarni, Jakarta/Bandung -- After his private mobile phone crashed just a day after its number was made public last week, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono made public on Thursday a new phone number, 9949, through which members of the public can directly forward complaints and information.

During a press briefing at the State Palace, Susilo said the new four-digit number could accommodate a large number of text messages from the public as it was connected to a computer and operated by a team of seven people.

"I can assure the public that the number is working now. Please send your complaints or information concerning public affairs directly to me. However, the messages will be sorted out before reaching me (through the team)," he said.

The President said that in order for him to follow up on the messages he received and prevent possible slander, senders should attach their complete names and addresses.

The identity of senders would be fully protected by the President, he assured.

Important complaints and information would be followed up on immediately by the President, including those on corruption and other serious crimes, such as illegal logging, tax evasion, smuggling, kickbacks, terrorism and drug abuse.

"Although the messages will be sorted out, they will all come directly to me without any screening. The team that works for me is directly under my control without having to go through the bureaucracy, which will prevent bias," said Susilo.

For those who do not have mobile phones, the President said they should send complaints and information to PO BOX 9949, Jakarta 10000. The 9949 phone number given out by Susilo is based on his birthday, Sept. 9, 1949.

Susilo said that over the past three days, he had received 15,360 text messages, with 19 percent of them expressing support for his leadership, 16.5 percent expressing support for his anticorruption drive, 14.5 percent dealing with problems faced by state employees, 17.4 percent dealing with abuses by the security authorities, 6.6 percent concerning infrastructure deficiencies, and 25 percent dealing with miscellaneous issues.

Meanwhile, following the example of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, West Java Governor Danny Setiawan has given out a phone number to residents wishing to lodge complaints, at 0811217434.

Danny said that since Monday, the 34 million residents of West Java had been able to dial 0811217434 and file complaints or express their views.

"We have provided a number, 0811217434, for text messages, just like the President," the governor said on Wednesday. A day after the number was announced on local radio stations, the governor had received more than 300 text messages from people complaining about everything from traffic to malnutrition.

Danny said that most of the complaints had been forwarded to the relevant agencies. The governor also plans to set up an e-mail account.


More Jamsostek officials entangled in graft: Police

Jakarta Post - June 22, 2005

Eva C. Komandjaja, Jakarta -- Police are set to name new suspects in an alleged graft case involving state-owned insurance firm PT Jamsostek following the detention of the company's former investment director Andi Alamsyah.

Deputy chairman of the inter-departmental anti-corruption team Brig. Gen. Indarto, who is also the fraud squad chief at the National Police headquarters, said the new suspects would be revealed in the next coming few days.

"There will be more suspects as we have found enough evidence to charge them," Indarto said.

He would not say whether the new suspects would come from Jamsostek's board of directors or the management of companies where it made investments.

The case revolves around imprudent investments decided by the management of Jamsostek, which runs social security programs for workers in the country, which are alleged to have caused more than Rp 250 billion (US$26.3 million) in losses to the state.

Among the blunders were a Rp 100 billion (US$10.5 million) investment in bonds issued by the now defunct Bank Global, a Rp 49.2 billion investment in a local company identified by its initial as PT V, and another investment worth Rp 105.5 billion in another firm identified as PT SIP.

Indarto said the investigators expected to find more financial losses resulting from bad investments.

He said Andi was named a suspect because he was held responsible for the careless investments. The police found evidence that Andi as the investment director violated several regulations concerning investment.

"We discovered an analysis report from Jamsostek's investment research division saying that the state insurance firm should not invested in Bank Global but he (Andi) ignored it and made the investment," Indarto said.

According to Presidential Decree No. 28/1996 on Jamsostek investment, any investment worth over Rp 25 billion needed approval from the company's president director and finance director.

"We found that Andi failed to comply with the regulations and invested workers' money based on his own judgment," Indarto said.

Andi, who began serving his detention on Monday, will be charged with violating Anticorruption Law No. 31/1999 and will face a maximum penalty of life sentence if proven guilty.

BPK auditors got '11 million rupiah monthly' from KPU

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2005

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta -- Lawyers for Mulyana Wira Kusumah, the first defendant in the high-profile graft case involving the General Elections Commission (KPU), revealed on Monday a series of other bribery cases against state auditors.

Defense lawyers told the trial of Mulyana that an audit team from the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) had received Rp 11 million (US$1,145) monthly from the KPU since January 2005.

KPU member Mulyana is being tried in the anticorruption court on charges of attempting to bribe BPK auditor Khairiansyah Salman with Rp 300 million in an apparent bid to influence the results of the BKP audit on election funds.

The same lawyers accused Khairiansyah, who leaked the information on Mulyana's alleged bribe attempt, of receiving Rp 750,000 weekly from the KPU. "The money was aimed at helping the BPK team do their main task of conducting an investigative audit," Sirra Prayuna, a member of Mulyana's legal team, told the trial.

However, Sirra did not name the person who handed over this money or when the bribery practices stopped.

At Monday's court hearing, Mulyana's lawyers also denied bribery charges by prosecutors against their client, and demanded that the court dismiss them. They said the charges, which carry a maximum penalty of five years in jail, were legally flawed as the crime involved two institutions -- the KPU and the BPK.

"So, in this case all those involved must be held as defendants, not only Mulyana. There should be no legal discrimination," Sirra argued.

In the previous hearing last Thursday, prosecutors charged Mulyana, who is also a prominent criminologist from the University of Indonesia, of trying to pay a Rp 300 million bribe to Khairiansyah.

Prosecutors said that the defendant had asked the auditor to nullify findings that showed discrepancies in the procurement of ballot boxes for last year's general elections, in order to ensure that the KPU was not found to be corrupt.

Mulyana was arrested on April 8 during a meeting with Khairiansyah, whom investigators from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) had wired with a recorder. The investigators seized Rp 300 million allegedly used as a bribe. In response, Mulyana claimed entrapment.

Apart from the bribery case, the KPK was also investigating other corruption cases at the elections agency.

KPU chairman Nazaruddin Syamsuddin has been detained for interrogation as a suspect in the graft scandal, along with KPU secretary general Susongko Suhardjo and treasurer Hamdani Amin.

The KPU members and officials have been accused of receiving large amounts of money collected as kickbacks from private companies that won tenders to provide election materials to the commission. A proportion of these kickbacks were also reportedly given to lawmakers and BPK auditors.

A former chairman of the budgetary committee at the House of Representatives, Abdullah Zaini, has admitted to receiving Rp 100 million as a gift at his daughter's wedding last year. The gift was returned to the KPU after the corruption case became public.

Also, another BPK auditor Japiten Nainggolan admitted to KPK investigators that he had received Rp 200 million in gratuities from the KPU, but he says he later returned the money.

The court was adjourned until Thursday to hear prosecutors' responses to the defense's legal objections.

Haj fund corruption rampant, systematic

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2005

Hera Diani, Jakarta -- The ongoing inquiry into haj pilgrimage funds has revealed more irregularities within the Ministry of Religious Affairs in managing the funds, indicating more money was taken than the Rp 684 billion (US$72 million) allegedly embezzled.

Legislator Said Abdullah from House of Representatives' Commission VIII for religious affairs, social affairs and women's empowerment, said there had been mark-ups in the use of the haj funds.

The commission's working committee for the 2006 haj funds, for instance, found items in the ministry's budget unrelated to the haj pilgrimage, which the pilgrims had borne the cost of.

"There are costs such as for haj familiarization, the rent of buildings, service of vehicles and workers' payment, which total around Rp 185 billion," Said told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The most obvious mark up is in operational costs, he said, such as for accommodation, which should have been no more than 1,518 Saudi Arabian riyal (US$405) a room but was stated as 1,600 riyal per person.

The commission, Said said, had asked ministry officials about the costs but received no direct answer. "They directed us to the ministry's treasurer, who knows about the costs, but when we asked for the treasurer, they couldn't answer," he said.

Said said the commission's investigation would leave no stone unturned, promising that if the matter was not resolved the 2006 haj costs would be altered.

"We will ask the government to pay the unrelated costs instead of burdening the pilgrims," he said.

The corruption case in the ministry surfaced with last week's detention of Taufiq Kamil, the ministry's director-general for Islamic guidance and haj management, due to alleged abuse involving Rp 684 billion in haj pilgrimage funds.

Taufiq was largely responsible for the management of millions of dollars in haj funds, which should have been kept in just one bank account but turned out to be spread across several accounts unrelated to pilgrimage affairs.

Some of the money was allocated for at least five items in the ministry's budget, such as salary bonuses, housing compensation and management funds for ministry officials, in addition to an interest-bearing haj trust fund.

Said commented that the haj trust fund has been used as if it was the ministry's own fund, while it was actually the people's money.

"It's been disbursed without any system or management. And nobody knows for sure what the total stands at," he said.

Islamic scholar Komaruddin Hidayat who served as director general overseeing education in the ministry some five years ago, said the haj trust fund had always been questionable.

"It's not part of the national budget. But the trust fund comes from zakat (obligatory donations), operational cost efficiency and other savings, which are supposed to be collected and used for the people's benefit," said Komaruddin, who resigned from the ministry, saying that "bureaucrats tend to be spending oriented." There has never been a standard procedure or mechanism, however, regarding the use of the funds as the ministry has never been transparent about it.

"There was an internal audit, but there has been no public report or report to the House, although it was the people's money," he said.

Komaruddin said he was not sure about how much the trust fund amounted to, but when the minister was Tarmidzi Taher, who served the Cabinet from 1993 to 1998, the fund was around Rp 1 billion.

"Theoretically, it should have increased every year due to unused funds," he said.

Haj scam may drag down two more ex-ministers

Jakarta Post - June 20, 2005

Eva C. Komandjaja, Jakarta -- The haj fund scandal involving billions of dollars at the Ministry of Religious Affairs will likely implicate two other former ministers Tarmidzi Taher and Tolchah Hasan.

The interdepartmental corruption eradication team has named as a suspect in the case former religious affairs minister Said Aqil Hussein Al-Munawar, who earlier demanded that Tarmidzi and Tolchah, both his predecessors, be also summoned.

The team detained on Friday the ministry's director general of Islamic guidance and haj management, Taufiq Kamil, as a suspect after a marathon questioning session at the National Police headquarters over the alleged misuse of trillions of rupiah collected from pilgrims over the years.

Brig. Gen. Indarto, the police's anticorruption department director, said on Sunday all people believed responsible for the management of the money would be questioned, including Tarmidzi and Tolchah.

Tarmidzi was the religious affairs minister from 1993 to 1998 during the Soeharto regime, when the collection of haj funds started. His replacement, Tolchah, later held office for two years from 1999, while Al-Munawar replaced Tolchah in 2001 for three years before being replaced by the current administration in October 2004.

Tarmidzi said on Sunday he was ready to explain the whole issue of the haj fund scam if he was summoned by the police for questioning.

He argued that the massive graft case was mainly caused by individual faults instead of regulations, because the ministry officials are required by law to hold a plenary meeting before making decisions on how to use the funds.

The fund management board, chaired by the minister of religious affairs, must also report the spending of the money regularly to the President and the House of Representatives, he added.

"The person who holds the responsibility for the funds has committed a mistake in this case. It is unclear whether he did not report the use of the funds to the President or whether he violated the procedures," Tarmidzi was quoted by the detickom news portal as saying.

Indarto added that other people from outside the ministry, such as partner firms during haj pilgrimages, would also be investigated. "But we are starting from officials of the religious affairs ministry," he said.

He said Taufiq Kamil was detained after the police found evidence that he had used some of the funds for his own personal benefit. However, Indarto declined to specify the amount.

Indarto dismissed reports that Taufiq had spent Rp 99 billion of the haj funds for himself and that Al-Munawar pocketed Rp 98 billion.

Indarto said the investigators also found alleged markups in the amounts of money taken allotted for basic food assistance for 14 provinces. He did not elaborate further.

The graft case only came to light recently after the Development Finance Controller (BPKP) submitted an audit report that discovered a series of irregularities in the haj fund management at the religious affairs ministry.

The BPKP was still auditing several bank accounts belonging to the ministry, many of which were recently frozen by the police.

Under the prevailing law, the haj pilgrimage funds must be kept in one account and used for the benefits of pilgrims during their stay in Saudi Arabia.

But the investigation showed that the funds had been deposited in a number of bank accounts, some of which had no connection with the annual pilgrimage.

Separately, People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Hidayat Nur Wahid said on Sunday that the haj funds should not be managed by an agency that lacked transparency.

"There must be a system to make sure that the funds would not be used for any other purposes rather than haj pilgrims," he told Antara.

Hidayat also urged all religious ministry officials to cooperate with the police, the Corruption Eradication Corruption (KPK) and also other law enforcement officials to solve the case.

Tactical funds open to abuse, say legislators, experts

Jakarta Post - June 17, 2005

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta -- Despite all the talk about good governance, government institutions continue to maintain so- called "tactical funds" that are prone to abuse due to a lack of accountability and are often little more than slush funds.

Theodorus J. Koekerits, a legislator from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and a member of the House of Representatives' budget commission, said that although the government and the legislature had agreed to phase out off-budget funds by including all government expenditures in the state budget in an attempt to uphold good governance, the House had also approved the inclusion of tactical funds in the state budget.

"Based on this approval, the President, Vice President, ministers and senior government officials all maintain tactical funds... that are usually used to cover unanticipated contingencies and emergency expenditure.

"But their use has become complicated and they are often the target of manipulation by government officials due to a lack of accountability," he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Another legislator, who requested anonymity, said ministries and senior officials could be very "creative" in employing various illegal means to raise money for their tactical funds.

"Ministries maintain tactical funds whose contributors include state enterprises under their respective jurisdictions, and private sector firms that win development projects or contracts to supply goods and services," he said, pointing as an example to the way in which the General Elections Commission (KPU) managed to raise around Rp 20 billion for its tactical fund from private sector firms that won contracts to supply election materials during last year's elections.

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is currently investigating alleged corruption at the KPU, which included the collection of kickbacks from suppliers.

Both legislators said that the maintaining of tactical funds by state institutions had continued unabated since the end of the New Order.

A. Dillon, coordinator of the Partnership for Governance Reform in Indonesia, criticized the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which had not yet shown a strong commitment to creating clean and good governance, and eliminating corruption.

"The running of tactical or operational funds is clear evidence that the government is not committed to the principles of clean and good governance, and transparency," he said, adding that the President should phase out tactical funds not only in his Cabinet but also in the bureaucracy at large as part of an initial step on the road to eliminating the culture of corruption in Indonesian society.

Ngadisah, rector of the Institute of Public Administration (IIP), said the maintenance of tactical funds in the way this was done by government offices and state institutions in Indonesia was not recognized in the science of public administration.

She added, however, that the maintaining of such funds to cover unanticipated contingencies was tolerable.

Lawyer arrested for bid to overturn Puteh conviction

Agence France Presse - June 16, 2005

Jakarta -- Investigators in Indonesia arrested a lawyer Thursday for allegedly bribing a court official in a bid to overturn the conviction of the governor of Aceh province in a high-profile corruption case.

Tengku Syaifuddin Popon was arrested while handing 250 million rupiah (26,300 dollars) in bribe money to a Jakarta High Court official, said Corruption Eradication Commission investigator Tumpak Panggabean.

The money was found in a bag hidden under the desk of the court official, Syamsu Rizal Ramadhan, who was also arrested along with another unnamed colleague. "Basically they were caught red- handed," Panggabean told AFP, adding that the arrest followed a tip-off.

Aceh governor Abdullah Puteh, who was arrested prior to the December 26 tsunami disaster in his province, was jailed in April and fined 3.8 billion rupiah (400,000 dollars) for his role in marking up the price of a Russian helicopter to line his own pockets.

His corruption trial was viewed as an acid test of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's war on graft.

The Jakarta High Court on Thursday also rejected Puteh's sentence appeal, declaring that his 10-year jail issued by a lower Jakarta court was "warranted."

A judge with the high court, As'adi al Ma'ruf, was quoted by the Detikcom online news as saying he and he colleagues deemed Puteh had "clearly abused" his job by engaging in graft as governor of the resource-rich province.

The 10-year jail term, far below the maximum life sentence carried by the charges but two years more than prosecutors had demanded, was seen as a triumph for the country's newly established anti-corruption court.

Yudhoyono has pledged to intensify the drive against corruption in an effort to lure back the foreign investment needed to boost growth. Scores of current and former legislators at city, district and provincial levels have been dragged to court over corruption. On Tuesday a court in West Sumatra province jailed 13 former councillors for four years for embezzling 800,000 dollars in public funds.

Court upholds jail sentence for Aceh governor

Associated Press - June 16, 2005

Jakarta -- Indonesia's High Court on Thursday upheld a 10-year- jail sentence for the governor of the nation's tsunami-ravaged Aceh province for skimming state funds -- a key victory in the government's campaign against corruption, a media report said.

The verdict over an appeal from Governor Abdullah Puteh was decided in a closed doors session Wednesday by a special anti- graft panel of the High Court, the official Antara news agency reported.

Puteh, a veteran politician of Golkar Party, was convicted and sentenced in April by the newly created anti-graft court which found him guilty of siphoning off state money by padding the purchase price of a Russian-made Mi-2 helicopter for personal gain.

The Tuesday's ruling by the High Court came just one day after one of Puteh's lawyers was named a suspect by the country's powerful anti-graft commission for trying to bribe the high court's judges.

"In a session yesterday (Wednesday), the judge panel agreed to uphold the 10-year jail sentence," said As'adi Al Mar'uf, one of the five-judge panel of high court, as quoted by Antara.

Mar'uf said the panel had rejected all the appeals filed by Puteh and his lawyers. Therefore it also upheld the 500 million rupiah fine and ordered Puteh to repay the state IRD3.687 billion in losses, the Detik.Com online reported.

The April 11 verdict against Puteh was the first handed down by the new tribunal, which anti-corruption activists hope will be more effective than regular courts in prosecuting wealthy and influential suspects.

The case dates back to 2002, long before the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 127,000 people and destroyed hundreds of thousand of homes and public facilities in Aceh, a long-running separatist conflict.

Puteh was arrested a month after the election of last October election of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who promised to crack down on graft.

On Wednesday, the anti-graft commission, known as KPK, captured red-handed one of his lawyers, Tengku Syaefuddin Popon for trying to bribe an official at the High Court.

Corruption is endemic at all levels of Indonesian whose legal system is one of the most corrupt institutions, and in the past many well-connected defendants have been able to elude punishment.

 Local & community issues

Fishermen protest against PT Thiess

Jakarta Post - June 22, 2005

Balikpapan -- Following an earlier protest, hundreds of fishermen in Balikpapan demanded on Tuesday that PT Thiess Contractor Indonesia provide them with compensation due to the drop in their fish catch.

Speaking to the media in Balikpapan, the fishermen said that low catchment was due to the construction of a special port being built by PT Thiess that damaged the environment in Manggar Baru beach areas. The fishermen demanded Rp 1 billion (US$106,382) in compensation.

Earlier, on Monday, some 500 fishermen visited the office of PT Thiess Contractor Indonesia in Balikpapan and voiced their concern over the special port construction.

The representative of PT TCI said that they had implemented all the regulations and the development plan of the port for the company to disseminate to the community in June 2004. -- Antara/JP

 Focus on Jakarta

Law revision needed to decentralize and democratize Jakarta

Jakarta Post - June 21, 2005

Bambang Nurbianto, Jakarta -- Campaigners for a more democratic Jakarta must work harder to get their voices heard by lawmakers, who did not support the idea of further decentralization in the capital in their first draft revision of the law on Jakarta's status as a special territory.

House of Representatives member Totot Sugianto, who is secretary to the special committee for the revision of Law No. 34/1999, said they had submitted the draft revision to the presidential office in 2004.

"We're waiting to schedule a meeting to deliberate the draft together with the government," he told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The drive to revise the law that gives the governor sole authority to appoint mayors and the regent of Kepulauan Seribu regency has been debated since 2002, led by city council members before the re-election of Governor Sutiyoso that year.

The city councillors expressed the hope that a revision to the law would open the possibility for better governance in the capital, "so that officials, particularly mayors, do not only report good things to the governor in order to ensure their reappointment".

A political commentator from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Indria Samego corroborated the councillors' argument, saying that decentralization of power, where mayors act as policymakers, would improve public services as their fate would be in the hands of the people.

Unfortunately, the idea failed to convince the House's special committee who prepared the revision draft in 2004.

And the law on Jakarta's status is not the only regulation blocking further decentralization of the capital.

According to City Regional Administration Bureau head Agus Salim Utud, Law No. 32/2004 on regional administration that regulates direct elections for all governors, mayors and regents, also specifically excludes Jakarta.

He referred to Article 227, paragraph 2 of the 2004 law which states that decentralization in the capital stops at the provincial level and that there is no autonomy at municipal and regental levels.

"Decentralization in the capital is only possible if the House first amends Article 227 and then revises the law on Jakarta's status as special capital territory," he told the Post.

He said that decentralization at municipal and regental levels would favor politicians because there would be more positions for them on the councils.

The chairman of the City Council's Commission A for legal and administrative affairs, Achmad Suaidy, one of those who initiated the drive at the council, said that there was still time to make changes to the laws.

"I believe that our party compatriots in the House would support the idea of allowing directly elected mayors and regents to make the capital more democratic and more accountable to the people," he said on Monday.

Little to celebrate as Jakarta b-day nears

Jakarta Post - June 20, 2005

Damar Harsanto, Abdul Khalik and Bambang Nurbianto, Jakarta -- June and July is a traditionally merry time in Jakarta, with all kinds of attractions and events organized to celebrate the capital's anniversary.

Chief among these events if the Jakarta Great Sale, which begins next week, and the Jakarta Fair, which was recently opened.

Yet the traffic is still hopeless, garbage clogs the rivers and access to public services is still largely determined by who you know and how much you can pay.

Experts, meanwhile, are divided over whether Jakartans would benefit from direct elections similar to those taking place for the first time across the country in regencies and municipalities.

Political analysts Indria Samego and Smita Notosusanto share the view that Jakarta, which celebrates its 478th anniversary on Wednesday, should be made more democratic.

"Public services would be expected to be much improved (with direct elections) because the fates of mayors and regents would not be decided by the governor, but by the people," Indria said. Jakartans would also have more control over officials through local legislative bodies, he said.

In a recent survey of Jakarta residents by the Indonesian Institute for Civil Society, the majority of respondents said they felt discriminated against when trying to access public services. The respondents said they were guaranteed to receive necessary services only if they knew an official or could pay money.

However, urban planning expert Yayat Supriatna warned that directly elected mayors would become overly powerful "little kings". He said an integrated policy to develop the metropolis and deal with chronic problems like flooding was more urgent than direct elections.

Sociologist Imam Prasodjo said foreigners and residents did not judge Jakarta by how many skyscrapers and malls the city had, but rather by its public facilities, including roads, pedestrian walkways and parks.

"Residents and visitors want to walk safely on the streets and enjoy public spaces. We would like to play with our children in the open air and in shady places," Imam said.

Jakartans will be able to directly elect their governor for the first time in 2007, after Governor Sutiyoso completes his second term. The law on regional administrations stipulates that governors, regents and mayors are to be directly elected beginning in 2002, when the law came into effect.

The law on Jakarta's status as a special territory, passed in 1999, gives the governor the power to appoint mayors and the regent of Kepulauan Seribu regency.

Councillor Achmad Suaidy, who said councillors were lobbying the House of Representatives to amend the 1999 law to allow for directly elected mayors and regents, said the city's bureaucrats benefited from the current system and were thus resistant to any efforts to make the capital more democratic and more accountable to its 12 million residents.

"They control all activities starting from the subdistrict to municipal/regency levels. If decentralization was approved, they would lose a lot of power," Suaidy said.

While agreeing that Jakarta could do more to improve public services, education expert Arif Rahman criticized Jakartans for failing to participate in many of the city administration's programs.

"Just because they are poor does not mean they have to be dirty. Residents must not, for example, just throw garbage wherever they please," he said.

Imam said first-time visitors to Jakarta "will judge Indonesia by the services at the airport, taxis and hotels, as well as public services when they do business". Jakarta, he added, "still has a long way to go to improve these services".

Survey finds pollution remains unchecked

Jakarta Post - June 20, 2005

Abdul Khalik, Jakarta -- Jakarta's water, air and land continue to be heavily polluted by poisonous materials originating from households and factories, a survey shows.

Data from the Jakarta Environmental Management Agency (BPLHD) revealed that all 13 rivers here have been heavily polluted with industrial and domestic chemical wastes over the last several years.

BPHLD pollution control unit head Junani Kartawiria said that the average water pollution index in all rivers in Jakarta has reached more than 31 points, far above the tolerable level of under 10.

"The score shows that rivers here are heavily polluted with many dangerous materials. Both households and industry play a role in polluting the rivers," she told The Jakarta Post.

Junani said that her office's survey on water in household wells showed that around 75 percent of well water in the city is contaminated with E. coli bacteria.

As river water ends up in the sea, sea water along Jakarta's shoreline has also been affected. In addition, there have been at least four cases of sea pollution since 2004 around the Thousand Islands.

In April 2004, for example, 30 islets were polluted with oil, while similar incidents occurred in October 2004 and February 2005. Around 10,000 fish and turtles died in those incidents.

No action was taken against the persons or companies responsible for the oil spills, despite the fact that the agency and police handled the cases.

BPLHD has warned at least 13 companies about polluted rivers in the capital.

On March 30, the agency gave administrative sanctions to four companies -- PT United Can Co., PT Alaska Extrusindo, PT Hawaii Confectionery and PT Sinar Antjol -- because their waste exceeded pollution standards, while on May 20 another nine companies, including PT Artha Buana Sakti, PT Wirontono Baru, and CV Perfecta Textile, were given warnings.

Junani said that in all these years, her office has only reported one company to the police for pollution offenses that was subsequently prosecuted in court.

"Usually, we warn them first, and we give three months to make their waste tolerable. If they still ignore our warnings we block their waste pipes, and give them another three months. They can still do their business, but they can't dispose of their waste. If they still can't improve their waste, then we report the case to police," she said.

This means, she said, that it could take months or even years for an environmental case to reach court.

To make matters worse, although city police have a special unit for handling environmental violations based on Law No. 23/1997 on pollution, they seem to wait for reports from BPLHD before handling cases.

"We have to have a report from BPLHD to be able to deal with a case. We can directly handle a case if someone dies or the pollution has made huge impact on the public," Adj. Sr. Comr. Haydar, chief of natural resource unit at the city police, told the Post.

True democracy remains distant dream for capital

Jakarta Post - June 20, 2005

Damar Harsanto, Jakarta -- One demonstration after another in the capital doesn't make Jakarta a democratic city and if the current administration has anything to do with it, the city is likely to stay undemocratic for some time.

While other regions across the country are busy preparing for the first direct elections of regents or mayors, Jakarta is the single province where the governor still appoints regional officials.

A spokeman for Governor Sutiyoso's administration said on Sunday the administration believed direct regional elections in the city were not a priority and would do more harm than good.

"I could not imagine it being applied to the capital... Greater autonomy for mayors and regents would only make the problems here more complicated," City spokesman Catur Laswanto told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Playing down the arguments of some political experts and councillors who believe greater democracy would lead to greater accountability and improve services in the city, Catur argued that Jakarta, which hosts the central government offices, foreign embassies and multinational companies, was substantially different from other cities in the country.

"Jakarta bears the name 'special region' since any activities conducted here strategically affect the country in general... We think the policy we apply, so far, has run well," he said.

Catur claimed that the mayors and regents in Jakarta were more like civil servants because they were appointed by the governor and could concentrate on carrying out policy, not making it. "The autonomy is in the hands of the provincial administration -- the governor," he said.

More local autonomy would only mean more time-consuming consultation, he said. "If the Central Jakarta mayor wants to build new roads or parks bordering with roads belonging to other mayoralties, he or she would have to consult first with other relevant mayors before going ahead with the plan.

"Or, to take another example, when the President wants to travel from Central Jakarta to South Jakarta, would we have to spend time first coordinating with the relevant mayors?" he said jokingly.

Another important factor, Catur argued, was physical size of Jakarta. "Compared to other municipalities or regencies in other provinces, Jakarta's municipalities and regency are much smaller," he said.

Jakarta has five municipalities: Central Jakarta, South Jakarta, West Jakarta, East Jakarta, North Jakarta and the Thousand Islands regency.

Depok, the first municipality in the Greater Jakarta area to have a direct election, had an area of 20,500 hectares, or one third of the total Jakarta area of 65,000 hectares, he said. The biggest municipality in the city, South Jakarta, meanwhile, was 14,570 hectares, while the Central Jakarta municipality had the smallest area of only 4,820 hectares, he said.

An urban planning expert with Trisakti University Yayat Supriatna said the greater corruption likely to result from elected regional officials could bring important development programs and local services in the city to a standstill.

"Instead of improving the services to the public, we would witness new mayors with stronger authorities competing for power, like small kings, at the expense of the residents," Yayat said.

"What we need the most currently is to integrate programs in different areas, let say, in Greater Jakarta to solve urban problems, like flooding, waste treatment, and population (growth)," Yayat told the Post.

However, Yayat believed residents would see a radical change in the approach to public services when civilians took charge of the city. Former military men have been appointed run the city since ex-marine Ali Sadikin took power in 1966.

Sutiyoso, a former Army general, will end his second term in 2006 and the city will elect its first governor in 2007.

The dark side of Jakarta

Jakarta Post - June 18, 2005

Does a dead body need money? Surely not. The relatives of the deceased usually made do for the burial. It is, then, a serious matter if a father has no money for the funeral of his child.

A scavenger named Supriono was questioned by South Jakarta's Tebet police officers for carrying the body of his three-year-old daughter around the city because he had no money for the burial. The officers were suspicious of Supriono's explanation -- that his daughter had died of diarrhea and vomiting. Ordered to go to the Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital for an autopsy, Supriono, who hails from the small town of Muntilan, Central Java, balked at the charge and insisted to health officials that he take his daughter home to Bogor for burial. He argued that he had many fellow scavengers in Bogor. But he didn't know how he could bring his child home as he had no money to rent an ambulance.

Supriono's apprehension about the hospital fees drew the attention of several good samaritans, who spontaneously collected money for him. However, the scavenger found the money donated to him was still too small to rent an ambulance.

So Supriono left the hospital with the dead body of his second child and followed by his first child, a six-year old, he decided to go to Bogor on foot.

The drama ended when Supriono remembered Sri Suwarni, a woman he had once rented lodgings from. He went to Manggarai, South Jakarta, to meet Sri. Shocked by the presence of Supriono and his daughters, the generous woman sought help from her neighbors to arrange the funeral.

Five days after Supriono's drama was over we were again surprised by another report -- this time of a 61-year-old woman who was found dead, apparently from hunger, in her home in Cakung, East Jakarta. The neighbors said they had frequently given food to the elderly woman before. Her death shocked the community after it emerged the old woman had been locked in her room by her son, Sidik, who said later that he had kept her there while he was looking for job to pay back his debts. Sidik, a percussion teacher at a nearby mosque, explained he had locked his mother inside because she was senile. But he didn't explain why he had left her without food.

It a kind of irony that both these tales of poverty and woe took place in Jakarta, famous throughout the archipelago for its big- city glamor and tales of riches made. It's not hard to understand where these ideas come from. Luxury cars worth billions of rupiah regularly speed past on Jakarta streets and glittering high-rise buildings fill the capital's skies. In the green, moneyed areas, loud spaghetti mansions boast of untold wealth, their gardens full of micturating lions and cherubs, while their less ostentatious kin, exclusive apartments housing the upper-middle classes, peer coldly out of gated complexes.

Jakarta, a magnet for job seekers in the archipelago, has unfortunately become a jigsaw puzzle at the same time. But this is not a diversion for children, but a dangerous challenge for adults, a game with sharp edges. If you do not fit, like Supriono and Sidik, you or your kin risk being cut to shreds. As the popular song Siapa suruh datang Jakarta (who asks you to come to Jakarta?) tells people like Supriono and Sidik, the capital city is most likely the wrong place for you to live, despite your all-out efforts to survive.

But while the stories of Supriono and Sidik and his mother Mardiah are the dark side of Jakarta, they are also showcases of official, if not public, indifference. They beg the questions, do we still pay good attention to what is going on around us? And do we care? According to a senior sociologist, Paulus Wirutomo, what people did for Supriono and Mardiah, while it was admirable, was actually a demonstration of social minimalism.

For Paulus, that people gave money to help Supriono so his toddler could have a decent burial was not a mistake, but it was not enough.

The police seemed to do the right thing when, after four hours of questioning Supriono, they ordered the scavenger to go to the Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital for a child's autopsy. However, the police, as a state institution, should have done more to help Supriono. They could have contacted an official institution in charge of public funerals to help Supriono, but they did not.

The hospital, too, as a government institution in charge of human welfare did absolutely nothing to help Supriono after he refused an autopsy for his child on financial grounds.

Why was it that a good-hearted woman, Sri Suwarni, initiated and arranged the funeral of Supriono's child. Why did "public servants" have nothing to do with it? Neighbors were generous to the elderly Mardiah when they gave her meals but it was not enough to ease the burden she was becoming on her son, or the maltreatment she suffered at his hands. It would have been better for them to have exhorted the neighborhood unit chief to seek institutional help for Mardiah.

While we Jakartans are commemorating the 478th anniversary of the capital city, which falls on June 22, it might be a good time to reflect on what we have done for our neighbors.

If government institutions that are supposed to care for the poor, prove to be useless, then it is time for us, the citizens, to do something -- to reach out and lend a hand when officials fail.

Otherwise, we will be sickened by the same "urban disease" that seems to afflict our social institutions -- a malady of ignorance, indifference, and selfishness.


Newmont case has Jakarta on edge

The Australian - June 22, 2005

Sian Powell -- Frustrated with the immense damage the slowly moving Newmont legal drama has had on Indonesia's foreign investment image, the nation's president has demanded frequent briefings on the complex case and its fallout.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was unhappy to discover the Government's environment department had filed suit against the US gold-mining giant without his knowledge, sources say. It is likely he pushed the department to settle the suit against Newmont, and it is probable an agreement will be reached by next month.

Yet besides the civil suit, six Newmont executives, including Australian Phil Turner, face criminal charges for allegedly polluting Buyat Bay in northern Sulawesi, and although the case seems to have stalled, the chief prosecutor has told The Australian there is no intention to drop it.

Presidential adviser Dino Djalal said Dr Yudhoyono was concerned about the Newmont case. "He wants regular updates," Dr Djalal said. "He says it is important for the Indonesian legal system to deal with this case fairly and transparently."

While environmental action group Walhi yesterday declared the Buyat Bay villagers would be moving to a new location to get away from the alleged pollution in the bay, Newmont and the Indonesian Government have been negotiating an out-of-court settlement to resolve the multi-million-dollar pollution lawsuit.

Environment minister Rachmat Witular filed the 1.24 trillion rupiah ($165 million) lawsuit in April, months after Buyat Bay villagers complained that toxins from Newmont's mining operation had caused a variety of ailments, including skin diseases and tumours. The villagers originally alleged they had been poisoned by mercury, but that claim was subsequently dropped.

Newmont is most concerned about the six executives, all of whom face heavy charges. In a move that rattled the mining world, the six Newmont operatives were jailed in Jakarta for a month last year, and although later released, they were then forbidden to leave the northern Sulawesi city of Manado while their trial was pending.

Now Newmont has posted 10 billion rupiah bail, which has been lodged with Manado district court. The accused executives can leave Manado, and even the country, as long as they report to Manado police once a week.

Asked why so much time had elapsed since the six were accused and jailed in September last year, chief prosecutor Robert Ilat said the dossiers were taking a long time to revise. "The indictment dossiers are actually finished," he said. "But we are revising them, revision and revision. We all have different opinions."

Yet experts say it is likely the case has stalled, with pressure from Jakarta to drop charges based on possibly faulty testing of the bay's water. On the other hand, there has been local pressure to proceed with the case, from the villagers and their environmentalist champions who allege lives have been ruined by the profitable gold mine.

Newmont lawyer Luhut Pangaribuan said he had never heard of a case where executives had been charged for the alleged crimes of a corporation: "It has to be the company, not individuals, because it cannot be determined exactly when and how the person was connected with the alleged contamination. Phil Turner, for instance, he wasn't there the first time Newmont put the tailings into the sea."

The Buyat Bay villagers began their campaign against Newmont last year, alleging one baby had died and many people suffered from a complaint likened to Minamata disease, an illness named for the mercury-poisoning case in Japan. Backed by a local doctor, the villagers originally claimed as many as 30 people have died from Minamata disease since 1996.

Tumours, skin lumps and blotches, migraines and pregnancy complications had all been caused by the contaminated water in the bay, the villagers claimed. A World Health Organisation- backed report found no evidence of pollution but government tests showed high levels of toxins.

Newmont admits tailings from the Minahasa mine, which has since ceased operations, were piped into the bay, but the company executives have repeatedly declared water and fish were continuously monitored to the highest environmental standards, and no contamination had been found.

Cyanide, used to leach gold from ore, was used, but all tailings were detoxified.

 Health & education

Malnutrition - it's the economy, not health, sir!

Jakarta Post - June 22, 2005

Endy M. Bayuni, Jakarta -- The government has launched a series of measures to tackle the growing incidence of malnutrition affecting hundreds, probably thousands, of under-fives.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has initiated Community Self- Help Month and National Health Week, promising billions of rupiah to revive the Integrated Health Services Posts and to further empower Community Health Centers.

Every effort is being made to tackle this problem head-on.

The picture that has emerged in recent weeks is certainly disturbing. Dozens of children have died due to malnutrition. Unless the government is swift to act, more will follow.

Images of emaciated children with bloated stomachs -- until recently, scenes one associated with Africa's Darfur -- have been appearing in our newspapers and on television almost every day. Only these are images of Indonesian children, from Papua, East and West Nusa Tenggara, Central Java and even Jakarta.

Malnutrition is not restricted to particular villages or provinces in the country, as was the case in the past. In Jakarta, the most affluent city of the nation, hospitals are treating children who are chronically undernourished.

As slow as the government's response has been, it is better late than never. Even so, one disturbing aspect of the response has been that the government is treating malnutrition cases purely as a health phenomenon. This has been the job of Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Alwi Shihab and Minister of Health Siti Fadilah Supari, falling outside the domain of chief economics minister Aburizal Bakrie and finance minister Jusuf Anwar.

This is yet another example of a government action that seeks to cure the symptom, but leaves the real disease largely untreated.

Malnutrition is not an epidemic like malaria, polio or dengue. The high incidence in Indonesia does not indicate an "outbreak of malnutrition". Although it is becoming widespread, it does not spread through physical contact or proximity. Cases of malnutrition emerge independently of each other. Although there is a common denominator: Poverty.

Even if we put some of these cases down to ignorance on the part of parents who cannot distinguish between nutritious food and food that is low in nutritional quality, that too can be put down to poverty. And poverty in most, if not all cases, stems from lack of income, which in turn comes from lack of work.

The high incidence of malnutrition in recent months suggests the problem of poverty in this country is only getting worse. More and more people are in desperate need of support.

The irony here is that all of this is happening at a time when the government is proudly touting the rapid recovery of the economy. Most analysts are predicting the economy will soon be growing at a yearly rate of 6.5 percent.

Clearly there is something wrong with a model that shows the economy growing at such a fast pace, while among the population, there are people who have no way out of poverty and are facing the terrifying prospect of being unable to feed their children.

Yet, this is precisely the model adhered to by the administration. Going by the logic of its economic strategy, the way to eradicate poverty is to create jobs, and that can only come from higher economic growth rates, which in turn can only occur if there is enough investment. Economic policies are thus designed to attract investment first and foremost, and every thing else falls into place: growth, jobs and income.

There is nothing wrong with this textbook macroeconomics except that the poor will be the last to benefit. If economist Keynes argued for short rather than long-term economic policies to boost growth because "in the long run we are all dead", well, here today in Indonesia, some children are dying even in the short run because we are prescribing the wrong economic policy.

At any rate, the old economic model that assumed so many million jobs would be created if the economy was growing by 5 percent to 6 percent -- hence the obsession with growth targets -- has already been widely discredited. The foundations have changed, and 5 percent growth can no longer be assumed enough to generate work for the two million or so newcomers to the job market.

What Indonesia needs today is an economic strategy that puts poverty, or at least employment, at the center, in place of investment. Investment is indeed important, but more important is an economic policy that leads to the right kind of investment, one that creates jobs. Presently, this is not happening, and unless we change course, we are likely to see more malnutrition cases, even as the economy is rapidly growing.

What we see instead is the government's economic team, which seems to be indifferent to the problems of poverty and malnutrition. The trouble with an economic team run largely by a bunch of businessmen is that, in spite of the malnutrition crisis, for them, it is business as usual.

Malnutrition is a serious health issue that needs to be addressed quickly by the government. Better access to health facilities would ease the situation to some extent, but would not drive the problem away.

Malnutrition is also a serious economic issue that needs to be treated with the right strategy, one that leads to paid work for the jobless.

Malnutrition, ultimately, is a political issue. President Susilo calls the shots and has the capacity to revamp his economic strategy, or at the very least revamp the government's economic priorities and put poverty eradication and employment at the center of his policy.

Gloomy picture of malnutrition in Central Java

Jakarta Post - June 17, 2005

Blontank Poer, Wonogiri -- The sun is just starting to lean to the west while Misni, 41, shifts peeled cassava being dried on plaited bamboo trays and places it on the ground to get direct sunlight.

The cassava looked recently pealed when The Jakarta Post arrived at the small house in Setren Pojok hamlet in Lemahbang village in Wonogiri regency, Central Java.

"The cassava has just been pealed and then laid out to dry by Misni himself," said Misni's mother Sanikem, 73.

Misni's younger brothers, Simun, 38, and Samino, 32, came out and greeted the Post, while Samidi, 35, was not around, still helping fix his neighbor's house.

Just like the other village residents, they are hospitable and always try to strike up a conversation even though they cannot speak a single word.

Misni and his three younger siblings are mute, the victims of malnutrition. More specifically, they had an iodine deficiency when they were in their mother's womb. They can only communicate using sign language.

Since Sanikem and her late husband moved to the hamlet in the 1960s, they -- as well as other residents living on the slopes of hills where only corn and cassava can be grown -- practically never travel, only waiting for harvest time for their staple food.

The only thing that comforts Sanikem is that her four children can still socialize in a normal manner. "They always help people," she said. "When someone is having a social occasion they will pick up the dirty plates and wash them without being asked to. They also never bother their neighbors," said Sanikem.

For decades now, Misni and his younger siblings have been cultivating the land behind their house -- from planting seedlings to harvesting, although someone has to guide them during the fertilizing process.

"We only eat rice when there is a special occasion, or when we hold ceremonial meals for the birth of our children," said Sanikem.

Every day, they only eat tiwul, or dried cassava which is steamed before eating. Salt is hard to get and to make it tastier, grated coconut is added to it.

The only indication that they are suffering from cretinism -- a congenital condition caused by an acute deficiency of iodine -- is seen from the difference in their growth from their other older siblings, Jemari, 50 and Sano, 46, who now live outside of the hamlet.

Both Jemari and Sano were born when Sanikem still lived in another village that was not far from town.

"When I was pregnant with Jemari and Sano, I frequently ate rice with enough vegetables. We used iodized salt to cook meals. But when we moved to Setren, we couldn't afford to buy good quality salt because it was expensive," she said.

The hamlet -- situated in the hills between Wonogiri and East Java's towns of Pacitan and Ponorogo -- is located not more than 20 kilometers from the district capital but it takes 75 minutes to reach by car. The road is steep and rocky and only wide enough for a small vehicle.

The only means of public transportation is a small pick-up truck which operates once in three days, serving 265 families or 1,300 residents wanting to buy their daily needs at Purwantoro market in the nearby town.

Poverty and the poor access to the hamlet has not only effected Sanikem's four children.

In the hamlet, out of its some 800 residents, some 36 people are suffering from cretinism and 20 others from thyroid problems. From those with cretinism, three have been paralyzed and one has a condition where both eyes are pushed inward.

The number of people suffering from cretinism in Lemahbang village stands at 64, with Setren Pojok the worst affected.

Based on the cases found in those born in the 1960s until 1979, the Wonogiri Health Office conducted a drive to consume iodized salt. "We don't want our future generation to face such a fate like our elder brothers and sisters," said head of the office, Sukeksi.

The office recorded 2,175 malnourished children below the age of five, of which 503 were severely malnourished in the regency as of May this year.

"A lot of salt with no iodine is still being sold in the market. It is even packaged in a similar way to the iodized salt that has a certificate from the Ministry of Health," she said.

Misguided poverty eradication drive blamed for malnutrition

Jakarta Post - June 16, 2005

Hera Diani, Jakarta -- The current outbreak of malnutrition that is affecting thousands of children in some provinces might be considered a slap in the face for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, not only because such reports have been concealed from him, but also because the reports have dealt a major blow to his government's poverty eradication programs.

In the early weeks of his administration, Susilo decided to continue the urban poverty eradication project that was partly funded by the World Bank. His controversial fuel price hike policy early this year also aimed to provide more funds for the poor in the form of free education and health services.

The President has now ordered a revival of community health service posts, known by their Indonesian acronym Posyandu, to tackle malnutrition that has left 41 children dead in West Nusa Tenggara and East Nusa Tenggara over the last six months.

Poverty eradication programs shifted into top gear following the economic crisis that started battering the country starting in 1997. Acronyms flew thick and fast, such as JPS (the Social Security Net), JPK-Gakin (poor families health insurance) and Raskin (cheap rice program), among others, all of them programs ostensibly set up to help the poor.

In its 2006 action plan draft, the government set a priority to focus on reducing poverty and unemployment.

The number of poor people has reached a staggering 16.4 percent of the country's population of 220 million, or roughly 36 million people. Some suggest the actual figure is nearer to 50 million.

Data from the Institute for the Development of the Economy and Finance (Indef) revealed that last year only about 26 percent of subsidized rice for the poor reached its target, 26.5 percent for health services, 35 percent for school fee support and nearly 10 percent for soft loans for small and medium enterprises.

"The programs are run with heavy bureaucratic structures. The amount of funds embezzled is crazy," said Wardah Hafiz of the Urban Poor Consortium (UPC), a winner of the Yap Thiam Hien human rights award.

Azas Tigor Nainggolan of the Jakarta Residents Forum (FAKTA) said the government's programs only worked on the surface and were not sustainable. "The programs pursue short term objectives. Here, have the rice, and that's it. Instead of charity, the programs should focus on people empowerment that will set them free from poverty," Azas said.

Unclear vision due to lack of field research is another reason why poverty programs remain far from successful. "Reviving old programs? That's ridiculous. That shows how the President doesn't know anything about the situation in the field," Azas said of the government's plan to revive old programs like Posyandu.

Activities in Posyandu have been limited to measuring babies' weight and weekly snack distribution. Free contraceptives, for instance, have stopped due to lack of funds, which has resulted in more births in poor families.

Sandyawan Sumardi, a priest who works with poor communities, said that every poverty eradication program should involve poor people themselves from the initial stage to the evaluation phase, while the government should only serve as a facilitator.

In the area of Bukit Duri, near a river bank in South Jakarta, poor people demonstrated their initiative to improve their own welfare by operating a cooperative unit. But lack of funds has made it difficult to develop.

"The stigma that poor people are lazy is not true. They have worked hard, doing different informal jobs at the same time. Unfortunately, they still earn very little. These people should have be assisted with small- and middle-scale enterprise programs," said Sandyawan.

The activists agreed that poverty was a complicated issue that was not only related to economy, but also to matters of education, health services and the judicial system.

"Poverty is also a problem where people's participation is neglected, such as the city planning program, which always evicts urban poor. Poverty means not having security, like a place to live or even an ID card," Wardah said.

Sandyawan added that is was urgent that poor people be given opportunities, access, infrastructure, and capital, without depending on the government.

 Aid & development

Poverty widespread in East Kalimantan

Jakarta Post - June 18, 2005

Rusman, Samarinda -- It was 4:30 in the morning and the sun was not yet shining, but 13-year-old Rizki Gunawan and his little sister Astari had to leave the warmth of their beds and head to the main intersection in Samarinda city, East Kalimantan to sell newspapers.

"We're used to waking up very early now. We just eat while selling newspapers," said six-year-old Astari, who only has one worn out teeshirt and a pair of short pants.

On one particular morning, the faces of the two children looked fresh, although they had almost no chance to take a bath. Still, once in a while they'd yawn, as if they were missing the comfort of their beds.

At the Kusuma Bangsa intersection, two kilometers from their home, the children sell newspapers to passing motorists.

By noon, when they are usually very hungry, they buy lunch from nearby food stall.

"We split one pack of rice," Rizki said. "We only eat once, while selling the papers. We rarely eat again at home because our mother does not cook for us very often." After leaving their house at dawn, the siblings return home at 3:15 p.m. in a van provided by one of the papers that they sell.

While lots of children his age go to school, Rizki is on the street in the hot sun or rain seven days a week hawking papers while dodging the traffic.

From selling the papers, Rizki earns up to Rp 15,000 (US$1.6) daily, a decent amount for kid his age. He uses the money to pay for his daily needs and save a little as well as to help his mother. His sister usually follows him around.

"I'd go to school if I had enough money. But I don't so I sell newspapers," said the fourth of seven children, who dropped out during his first year of junior high school.

The children live in a simple 30-square-meter wooden shack belonging to a relative. The are no chairs or a television, only a small cabinet and a plastic mat.

Rizki's mother, 41-year-old Sumarni, earns what she can selling salted fish in Sungai Dama market, usually between Rp 10,000 and Rp 25,000 a day. Her husband, 41-year-old Asmuran, only returns home once a week from his workplace at a shrimp pond outside of town.

Rizki is not the only child in the family who dropped out of school. His siblings also quit school because their parents were not willing to pay the education fees.

In order to attend elementary school, for instance, parents need at least Rp 2.5 million just for the "admission fee", then there are many more direct and indirect costs.

"If we want to send children to high school, we have to have at least Rp 5 million up front. That's a lot of money," explained Sumarni.

She still hopes to be able to send Astari to school next year. She will leave the decision to Rizki on whether he wants to go to school or not.

"Our family usually is able to get enough to eat, but education is a luxury that there is no way we can afford," Sumarni lamented.

Rizki's family is not the only impoverished family in the resource-rich capital city of East Kalimantan province.

According to 2004 data from Central Bureau of Statistics, 328,597 out of the city's 2.7 million people were living below the poverty line.

High poverty rates are also found in the province's 13 regencies and municipalities, with the highest level recorded, amazingly enough, in the very wealthy Kutai Kartanegara regency with 69,109 people in 2002 and 75,404 people in 2003 from the regency's 480,499 residents.

Samarinda city is the second highest with 46,906 people in 2002 and 48,137 people in 2004 from the city's 561,471 residents.

Poverty has also caused a drastic increase in the number of neglected children under the age of five.

In 2002, East Kalimantan's Social Affairs Office recorded 27,432 children were neglected out of 259,256 children in 2002 and some 22,161 children in 2003.

The high number of poor people is all the more deplorable considering the significant increase in the province's overall economic numbers, which stood at Rp 98.43 trillion in 2003 and rose to Rp 104.4 trillion in 2004.

The province is rich in natural resources with coal production recorded at over 50 million tons in 2003, 14.40 tons of gold, 10.66 tons of silver, 1.647 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 79.7 million barrels of oil.

 Business & investment

Economic hardship forces children into prostitution

Jakarta Post - June 17, 2005

ID Nugroho, Surabaya -- Drops of water trickle down from the shoulder-length hair of Sekar (not her real name), as she enters one of the fast food eateries in Central Surabaya on Tuesday afternoon.

While rubbing her wet hair, the 16-year-old girl surveys the cafe, afraid that someone might recognize her. She ducks toward a table at a corner, where The Jakarta Post and a non-governmental organization (NGO) activist advocating children's rights, have been waiting.

Sekar, one of the thousands of child sex workers in Surabaya, begins to tell her story. She says she currently solicits for sex alongside adult prostitutes in an area connected by five major locations -- Gang Dolly, Moroseneng, Bangunsari, Putat Jaya and Kremil.

Sekar's introduction to the world of prostitution began when the fair-skinned girl fell in love with a security guard three years ago. She was only 13 years old when she first had sex with her boyfriend.

"I was afraid at the beginning, but I don't know why I eventually gave in," she said. She began taking drugs at a young age, moving on from marijuana to crystal methamphetamine (shabu-shabu). Her life changed dramatically at 15 when her boyfriend was arrested and sent to prison for drug possession. Sekar, who was already hooked on opiates, had to find ways to keep up her addiction.

"I didn't have money and I had dropped out of school. I finally sold what I had, my body," she said. Most of her earnings were used to buy drugs, and the remainder to fulfill her everyday needs.

Both her foster parents who work as casual laborers live in a small house in Genting, Surabaya, with her younger sister, Maya (not her real name).

The house, measuring four by six meters, is divided into four partitions; one living room, a guest room, a bathroom and a kitchen. It is located on a narrow lane in a densely populated area of Surabaya. Because of the family's economic hardship, Sekar gives her parents a monthly stipend of Rp 150,000 (US$16.00).

Studies show that Sekar's situation is common in Indonesia. The International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates there are about 21,000 children in Java involved in prostitution, of which 2,329 of them operated in Surabaya. The organization observes that the poor in East Java are highly susceptible to human trafficking, especially in women and children.

"Most of the child sex workers say they are from Malang, Banyuwangi and Madura," ILO coordinator in East Java, Tri Andhi Suprihartono told the Post. "Nearly all poor areas in the cities of East Java are known to supply sex workers to Surabaya," he said.

Research development coordinator of PLAN Indonesia, Djunaedi Sari Purnawan said many children from poor families in East Java were often forced to work to support their family "sometimes by employ as sex workers."

If the children were not taken out of school to work by their parents they generally ended up dropping out later on, especially if they were involved in the sex trade, Djunaedi said. "If that is the case, the child will have no other choice but to keep working," said Djunaedi.

A way to overcome child prostitution was to make changes in education and make it more accessible to poor families, he said. "If children are empowered, they have more choices to improve their quality of life," he said.

 Opinion & analysis

Cheating God

Jakarta Post Editorial - June 21, 2005

Indonesia is renowned as a nation with a long history rich in culture. That culture apparently has evolved to embrace corruption.

The latest revelation that hundreds of billions of rupiah in haj pilgrimage funds have been misappropriated reflects just how far some of us have descended to become a nation of cheats. Even God is not safe from being exploited.

An investigation by an interdepartmental anticorruption team has unveiled suspicions of a long-running scam at the Ministry of Religious Affairs involving funds deposited for the annual haj pilgrimage. The ministry's director general for Islamic guidance and haj management has been detained over the suspected offense. As many as three former ministers could also be implicated in the affair.

News of the scam first came to the fore when an audit by the Development Finance Controller (BPKP) found various irregularities in the management of the funds.

The case was then taken up as by the newly formed interdepartmental corruption eradication team as its introductory case.

If these allegations are reconfirmed in court, it will highlight what has effectively been a public secret for many, many years.

For a long time the public has observed from afar with a wary eye the management of the haj by ministry officials. Though few would dare assert it in public, allegations of suspected corruption have always been talked about in hushed tones.

Each year trillions of rupiah from private funds are paid by haj pilgrims to the government which has a monopoly on organizing and licensing the holy visit to Mecca.

For the last few years Indonesia has sent an average of 200,000 pilgrims to Saudi Arabia. The latest cost for the haj pilgrimage set by the government is around Rp 28 million (US$2,900) per person. The accumulated amount over the years a mindboggling figure.

One can just imagine the pots of gold standing before ministry officials. Finally, the temptation was too hard to resist.

It seems that in this country corruption knows no discrimination. After reports of stealing from state projects, the poor and the sick, there is now no inhibition about stealing from God.

For the affluent urban elite, the pilgrimage almost seems like a holiday which they undertake every few years. But for most Indonesian Muslims, the pilgrimage is a life culminating experience -- an apex in the long journey to attain personal significance other than material accomplishment. It is on a par with marriage, the birth of a child or death of a loved one as a life altering experience.

With prodigious faith in the divine, those with limited disposable income spend their life savings to fulfill God's summons. Others peddle their livestock or sell the patch of land which has supported the family for decades. All in a desire to be closer to the Almighty.

The saddest part of the latest scandal is that it is believed to be perpetrated by people whose profession demanded a higher moral character.

This is not a simple markup in the construction of a bridge, or siphoning a little extra from a state sponsored business project.

The pilgrims are the simplest of folk who surrender their material possessions not for profit, but for spiritual redemption. That someone would have the gall to exploit the holiest of rituals for Muslims shows they have little respect for their fellow man, or God for that matter.

Given the perceived "rot" concerning the haj affair which has likely gone on for years, the interdepartmental team's investigation is likely to uncover more skeletons in the closet.

We fully support the team's efforts and encourage them to pursue their investigation resiliently. The fact that they have chosen to delve into corruption at the Ministry of Religious Affairs is a strategic step.

It touches on an issue which the public is sympathetic about too -- since all Muslims dream of going on the pilgrimage at least once in their life. But it is also an "easy" ministry to shake down given its relatively limited political clout. Despite the billions of rupiah, a shakedown of this ministry has few political repercussions.

This is the start the new team needs. Once emboldened with greater public trust and self confidence it is our expectation that, with God now on its side, the interdepartmental team will continue to break down doors in other more sensitive government offices.

Malnutrition caused by failure in food security policy

Jakarta Post - June 20, 2005

Tejo Pramono, Jakarta -- The child malnutrition outbreak has now spread from West Nusa Tenggara, to West Sumatra, Lampung and now South East Sulawesi Provinces. It is ironic, as these provinces have long been known as rice self-sufficient areas. How is it possible that malnutrition can occur in a place like Indonesia where, as an agricultural country, vast fertile land is available for producing a diverse range of foodstuffs.

There must be a fundamental failure in food system policy as most malnutrition cases have occurred among farmer families; those who produce food. Yet more absurd is that the dry season has not even come yet, meaning that rice fields and farmlands still have enough water.

In the words of an Indonesian proverb, this phenomenon is referred to as "the chicken dying of starvation inside a rice barn".

The only policy effective in addressing this malnutrition is food security.

There are various ways of defining the term food security. The FAO committee on World Food Security defines it as meaning that "all people at all times have both physical and economic access to the basic food they need". While the World Bank defines it as, "access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life". Such definitions never address where the food comes from and where it is produced.

West Nusa Tenggara, for instance, where 21 children have died of chronic hunger, has actually been quite successful in implementing 'green revolution' programs. Last year the province was awarded for being a rice self-sufficient province, and in fact the province exported rice to other regions. But the green revolution has only benefited farmers who have enough land. Agricultural workers who are landless do not have rice even during harvest seasons. They have to work hard every day to increase the productivity of rice fields, but their own income decreases even along with this increase in production.

Modernization of farming under the green revolution changed the way farmers grow food, which now depends on inputs from the big agribusiness and trans-national companies. Farmers have to spend more money to buy chemical pesticides and petrochemical fertilizers. Even in West Nusa Tenggara, farmers have to buy hybrid varieties from seed companies such as Monsanto as the biggest seed producers, even though the province has an abundance of diverse local varieties.

Because farmers have to pay more for inputs even while prices for their produce remains fixed, they lose money, making them poorer.

West Sumatra with 54,000 children suffering from malnutrition, seems to be an even more insane case. Padang people are famous not only in Indonesia but also worldwide for their cuisine stalls and restaurants. Their delicious dishes reflect their high culture and high skill in agriculture and food matters.

But because food security does not define where food comes from, and the agribusiness approach delivered by the government forcing farmers to be more market oriented, farmers produce rice more for export orientation rather than to fulfill local needs. Now, people of the city Medan, Batam and also Malaysia eat the flavorsome Solok and Nundam rice, but people in West Sumatra eat low-quality broken rice imported from Vietnam. And now in the regency of Solok, Pesisir Selatan and Pasaman, children are suffering from malnutrition.

Market orientation has also encouraged farmers in Tanggamus in Lampung province to grow cash crops, namely coffee, instead of food plants. The local government encourages farmers to grow cash crops because it provides a high income for the province. Moreover, they invite foreign investors to open export businesses and plantations in order to boost economic growth and provide employment.

The cash crops and export orientation of commodities are very depending on market prices, which are very difficult to control because of competition of a few big business that determine the price. But good prices at the international level never benefits small producers. The price of coffee beans is very low, around three to four thousand Rupiah at the farm gate, while the middle men get Rp 9,800 and the exporters sell for Rp 10,000.

Children of coffee workers in Tanggamus now suffer from malnutrition because the price of coffee has collapsed and they cannot afford to buy rice, and of course they cannot eat their stockpiles of coffee beans as a substitute for rice or maize.

Many of the decision makers in the central government at the local level are still market and export orientated. In many seminars and discussions they refer to Thailand as the model for developing agriculture and agro industries. They do not know that the profits taken from exporting agricultural commodities only benefits big agribusiness companies, such as Charoen Pokphand Co., and not the farmers. The peasant and small farmers in Thailand are now in debt and cannot repay the loans given to them by big agribusiness companies.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised to revitalize agriculture, fisheries and the forestry sector last Saturday (11/6), using a 'triple track' strategy and thereby decreasing the percentage of people in poverty to 8.2 percent.

The government should listen to the voices of peasants and farmers and change their food policies. A concept of food sovereignty has been formulated by La Via Campesina, the international movement of peasants formed during the World Food Summit in Rome in 1996.

This concept is an alternative in solving the food problem that the food security concept has failed to do so. The fundamental change through application of the food sovereignty concept is that communities have the right to define their own agricultural and food policies, to protect and to regulate their national agricultural and livestock production, and to shield their domestic market from dumping of agricultural surpluses and low priced imports from other countries.

Food sovereignty demands prioritizing local agricultural production in order to feed the people, as well as access for peasants and landless people to land, water, seeds, and credit. It also demands land reform.

[The writer works for the International Operatives Secretariat of La Via Campesina, an international peasant movement. He can be contacted at tpramono@viacampesina.org.]

Commentary: Keep your fingers crossed for Aceh

Straits Times - June 17, 2005

Irman G. Lanti -- The fourth round of peace talks between the separatist Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (also known as GAM or the Free Aceh Movement) and the Indonesian government ended last week in Helsinki. The talks, initiated and mediated by the Crisis Management Initiative led by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, are set to resume on July 12.

The fact that there have been so many rounds of talks, with even more ahead, indicates that peace in Aceh is indeed a difficult goal. Nevertheless, a number of things have changed recently that allow us to be more optimistic about the Helsinki talks.

First is Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's presidency. Even though Dr Yudhoyono is a former army general, his record shows he is no hawk. In fact, when he was the chief security minister in the Megawati administration, he worked with Mr Jusuf Kalla -- now his vice-president -- to initiate peace talks between factions in the sectarian conflicts in Ambon and Poso.

Second, the tsunami disaster that hit Aceh last December amplified the misery of the Acehnese. This has sensitised the parties, especially GAM, to the need to quickly find a permanent solution to the Aceh question.

The fact that the Helsinki talks were different from the previous rounds was evident almost from the outset. GAM was relatively quick to accept the condition set by Jakarta for the talks: Aceh independence is not an option and therefore would be excluded from negotiations.

In exchange for renouncing independence, GAM made several requests -- for a general amnesty for all combatants, for the use of Acehnese symbols of identity (flag, anthem), for GAM to transform itself into a local political party and for its members to run in local elections. All these were in addition to the wide-ranging autonomy that the Indonesian government had already agreed to prior to the start of the Helsinki talks.

Indeed, both sides can claim victory. The Indonesian government has successfully fended off secessionist impulses from GAM. For its part, GAM gets an independent community in all but name. But these are early days yet, of course. Despite all the positive signs, things can still go wrong.

How? First, the fruit of the peace talks may not be easily accepted by Indonesia's political elite. Still reeling from the 'loss' of the former East Timor, resistance towards any form of international involvement in resolving Indonesia's internal conflict is great.

As news of the Helsinki meeting became public, opposition against it surfaced. Some Members of Parliament insisted that the peace talks be cancelled and demanded that the government make no more concessions to GAM.

The government has tried its best to explain to the public the merits of negotiations, but members of Dr Yudhoyono's Cabinet are not united here.

Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono, for instance, revealed recently that his ministry and that of foreign affairs were not involved in the negotiations, and that the Helsinki talks were mainly the initiative of Vice-President Kalla.

Mr Juwono also said the negotiations were informal. He pointed out that even though the Helsinki team included Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin and Coordinating Minister for Defence, Law and Security Widodo Adisutjipto, they were picked by Mr Kalla and not by the Cabinet.

Next, parliament may not be easily convinced to approve final results from the negotiations. Certainly, the government can claim that the matter falls under executive discretion. But this will raise trouble in executive-parliamentary relations.

Hardliners in the military form another opposition bloc. The Indonesian military sees itself as the vanguard of the unitary state. Hence, it is opposed to any compromise with separatist groups.

For hardliners, even the idea of talking to separatists on an equal footing is heresy. Many in the rank-and-file still view the 'loss' of former East Timor as an act of betrayal by politicians. It is not difficult to imagine they will vigorously oppose any settlement that gives GAM much leverage.

To be sure, the potential road block does not only come from the Indonesian side. It is unclear how much control the GAM leadership, based in Sweden, has over its commanders in Aceh. In times of conflict, this division may not matter much; it is the judgment of local commanders that counts the most.

But if and when the conflict does end, an unambiguous line of communication between combatants and the political leadership is imperative. It is uncertain, however, whether a clear line of communication from the leadership to its men on the ground can be established to explain what is at stake in ending hostilities.

So while progress in the Helsinki talks is heartening, we need to leaven this with a dose of realism. Hope for peace; just do not think it will come easily.

[The writer is programme director at The Indonesian Institute in Jakarta.]

Peace the only option for Aceh

Jakarta Post - June 16, 2005

Aguswandi, London -- Irresponsible statements from politicians in Jakarta is the last thing Acehnese need at this time, post- disaster. Yet this is what we hear from members of the House of Representatives in Jakarta, as they issue statements criticizing the peace talks in Helsinki.

Tjahjo Kumolo, the chairman of Indonesian Democracy Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction, has described the negotiations as a waste of time. Others have said that there has been too much talk and no concrete results.

Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Soetardjo Soerjogoeritno has also urged the government to halt negotiations with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) because he says it has "internationalized" the conflict in Aceh.

What they are saying, in effect, is "forget about peace". All this after the hundreds of thousands of deaths in the tsunami. After the deaths of thousands more in conflict; after many Acehnese expressed their dreams for peace, it is immensely irresponsible, arrogant and ignorant for those in Jakarta to derail the negotiations. Many Acehnese, meanwhile, including the majority of the province's regents, continue to express their support and hopes for the process.

There are many Acehnese that do view the Helsinki process as inadequate. The exclusion, for example, of civil society groups from the process has been a major cause of concern. But many in Aceh continue to support negotiations as they hope it can be the beginning of the end to the decades of violence.

The majority hope that the talks will continue, disputes can be settled, and peace can be fully implemented in order that lives can begin anew.

Armed conflict is not an option anymore, but peace is. Building a sustainable peace in Aceh is a critical condition for reconstruction and the rebuilding of hope in Aceh. But this is far from easy in any situation, even more so where -- as in Aceh -- the conflict has been entrenched for so many years.

These dissenting voices from the national legislature are failing to look at the many points of agreement reached by the government and GAM in this process. Nor have they looked at the potential common ground that can be found. They are focussing instead on a substantively irrelevant aspect of the talks. This is the question of an international role in the process.

For some of them, this rebuffing of foreign help is attributable to concerns that international involvement could result in Aceh becoming another East Timor. This phenomena, call it post-East Timor Syndrome, has promoted a kind of endemic paranoia, whereby any international group trying to mediate or help the peace process must be some kind of Trojan horse: A gift brought to our house, but carrying the enemy within to destroy our home.

So instead of looking at foreign contributions to the negotiation and settlement process as an opportunity, this is seen as yet another reason to reject the talks. In a letter from some DPR members to the government, it was stated that the government plan to allow observers into the process would internationalize the situation in Aceh. The government, they said, should not allow foreigners to be involved.

This aspect of the international role is a denial of a necessary reality given that Aceh has already become an internationally recognized disaster area in the wake of the tsunami. During the rebuilding phase at least, Aceh can no longer be said to be "owned" simply by the Acehnese and Indonesia, it is also an interest of the international community. Huge sums of money, aid and help for Aceh has come from all parts of the world.

In terms of building peace, the involvement of the international community is also important in Aceh. There are ongoing problems in efforts to build trust between the Acehnese and the government, thanks to the endless military operations in Aceh, so external mediation such as that offered to the Acehnese peace process by the international community must be made welcome. Indonesian has done this very same thing, offering its officials in mediating roles for conflicts in other Asian countries.

The opposition to the negotiation process by sections of the Indonesian public also needs to be addressed -- immediately -- by the government if they are serious about finding a route to peace in Aceh. The main obstacle thrown up by this opposition is not the hostility itself but how the government works to challenge or contain it. The hostility towards fuel price hikes was far more widespread than that seen in resistance to the Helsinki process. But in that case it was in the government's interest to make serious efforts to convince the public to support the administration's decision. This does not seem to be the case with the Helsinki process.

The government's meetings with GAM have just completed their third phase, and many points have been agreed on. Yet the public remains almost wholly unaware of the progress or concessions achieved. The opponents of the talks in Helsinki have deliberately distorted the process and its objectives but the government is making little effort to challenge them.

[The writer is Acehnese human rights advocate working for TAPOL in London.]


Jakarta Post Editorial - June 16, 2005

That is, arguably, the most famous cellular phone number in the country -- along with a few popular TV reality show and game show phone-in numbers, of course.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in a display of public relations bravado blurted out his private number, which he has had for several years.

The President's intention of allowing for a more participatory government is welcome. Inviting public input is a sign of a responsible democratic government.

Such measures, however, are not a new innovation. South Korea under president Roh Moo-hyun, for example, introduced a website to which the public could submit their concerns. Even before the advent of modern technology, since the time of president Soeharto, similar channels for complaint existed with the introduction of a special post office box.

However, unlike his predecessors, Susilo's offer was ill- prepared. Within 24-hours of his announcement, Susilo received thousands of text messages. The result: the phone lines were jammed.

What did the President expect? Only after the system crashed were experts called in to find an alternative solution. It can only be assumed that the President had no intention of giving out his number before enthusiasm got the better of him.

Admittedly, the President was under pressure to deliver by an audience who had been invited, in a moment of public relations grandstanding, to call him to report officials' misconduct.

The palace has announced the provision of additional numbers for the public to air complaints and suggestions. Although, the haphazard way in which the affair continues to be managed only signals lack of forethought.

Time and time again, in his eight months as President, have we seen Susilo carefully engaging in popular, albeit often substantively insignificant enterprises, to win public affinity.

That is all very well, and in fact a common ploy in politics, but of what use has this deluge of messages been to the President? The palace has not detailed any scheme as to how these messages will be sorted, assessed and followed up with action. Will palace staff now be occupied reading text messages, many of which are likely pranks? There must be a more effective and efficient system of obtaining information for the President if he really wants the 'scoop' on the performance of his subordinates in the regions.

Not every public concern can go directly to the President. At every level of administration -- from community, regional to national -- there should be a mechanism that accommodates public complaints. If considered ineffective, then internal reform is needed. Not a new cell phone number.

Opening the floodgates, as Susilo did, could only bring about mayhem. The President and his aides have surely been bombarded by superfluous information that includes, according to his spokesman, offers to purchase lucky charms.

Text messages are not necessary to work out that corruption and economic hardships are the public's greatest grievances.

Maybe Susilo's desire to solicit direct public response is a sign of his growing frustration over the performance of the bureaucracy. If that be the case then tinkering with technology will do little, in the long run, to enhance accountability.

Susilo has said being reachable is important. Yet, while most Jakartans have a cell phone, the majority of Indonesians do not. When the nutrition of many is inadequate and chronic undernourishment has been reported in some areas, is sending a text message going to have any impact? Is it even an option? What Susilo needs to do now is to buckle down to work on a long-term effective program for governance reform.

Having the common touch is not enough. Real accomplishment could take weeks or months. Susilo's 'exhibitionism' makes him look like a politician running for election tomorrow.

The President must get 'serious' and let the voters judge in 2009. If by that time all Indonesians have the means to buy a cell phone, then he will have proved his worth.

 Book/film reviews

Remembering Sukarno after collective amnesia

Jakarta Post - June 16, 2005

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta -- One of the greatest smear campaigns ever committed in the country's modern history was the one that was waged against the country's first president, Sukarno.

For more than three decades after he was removed from power following an alleged coup attempt, the regime of president Soeharto embarked on a massive campaign to erase Sukarno's name from the history books and painted an otherwise dismal picture of the country's founding father.

Imagine George Washington being written out of American history and you would have some idea of the lengths successive governments here went to discredit him.

During the Soeharto era, Sukarno's contribution to nation building was rarely mentioned, and over time his name slowly faded from the country's collective consciousness.

In general, a blackout on Sukarno left the country in the dark over the work of the outspoken leader. Most school children nowadays know him merely as the person who read the country's Declaration of Independence on Aug. 17, 1945, at the side of Mohammad Hatta, the country's first vice president.

Unfortunately, parents educated under the New Order curriculum can do little to help their children, as forgetting Sukarno was also part of their education.

Although a ban was never officially slapped on books penned by Sukarno, not a single publishing house ever dared to publish his books during the New Order regime and the country's younger generation was stripped of the opportunity to learn about his ideas, or from his experiences.

As a result, one of Sukarno's books Di Bawah Bendera Revolusi (Under the Banner of Revolution) -- published for the last time in 1965 -- became a collectible item and was one of the most sought-after books during the New Order era, aside from the banned Buru Quartet by Pramoedya Ananta Toer.

Whatever one's position on this admittedly controversial figure, there is no doubt that the founding member of the country's Indonesian Nationalist Party (PNI), independence leader and one of the authors of the nation's five principals, the Pancasila, is far too important a figure to be ignored in Indonesian history.

In an effort to bring Sukarno back into the country's consciousness and dispel the New Order's decades of disinformation, the Bung Karno Foundation (YBK), a political Jakarta-based organization set up by Sukarno's children, has began a campaign to reintroduce the country's flamboyant founding father.

Part of this campaign is the publication of nine-volume illustrated biography of Sukarno, Seri Biografi Bung Karno, targeted at children.

The book's publisher said the illustrated biography was designed for children aged 12 years and above. "We believe that the pictures and the way the story was told will be more interesting to children rather than presenting (the narrative) as an historical text," the publisher of the book, Zamzani, said.

With limited resources at his disposal, Zamzani said a picture book was also more cost-effective than a graphic novel.

"It took us four years to complete this series. How long would it have took if we had decided to use a comic as our medium, where we would have had to draw one sequence for one piece of information," he said.

The illustrated biography depicts Sukarno as a regular person, struggling for the freedom of a country he loved. "We shied away from the controversial aspects of Sukarno's life," the book's author, Sari Pusparini Soleh, said.

Researching the book took a long time, Sari said. "To tell a balanced story I had to read dozens of books on Sukarno from all parts of the political spectrum as my reference," she said.

However, Sari said Soekarno: An Autobiography: As told to Cindy Adams, an uncritical tome written in 1965 where the former president told his life story to an American journalist, served as her main reference. "People could say that what Soekarno told Cindy Adams did contradict the facts, but at least that was what came out from his mouth, meaning that it couldn't have be far from the truth," Sari said.

The books, which have been on bookstore shelves for the past four years, have won an award from the Indonesian Association of Book Publishers (Ikapi).

The public, however, has only given a lukewarm response to the series. Despite being available at an affordable low price, Rp 27,000 (US$2.6) a volume, only a small number of parents have bought it. "There was a time when we only printed one or two runs per year," Zamzani said.

YBK chairman Guruh Soekarnoputra, the son of Sukarno, said that the publication of the illustrated book was but one of many events held to celebrate Sukarno's 104th birthday this year.

The YBK also initiated the re-issue of Di Bawah Bendera Revolusi and Bung Karno Sang Arsitek (Soekarno the Architect) and unveiled a monument to the president in Berastagi, North Sumatra.

Guruh said the foundation had declared 2005 the Year of Soekarno and had written to all government institutions, political parties and the media asking them to observe it by flying banners or running public service announcements commemorating the late Sukarno's 104th birthday, which would have fallen on Juni 21.

"However, so far we have learned that only one newspaper has run the ads, which we had to pay for," Guruh said.

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