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Indonesia News Digest No 25 - June 23-30, 2005

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 News & issues

Aid critic named as new Indonesian envoy

Australian Associated Press - June 30, 2005

A senior Indonesian diplomat, who has accused some Australian aid groups of fuelling separatist sentiment in restive Papua, has been nominated as Jakarta's new ambassador to Australia.

Just days after a flurry of speculation that national police chief Da'i Bachtiar could get the job, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono nominated Hamzah Thayeb, a 53-year-old Acehnese.

He is to succeed current ambassador Imron Cotan who is being recalled. The combative Cotan -- at times an outspoken critic of Australia -- has been told to come home mid-way through his three-year term.

The move reflects a rapid warming in ties between the two neighbours and friendship between Yudhoyono and Prime Minister John Howard. Thayeb -- a career diplomat -- is currently director of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at Indonesia's Foreign Ministry. He has also worked at Indonesia's embassy to the United Nations in New York.

While he is seen as generally sympathetic towards Canberra, Thayeb in March criticised the federal government for not doing enough to reign in Australian-based aid groups in Papua whom he accused of supporting separatist groups in the province.

"There is certain information, indications, that certain NGOs operating here and funded by the Australian government are doing these sorts of activities," he said.

Thayeb said Indonesia was assembling a dossier of evidence on the activities of Catholic aid agencies in Papua, as well as the aid wing of the Australian union movement, known as Australian People for Health Education and Development, or APHEDA.

The federal government, which has consistently said it backs Indonesian territorial integrity, agreed to look into the claims at a meeting of ministers from both countries in Canberra.

Thayeb's nomination has now been sent to the Indonesian parliament for approval.

A member of the parliament's foreign affairs commission and frequent Australia critic, Djoko Susilo, said Thayeb was a "quiet and cooperative" person who would be ideal for Canberra.

"I believe and feel he is the right choice," he said. "I regret that the last three Indonesian ambassadors to Australia have not survived their postings." Asked if Thayeb would reverse Cotan's abrasive style, he said: "honestly, it's like that." Indonesian presidential spokesman Dino Jalal said Thayeb "would be an ideal ambassador for any country".

"I can't confirm who's going where until the process has finished," he said.

Susilo said Thayeb, as an Acehnese, would smooth the implementation of Australia's $1 billion aid package for the tsunami-stricken province and his appointment would likely be approved within the next few weeks.

Broadcasting commission a laughingstock to members

Jakarta Post - June 30, 2005

Tony Hotland, Jakarta -- The Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) says an inadequate budget and legal uncertainty regarding its power have prevented it from exercising its legitimate mandate since its inception two years ago, despite public calls for improvement in the country's broadcasting industry.

As if to add insult to injury, television and radio stations have simply ignored the KPI's reprimands over media content that, according to the commission, violates regulations.

The violations, said the KPI, include the broadcast of explicit sexual acts or classified content outside of the designated hours.

A weak budget, supposedly essential in order to effectively monitor media content, is evident in the fact that KPI only has two TV sets and not a single recording device.

"Even the money allotted in the 2005 state budget for the commission has not been disbursed yet," KPI deputy chairman Sinansari Encip told a hearing with House of Representatives Commission I for information on Wednesday.

The government agreed to provide Rp 11.58 billion (US$1.2 million) for the KPI for this fiscal year. Encip, however, said so far the KPI had been using Rp 99.5 million in loans from the Ministry of Communication and Information to cover its activities.

Ironically, the KPI is currently in a heated dispute with the ministry following multiple interpretations of who is in charge of broadcasting in the country.

The dispute led the KPI to file a judicial review with the Supreme Court two weeks ago on three government regulations recently issued, which the KPI says have cut its authorities down to size.

The three regulations grant most of the powers to govern broadcasting activities, including issuance and extension of licenses, to the ministry.

This, the ministry said, was a consequence of the broadcasting law that says the industry is regulated by the "state", a word that the KPI has interpreted as itself.

The House, which drafted and passed the law, has thrown its weight behind the KPI, saying that the KPI represents the state.

Members of the House Commission I said on Wednesday they were prepared to facilitate a tripartite meeting to solve the dispute out of court.

Pending the settlement, KPI member Ade Armando asked legislators to separate the commission's budget from the ministry's in the next fiscal year to ensure independence.

Another KPI member Andrik Purwasita said the uncertain status of the commission had encouraged broadcasters to defy the KPI's reprimands, especially because it had no power to force the broadcasters to comply.

"If our power is strictly defined and legitimized, we will be able to mete out punishment ranging from warnings to revocation of licenses. KPI will become a respected institution, which I can assure you will put nothing but public interest first," he said.

Protesters attack police station

Jakarta Post - June 28, 2005

Bandar Lampung -- Hundreds of protesters attacked the Selagailingga Police station in Central Lampung on Sunday night, damaging two cars and setting office equipment and two motorcycles on fire.

Protesters were still gathered at the station on Monday morning, prompting Central Lampung Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Juni to request assistance from the Lampung Police's Mobile Brigade.

Juni said the incident began when several Selagailingga Police officers conducted a search for weapons at Simpang Jeruk market on Sunday morning. Officers seized seven weapons, including knives, during the action.

Two hours after the search, about 75 people arrived at the police station to demand the return of their weapons. When the police refused, about 700 people, many armed with sticks and knives, gathered outside the station, forcing the police officers inside to flee.

The head of the Lampung Police criminal unit, Adj. Sr. Comr. Laksa Widiyana, said the police had secured the location and arrested several people allegedly responsible for provoking the attack.

New spy bill sparks fears of rights violations

Jakarta Post - June 27, 2005

Tony Hotland, Jakarta -- With rights campaigners already protesting a bill on state intelligence, more criticism is expected from lawmakers who worry the bill gives the state too much power and could lead to rights violations.

Crafted by the National Intelligence Agency (BIN), through the Ministry of Defense, the draft focuses mainly on expanding the powers of BIN. The bill grants intelligence units the authority to arrest people, based on "strong suspicion", thought to be involved in activities that could threaten national security.

Outspoken lawmaker Djoko Susilo said the phrase "strong suspicion" was open to interpretation and could lead to rights violations.

"If the purpose is to collect information, an arrest is truly not necessary. And why can people be held for as long as 30 days?" asked Djoko, a member of House of Representatives Commission I for defense.

It was common during the authoritarian New Order regime of Soeharto for the authorities to arrest people to silence dissent criticism of government policies.

This often resulted in forced disappearances, which is why activists are so opposed to giving intelligence bodies the power to arrest people.

"Arresting people is the job of the police. The Indonesian Military's intelligence unit, for example, cannot arrest people because that is not the military's core task," said Djoko.

He said lawmakers on the defense commission also criticized Article 23 of the draft, which gives the BIN chief the authority to procure firearms directly from producers or agents domiciled inside or outside the country.

"Does BIN really need to be armed? If this happens, BIN would become a new armed force. This article should be eliminated," he said.

The draft bill also gives the BIN chief the authority to ban people suspected of posing a danger to national security from entering the country. Djoko said this power would violate the authority of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.

"If there is a specific need for BIN to play a role in this issue, it should only be in the form of providing recommendations to the justice ministry," he said.

Control over intelligence work, according to the draft bill, would belong to a special committee whose members would be selected from House Commission I members.

BIN also proposed the establishment of a "special branch" of highly trained intelligence agents whose work would be secretive in nature.

These agents would be divided into two categories -- fixed and rotating agents, who would be posted in six territories.

These territories are Jakarta and Greater Jakarta; Banten, West Java, Central Java and East Java; Sumatra; Maluku and Papua; Bali and East and West Nusa Tenggara; Kalimantan and Sulawesi.

BIN says such a step is necessary giving the size of Indonesia and its many borders, many of which are unguarded and at risk for infiltration by terrorists.

While the bill is not a priority for the House this year, it has been scheduled for enactment before 2009.

Birth certificates out of reach for children of poor

Jakarta Post - June 27, 2005

Indra Harsaputra, Surabaya -- Kopra, a 42-year-old vegetable seller, sat on the floor of a small hut standing on the edge of the Kalimas River in Surabaya. She was boiling water when The Jakarta Post called at the shack where she and her family have been living for three years.

She looked exhausted. Her face was black and sweaty after having spent all day long selling vegetable in the nearby Keputran market.

"I was often interviewed by journalists but after the story about me appeared in the media, neither the government nor the journalists gave me any money," said Kopra.

The tiny shack lacks both a kitchen and bathroom. With just a single room, it accommodates Kopra, her husband Kentir and her six children. Kentir does not work as he is suffering from a psychologically disorder so that Kopra alone has to supply all the family's needs.

Kopra does not earn much money, however. The money she makes each month is just barely enough to put food on the table. She is fortunate that her children, who are aged between 2 and 10, can sometimes beg a little extra money on the streets. Although she earns little, she still dreams that all of her children will be able to go to school. However, the dream remains just a dream. She cannot afford to send them to school as she has no money. She also lacks the money to secure birth certificates for all of them, which also prevents her from sending her children to school.

Two years ago, she tried to enroll one of her sons in an elementary school. However, the boy was rejected as he had no birth certificate. "I managed to get the certificate, but I had to pay Rp 150,000. That's a lot of money for me," said Kopra.

The problem of children lacking birth certificates is common in Surabaya, and, indeed, all around the country. Djunaidi Saripurnawan, the research and development head of local non- governmental organization Plant Indonesia, said that a recent study found that 60 percent of a total of 1,000 children from poor families who were surveyed in the city did not possess birth certificates. They lived in the slum area of Jagir and Wonokromo, along Jl. Pemuda. "Not only the children, but their parents also mostly do not have birth certificates," said Djunaidi.

The main reason for this was the expense involved. A birth certificate in Surabaya normally cost between Rp 75,000 and Rp 150,000. "This is ironic as birth certificates are supposed to be free under the Children's Protection Law (No. 23/2002)," said Djunaidi.

Reviving spy network a dangerous decision

Jakarta Post - June 25, 2005

Ardimas Sasdi, Jakarta -- One of the bizarre aspects of the government's plan to revive the notorious regional intelligence network has been that it has ignored the anxiety of the people. Even more bizarrely, is its decision to secretly set up the agency despite the hue and cry about it.

Sudarsono Hardjosoekarto, the Director General of Nation Unity and Politics at the Ministry of Home Affairs, said on Wednesday -- a week after idea was launched by the President -- that almost all regional administrations had established the intelligence community (Kominda).

What a swift action; a contrast to the inefficiency and irresponsiveness that normally characterizes the bureaucracy. But this showed the government would do anything and at any cost to achieve its goals, even though this would mean ignoring the voice of the people, who are still traumatized by bad experiences dealing with intelligence agents in the past.

The haste and secretive way by which the government worked probably explains why there was a mix-up in names used by officials for the agency.

In a bid to track down terrorists, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered the country's governors last Thursday to revive Bakorinda, a Regional Intelligence Coordinating Agency which was made known to the people only after the announcement.

J. Kristiadi, a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), told a national newspaper, "The people are questioning about an agency the government wants to revive? In the past there were Bakin (State Intelligence Coordinating Board), Pusintelstrat (Strategic Intelligence Center), Sintel Kopkamtib (Intelligence Center for Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order), Bais (ABRI's Strategic Intelligence Agency) and intelligence agencies under the police force and prosecutor's office."

The four intelligence agencies, except Bakin, were under the military, but all were chaired by generals close to Soeharto. Like intelligence bodies in authoritarian countries, the agencies were the arm of Soeharto to stifle opposition with powers to conduct surveillance, infiltrate targets and arrest suspects deemed as state enemies. These agencies were also responsible for screening people, who would be promoted to key positions in the executive branch.

With accountability lacking, agents often used foul methods like physical and mental torture to extract information from detainees. The results were predictable: detainees suffered and refuted testimonies in court, saying that they were framed or forced to admit crimes they never did during questioning.

Intelligence agents also spied on clerics, priests, activists of non-governmental organizations and academicians under the pretext of preventing extremism, leaving disastrous impacts. Academicians, for example, avoided discussion on sensitive issues, although this is still within a corridor of academic freedom after seeing outspoken scholars lose their positions or have their professorship delayed by rectors, who were military figures or academics loyal to Soeharto.

The list of abuses of intelligence agencies in the past, which deepened public resentment toward the network, is long. One of the most extreme examples was the use of intelligence agents by state-owned and private companies to coerce people to accept prices unilaterally set by them to acquire land for mega projects.

The negative image and trauma are still fresh in the minds of the people. So it comes as no surprise that the public strongly opposes plans to revive the regional intelligence network in provinces or expand intelligence powers.

"It sounds scary," Agung Yudhawiranata of the rights group Elsam told The Associated Press. "We worry that the Soeharto era has returned and that the agency will use the pretext of fighting terrorism to violate individuals' rights..." Activists like Agung are fully aware of the threat of terrorism, which has continued to haunt Indonesia since the Bali bombings in 2002. The subsequent attacks on the JW Marriott Jakarta hotel, the Australian Embassy and more recently, the public market in Tentena in 2005, have opened the eyes of the public to the fatal threat of terrorism.

But public anxiety, including that of journalists who know well how difficult it was to carry out their journalistic duty during the New Order era, over the possibility of abuse of intelligence agencies by the power holders, still dominated by remnants of the New Order regime, outweigh their fears of terrorism. This notion was properly illustrated by a hard-hitting editorial of The Jakarta Post.

"In the fight against terrorism, law enforcers can complain all they want about their lack of power... But until there are much better checks and balances, we would like to see their improved record in this war before giving them a blank check and a potential return to the days when intelligence authorities professed ignorance about civil liberties and thought their job was to serve whoever had the power to define a 'state enemy'." The promise of the government that the revival of the intelligence network would not impinge on the young, hard-gained democracy is simply not enough. The people want to see a change in the culture of intelligence agents and improved cooperation among intelligence agencies, which is lacking due to vested interests.

Part of the demand is the creation of an effective checks and balances system through a promulgation of laws on intelligence and information acts, and the reopening or trial of past cases, whose masterminds have not been punished. The trials could start with prominent cases like the poisoning of rights activist Munir and the kidnapping of activists in the late 1990s.

Until these conditions have been met, the public should think twice before endorsing the government's plans to revive the intelligence agency as the plan carries so many dangers. It may destroy a fair measure of the freedom we have achieved, and if this happens it will turn the clock back to the dark era of Soeharto.

[The author is a staff writer at The Jakarta Post.]

Tommy Soeharto's sentence cut

Agence France Presse - June 25, 2005

Jakarta -- Indonesia's Supreme Court has overturned a 15-year jail sentence against a son of former dictator Soeharto for murdering a judge, sentencing him instead to 10 years, a court official said yesterday. The decision followed a request for a case review filed by Tommy Soeharto, who was sentenced in 2002 to 15 years in jail by the central Jakarta district court for ordering the murder of Supreme Court judge Syafiuddin Kartasasmita.

"The Supreme Court decided to annul the central Jakarta district court's verdict and review the case. The Supreme Court sentenced him to 10 years in prison," Supreme Court spokesman Joko Upoyo said. He did not explain why the sentence had been reduced but said the decision was made earlier this month.

A spokesman for the Attorney-General's office said it was studying the Supreme Court's verdict and may appeal for a tougher sentence.

Soeharto, whose full name is Hutomo Mandala Putra, is serving time at a prison on Nusakambangan island, off the south coast of Java. After his original corruption conviction in 2000, Soeharto applied for a presidential pardon as well as a judicial review but then-president Abdurrahman Wahid turned him down in October 2000.

Soeharto failed to turn himself in to serve the jail term by the November 3, 2000, deadline and went on the run. In October 2001 a Supreme Court panel quashed the corruption conviction. But the following month he was arrested in connection with the judge's murder -- the prelude to one of Indonesia's most high-profile trials.

Soeharto snr has escaped trial for abuses committed during his rule after his lawyers offered medical evidence stating he could no longer hold or follow a normal conversation. The former general has lived quietly at his private residence in central Jakarta since he was forced from power in 1998.


Flogging for Islamic law

Asia Times - June 30, 2005

Bill Guerin, Jakarta -- More than a dozen men accused of placing Rp1,000 ($0.10) bets in an illegal lottery were flogged in public last week in tsunami-struck Aceh for violating Islamic (Sharia) law, marking the first public canning since the staunchly Muslim province adopted such laws in 2003.

The offenders, who had already been detained for 22 days without the chance to be represented by lawyers, each received between six and 10 strokes of a rattan cane across the back from a masked and hooded algojo, or flogger. A noisy crowd of about 2,000 people witnessed the floggings, held outside the main mosque in Biruen after Friday prayers.

Aceh is the only province in Indonesia to implement Sharia law, a freedom granted to the courts as part of an autonomy package offered by Jakarta in an effort to quell separatism in the province. Despite the fact that Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country (some 88% of its 230 million population are registered as Muslims), Islam has never been declared the national religion.

Sharia law is a comprehensive set of laws that govern everything from banking to prayer, theft and adultery. But among Muslim groups there is no single interpretation of Sharia, as it is based on teachings from many noted scholars (ulemas) who have different interpretations of the two main sources of Islamic law -- Islam's holy text, the Koran, and hadith (the traditions and sayings attributed to the Prophet Mohammed).

Saudi Arabia administers Sharia to the full. Thieves have their hands chopped off as punishment -- the so-called hudud laws -- while adulteresses are stoned to death. Though caning is frequently practiced in Singapore and Malaysia as a judicial punishment, it is not carried out in public.

There seems little danger of Sharia spreading to other provinces in Indonesia. But the question remains: is the gentle caning of a few small-time punters in a province that suffered the loss of more than 128,000 people and saw much of the government infrastructure destroyed by last year's tsunami, the thin edge of the wedge?

No Islamic state

The founding fathers dismissed demands for an Islamic state at independence in 1945, but the Acehnese, who saw the revolution against the Dutch in the 1940s as an Islamic struggle, felt that Sukarno, the country's first president, had let them down by going back on his earlier promise to allow the province to fully implement Sharia.

They had to wait until January 2001 before being granted permission to implement Sharia as part of a broad autonomy offered by then-president Abdurrahman Wahid that allowed the province to implement partial Sharia law and have its own Sharia police and education system.

Although Aceh holds the world's richest onshore reserves of natural gas, estimated at 40 billion cubic meters, and provided an estimated 11% of the country's total exports in 2001, less than 10% of this wealth was reinvested in the province. Critics said the autonomy package and the right to implement Sharia, which would also give Aceh a greater share of revenue from these rich resources, was simply aimed at dampening separatist sentiment in the province.

However, the move formed the basis of a ceasefire deal signed in December 2002 between the government, then led by president Megawati Sukarnoputri, daughter of the country's first president, and pro-independence Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels, who have waged a guerrilla war since 1976 in which more than 12,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed.

GAM, however, has made it clear they are not fighting for an Islamic state, and Hasballah Sa'ad, a former minister for human rights who is Acehnese himself, said Sharia would do nothing to appease GAM and other independence activists.

"We know the people of Aceh have wanted to apply Sharia since the 1950s, but GAM never asked for Sharia," Sa'ad said. Although the peace process broke down in May 2003 and a full-scale military offensive was simultaneously launched against GAM, the local government nevertheless went on to implement new laws banning adultery, drinking alcohol and gambling -- the law those flogged last Friday were accused of violating.

At first the local administration concerned itself with simple issues, such as Muslims who failed to attend Friday prayers, or those who sold food or cigarettes during the fasting month of Ramadan. Some 20 district religious courts were set up to deal with issues such as divorce.

Flogging for corruptors?

Majelis Permusyawaratan Ulama (MPU) -- the consultative assembly of religious leaders in Aceh, laid down the punishment for the unfortunates who were caned last week after acting Governor Azwar Abubakar signed the law approving the flogging. According to Mustofa Gelanggang, the mayor of Biruen, the governor will sign off on more legislation in the coming weeks that will expand the use of caning to punish other crimes.

Biruen's district chief Mustofa Gelanggang said caning as a punishment was "not about pain, but to shame people and deter them from doing the same criminal acts in the future". He was presumably referring to gambling and adultery, not to corruption. In April, former Aceh governor Abdullah Puteh was sentenced to 10 years in jail for stealing state funds when marking up the purchase of a helicopter in 2001.

"We want to build a cool image of Islam in Aceh," Puteh told guests at the opening ceremony for the first Sharia court in March 2003 when he was still governor. The province will get about US$6 billion in aid to help with reconstruction and rehabilitation after the tsunami, but the Puteh case highlights major concerns on how transparently the funds will be disbursed and used, given the levels of corruption in the country (and in Aceh province particularly).

Corruptors may yet have much to worry about even before they end up in the dock. "People must know there is a punishment for a crime," warned Aceh's Sharia law chief, Alyasa Abubakar. Raihan Iskandar, the deputy speaker of the Aceh provincial council, has said even tougher punishments are under consideration. The Sharia Office is deliberating the law on theft, including corruption offences, Iskandar said.

Radicals against evangelism

There are also fears that Islamic fundamentalism has been on the rise since Aceh was opened up following the tsunami. Dozens of radical Islamic groups quickly arrived on the scene then, supposedly to guard against any liberal influence emanating from foreign relief workers and troops.

Two days after last Friday's canings, dozens of Islamic groups and charities, including hardline organizations such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Indonesian Mujahideen Council (MMI), as well as several Islamic-based political parties like Hizb ut-Tahrir, demonstrated in front of the Baiturahman grand mosque in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital. They were protesting what they called an "evangelism campaign" being perpetrated by local and foreign non-governmental organizations.

Though the FPI is infamous mainly for unleashing paramilitary gangs on nightspots in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, Hizb ut- Tahrir is banned in most Muslim countries for its calls to unite all Muslims in a single caliphate and its demands for the restoration of "Islamic society". Hizb ut-Tahrir rejects democratic models as a Western invention, incompatible with Islam, and claims to have a footprint in 40 countries, but Indonesia is one of the few where it is allowed to operate openly.

Secular forever

Though it attracts prominence and dominates the news by playing to a domestic audience still suspicious of the West, the Islamic radical fringe in Indonesia remains a tiny, vocal minority. Were Sharia ever to gain the support of the majority, and the country to become an Islamic state, the image of Indonesia in Western eyes would be starkly different. The reality, however, is that there is little risk of this and the country's constitutional status as a secular state is not under threat.

The radical groups are inclined to violence and intimidation to achieve their goals, but moderate Muslims have had enough of the violence and terrorism. The country's two largest Muslim organizations -- Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) -- oppose state-imposed Sharia.

The NU, with about 40 million members, says Sharia would create disputes between those of different religions, or even among Muslim groups. The People's Consultative Assembly has also overwhelmingly rejected a move to have Sharia embedded in the constitution.

Nonetheless, the Indonesian Muslim Congress, in a 14-point "Jakarta Declaration" issued in April this year, advocated overcoming the country's problems through the implementation of Sharia.

Corruption, terrorism and moderate Islam

Campaigning on an anti-corruption platform, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), increased its share of the vote in last April's general election to 7.34% from 1.4% in 1999.

Just before the final run-off in the presidential election in September 2004, PKS chairman Hidayat Nur Wahid announced that the party would support Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Yudhoyono's supporters argued that his election offered the best chance for democratic reform, good governance and an end to corruption. Some PKS politicians, however, opposed the move because they saw Yudhoyono as a secular political leader opposed to implementing Islamic law. There are those within the party who believe that by 2009 they will be ready to win a much larger share and boost their hopes of making Indonesia more of an Islamic state.

Since taking the presidency, however, Yudhoyono has spoken out against the misunderstanding that terrorism is connected to Islam. "I say to my people again and again there is no relationship between the two," he said in a recent interview, adding that he wanted to strengthen the role of moderate Islam. "We need moderate religious leaders who won't let their people be taken hostage by the radicals, by the terrorists.

"I want people to look at Indonesia as moderate, Islamic, and peaceful," he concluded.

[Bill Guerin, a Jakarta correspondent for Asia Times Online since 2000, has worked in Indonesia for 19 years as a journalist. He has been published by the BBC on East Timor and specializes in business/economic and political analysis in Indonesia.]

Anti-graft activist jailed for stealing relief goods

Associated Press - June 23, 2005

An Indonesian anti-graft activist working for the United Nations was sentenced to one year in jail Thursday for stealing relief aid intended for the victims of December tsunami in Aceh province.

Farid Faqih, who has always denied any criminal intent, said he would appeal. "I don't feel I have done a wrong thing in this case," he told the court. "I was just trying to ensure the donated goods were not lost."

Faqih, who had accused the military of corruption, was arrested a month after the Dec. 26 tsunami. In March, a solider was sentenced to three months in jail for beating Faqih up in detention.

The 51-year-old Faqih was working for the UN's World Food Program in Aceh when he was arrested at Banda Aceh's airport.

Judges at Jantho, a town close to the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, said Faqih was "found guilty of violating criminal law by taking goods owned by other people or party without their consent."

Earlier, the court had heard how Faqih had taken relief supplies -- including generators and clothing -- and stored them in a warehouse in Jantho. The military said then that some of the goods were donated by the families of soldiers in Jakarta and were to be given to army families affected by the disaster.

The case has highlighted concerns that relief money could end up in the pockets of corrupt, greedy government officials. Some anti-graft activists predict that as much as a third of the estimated US$6 billion in pledged donations for the 11 affected countries could be siphoned off.

Indonesian lawmakers slam EU-ASEAN trip to Aceh

Associated Press - June 30, 2005

Jakarta -- Indonesian lawmakers on Thursday slammed a trip to Aceh province by a team of E.U. and Asean monitors ahead of a possible peace deal there, indicating that any agreement could face resistance from nationalists within the political and military elite.

"What is it all about?" said Djoko Susilo, from the parliament's influential defense commission. "The peace talks are supposed to be informal in nature and all of a sudden a monitoring team from the E.U. arrives. This is internationalizing what is Indonesia's problem."

The team, consisting of seven E.U. delegates and three from the Association of Southeast Asian nations, arrived in Aceh earlier this week to prepare for a larger mission if a deal is signed. They will stay in Aceh until Friday.

Acehnese rebels and government negotiators were scheduled to meet July 12 in Finland for a fifth round of talks. The government is optimistic a deal can be reached by August, but analysts have cautioned that several unresolved issues could easily derail the process.

The rebels have been fighting for independence since 1976 in a conflict that has killed at least 15,000 people since 1990. Efforts to end the fighting collapsed in 2003, but the peace process was revived after the Dec. 26 tsunami, which devastated the oil- and gas-rich province.

The current talks represent the best chance for peace in Aceh since the conflict began.

Clashes have continued since the tsunami, however. On Wednesday, rebels ambushed an army patrol in the north of the province, killing a soldier and setting off a gunbattle that left two guerillas dead, the military said.

The rebels weren't available for comment. Both sides regularly lie about the nature of the clashes and casualty figures.

Jakarta has said it won't allow the region to separate from the rest of the country, but will give it a greater say in running its affairs. The rebels have publicly dropped their independence demand, and now want the right to form their own political party in Aceh.

But the process faces opposition from nationalists within the government and parliament and hardline military generals, who say the rebels will never drop their independence campaign and will use a truce to strengthen their ranks.

"I am very shocked (about the monitoring mission)," defense commission vice head Sidarto Danusubroto told the Kompas daily.

The military has publicly pledged to respect any peace deal. The parliament won't be able to stop an agreement, but could make life politically difficult for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono if it decides the deal isn't beneficial to the country.

Activist groups send letter to SBY supporting negotiations

Aceh Kita - June 30, 2005

Rilis, Jakarta -- Twenty five activist organisations have issued a statement supporting peace negotiations between the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM). The statement which was contained in letter addressed to the president of the Republic of Indonesia and the GAM leadership in exile was dated June 24.

The signatories of the letter stated that they totally support the negotiations which have already entered their fourth round. They said they believe that the negotiations which have taken place so far have produced positive developments for the peace process in Aceh.

"The interim dialogue which is currently taking place, has increased the optimism of the Acehnese and Indonesian people, that peace will be created in Aceh which has already be devastated as a result of the [armed] conflict and the tsunami disaster", they wrote in the letter which was also received by Aceh Kita on Thursday June 30.

They expressed deep regret however over position being taken in a number of circles such as the members of the People's Representative Assembly (DPR) which has asked the government to end the current negotiations with GAM. According to the signatories, the anti-negotiation position being taken by assembly members represents a negation of People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Decree Number No X/MPRRI/2001 and MPR Decree Number VI/MPR/2002 on resolving the Aceh question peacefully and with dignity.

"The Acehnese people who have hope in and are full of anxiety over the outcome of the negotiations are extremely disappointed with the anti-peace position being taken by them, [by people] who ipso facto do not originate from Aceh and do not understand the Aceh question", they continued while expressing support for the moves by the two sides to invite observers from the European Union and ASEAN to monitor the results of a future peace agreement between the two sides.

In their letter they asked the Indonesian government and GAM, for the sake of the peace process, to continue the negotiations until a break through is reached; that the government resolve the Aceh conflict in accordance with MPR Decree Number X/MPR/2001 MPR Decree Number VI/MPR/2002; and that both sides immediately implement a ceasefire.

The 25 activists who sent the letter to the president and GAM leadership in exile came from a number of groups including the Institute for Public Research and Advocacy (Elsam), the Biak People's Traditional Council, the North Sumatra chapter of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), the Flores Justice and Human Rights Monitoring Institute, the East Java Public Legal Aid Foundation, the Indonesian Pusaka Institute, the Dompet Dhuafa Friends of Migrant Workers, Kinasih Women's Solidarity, the Jakarta chapter of the Association of Indonesian Women for Justice (LBH APIK), the Makassar Legal Aid Foundation, BAKUMSU, the Makassar Independent Justice Monitoring Institute, KSPPM (a non-government organisation), the Institute for Press and Development Studies (LSPP), the Institute for Ecosoc Right, the Jakarta Labour Service and the Association of Anti-Military Activists (HANTAM). [dzie]

[Translated by James Balowski.]

DPR questions budget submission for military operation

Kompas - June 29, 2005

Sutta Dharmasaputra/Wisnu Dewabrata, Jakarta -- The operation to restore security in Aceh continues. In order to support the operation, the Ministry of Defense has submitted a request for a budget of 530.27 billion rupiah.

The budget submission was contained in a Defense Ministry document classified as confidential and dated June 22. The document which was submitted to the Finance Minister was signed by Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono. A copy of the document was received by the chairperson of the People's Representative Assembly Commission I on June 24.

However a member of the Commission I Budgetary Panel, Djoko Susilo, is questioning the budgetary submission because the budget proposal is not intended to come from the state budget since Aceh has returned to a normal state. The state of civil emergency in Aceh ended on May 18 and since then Aceh has returned to state of civil authority. As of Tuesday evening June 28, the Budgetary Panel was still discussing the submission.

In the document, the Defense Minister said he hoped that the funds can be released no later than the end of June. The Budgetary Panel however is having difficulties integrating the budgetary submission because Aceh's status has returned to a state of civil authority.

Law Number 34/2004 on the TNI (armed forces) mandates that under a normal conditions the TNI's budget is paid for from the state budget which is submitted by the Defense Department. "They should have submitted this budget in the 2005 revisions to the state budget. [It is] no longer a special budget such as this. We will therefore study its legal basis", asserted Susilo.

Under Law Number 34/2004 it states that in the case of meeting the TNI's budgetary needs, the chief of the TNI makes a request to the Defense Minister for it to be paid for in its entirety from the state budget. In the case of meeting the budgetary requirements for military operations of an urgent nature, the chief of the TNI makes a budgetary request to the Defense Minister for it to be paid for from the contingency budget which is drawn from the state budget.

Meanwhile, a statement by army chief of staff General Djoko Santoso that they will classify regions of Aceh into categories of black, gray and white, is believed to be no more than and effort by the TNI to justify their continued presence in Aceh.

"This justification is related to efforts to maintain the TNI's presence in Aceh even though it is under a state of civil authority at the moment", said Otto Samsudin Ishak, a researcher from human rights monitoring group Imparsial.

Ishak also believes that the security classification has no clear relationship with determining to what extent one area is under responsibility of the police or the TNI and this may result in a conflict with the civilian administration.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Categorisation of security zone negates peace process

Sinar Harapan - June 29, 2005

Jakarta -- The categorisation of areas of Aceh into three levels of security is totally counterproductive in terms of the peace negotiations in Helsinki which are being conducted between the government and representatives of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) and which will entering their fifth round in July. This classification also contravenes the classification of Aceh as a being under a state of civil authority and indicates that the integrated operation(1) has failed.

This was conveyed by Aceh political observer Otto Syamsuddin Ishak when he spoke with Sinar Harapan on Tuesday June 28 in relation to the announcement that 20 per cent of Aceh still under the full control of the TNI (armed forces) and categorised as "black zones" [zones still controlled by GAM]. "This is counterproductive in [the context of post tsunami] rehabilitation and reconstruction which is currently being carried out there", he said.

In addition to this, Ishak also explained that the status of TNI troops which are deployed in Aceh is still without a clear legal umbrella now that the state of civil emergency has been reduced to one of civil authority.

Because of this therefore, in accord with the change in Aceh's status, he is asking that troops levels in Aceh be reduced immediately and that the territorial system there be strengthened.

Separately meanwhile, the Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, AS Widodo, said that the troop numbers in Aceh will not be reduced in accordance with last week's agreement reached at a consultation meeting between the government and the People's Representative Assembly.

This was insisted upon by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who said that the TNI's presence in Aceh is to maintain security in the context of the integrated operation. The president mentioned five operations, which will continue to be carried even though Aceh is no longer under a state of civil emergency. (ino/ega)


1. Integrated Operation - the operation to restore government administration, the humanitarian operation, the law enforcement operation, economic recovery and the operation to restore security.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

EU advance team visits troubled Aceh province

Agence France Presse - June 29, 2005

An EU-led team has arrived in Indonesia's tsunami-hit Aceh to prepare for the monitoring of a likely peace deal between Jakarta and separatist rebels, officials said.

The 12-man European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations team arrived in the provincial capital Banda Aceh, Minister of Communication and Information, Sofyan Jalil said.

Their visit coincided with a fresh outbreak of violence in Aceh, where almost three decades of insurgency have claimed thousands of lives, as a village chief and his wife were gunned down in front of their children. Jalil said the government expected to strike a deal with rebels by August, following five rounds of talks in Helskinki under which the EU monitoring mission was agreed.

Two members of the Crisis Management Initiative, a non- governmental group headed by former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari that has facilitated the Helskinki talks, were among the EU delegation.

Jalil said that the team would study the feasibility of observing any peace agreement reached between the government and Free Aceh Movement rebels. "The team wants to see how ready the infrastructure and telecommunication facilities are," Jalil said. "They want to see what, if a peace agreement takes place, will be needed."

Complicating their task was the massive damage caused to Aceh by the Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed more than 128,000 people in the province before it led to a reopening of dialogue between the government and the rebels. Jalil was upbeat that the peace talks would produce an agreement that will lead to a peace pact by August, in line with expectations of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

"Allah permitting, we will reach a general agreement in the fifth meet and in August, by the timelime set by the president, hopefully we will be able to settle this matter," he said.

He said that both sides in the talks have already reached agreement on most issues, although Jakarta has refused to bow to demands of sovereignty. It has, however, offered an amnesty to rebels.

So far the talks have failed to stem the violence, which claimed its latest victims just hours before the team's arrival when gunmen shot the head of the south Aceh village of Simpang and his wife in front of their children.

South Aceh Military Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jamhur Ismail, said the gunmen, numbering five and wearing military fatigues and masks, were from the separatist Free Aceh Movement. Rebel officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Despite the ongoing talks to end the conflict, Indonesia's defence ministry has lodged a secret request for almost 55 million dollars to continue military operations against the rebels, a report said.

Kompas newspaper said the classified request for funds to support the "security-restoration operation" was signed by defence minister Juwono Sudarsono. Kompas said a copy of the letter was also sent to a parliamentary commission dealing with security, politics and foreign affairs two days after it was sent to the finance ministry.

Commission member Joko Susilo told the paper that legislators deemed the undercover request inappropriate since a state of civilian emergency, which would entitle the defence ministry to more funds, has been lifted in Aceh.

Both Susilo and defence ministry officials declined immediate comment on the report.

The government imposed martial law in Aceh in May 2003 and launched a massive anti-rebel military campaign to rid the resource-rich province of the guerrillas.

It downgraded the status to civilian emergency the following year and in May 2005 returned the province to normal administration as it mounted a major reconstruction programme to rebuild after the tsunami disaster.

The separatists launched their struggle for independence in Aceh in 1976. Almost 15,000 people, mainly civilians, have been killed in the conflict.

EU observers' visit to Aceh questioned

Jakarta Post - June 29, 2005

Jakarta -- Despite growing calls from legislators not to internationalize the conflict in Aceh, the government has said it will go ahead with talks with Aceh rebels in Finland.

The recent arrival of international observers in Aceh only adds insult to injury.

Lawmakers have demanded that the government stop the talks with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) after the last round of negotiations failed to resolve crucial issues in the decades-long fighting in the resource-rich province.

Legislators also oppose the inclusion of foreign parties in the talks in Helsinki, which they say is an attempt to internationalize the problems in Aceh.

The state-sponsored think tank the National Resilience Institute also said the "internationalization" of the Aceh talks would give GAM the opportunity to strengthen its position in the eyes of the international community.

During the fourth round of talks that ended in May, the government and GAM agreed to allow representatives from the European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to observe the implementation of any peace agreement that might be achieved in the latest round of talks.

"But even when the Indonesian delegates were still in Helsinki and the President was abroad, there were already invitations to the European Union and ASEAN to visit Aceh," a member of House of Representatives Commission I on defense and foreign affairs, Djoko Susilo, said on Tuesday.

He said the invitations were signed on June 5 by the secretary to the Vice President, Asril Noer, at the order of Vice President Jusuf Kalla, when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was on a 12-day visit to the United States, Vietnam and Japan. The President returned to Indonesia on June 6.

Djoko said 20 international observers arrived in Aceh on June 26. "This is really a careless act. The fact that most legislators did not even know about this -- I found out about it from a source -- means the government once again bypassed the House in making a vital move," said Djoko.

Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto confirmed on Tuesday the arrival of foreign observers in Aceh, adding they were in the province only to make preliminary observations.

"We are not taking any stance on this because it is government policy. But we ask (the foreigners) to request escorts by TNI or police personnel while doing their jobs because we do not want any harm to come to them," he said.

Vice President Kalla declined to answer questions on Tuesday about whether EU observers were in Aceh and if he invited them.

Speaking after a lunch with ambassadors from EU nations, Kalla said a monitoring system would be put into place if the government and GAM reached a peace deal, and that the possible shape of that system was now being discussed. He said the Aceh issue was not discussed during the lunch with the EU ambassadors.

Netherlands Ambassador to Indonesia Ruud Treffers, who also holds the EU presidency here, said Aceh was not discussed during the lunch, but stressed that the EU was ready to be involved in resolving the separatist conflict.

Kalla said any decision on a cease-fire and the withdrawal of military personnel from the province would be made only after a peace deal was signed. "If there is no longer a conflict, why would we deploy soldiers there? They could just go home, rest or train. But until an agreement is reached, they will not be withdrawn," he said.

GAM ordered to avoid clashes during EU visit

Associated Press - June 27, 2005

Jakarta -- The commander of Aceh's separatist rebels on Monday ordered his fighters to avoid clashes with Indonesian troops during an upcoming European Union fact-finding mission, warning that the military might use the occasion to try to sabotage the peace process.

The military denied that it was trying to undermine efforts to bring peace to the tsunami-hit region.

The E.U. team is scheduled to arrive in Aceh on Tuesday for a four-day ground survey aimed at establishing peace-monitoring bases. The visit is an outgrowth of the peace talks between the government and rebels in Finland, in which the E.U. is participating as an observer.

In a statement received Monday, Muzakkir Manaf, who commands an estimated 5,000 rebels, accused the government of beefing up its troop strength in the province of 4.1 million people.

"In consideration of the safety and efficiency of the E.U. assessment team during their mission in Aceh, (the command) orders all members to observe strict discipline against all provocative actions instigated by the army and police, in their effort to create incidents in order to sabotage all efforts at ending the bloody conflict in Aceh peacefully and blaming GAM," Manaf said, using the Indonesian acronym for the Free Aceh Movement.

Efforts to end the three-decade-long war in Aceh, considered to be the most significant threat to Indonesia's unity since East Timor's secession in 1999, began five years ago and resulted in a six-month ceasefire in 2003.

This collapsed after the Indonesian side arrested rebel negotiators and army-backed militias attacked foreign peace monitors, forcing them to abandon the province.

The peace process was revived after last December's earthquake and tsunami that killed at least 130,000 people in Aceh, under the auspices of Finland's former President Martti Ahtisaari. Both sides have said the talks are going well.

Maj. Gen. Kohirin Suganda Saputra said the military would welcome the delegation. "The (military) supports the government which is trying to bring peace to Aceh," Saputra said. "The E.U. delegation will do the ground survey and later they will become the monitoring team in Aceh solving problems, including how to make GAM lay down its weapons."

Six months on, tsunami survivors wait for tide to turn

Jakarta Post - June 27, 2005

Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh -- Six months after the tsunami swept the region, many frustrated survivors of the disaster are still living in tents and struggling to survive, with the reconstruction efforts to date proceeding at a snail's pace.

A journalist from Volkskrant in the Netherlands, Michel Maas, arrived in Aceh with many other foreign journalists hoping to see significant changes in the devastated region after the disaster that took thousands of lives.

But he was disappointed when he went to the coastal residential area of Ulee Lheue in Meuraxa district to take some photos. "I canceled my plan, I saw no changes between Ulee Lheue now and several months ago," he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Ulee Lheue is not the only place that seems to have been forgotten -- almost all villages in Meuraxa district, Banda Aceh, share a similar fate.

When the massive earthquake sent walls of water as high as 10 meters rushing inland, no place suffered more than Aceh with as many as 1,000 villages and towns either being damaged or wiped off the face of the earth.

In Aceh, where 168,000 people are dead or missing, bodies are still being found. The disaster totally destroyed some 127,000 houses and damaged many more, leaving some 500,000 people homeless.

The Dec. 26 disaster also completely destroyed two hospitals and damaged five others, as well as 26 community health centers. It also destroyed 1,488 schools and damaged 239 kilometers of road, nine harbors and 11,000 hectares of plantations.

And six months later, at least 400 people in Lampaseh village are still living in battered, worn-out tents.

"The government has started to forget us. Never mind houses, we don't even have barracks," said Lampaseh village head Syahrul.

Syahrul and other people in Lampaseh share the same dream -- having a simple house where they can keep cool on hot days and warm on cold nights.

In the poverty-stricken village, whose boundaries encompass an area of 375 hectares, 75 percent of which is given over to fish ponds, the disaster not only flattened the houses, but also covered the ponds with thick mud, thereby robbing the residents of their livelihoods. Now, local people survive by selling small shrimps and crabs collected from their former ponds as well as participating in a cash-for-work program, which involves cleaning the debris from their village for Rp 35,000 (US$3.8) a day.

"Then what? We're afraid we'll end up hungry," said another resident, Nurmalasari.

She said that survivors were supposed to receive Rp 90,000 in living expenses per person each month. But six months on, they had only received one payment. "We're are all wondering what happened to the rest of our money," she said. Aceh and Nias Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency director Kuntoro Mangkusubroto said on Saturday that US$2.8 billion is ready to be disbursed for reconstruction work. He also said he had signed the documents for 172 projects that were ready to start right away.

But given the massive scale of the calamity, it might take more than six months to bring about significant change as the disaster left a trail of destruction all over the region. The United Nations said recently it will take as long as 10 years to rebuild what was destroyed.

On Sunday, in the other countries most affected -- Sri Lanka, India and Thailand -- ceremonies were held to mourn those lost while the survivors struggled to pick up the pieces.

Reports said that in Sri Lanka, where a deal with Tamil Tigers to distribute tsunami aid in rebel-held areas has only been signed this week, the scale of the tragedy continues to haunt survivors, many of whom have yet to rebuild their homes and lives.

In the rebel-controlled Vakarai hamlet, about 60 kilometers northeast from the eastern Batticaloa town, volunteers collected anything and everything from the rubble for an exhibition marking the tsunami anniversary, the Associated Press reported.

In southern Thailand, where many foreigners were among the 5,395 people who died, small wreath-laying ceremonies were held on Sunday at a memorial on the tourist-island of Phuket.

Gabor Szigeti, a 32-year-old Swedish survivor, returned to Khao Lak, a stretch of white beaches north of Phuket, where he saw so many others lose loved ones that day.

Szigeti and his wife survived when the monster waves smashed into his holiday bungalow. The couple returned to thank local Thais who helped them survive the ordeal, he said. "This helped us to get closure, I'd say. I feel a lot calmer," he told Reuters.

Sharia in Aceh seen as biased against ordinary people

Jakarta Post - June 26, 2005

Nani Afrida, Bireun -- Various elements of society in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam view the implementation of Sharia in the province as discriminatory and as not touching on core issues.

"If the government is serious, it should implement local laws in regard to serious violations such as theft and corruption," said legal practitioner Rufriadi on Saturday.

The statement was issued following public canings that were carried out by the Sharia court on 27 petty gamblers after Friday prayers in Bireun. All 27 of them were accused of placing Rp 1,000 (10 US cents) bets in an illegal lottery.

Most of the by-laws ratified by the government involved minor offenses such as gambling, adultery and drinking liquor, and only ordinary people were liable to receive such punishments. Whereas in fact the most pressing problem facing Aceh was corruption.

Rufriadi expressed concern about the implementation of Islamic law which he deemed as discriminatory and that could lead to new conflicts among the people of Aceh.

Apart from being discriminatory, he also questioned the overlapping of Sharia with Indonesia's common law.

"The Supreme Court should have issued a clear ruling on this matter. Which law is to be applied; the common law, or Islamic law?" he said.

He noted that the caned offenders had already been detained for 22 days and had not been given the chance to be represented by their lawyers. "They faced dual punishments, based on the common law and Islamic law," said Rufriadi.

Meanwhile, people in Bireun have expressed their disappointment and have criticized the implementation of Islamic law as they consider it was solely aimed at the common people.

"We have received many protests and complaints from the public. They are doubtful about Islamic law," said the coordinator of the Aceh Students and Youth Forum in Bireun, Anwar Afandi.

According to Anwar, Islamic law seems to be enforced against ordinary people while transgressions committed by corrupt high- ranking government officials are overlooked.

He expects that if state officials were to violate the law, they should also receive judicial redress regardless of their backgrounds. "Islamic law should not discriminate," he said.

His organization has doubts whether the Islamic Law Office has the courage to try state officials involved in corruption. "If they dare take this step, then they should be commended," added Anwar.

Floggings could be weapon for GAM's international campaign

Detik.com - June 25, 2005

M. Rizal Maslan, Jakarta -- Although Aceh has only just begun to implement public floggings the chairperson of the Nahdhatul Ulama's (NU) Executive Board (PBNU), Hasyim Muzadi, believes that the punishment will actually strengthen the Free Aceh Movement's (GAM) position. He believes that the GAM leadership will use the implementation of the law as a new weapon in their overseas campaign.

"That it has happened like this in Aceh, it certainly a result of a decision by the government itself. But there's something that is interesting, GAM members overseas will certainly use it as the maneuver [to gain international support]", said Muzadi in at the PBNU's offices in Jakarta on Jalan Kramat Raya on Saturday June 25.

Muzadi said GAM's leadership will promote a secular view that what is happening in Aceh is not what the people want but the wishes of the Indonesian government. The effect within the international community will to view Indonesia as an exclusive country. "So there will be a reversal of terminology about what is happening in Aceh in the campaign by GAM members in Helsinki", said Muzadi.

Muzadi admitted the question of public floggings is a complicated one. According to Muzadi people committing sexual acts outside marriage, drinking alcohol or even gambling must be punished. But the punishment should not be in the form of public floggings.

From view point of Syaria law (Islamic law) he continued, actually it is more about how the government applies the two different laws in one unitary state.

"According NU, since the start of the application of Syaria law it has been inclusive not exclusive in nature, so the package of religious values is a national one", said Muzadi.

So within the legal system, NU follows the national consensus while on the Islamic question, NU executes it within 'civil society', not in the 'nation state'.


NU will not be asking the government to review the implementation of public floggings but will only ask the government to provide guidance on how the law will be applied.

"But I say, law within Islam has substance and form. The form is more of an alternative. If [we are talking] about the substance it is indeed absolute that people who grumble must be punish, but what will the model or form of the punishment be, that is an alternative", said Muzadi.

Muzadi also confessed that in the ritual obligations of law and Islamic history, there were indeed public floggings, but it forms is not absolute. "Do public flogging use the rattan or something else, because a question is one of format," he said. (umi)

[Translated by Risna]

Shooting of foreign volunteer, GAM want's to show its presence

Kompas - June 25, 2005

Jakarta -- Iskandar Muda Regional Military Commander, Major- General Sapiudin Yusuf, believes the shooting of Hong Kong foreign volunteer Eva Yee Wayeung was an attempt by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) to demonstrate that their forces still have a presence.

This was conveyed by Yusuf on Friday June 24 at a political, legal and security affairs coordinating meeting. Yusuf also believes the incident indicates that GAM's logistical provisions are continuing to shrink and as a result they are carrying out ambushes and robberies more frequently.

"Actually we have already recommended [enforcing] a regulation so that they [foreign volunteers] don't go out at night time", said Yusuf.

According to Yusuf, although there are security posts at dangerous points, the military hopes that foreign volunteers will cooperate. "If they need it, we are ready to provide escorts for as long as they request it", he said.

Indonesian police chief, Police General Da'i Bachtiar says that the question at the moment is how can security forces continue to provide security guarantees for foreign volunteers under a state of civil authority. "When the reality is that armed GAM groups still exist there. Under the state of civil authority in Aceh the ordinary criminal code is in force, the same as here in Jakarta where there is no armed rebellion", said Bachtiar.

On the question of providing security for foreign volunteers, Bachtiar said it is still being discussed. With regard to restricting foreign volunteers to certain areas however, that is not possible because it depends entirely on local conditions in relation to reconstruction efforts.

Present at the meeting was the Minister for Communication and Information, Sofyan Djalil, Armed Forces Chief General Endriartono Sutarto and the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Widodo AS.

After opening a national coordinating meeting of youth and sports affairs at the State Palace yesterday, Bachtiar said that in certain areas, security disturbances in the form of armed attacks by GAM are still frequent. On a number of occasions security forces have been attacked while carrying out their duties. The areas which have been identified as having a high level of security disturbances include the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, Bireun, Pidie and East Aceh. (INU/DWA)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

FPDRA and SMUR condemn shooting of volunteer in Aceh

Aceh Kita - June 24, 2005

AK-20, Jakarta -- The Acehnese Popular Democratic Resistance Front (FPDRA) and Student's Solidarity for the People (SMUR) have condemned the shooting of a Hong Kong Red Cross volunteer in Lamno, Greater Aceh, on Wednesday June 22.

According to Thamrin Ananda, the shooting of Eva Yee Wayeung (27) will undermine trust in the peace talks between Indonesia and the Free Acehnese Movement (GAM) which is being supported by the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) and will enter its fourth round in July. "This incident has reduced the level of trust in the peace process which to date has won [considerable] support", said the chairperson of FPDRA's central organisational committee.

Ananda further added that the incident proves that the conflicting parties' control over their troops is weak. "This proves that [their] control over their troops is extremely weak", he explained without saying which party was responsible for the first shooting incident since the December 23 tsunami.

As reported on the Aceh Kita web site, the TNI (armed forces), Indonesian police and GAM have all denied responsibility for the incident. What is clear said Ananda, is that information on the incident is being restricted. Even for journalists it has been difficult to get information from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). FPDRA and SMUR are therefore urging the government to form an independent team to investigate the shooting.

Ananda is worried that the incident will become a reason for the government to isolate ie close Aceh again and for security reasons foreign volunteers may be asked to leave Aceh. "If Aceh is isolated again, the chances for peace will close again. Because, it was the tsunami disaster which inspired the international community to support the peace process there", Ananda said at a press conference which took place at the offices of the Commission for Missing Person's and Victims of Violence (Kontras) in Jakarta today. "The fact is that peace is one of the requirements for [successfully] implementing the process of reconstruction and rehabilitation".

IFRC spokesperson Virgil Grandfield said meanwhile, that Eva was shot while trying to distribute aid to Lamno. At the time, the Hong Kong Red Cross volunteer was transporting aid in the form of food, provisions for infants and mosquito nets.

During the journey however, at a village some 3.8 kilometers from the centre of the Lamno sub-district, Eva, who was driving a white Toyota Land Cruiser with Red Cross markings was shot by around six to eight people. "[Her] condition a the moments is very grave. There is almost no ray of hope", he said. "There were only around two houses near the location of the incident. They were surrounded by rice paddies", explained Grandfield when Aceh Kita spoke with him at the IFRC's offices on Jalan Fatahillah in Banda Aceh today. [sam]

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Army harassment compounds the misery of tsunami victims

The Independent (UK) - June 25, 2005

Kathy Marks, Gle Bruk, Aceh -- The Acehnese fishermen had just returned with their catch and were on their way back to the refugee camp. As they passed a security post, soldiers barred their way and ordered them to lie face down on the ground. The men were then told to crawl through the dust. Their ordeal ended with a lecture on the virtues of the Indonesian unitary state.

It was an exercise in ritual humiliation, but it could have been worse. Troops have reportedly been beating up refugees, stealing their food aid and forbidding them from returning home to their villages. Young men have been plucked from their families and shot dead, their bodies dumped in ditches.

Sadly, this is standard fare in Aceh, where the Indonesian military (TNI) has been fighting the separatist Free Aceh Movement, known as GAM, for three decades. The difference now is that international attention is focused on the province, and hundreds of foreign aid workers are milling about. So the 35,000 troops stationed here are learning to be a little more discreet.

One result of the tsunami, which devastated Aceh six months ago tomorrow, was that the outside world woke up to a dirty little war that few people knew or cared about before. Peace talks were revived, and the former US president Bill Clinton, who visited last month to assess progress in rebuilding, said the conflict needed to be resolved.

While the TNI has been helping with relief operations, it has also reverted to its old ways. Indeed, the disaster has made it easier to intimidate locals, who are concentrated in crowded camps and temporary wooden "barracks".

Many Acehnese have refused to move to the barracks. In the past they have been forcibly relocated from villages by troops pursuing GAM fighters. Moreover, some barracks are situated next to military camps. A few days ago, the TNI carried out a "sweep" of four barracks near the village of Gle Bruk, on Aceh's west coast. The communal buzz of cooking, washing and gossiping abruptly subsided when the soldiers appeared. One man, Ruzli, visibly stiffened. "They say they're looking for GAM, but they're just making trouble," he said.

In the TNI's informal rulebook, anyone believed to be sympathetic to the guerrillas is fair game to be roughed up or killed. The proof could be as trivial as a packet of cigarettes found in a pocket, clearly destined for delivery to GAM.

In Gle Bruk, chilli and corn farmers say the TNI has banned them from working their land, for reasons that remain unclear. The men shrug and accept it. Most quietly say they support GAM -- not because they want independence, but they believe cutting ties with Jakarta is the only way to get rid of the troops.

The peace process had been stalled since May 2003, when marshal law was declared. This year government and GAM negotiators have held four rounds of talks in Helsinki, Finland, and will meet again next month. Some in Aceh dare to hope a deal could be struck, ending a conflict that has claimed 14,000 lives. But not the TNI, which has publicly scoffed at the prospect of peace. Indeed, the military -- which runs illegal logging and smuggling rackets in Aceh -- would lose much.

An informal truce was announced after the tsunami, but it did not last long. There have been skirmishes almost every day, and last month a seven-year-old child died after being caught in crossfire. The military says it has killed 230 rebels since Boxing Day. Locals and human rights groups claim that many of the victims were civilians.

The TNI's new commander in Aceh, Major-General Supiadin, told The Jakarta Post last week that military forces had never committed a single human rights violation in the province. Asked about the impact of the tsunami, he replied: "Heart wrenching is the loss of firearms and ammunition, buried under the sand."

Aid workers told to get escorts

Jakarta Post - June 25, 2005

Jakarta -- The police urged foreign aid workers in Aceh to secure a police escort when traveling in areas where separatist rebels are known to operate.

"It is important that foreigners ask for a security escort," National Police Chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar explained.

"Maybe many foreigners feel they are safe, but GAM (rebels) could launch an attack any place, any time," he said referring to the local acronym of the Free Aceh Movement rebel group, which has been fighting for the independence of the oil-rich province for the past three decades.

Da'i made the call after a Hong Kong woman working for the Red Cross in Aceh was shot and wounded while traveling to an aid distribution point. Da'i claimed that areas on the outskirts of the provincial capital Banda Aceh, Pidie and East Aceh were prone to attacks by GAM.

The Hong Kong aid worker, Eva Yeung, was hit by a bullet while traveling to Lamno, 55 kilometers south of Banda Aceh, in a marked International Committee for the Red Cross vehicle on Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, AFP reported on Friday that Yeung, 28, was in a stable condition in intensive care at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, where she had been evacuated for medical treatment, surgeon Tan Chong Tien said.

Indonesian security authorities immediately blamed separatist rebels for the shooting, however, GAM military commander Muzakkir Manaf denied that his men were involved, and instead suggested the military was to blame.

Fifteen gamblers caned in Muslim Indonesia

Associated Press - June 24, 2005

Irwan Firdaus -- Fifteen convicted gamblers were flogged Friday for illegal gaming in Indonesia -- the first time caning was used as punishment in the world's most populous Muslim country.

After traditional Friday prayers, the 15 convicts were brought to a stage erected outside a mosque, where about 600 people gathered to watch in Bireun, a town in the semiautonomous Aceh region.

Religious officials wearing masks to conceal their identities struck the men on their backs with rattan canes. The blows did not break the skin and the men did not appear in extreme pain. At least one smiled and laughed during the caning. "I am ready to be punished, but what about everyone else, including big time corruptors and thieves?" said Zakaria, 60, the oldest man beaten. "They should also be whipped."

Aceh, a highly conservative region, enjoys semi-autonomy from the central government because of a long-running Islamic insurgency.

Indonesia has a policy of secularism, and attempts by religious hard-liners to have Islamic Sharia law, including corporal punishment, adopted nationally have failed. But Aceh implemented a version of Sharia in 2001 under a special autonomy package offered by the government to try to defuse its Islamic rebellion.

Many observers view Friday's punishments as an attempt by the government to undercut support for the rebels. The rebels say they don't support corporal punishment.

Corruption is rife in Aceh, and some commentators questioned why the men, all of whom were poor traders or laborers caught gambling small amounts of money, were chosen to be punished.

"The eyes of the law should look at the crimes against humanity perpetrated against the Acehnese people during military operations, not just gambling," the Koran Tempo newspaper said in an editorial. "This is not justice." Accusations of corruption surfaced before Friday's canings. Several of those beaten said they had paid the equivalent of $50 to a prosecutor to escape the punishment.

The prosecutor, Erwin Nasution, acknowledged to reporters he received the money, but said it was "a gesture of thanks from the men because the sentence had been formally passed down." Other Indonesian neighbors, such as Singapore and Malaysia, use canings as punishments for a variety of crimes.

Questions over tsunami aid spending

ABC Lateline - June 24, 2005

Reporter: Tom Iggulden

Maxine McKew: This weekend marks six months since the Boxing Day tsunami. The worst hit area was the Indonesian province of Aceh, where almost 250,000 people lost their lives. Australia responded to the tragedy with unprecedented generosity, the Government announcing a record $1 billion in aid. But as the people of Aceh continue the struggle to rebuild their lives, Tom Iggulden reports there are questions over where the money is being spent.

Tom Iggulden: It was a disaster of unimaginable proportions and six months on, life in Aceh is still a daily battle for survival. And the response from the Federal Government matched the magnitude of the catastrophe.

John Howard, Prime Minister: $1 billion Australian will be made available in an aid package to involve the reconstruction and development of Indonesia.

Tom Iggulden: Travelling to Aceh to inspect the damage for himself, the Prime Minister took the opportunity to reinforce Australia's generosity.

John Howard: We want to help. We want to work with you to heal the sick and to comfort as best we can those who've lost so much and to help about rebuilding this part of Indonesia. And that is why Australia has committed its largest-ever amount of foreign aid.

Tom Iggulden: Despite those words, the Government was careful both then and now, to stress that not all of the aid would be spent directly on Aceh.

Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs: And the logic of that is that the tsunami, obviously, not just devastated northern Sumatra, but the tsunami is a big setback to the Indonesian economy.

Tom Iggulden: But there are questions about exactly how much of the Australian Government's generosity will go to those who suffered the most. Should Australian taxpayers be concerned about where the billion dollars of promised aid is going in Indonesia?

Tim O'Connor, Aidwatch: I think Australian taxpayers have good reason to be concerned at this stage. Of their total money that's been allocated, through the Australia-Indonesia partnership for reconstruction and development just $50 million of that money has been dedicated to Aceh. And we see that as a bit of a concern -- that money may be used for other reasons that may have some merit, but certainly aren't tsunami-related.

Tom Iggulden: Figures released to Lateline this afternoon from the Foreign Affairs Department show where the Government's priorities lie. It's allocated $177 million from the $1 billion promised, with just over a quarter of that going directly to the rehabilitation of Aceh. The other three quarters is being spent on general economic programs across all of Indonesia. A third will go to a scholarship program for Indonesian students. Another $50 million -- the same amount as is being spent on Aceh -- to a government exchange program. And the remaining money on other spending.

Tim O'Connor: We think a lot more money should be being dedicated to the people of Aceh. There's huge need there in areas of housing, general infrastructure. Many people still haven't got access to reliable food sources.

Alexander Downer: We are getting into the process of those projects being set up. Look, obviously that takes a bit of time. There are details that have to be worked out sometimes between the Australians and the Indonesians, there are contracts that have to be let and obviously that takes time.

Tom Iggulden: Mr Downer refused to confirm whether Aceh would get even half of the $1 billion over the 5-year life of the program, saying much depended on what others were doing to help the province.

Alexander Downer: A very high percentage of this money could be spent in Aceh. But that's not necessarily true. It's going to depend very much on how much NGOs do, how much other governments do and, importantly, how much the Indonesian Government does.

Tom Iggulden: Today the United Nations said up to 180,000 new houses were needed for the 400,000 people made homeless by the tsunami.

Tom Iggulden, Lateline.

GAM demands international probe into shooting

Associated Press - June 23, 2005

Slobodan Lekic, Jakarta -- Aceh's separatist rebels called Friday for an international probe into the shooting of a Red Cross worker in the tsunami-hit province, saying the Indonesian military has a long history of using violence against foreigners.

Authorities immediately blamed guerrillas of the Free Aceh Movement for the incident Wednesday night, when unidentified gunmen opened fire at a vehicle of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The rebels have denied any involvement.

A bullet struck Eva Yeung, a 28-year-old resident of Hong Kong, in the neck. She was evacuated to Singapore where she was reported to be in stable condition.

Yeung was the first foreigner injured in Aceh since the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the province of 4.1 million people on the northern tip of Sumatra island.

"Indonesia has already blamed us for the incident," rebel commander Muzakkir Manaf said in a statement. "But according to reports from my commanders in the area, none of our fighters were within 15 kilometers of the incident. There was also no armed clash, as Indonesia claims. However, Indonesian troops do patrol the area day and night."

The statement said the rebels have never targeted foreigners, but accused Indonesian forces of often using violence against them in Aceh and elsewhere in the country. "The (rebel) armed forces demand a full and immediate impartial investigation of the shooting," the statement said.

Two years ago, troops shot dead a German tourist while he was sleeping on a beach in Aceh. Security forces also jailed a Scottish academic and an American nurse who were helping victims of torture in the war-torn region.

Three months ago, Jakarta expelled from Aceh the UN refugee agency, which it blamed for undermining Indonesian rule in East Timor.

East Timor broke free of Indonesia -- which had occupied the province for 24 years -- after its people voted overwhelmingly for independence in a UN referendum in 1999. In retaliation, Indonesian troops and their proxy militias went on a rampage n which at least 1,400 people died, including three foreign aid UN workers.

"For years, we Acehnese and foreign human rights groups have called for an international investigation into the grave human rights abuses committed in our troubled homeland," Manaf's statement said. "Sadly, it has taken the tsunami to bring the world here. We Acehnese want the world to stay."

Fighting in Aceh has been going on intermittently since 1870, when Dutch colonial troops occupied the independent sultanate. The latest round of fighting began in 1976. The rebels want a UN-supervised independence referendum like the one that ended Indonesian rule in East Timor.

Immediately after the natural disaster, rebel forces announced a unilateral ceasefire, but Indonesian commanders vowed to continue prosecuting the war despite a peace process that has brought the two sides to the negotiating table in Finland. The next round of talks is scheduled for July.

Kalla under fire for rebuking Lemhannas

Jakarta Post - June 23, 2005

Tony Hotland, Jakarta -- Legislators lashed out at Vice President Jusuf Kalla on Wednesday for reprimanding a state defense institute for criticizing the ongoing Aceh peace talks. The legislators even claimed that the reprimand could endanger democracy.

An opposite opinion, however, came from a legislator of Kalla's Golkar Party, who said the rebuke was just common.

Kalla reprimanded National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas) Governor Ermaya Suradinata on Tuesday for urging a halt to the peace talks, which Kalla is promoting to end decades of conflict in Aceh. Ermaya expressed his opinion during a hearing with legislators on Monday.

Ermaya said Lemhanas deemed the talks with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), which has been seeking independence since 1976, were unconstitutional and would only help GAM internationalize the issue.

Legislator Permadi from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), which sees itself as the opposition in the House, said Kalla's reprimand ran contrary to freedom of speech, which was a core principle of democracy.

"Kalla crossed the line. Lemhanas is an independent body despite the fact that it comes under the head of state, and Kalla shouldn't have made such an arbitrary statement. Different views are allowed," he said.

Permadi said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono should warn his deputy to avoid any recurrence.

A similar sentiment was raised by Effendi Choirie from the National Awakening Party (PKB), who said that Lemhanas should be free from political intervention.

"Lemhanas is an independent body that studies various issues. If it gets reprimanded for holding dissenting views, its independence will be compromised. Others may become reluctant to voice different views if this kind of behavior is permitted," he said.

Effendi criticized Kalla's response to the Lemhanas governor's statements, adding that the President should be tougher with his aides. "The President is the one responsible for the direction taken by the country. He should warn everyone, including the Vice President, if they act improperly," he said.

Shidki Wahab from President Susilo's Democrat Party said Kalla had acted "unethically" and was hindering democracy. "President Susilo should talk to Lemhanas and also the National Defense Board (which was also represented during the hearing), to hear from them what the real situation is," he said.

Golkar legislator Afifuddin Thaib, however, was of the opinion that Lemhanas should have consulted with the President first before making its views public.

"As it's positioned under the President, it must coordinate first with the President on its work before announcing its views, especially to legislators. It could also get more comprehensive data from the President to complete its work," he said.

The government, meanwhile, is set to press ahead with the fifth round of talks with GAM in July, with one negotiator saying that only two issues remained unsettled.

"The two issues still on the table are the creation of local political parties and the reelection of councillors, both of which are impossible. But I'm still optimistic," said Indonesia's chief negotiator, Hamid Awaluddin, on Wednesday.

Hamid, who is also the Minister of Justice and Human Rights, said the issue of Aceh's administrative status was also close to resolution. GAM has asked for self-governing territory status for Aceh.

"It's only a question of semantics. It's not independence, but special autonomy. But we're working to fully settle this issue," he said.

 West Papua

One policy on Papua needed

Jakarta Post - June 27, 2005

Neles Tebay, Urbaniana, Rome -- Last week, Vice President Jusuf Kalla visited West Irian Jaya. where he acknowledged the province continues to lack a strong legal base. During the visit, the vice president, who is also the head of the Golkar party, was accompanied by Golkar's candidate for the governor of the province.

He delivered two messages there: First, the visit indicated that the Golkar party, under Kalla's leadership, is committed to maintaining the province of West Irian Jaya, despite its contradiction with law no.21/2001 on special autonomy for Papua province and the amended Constitution.

Second, the visit reflects the split between President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Kalla.

The President considers the Papuan autonomy law a solution and, thus, remains committed to implementing the law. His commitment alone should oblige the vice president and the Cabinet to implement the law.

Kalla's visit to West Irian Jaya province conveys conflicting messages. Instead of supporting the Papuan autonomy law, Kalla insists on maintaining the province of West Irian Jaya. He even wants to nominate a Golkar party candidate as governor of the province.

The vice president is not alone. He is supported by some powerful institutions and government officials, including the home affairs minister and Golkar. They can inhibit at any time the President's efforts to implement the Papuan autonomy law.

There are two consequences to this: First, the split between the President and the vice president will creates difficulties for Indonesian foreign diplomacy.

From 2001 until the present, the foreign minister has been telling the international community that the Indonesian government is committed to implementing the Papuan autonomy law. The minister, therefore, has repeatedly asked foreign governments not to support the Papuan separatist movement but the Papuan autonomy law if they are truly committed to maintaining Indonesia's territorial integrity.

So far, the foreign minister has been successful, because the United States, the European Union (EU), and the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) have explicitly expressed support for the full and proper implementation of the Papuan autonomy law, as a manifestation of their support of Indonesian territorial integrity.

However, the vice president's commitment to maintaining the province of West Irian Jaya could generate confusion among foreign governments. They might well ask themselves: As the implementation of the Papuan autonomy law is not fully supported by the central government, except by President Susilo, what would be the use of supporting the law? As a result, while continuing to support Indonesian territorial integrity the foreign governments could withdraw their support for the Papuan autonomy law. However this would not mean the foreign countries supported the Papuan movement for independence.

Second, non-governmental organizations around the world who are united in international solidarity groups for West Papua will use the split between the President and vice president as well as the inconsistency in implementing the Papuan autonomy law as ammunition in lobbying their respective governments.

In order to maintain international support for the law, three things need to be emphasized: First, the Indonesian government should be faithful to the Constitution of the nation and its own laws, including the Papuan autonomy law. For violating the Constitution and the law, whatever justifications are given, can only result in confusion and conflict.

Second, implementing the Papuan autonomy law is not only the duty of the central government but also of the Papuans. Hence, the government should involve the Papuans in determining the most appropriate way to implement the law.

Third, to prevent the worst-case scenario, the central government and Papuans need to engage in peaceful talks on how to implement properly, fully and effectively, Law no 21/2001 on special autonomy for Papua.

The central government's proposal for a third party to facilitate the talks would meet with the approval and support of the Papuans and the international community.

[The writer is a post-graduate student at Pontifical University in Urbaniana, Rome. He can be reached at nelestebay@hotmail.com.]

Yorrys Raweyai running for governor

Laksamana.Net - June 24, 2005

Yorrys Raweyai, a former leader of one of the country's most feared thugs-for-hire groups, has registered himself as a candidate for the governorship of West Irian Jaya province.

Reports said Yorrys and his running mate Abdul M. Killian were nominated by Golkar Party and two smaller parties for next month's gubernatorial election.

Yorrys, of ethnic Chinese and Papuan background, was well known in the 1990s as deputy leader of Pemuda Pancasila, a youth organization that ran protection rackets and often carried out the dirty work of the military during former dictator Suharto's regime.

Pemuda Pancasila, which gained notoriety for attacking pro- democracy groups, provoking violence and bribing people to vote for Golkar, has lost much of its power in the underworld following the fall of Suharto in 1998. In 2001, members of the group formed their own political party, the Pancasila Patriots' Party, which came 15th out of the 24 parties that contested the 2004 general election, winning 0.95% of the vote and no seats in parliament.

Yorrys has remained a member of Golkar and is now a leader of the party's Youth Movement (AMPG).

He and Killian registered as candidates on Friday (24/6/05) in the provincial capital Manokwari. Killian is currently a member of the Papua legislative assembly and the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR).

Friday was the deadline for the registration of candidates in next month's direct gubernatorial election in the remote province. Only three pairs of candidates have registered.

The first pair is retired brigadier general Abraham Octovianus Atururi and Rohimin Kacong, who were nominated by former president Megawati Sukarnoputri's Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP). Atururi is the incumbent governor of the province. The second pair is former Papua province secretary Dortheis 'Dicky' Asmuruf and Ali Caspela. Asmuruf is the former secretary of Papua province.

Strong support, same faces

Yorrys and Killian were greeted by a large crowd of enthusiastic supporters upon their arrival Manokwari's Rendani Airport. Hundreds of cheering and singing supporters lined the 6 kilometer route as the candidates were driven in an open vehicle to the local parliament building. Their vehicle was accompanied by a noisy parade of many cars and motorbikes.

After completing the registration process and shaking hands with supporters and local government officials, Yorrys expressed confidence he would win the election, based on Golkar's landslide victory in West Irian Jaya in the April 2004 general election.

"Furthermore, we are also supported by two other parties with significant positions, they are the Prosperous Peace Party [PDS] and Indonesia Unity Party [PSI]," he was quoted as saying by detikcom online news portal.

Asked about his policies, Yorrys said improving law enforcement was the key to achieving clean governance. He also promised to increase public health and education services.

Many of the people on hand to support Yorrys wore traditional attire. Detikcom reported that most of the supporters had also showed up to support the two other pairs of candidates at previous rallies.

"They are the same people. When the other pairs of candidates had their parades of support, these same people also participated in the processions," said one driver hired by the campaign team of Yorrys.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who is also Golkar chairman, visited Manokwari earlier this month to attend a meeting in which Yorrys was nominated as the party's candidate for governor. Kalla said Golkar remained the most popular political party throughout Papua because it had always kept its promises.

Yorrys has been accused of supplying funds to Papuan pro- independence leader, the late Theys Eluay, to create a 7,000- member militia group called Satgas Papua (Papua Task Force). Analysts feared the militia group would be used to conduct attacks that could allow the military to justify taking deadly retaliation against locals.

In April 2000, Yorrys was detained as a suspect in the July 27, 1996, government-sponsored attack on the Jakarta headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI). Several people were killed in the attack that sparked massive riots. Yorrys was released in May 2000, ostensibly due to insufficient evidence and never taken to court.

In December 2001, police said Suharto's youngest son Hutomo 'Tommy' Mandala Putra had complained to investigators that Yorrys had reneged on a promise to safeguard him while he was wanted for murder, despite having been paid $5 million. Pemuda Pancasila denied the allegation, claiming Yorrys had never accepted any money from Tommy while he was a fugitive.

West Irian Jaya province was created from the western part of Papua province in February 2003. It covers the Bird's Head Peninsula and surrounding islands. The split remains controversial, with supporters claiming the creation of the new province will lead to efficient management of resources and fair distribution of services. Opponents say the split violates Papua's special autonomy legislation and merely serves to quell separatism and accelerate illegal logging.

The Constitutional Court in November 2004 agreed that the split violated Papua's autonomy legislation, but ruled that because West Irian Jaya had already been created, it should remain separate from Papua.

Papua council changes name

Jakarta Post - June 23, 2005

Jayapura -- The Papua provincial council officially changed its name to the Papua People's Representative Council in a plenary session on Wednesday. The change, based on Law No. 21/2001 on Papua's special autonomy, was marked by the unveiling of a new placard outside the council building by the province's deputy governor Constant Karma.

Council deputy speaker Paskalis Kosay said the change opened up the way for executives and councillors to set up regulations governing the Papua People's Assembly (MRP).

Papua Governor JP Solossa is scheduled to install the MRP's 44 members in September this year, ahead of the province's election of regional heads in October. The MRP will select the candidates running for the elections.

 Human rights/law

Judicial system lacks strong leadership, proper oversight

Jakarta Post - June 30, 2005

There is widespread public frustration over the contentious verdicts recently handed down by the district courts and Supreme Court in trying several high-profile cases. Noted lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis spoke with The Jakarta Post's Ridwan Max Sijabat about the corrupt judiciary.

Question: Why does the judiciary system still produce controversial verdicts amid the ongoing reform?

Answer: The reform in the judiciary system is not based on a clear concept. The Supreme Court has several justices appointed after a thorough screening process. Meanwhile, high courts and district courts also have young, dedicated judges, but they cannot develop well because they are not supported by a judiciary system or working climate that are conducive to producing fair verdicts.

What is wrong with the court system?

The development concept in the judiciary system has failed to address all the challenges, and so we see the public's frustration over the frequent miscarriages of justice.

For instance, public frustration has emerged from the slow process of the legal proceeding from the district court to the Supreme Court due to the chronic shortages of judges and the backlogs of cases.

The recruitment of more justices will not solve the problem because the Supreme Court receives appeal cases from district courts, the religious court, the military court, the State Administrative Court, the anticorruption court, the trade court and the labor court.

The public frustration cannot be addressed under such a condition.

A selection process is needed to filter out the kinds of cases that can be brought to the Supreme Court. Certain cases such as separation cases, debt cases and other minor ones should stop at the high court level to avoid backlogs of cases in the Supreme Court.

Are there other factors that make people frustrated with the judiciary system?

The bureaucratic culture is still a key feature of the Indonesian court system and this has contributed to the slow processing of cases.

If the Supreme Court is committed to creating a clean and fair judiciary system, it should call all related parties and the unscrupulous judges and clerks to investigate the reports (of wrongdoing) and take actions against them in accordance with the law. It has to adopt more transparency in developing the court system and to regain the people's confidence.

How do you evaluate Chief Justice Bagir Manan's performance

The Supreme Court is also facing a leadership crisis. Being good and brave is not enough. Chief Justice Bagir Manan is a legal scholar and has a breadth of knowledge about law, but he does not have strong leadership skills to run the whole judiciary system.

Under the current condition, the Supreme Court is in dire need of a strong leader who is able to encourage the court to make wise and fair decisions and closely supervise the court system. If needed, the chief justice has to conduct a sting operation to catch corrupt judges and court clerks as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) did in arresting Mulyana Wira Kusumah to reveal the graft case and the alleged corruption in the General Election Commission (KPU).

Bagir Manan will win public support if he is 'creative' in taking such measures, including unconventional steps, to eliminate, or at least to weaken, the court mafia and case brokers.

Although the Supreme Court does not conduct investigations, it should coordinate with the police and the Attorney General's Office to closely supervise case investigations in the two institutions.

What is your comment on the poor payment of law enforcement personnel?

The government should show its political commitment to creating a fair and clean judiciary system by improving the social welfare of law enforcers. But a hike in their wages alone will not eliminate corruption.

The high payment of lawyers and legal consultants cannot be used as an excuse to justify corruption. Law enforcement personnel should have realized from the beginning of their recruitment that they would not be paid as much as lawyers.

What does the government have to do now?

The anticorruption movement the government has embarked upon is a step toward significant progress, but it is not enough, because it is still selective and discriminatory in bringing to court those alleged to be corrupt.

This half-hearted elimination of corruption has raised skepticism among the people and a fundamental question on how far the government will go.

Some people remain skeptical about the anticorruption movement because it was launched only to fulfill his (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) pledge he made during his presidential campaign last year.

The government should bring to court everyone who has allegedly committed corruption regardless of their political or social backgrounds if it is committed to eliminate the culture of corruption.

Freedom of info bill hangs in balance

Jakarta Post - June 30, 2005

Jakarta -- Observers criticized the government on Wednesday for what they see as its lack of commitment to transparency, as evidenced by its failure to respond to a House-drafted freedom of information bill.

"The government apparently prefers to keep information related to the public interest secret," Agus Sudibyo, a researcher with the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information (ISAI), told a discussion.

The House of Representative drafted a freedom of information bill in August 2004 and submitted it to the executive. However, no response has been forthcoming to date.

Agus said that increasing access to information would benefit not only the public, but also the government, whose branches would be able to access information possessed by other branches and thereby, hopefully, improve coordination and teamwork.

The recent reports on childhood malnutrition, Agus said, provided a good example of a failure to share information as between government institutions.

"The National Development Planning Board should have been given direct access to Ministry of Health data on poor nutrition and malnourishment in order to enable the government to take action to prevent the situation from escalating into a crisis," he said.

To promote transparency, the state needed to enact legislation to ensure and guarantee public access to information, Agus said.

Instead of discussing the proposed freedom of information bill with the House, however, the government has instead been promoting its own official secrets bill, which critics fear will make public access to information even more difficult.

Another panelist, Djoko Susilo, a member of House Commission I, said a House plenary session on July 8 was expected to pen in the freedom of information bill for deliberation during the next session of House.

"But it all depends on whether the head of the state will send a government delegate to take part in the deliberations," Djoko said.

Djoko said a prolonged delay in the deliberation of the bill would spark fear among the general public of a return authoritarianism.

Munir case still far from over

Jakarta Post - June 28, 2005

Eva C. Komandjaja and Muninggar Sri Saraswati, Jakarta -- The fact-finding team probing last year's murder of human rights campaigner Munir has completed its work and submitted a report of its findings to the President, but it is unlikely that the high- profile case will be solved quickly.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono did not immediately order the National Police to follow up the team's report that named several National Intelligence Agency (BIN) officials as suspects in the murder.

Instead, Susilo distributed copies of the report to National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar, Indonesian Military chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, BIN head Syamsir Siregar and Minister of Justice and Human Rights Hamid Awaluddin, to study.

"A meeting will be held to discuss and review the report (with the President)," Cabinet Secretary Sudi Silalahi said here on Monday.

Da'i Bachtiar promised last week that he would form a team to follow up the recommendations given by the government-sanctioned team in order to speed up the investigation into Munir's case.

However, National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Zainuri Lubis told The Jakarta Post on Monday that there was no sign that such a police team would be set up soon.

"We've been busy preparing for the Bhayangkara (National Police's anniversary) Day in the last few days," Zainuri said.

Apart from the police's anniversary celebration, the replacement of Da'i by Comr. Gen. Sutanto may further delay the investigation into Munir's death.

Sutanto, the current director of the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), is expected to replace Da'i ahead of or during the anniversary day on July 1.

The fact-finding team has said several BIN agents were involved in the Munir case but refused to name them. However, the report submitted to the President reportedly mentioned their names.

The report was completed, even though former BIN chief Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono and several of his former subordinates defied summonses for questioning by the team.

Munir, who was a cofounder of two human rights organizations Kontras and Imparsial, died aboard a Garuda Indonesia flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam on Sept. 7 last year.

An autopsy conducted by Dutch authorities revealed that Munir died due to arsenic poisoning. The police have only named Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto -- who is alleged to be a BIN agent -- flight attendants Oedi Irianto and Yeti Susmiyarti as suspects.

Separately, Garuda's lawyer Mohammad Assegaf said that there was no new evidence found in the reconstruction of Munir's murder on board a Garuda plane from Jakarta to Amsterdam.

The case reenactment was held on Friday in a hangar belonging to the Garuda maintenance facility at the Soekarno Hatta airport, and was closed to the public.

Assegaf said that there was simply no connection between his client, Pollycarpus, and Munir's poisoning since Pollycarpus' role in the flight was only to offer his business class seat to Munir during the first leg of the flight from Jakarta to Singapore.

"I believe the police have difficulty linking Pollycarpus to the poisoning. Besides, the food and drink trolley was sealed shut in the flight, so there was no possibility that Oedi and Yeti or even Pollycarpus could have put poison into Munir's meal," Assegaf argued.

Plot alleged in death of Indonesian activist

Washington Post - June 25, 2005

Alan Sipress, Jakarta -- The fatal, midair poisoning last year of Indonesia's best-known human rights campaigner, Munir Said Thalib, was a plot by operatives from the country's spy agency, according to members of a presidential commission probing the September murder.

Police Brig. Gen. Marsudhi Hanafi, who heads the commission, said last week that investigators had obtained a document detailing plans at Indonesia's State Intelligence Agency to kill Munir and uncovered telephone records showing calls between numbers of a suspect in the murder and an official at the agency.

The commission has focused in the last month on a deputy director of the spy agency, commonly known by its Indonesian initials BIN, Hanafi said. Commission investigators discovered more than two dozen calls placed between the telephone numbers of the murder suspect and a deputy director. The content of the conversations is unknown, Hanafi and other commission members said. They said the calls were made in the weeks before and after Munir's death.

"We believe this is an abuse of power in BIN," Hanafi said. "These people used BIN's power, authority and facilities to carry out this operation." The deputy director, Maj. Gen. Muchdi Purwopranjono, and other BIN officials have said in published news interviews that they did not know the suspect.

Human rights advocates have long accused Indonesia's security forces, including the spy agency, of atrocities. But in recent years, BIN has won quiet praise from US officials for cooperating with the CIA in tracking down Muslim extremists, including several linked to al Qaeda.

Munir, 38, a frequent critic of the security forces, fell sick aboard an overnight Garuda Indonesia flight a few hours after leaving Jakarta and died before reaching his destination, Amsterdam. An autopsy two months later in the Netherlands found he had ingested a highly lethal dose of arsenic, setting off a major murder investigation. In March, Indonesian police arrested Pollycarpus Budihari Priyatno, an off-duty Garuda pilot who had given Munir his business class seat on the flight, and charged him with being an accomplice to murder. Pollycarpus acknowledged in an interview in March that he invited Munir to sit in business class but said he was not involved in the crime. His attorney denied that Pollycarpus worked for BIN and said Pollycarpus was not involved in Munir's death. Hanafi said investigators now believe Pollycarpus did not poison Munir. "He only opened the gate," Hanafi said.

Pollycarpus is in police detention. Police said they were preparing a criminal file with several counts against him, to be turned over to prosecutors for trial.

Dutch forensic investigators reported after an autopsy that Munir had ingested 465 milligrams of arsenic, more than three times a lethal dose. Indonesian police suspect that the arsenic was slipped into Munir's food or drink that he was served in the business class section.

When investigators confiscated Pollycarpus's cell phone and examined the list of dialed numbers, there was one they couldn't trace, two other commission members said. An operator told them the number was not listed as being in service, they said. The president of Indonesia's national telephone company said in a meeting with investigators at corporate headquarters last month that he was baffled, the commission members said.

But finally, after extensive sleuthing, technical experts at the phone company managed to identify the number, commissioners said. They said it was a confidential line inside the office of Muchdi, BIN's deputy director for agent mobilization. Pollycarpus had called the confidential telephone line in Muchdi's personal office at BIN six times, commission members said.

Further examination of the cell phone and other telephone records revealed that calls were placed between Pollycarpus's and Muchdi's telephones about 26 times both before and after Munir's death, Hanafi said in an interview. Among these, telephone records showed that multiple calls had been placed to Pollycarpus's number from Muchdi's personal mobile telephone.

"This is extraordinary," Hanafi said. "It was very surprising to us." Muchdi, a former head of Indonesian army special forces, recently retired from the spy agency and has declined two requests to appear before the commission, officials said. But he told police that he never called Pollycarpus, explaining that his cell phone may have been used by someone else, police said.

An associate of Muchdi who works as his media liaison said the retired general would be willing to discuss the case sometime in the future but did not say when.

In an interview published this month in Ekspos magazine, Muchdi denied that either he or BIN was involved in the murder. "Both are wrongful accusations," he said. "It was neither officials nor the institution." He repeated that he did not know Pollycarpus and had never called him. "My cell phone is often used by people close to me. So I don't really know if they made a phone call and what conversation they had," Muchdi said.

After tracking these telephone calls, investigators in the last few days obtained an internal security agency document describing the in-flight assassination as one of four plots put in motion by BIN operatives to kill Munir, each with a specific team assigned to carry them out, Hanafi said.

The special commission has also sought to question Col. Bambang Irawan, a retired Indonesian special forces officer who a witness identified as being on that same flight but whose name did not appear on the passenger list. Irawan was a BIN operative, according to Hanafi and two other commission members.

Hanafi said the commission has evidence that Irawan and Pollycarpus were acquaintances and frequently traveled together. Irawan could not be located for comment. A spokesman for the Indonesian army said military officers had also tried unsuccessfully to contact him.

Investigators are now trying to learn more about another passenger, who sat beside Munir in business class, an elderly chemist who lives in the Netherlands but works as a consultant to an Indonesian company. The commission had also tried to take testimony from the spy agency's former chief, Gen. A.M. Hendropriyono, who resigned from BIN after Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono became president in October.

A.M. Hendropriyono, Indonesia's intelligence chief, has denied that his agency had any involvement. At a news conference this week, he accused Hanafi's commission of overstepping its authority.

But a spokesman for Yudhoyono, who appointed the commission six months ago, expressed complete support for its work. "He appreciates what they've been doing," said spokesman Andi Mallarangeng. "Anybody who is trying to hamper the work of the commission will face the president." Special correspondent Yayu Yuniar contributed to this report.

SBY vows to bring Munir's murderers to court of justice

Jakarta Post - June 25, 2005

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, Jakarta -- The government-sanctioned team assigned to help the police in investigating the murder of prominent human rights activist Munir handed over the report of their six-months of work to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday.

Susilo told the team that he was committed to bring the perpetrators of the murder to justice.

The President said he would hold a meeting on Monday with National Police Chief Gen. Da'i Bakhtiar, Indonesia Military Chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh, Head of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) Syamsir Siregar, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Widodo Adi Sucipto and Minister of Justice and Human Rights Hamid Awaluddin to discuss ways to follow up on the team's report.

"The report will be analyzed to seek alternative steps to follow it up," Cabinet Minister Sudi Silalahi told the press after the closed-door meeting at the Merdeka Palace.

The meeting was attended by all members of the team, including team head Brig. Gen. Marsudhi Hanafi, deputy Asmara Nababan and members Usman Hamid, Rachland Nashidik, Hendardi, Kamala Candra Kirana and Domo Sihite.

The President, however, did not set a deadline for the police to wrap up the investigation into the murder. Sudi said that Susilo is not used to setting deadlines, but he expects it to finish "very soon".

Marsudhi, whose team's mandate expired on Thursday, said that the team would not disclose the report to the public. The report consists of conclusions and recommendations to follow up the investigation.

The team was set up late last year following the murder of Munir on board a Garuda flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam in September. According to the autopsy report, Munir died from arsenic poisoning. The team had previously said that there was no need for another extension of their mandate, saying that the results of their work was sufficient for police to wrap up the case.

Sudi said that Susilo fully appreciated the fact that the team did not find any indication of any involvement by the Indonesian Military. However, he refused to answer as to whether there was any involvement of retired members of the military in the murder of Munir, who had been a strong critic of human rights abuses by the military in the past.

Sudi asserted that the President would let the case be settled by law.

Usman said that the team had recommended that the President put pressure on the Police and the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) to cooperate in the investigation process. "We do not doubt the President, but it remains a question whether government institutions (under the President) support (his) efforts," he said.

Meanwhile, former BIN chief A.M. Hendropriyono met with the Press Council on Friday to complain about reports in several news publications alleging his involvement in the killing of Munir. However, he said he was not considering legal action.

He said he did not expect the Press Council to take any further action, but just to listen to his complaints.

Hendropriyono, who was accompanied by his brother and two children, met with deputy chairman of the council R.H. Siregar and members Leo Batubara, Amir Effendi Siregar, Hinca Panjaitan and Lukas Luwarso.

With regard to the Munir case, Hendropriyono said that media coverage had been unfair. In fact, he said, the press had passed judgment on him in a practice commonly known as "trial by the press."

No BIN role in Munir case: Former chief

Jakarta Post - June 24, 2005

Jakarta -- Former intelligence chief A.M. Hendropriyono denied on Thursday allegations that the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) was involved in the murder of human rights campaigner Munir. "I never ordered the murder. If it is the work of the institution, I should know. (But) if it is the work of individuals at BIN, then let the legal process proceed," Hendropriyono said at The Jakarta Post office on Thursday.

Hendropriyono visited the Post to clarify Thursday's page one story "BIN involved in killing Munir: Team" quoting officials from the government-sanctioned fact-finding team investigating Munir's death, who said that BIN officials were believed to have been involved in the murder.

He said that he had no motivation to kill Munir although they held sharply contrasting views on different issues, including on how to curb terrorism.

"Many may have connected me with the death of Munir because I once urged the authority of this country to produce a tough regulation to curb terrorism, while Munir was against such an idea. Munir had also criticized the intelligence agency in many ways... but it (such criticism) would not give me enough motivation to kill him," Hendropriyono said.

In its report set for submission to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday, the fact-finding team concluded that there was evidence BIN officials were involved in the poisoning of Munir aboard a Garuda flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam on Sept. 7 last year.

The mandate of the team expired on Thursday and it is scheduled to meet the President after Friday prayers.

The report, however, did not definitively state that BIN as an institution was behind the crime, nor did it state how deeply BIN individuals were believed to be involved, or posit any motivation for the murder.

Throughout its investigation, BIN officials had blocked the team's efforts to gain access to documents and to its arms warehouse.

The team had previously attempted to summons Hendropriyono three times for questioning over the case, but the retired four-star Army general refused to respond, describing the team as arrogant and lacking professionalism, and said it had no legal right to question him.

"The team's egotism could actually be worse than that of (former internal security agency) Kopkamtib," he said, pointing out that the legal basis for the team was only a presidential decree, while that of Kopkamptib was based on a law.

Kopkamptib, or the Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order, was an instrument of the military during the New Order regime. The feared agency's officers could summon, arrest, detain and interrogate people deemed to be acting against the regime without an arrest warrant.

In its findings, the fact-finding team suggested the President order the police to launch a full investigation against top BIN officials who were in charge of the agency when Munir died. Hendropriyono was the head of BIN at the time of Munir's murder.

He stressed that he would respond to any police summons. "I will respond to the police. I would be violating the law if I didn't respond to the police, or even to (National Commission of Human Rights) Komnas HAM," he said.

"Do you all know the reason why? Because the police and Komnas HAM have the authority to do so (summon me). They have the law as their legal basis, not merely a Presidential Decree. Indeed, I have voluntarily come to the police to clarify my position on the case," Hendropriyono said, referring to his visit to the Police Headquarters on June 11.

Investigators say spy agency involved in activist's death

Agence France Presse - June 23, 2005

A team investigating the arsenic poisoning death of a top Indonesian human rights campaigner has found indications of involvement of the state intelligence agency, a rights activist said Thursday.

"Based on everything we have obtained, the agency is believed to have played a major role in a well-planned conspiracy to murder Munir," Asmara Nababan, deputy chairman of the fact-finding team, told AFP.

Rights activist Munir, who like many Indonesians has only one name, died while on a flight to the Netherland in September. An autopsy by Dutch authorities found a lethal dose of arsenic in his blood.

The team was due to submit its final report -- which, according ot Nababan, contained names of individuals who should be made to account for Munir's death -- to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono later Thursday.

However, he said the team could not clearly state whether the powerful agency had either committed "an institutional crime" or how far its personnel were involved in the outspoken activist's death. "We have the names of people who have played key roles, but we cannot determine how far is their involvement in the murder," Nababan said.

The team, established by presidential decree, is tasked with helping police in their investigation but has no power to charge or arrest suspects.

Police have detained a Garuda Indonesia pilot, Pollycarpus Priyanto, and two cabin crew who served food to the activist, as suspects.

Another member of the team, Munarman, told AFP that the team had evidence that Priyanto was in frequent telephone contact with several members of the intelligence agency "before and after" Munir's death.

But he said it was the job of the police to find out if the communication had anything to do with Munir's death.

"We look for facts and give them to police," said Munarman. "We hope they will follow up our report by bringing these people to justice." Rights activists have long suspected Priyanto of being an intelligence agent. The agency's former chief, retired general Abdullah Hendropriyono, has refused to answer a summons from the fact-finding team, accusing it of arrogance.

Munarman said police should follow up his team's report by "directly questioning" Hendropriyono and several of his deputies -- particularly Muchdi Purwopranjono, the former chief of the army special forces unit.

Purwopranjono was one of three high-ranking officers in the elite force who was discharged in 1998 after several of his men were sentenced to jail for abducting 13 activists between 1997 and 1998.

Activists, including Munir, have speculated that the 13 have been killed. Eight people who were held by Muchdi's men have testified of torture.

Munir, 38, was a dynamic activist who began work in the 1990s, providing legal counsel for victims of officially-sanctioned violence and repression during president Suharto's 32-year rule that ended in 1998.

 Labour issues

Child labor a 'multidimensional' problem

Jakarta Post - June 28, 2005

Jakarta -- Hendra, an 11-year-old street beggar and trash collector, stays silent and stares at the sky when asked whether he wants to continue his education.

He has given up on his dream of sitting in a classroom since his parents moved out of Jasinga in Bogor to Jakarta three years ago. The move forced him to quit after just two years of elementary school.

Now he spends his mornings helping his father collect garbage and his afternoons singing at an intersection in the Senayan area of Central Jakarta for small change.

Getting Hendra and 7 million other Indonesian child laborers back in school is more complex than simply providing enough chairs for them, according to a national seminar jointly organized by the International Labor Organization and the National Development Planning Board on Monday.

Hendra comes from a family of six, who are dependent on the extra Rp 30,000 (US$3.1) income he collects from handouts on the streets -- as is the case for most of the other Indonesian children who have been forced into work due to poverty.

The seminar on Monday was aimed at seeking guidelines for the implementation of a National Strategic Action Plan to eradicate the worst forms of child labor by 2009.

For the last few years, the government has planned a two-pronged program, which combines efforts to decrease the number of out-of-school children by providing transitional education grants and an informal education program with efforts to build capacity among poor families through job-training and capital provision.

In its latest survey, ILO found that one in five school-aged children from poor families had no access to education and experienced various kinds of exploitation at work -- both in the formal and informal sectors.

"Child labor is a multi-dimensional problem, which cannot be resolved solely by the education authorities," Irwanto, an expert on child labor explained.

He asserted that the form of education provided for child laborers must consider several factors.

"They lack nutrition, are already exhausted from work, lost what they learned previously and some do not see the importance of education," Irwanto said.

Therefore, he suggested that the format of education for the children be time-flexible, provide only the necessary life- skills, vocational and basic studies, and adopt a more experimental approach.

Irwanto pointed out several past failures where a large amount of donated money had been pumped into programs that were not sustainable.

"There were only 12 child laborers left in school at the end of the program, after it began with 70, because there was no cooperation with the parents, the employers or the children themselves," he said.

Ahmad Marzuki from the Child Labor Network (Jarak) said that forms of education for the children should be specified according to the characteristics of their work. The intervention method to approach the children should also differ from that targeting labor-prone children to actual child laborers.

"For those who are out of school and likely looking for work, we still can send them to school," he said. "But, a child working in a factory cannot be forced to take full-time classes." Ahmad emphasized the need for an integrated intervention, which would include compulsory education, poverty eradication and social services.

Meanwhile, ILO country representative Alan Boulton said that a decrease in school fees would help bring the child laborers back to school.

"Most of them are at work because their parents could not afford to pay for their school fees," he said.

The Ministry of National Education has claimed that compulsory education is free of charge for children from poor families. However, the promised funding for schools to provide such free education will only be delivered in August at the earliest, while the new academic year will start in July.

Timber, textile sectors suffer massive job losses

Jakarta Post - June 24, 2005

Zakki P. Hakim, Jakarta -- The Central Statistics Agency (BPS)'s recent labor survey has revealed that the wood and textile weaving industries have lost about 500,000 and 300,000 jobs respectively last year.

The two industries were the main contributors to the shrinking total number of jobs in the country's manufacturing sector, which dropped from 11.50 million in 2003 to 11.07 million last year, according to the 2004 National Labor Force Survey (Sakernas).

Head of the BPS workforce sub-directorate Aden Gultom said that wood industries, in which the number of jobs dropped to 1.1 million last year from 1.6 million in 2003, suffered from the chronic illegal logging problem in Indonesia.

"Industry players could have been reducing their activities to anticipate government measures to curb illegal logging," he told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Industry players had said last month that raw materials had become in short supply as the government intensified measures against illegal logging.

Indonesian Forestry Society (MPI) chairman Sudrajat DP said after years of misconduct, it was hard for manufacturers to determine whether a forest product was legal or not.

Consequently, many manufacturers were trapped into acquiring illegal products and could not use them as the authorities forbid them to do so, he said.

According to Sudrajat, about two-thirds of the country's 115 wood-based industries had collapsed, mostly due to Indonesia's high cost economy and aging machinery, and at the same time they could not compete against more efficient China and Malaysia.

The industry has complained that smugglers take Indonesian logs and sell it cheaply to similar industries abroad. In contrast, prices of the same raw materials at home becomes expensive due to the decreasing quota.

The country saw its wood products exports fall from US$3.28 billion in 2003 to $3.17 billion last year, which accounts for about 6 percent of Indonesia's total non-oil and gas exports.

Meanwhile, although textiles remained the country's top export commodity, reaching $7.60 billion last year, the sector also had to bear massive job losses.

Aden said jobs in the textile weaving industry were reduced to 1.1 million last year from 1.4 million the previous year.

The country's textile industry has been struggling to overcome problems with aging machinery, and had received minimal support from local banks. The government has been trying to convince banks that the sector was bankable, despite the textile sector's image as a sunset industry.

Industry players, however, admitted that they were facing tougher competition from better prepared China and India, while they become less competitive due to, among other things, unfavorable labor regulations.

Separately, National Development Planning Board (Bappenas) chairwoman Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the overall manufacturing sector had yet to regain its past role in absorbing excess workers from other sectors, such as agriculture, due to rigid labor regulations.

"Our labor policies haven't changed," she told the Post.

The agriculture sector, meanwhile, lost almost three million jobs last year mostly in food crops and horticulture.

But Aden said the trade and construction sectors could have absorbed excess workers from the agriculture and manufacturing sectors.

The trade sector absorbed an additional 600,000 vendors and 700,000 itinerate vendors to reach 14.1 million and 2.7 million respectively last year. Meanwhile, housing projects employed 4.2 million construction workers last year, providing new 400,000 jobs compared to the previous year.

Unemployment rate among housewives on the rise: BPS

Jakarta Post - June 23, 2005

Zakki P. Hakim, Jakarta -- With unemployment on the increase, more women described themselves last year as housewives, the latest labor data reveals.

The 2004 National Labor Force Survey (Sakernas), published by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), shows that in 2004 about 30 million women described themselves as home-makers, up by 1.17 million from 2003's figures, a report obtained recently by The Jakarta Post says.

Aden Gultom, head of the BPS workforce directorate, speculated that an improving economy could have lead to the increase.

"The economy improved, thus the women might have felt they were secure and could rely solely on the man in the family in terms of income. On the other hand, it could be that the competition to get a job has become so tight to a level that it has discouraged women to look for work," Aden told the Post, adding that further studies would be needed to identify the likely reason for the increase.

The report says that out of the 30.24 million unemployed women last year, almost two-thirds of them had primary school educations or less, while only about 1 percent were university graduates.

About 16 percent of the total female workforce was aged between 15 and 24, the age bracket of those entering the workforce for the first time.

Aden said that in the traditional Indonesian family, women, unlike men, were not expected to find work to provide extra income for their families, although they often did so.

In 2004, the country of 220 million population had about 153.92 million of people at working age but only 103.97 million were recorded as employed full-time.

Many of the remaining 50 million were still at school and many more were those categorized as non-working women caring for families.

None of these categories were included in the country's 2004 open unemployment rate of 9.86 percent, up slightly from 9.67 percent in 2003.

Separately, Australian-based Roy Morgan Research revealed that despite the frequent talk of gender equality across the nation, many Indonesians, both men and women, still believed that a woman's place was in the home.

The company found that this view was much less popular among men or women with higher educations. "The bottom line is that education plays a major role (in determining attitudes about women)," Roy Morgan general manager Felicia Nugroho told the Post on Wednesday.

However, as the BPS report revealed, the job conditions a majority of the nation's working women are experiencing could also be deterring others from seeking work.

Out of the 33.14 million working women in the country last year, BPS survey showed that almost half of them were poor agricultural workers, many of them in insecure jobs where income was only guaranteed if the harvest went well.

Two-thirds of the women peasants, or some 9.56 million people, were working in demanding physical jobs in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Jobless women who did not describe themselves as housewives, meanwhile, numbered 4.91 million last year, the survey said.

 Land/rural issues

Thousands of farmers protest new land decree

Jakarta Post - June 30, 2005

Thousands of farmers protest in the streets, carrying a large banner reading, "Land reform or SBY (President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono) resign", during a rally in Jakarta. During the protest, President Susilo's convoy drove past the police cordon guarding the protesters.

They protested on Wednesday against controversial new land regulations that allow the government to acquire land for public development projects at a price determined by the taxable value of the land instead of the market price.

The protesters, mostly farmers from West Java, started their rally outside the Merdeka Palace and continued on to the nearby Supreme Court and Constitutional Court.

They later marched to the House of Representatives before dispersing peacefully.

"We demand that Presidential Regulation No. 36/2005 on land be revoked and the land ownership system be reformed so as to give justice for the people," said protest organizer Saiful Bahri from the Pasundan Farmers' Association (SPP).

He said the land regulation could create a new source of problems that would undermine the interests of farmers.

The protesters also questioned the definition of "public interest" as stated in the regulation, which they said could be easily manipulated in the interests of private developers.

Another protest coordinator Muhammad Nurdin, who is the Indonesian Farmers' Alliance (API) secretary general, was quoted by Antara as saying the new land regulation was an "extension of the hand of economic capitalists" to control the life of the people.

Earlier, human rights and environmental activists voiced their objections to the new regulations, saying it was liable to abuse due to the obscure definition of public interest.

Similar protests also took place in South Sulawesi and Southeast Sulawesi on Wednesday.

However, the government has insisted that it will not revoke the regulation.

Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng said the mounting demonstrations against the new land decree flared up because people had been traumatized by past experience, where authorities evicted landowners on the pretext of the public interest, but in the end the land was used for commercial buildings, such as malls.

"I see it as a trauma from the past authoritarian rule," he said, responding to the protests.

 Regional elections

Major party nominees sweep elections for local leaders

Jakarta Post - June 29, 2005

Jakarta -- The strongest political parties flexed their muscles in the direct elections of regional heads across the country, with their nominees becoming democratically elected leaders in the landmark elections.

In Central Java, out of the 11 newly elected leaders in the mayoral and regental elections, which started on June 5, seven of them were won by incumbents -- of which five gained support from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). Three other incumbents lost.

The five are Kebumen Regent Rustriningsih, Kendal Regent Hendy Boedoro, Sukoharjo Regent Bambang Riyanto, Magelang Mayor Fahriyanto and Purbalingga Regent Triyono Budi Sasongko.

Two others -- Blora regent Basuki Widodo from the Golkar Party and Semarang Mayor Sukawi Sutarip, who is now supported by the National Mandate Party (PAN), the United Development Party (PPP), National Awakening Party (PKB) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) -- formerly was with PDI-P.

According to political observer Nur Hidayat Sardini of the Semarang-based University of Diponegoro, the regents and mayors won the elections because they had been "campaigning" for five years during their terms in office, something that newcomers could not compete against.

"They (the incumbents) became well-known. No matter what parties they came from, people didn't care. Just like Sukawi Sutarip in Semarang. He used to be supported by PDI-P and he's a PDI-P member. When PDI-P refused to support him, the party's people in the villages still supported him," Nur Hidayat said.

However, the incumbents, whose policies were not popular among their people, would not garner the votes and lost in the elections, he said.

"People are smart now. They can be given money, but at the voting time, they will vote for the one they favor. Money can't buy them," Nur Hidayat said.

In West Sumatra, the pair of Gamawan Fauzi-Marlis Rahman looks likely to become the province's governor and deputy governor for the 2005-2010 term after winning 46.71 percent of the provisionally counted votes on Tuesday.

Head of the West Sumatra Election Committee, Muftie Syarfie, predicted that the pair would win, although only 50 percent of the overall 2.9 million votes had been tallied. He estimated that from the registered 2.9 million voters, only 70 percent cast their vote.

The pair, which was nominated by PDI-P and the Crescent Star Party (PBB), received the most votes in 12 of the province's 19 regencies and municipalities.

In Solok regency where Gamawan, the recipient of the Bung Hatta Anti Corruption Award 2005, served as a regent and Solok mayor, won 79.6 percent and 74.5 percent of votes, respectively in those areas.

In Bandarlampung, PKS's candidates Abdul Hakim-Zainal Iskandar was still leading the count with 22.93 percent as of 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

They were closely followed by Eddy Sutrisno-Kherlani (PDI-P) with 22.35 percent; and Sjachrazad Z.P.-Rudy Syawal (Golkar) with 20,99 percent.

With such a close result, the election might be repeated, with Bandarlampung Election Committee member Nizwar Affandi saying it might take 21 days to prepare for the second round election.

"We plan to hold plenary meetings to determine the result on Wednesday and on the second round election preparation the next day," Nizwar said.

In Surabaya, counting at the Surabaya Election Committee showed that 50 percent, or around a million of 1.9 registered voters, did not cast their votes in the city's mayoral election on Monday. Just hours after the election, the incumbent Bambang Dwi Hartono had a commanding lead in the provisional vote.

Communication observer from Media Consumers Foundation, Henry Subiyakto, blamed the lack of familiarization of the elections for people's reluctance to vote.

"The election committee only informed people of the time to vote, not telling people how the election would benefit them," Henry said.

Local elections peaceful despite threats, delays

Jakarta Post - June 28, 2005

Jakarta -- Poll cancellations, protests and rumors of clashes disrupted the landmark direct local leadership elections in some of the country's regencies and municipalities on Monday.

In North Sumatra, the election in Sibolga municipality had to be postponed to allow the completion of voter registration. The province had earlier been scheduled to hold elections in 13 regencies and municipalities, including Medan city.

Earlier, the election in Binjai city also appeared set to be put on hold following protests by some unregistered voters on Sunday. On Monday morning, however, the Binjai Election Committee decided to go ahead with the election despite a boycott by three of the four tickets contesting the poll.

Low voter turnout was recorded during the Medan mayoral election. At Polling Station No. 25 in Tanjung Gusta, Helvetia district, only 80 out of 158 registered voters bothered to cast their votes.

"Compared to the previous legislative and presidential elections, people's interest in this election is very low. I don't know why," said Syamsuri Usman, head of the polling station committee.

In the Central Java town of Surakarta, the city was deserted as many businesses remained closed for election day.

Even busy Coyudan street, famed for its gold and jewelry stores, and the popular Klewer market were closed following rumors there would be clashes between supporters of the rival candidates standing for mayor and deputy mayor.

As of 7 p.m. on Monday, however, the city was still peaceful, with the Joko Widodo-Rudy Hadiyatmo ticket (nominated by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle/PDIP) leading the field with 19,911 votes (40.79 percent).

They were followed by the Hardono-Dipokusumo ticket (nominated by the Golkar Party) with 13,290 votes; the Achmad Purnomo-Istar Yuliadi ticket (National Mandate Party/PAN) with 13,255 votes; and Slamet Suryanto-Henky Nartosabdo, nominated by a coalition of small parties, with 2,356 votes.

In South Sulawesi, elections proceeded smoothly in 10 regencies on Monday, although protests were staged in several regencies by voters who lacked registration cards or were not on the official voter lists.

In Gowa regency, the local election committee had to set up special voting booths in 16 districts to accommodate some 3,500 unlisted voters. It also had to photocopy ballot papers as there were not enough original papers for all 377,031 registered voters.

Protests erupted at a polling station in Soppeng when it turned out that many of the voters were actually children.

In the Bandarlampung mayoral election, a quick count conducted by the Lampung Rectors Forum produced a surprise with the Eddy Sutrisno-Kherlani ticket (PDIP) leading the field on 23.87 percent of the votes.

They were closely followed by two other tickets -- Abdul Hakim- Zainal Iskandar (Prosperous Justice Party/PKS) with 22.59 percent, and Sjachrazad Z.P.-Rudy Syawal (Golkar Party) with 21.53 percent. A total of six tickets were contesting the election.

In West Sumatra, where polls were held in 10 regencies and municipalities on Monday, hundreds of voters in Pasaman regency found that their names had been omitted from the register.

As predicted, the Zulkifli Nurdin-Anthony Zedra Abidin ticket appeared set to win in the Jambi gubernatorial election. Zulkifli was Jambi governor from 1999 to 2004.

As of noon on Monday, the Jambi Provincial Election Committee said the pair had garnered 370,117 votes out of the 464,578 votes cast. The electorate in Jambi numbered some 1.8 million people.

In Yogyakarta, the incumbent regent of Sleman, Ibnu Subiyanto, and former Bantul regent Idham Samawi appeared likely to win the elections in their respective regencies.

Early returns showed that Ibnu Subiyanto of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle had taken 195,646 votes, or 39.48 percent of the total of 495,599 valid votes counted by the Sleman Election Committee. Meanwhile, Idham Samawi, also of the PDIP, had taken 347,310 votes, or 73.07 percent of the total of 475,308 valid votes.

Money politics mars Surabaya's election for mayor

Jakarta Post - June 27, 2005

Harry Bhaskara, Surabaya -- Some 1.9 million Surabayans will head for the polling booths today to vote for their city's first directly elected mayor. The poll is part of sweeping changes in the country's election system, a product of the 1998 political earthquake that forced president Soeharto to quit after 32 years of authoritarian rule.

Heads of local governments will now be elected soon after their terms expire, though debates are yet to be settled over the election of governors in areas with special status, such as Yogyakarta and Jakarta.

Following the country's first direct presidential election in October, more than 200 government heads from provincial to subdistrict level are contesting regional posts this year, beginning with Kutai Kartanegara regency in East Kalimantan last month.

Unlike the furor leading up to the presidential election in October, the mood in the country's second-largest city in the weeks prior to the election has been subdued. Only the occasional gatherings and brief campaign speeches of candidates followed by much longer programs of entertainment are reminders that an election is underway.

Voters, meanwhile, are deserting the city in droves. On Friday night, two days before the poll, thousands of Surabayans left town, anticipating the long weekend which coincides with the start of the school holidays. It was unclear whether many planned to return on Monday to cast their votes or whether they would just ignore their first pilkada, the acronym for the regional direct elections.

It is unclear whether the latest surveys, which predict the number of people expected not to vote would be between 7.8 and 8.8 percent, a rosy turnout of more than 90 percent, had taken this into account. Not so bright are the prospects of a problem- free vote. Three days prior to the election the election supervisory committee (panwaslu) described its preparations as "chaotic." Beset by numerous problems, including the wrong addresses being found in voters' cards and the issuance of cards to the deceased, the organizers, however, said they believed they can overcome these difficulties by polling day.

Observers of the poll, meanwhile, have criticized the candidates contesting the election as lacking in substance, and worry that the newly democratized structure will also democratize corruption.

Departing from past authoritarian practices where heads of governments were mostly top-down appointments, today's election has put political parties into important positions.

No aspirant can become a candidate without the endorsement of political party, and candidates for the post of Surabaya mayor are said to have paid billions of rupiah, or hundreds of thousands of US dollars, to secure nominations. One politician, who did not want to be named, accused of the parties of extortion but, somewhat bizarrely, admitted to paying the bribes -- Rp 50 million a day to the party for the two-week campaign period -- part of the Rp 3.32 billion raised to contest the poll.

Voters, meanwhile, are left with many questions. They rightly wonder where the candidates' money came from and, as importantly, how they will recoup this money if they win. One candidate openly acknowledged that he borrowed hundreds of million of rupiah to fund his campaign programs, while it is not unusual to learn top officials have become filthy rich at the end of their terms.

In most cases in regional elections the incumbents have the advantage. In Surabaya's case this means Bambang DH and Arif Afandi, his deputy. The two, who are running on the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) ticket, are set for a fight with Alisjahbana and Wahyudin Husein, of the National Awakening Party (PKB) -- their closest rivals according to a latest survey -- along with Erlangga and AH Thony, of the Democratic Party (PD) and the National Mandate Party (PAN) respectively, and Gatot Sudjito and Benyamin Hilly, from the Golkar Party and the Prosperous Democratic Party (PDS).

The above survey results in the East Java capital perfectly reflect the political map of the entire province, which is a traditional PDI-P/PKB stronghold.

Of all the candidates, only one pair has clearly promised to fight corruption, a widely acknowledged social ill in regional governments: Gatot and Benyamin. Unfortunately survey results show they are the lowest polling candidates.

The Alisjahbana-Wahyudin pair has promised to spend Rp 250 billion in loans for the unemployed without interest. Although businessman Wahyudin is the richest candidate with a declared wealth of Rp 35.2 billion, the question remains, where will all the money for those loans come from? And there are numerous other pertinent issues to be addressed in this industrial city, including education and health, which mean that whoever wins, they will have their work cut out.

Vote buying tarnishes Yogyakarta elections

Jakarta Post - June 27, 2005

Slamet Susanto, Yogyakarta -- Allegations of money politics and unethical campaigning have overshadowed direct local leadership elections in three regencies of Yogyakarta province on Sunday.

However, the polls, which were simultaneously held in the regencies of Bantul, Sleman and Gunungkidul, generally passed off peacefully and smoothly.

At least 11 people were arrested for involvement in money politics in an attempt to ensure victory for their preferred candidates, said Sleman election monitoring body member Ro'mi Habie.

"The number of suspects could increase as incidences of money politics took place in all 17 districts across Sleman regency. We have reported these cases to the police," he said.

Ro'mi explained that the incidences of money politics were all similar in nature, with campaign teams handing out cash to potential voters, normally just a day or a couple of hours before the polling stations opened.

In some cases, candidates held so-called "thanksgiving ceremonies", where the guests/potential voters were given money and food, and then asked to vote for the candidate hosting the ceremony, he added.

As for unethical campaigning, Ro'mi said the election monitoring body had found many leaflets circulating that contained statements calculated to insult or defame particular candidates.

As an example, he said there were leaflets circulating that had purportedly been issued by the Yogyakarta governor and sultan, Hamengkubuwono X, which urged people not to vote for Ibnu Subiyakto, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's candidate for regent in Sleman.

In Bantul, texting services were being widely used to try to influence voters by tarnishing the images of particular candidates, and even offering money in return not to make public purported or imaginary graft cases.

These messages had also been received by polling station committee members and journalists.

The messages mostly read "How much money do you want for not exposing my graft case," or "If you need money, please contact my wife".

"This is a crime and also constitutes defamation. Therefore, we have given the names of those whom we suspect to the police. If a campaign team is found guilty, the candidate will be disqualified," Ro'mi said.

Meanwhile in Gunungkidul, many voters abstained from voting due to widespread apathy and a lack of confidence that the candidates would bring about any meaningful changes in people's lives.


God's role in our anti-corruption war

Jakarta Post - June 27, 2005

Kornelius Purba -- Each of three of our director generals has his own way of responding to criticism on corruption and poor- governance practices in their offices.

From putting the case into God's hands, to asking the public to refrain from bribery, to threatening to sue accusers who are unable to come up with proof.

Which course is the most threatening? Which one could actually work? The Ministry of Trade's director general of domestic trade Ardiansyah Parman's method of defending his ministry against critics sparked laughter from retail businesspeople last Monday.

Nevertheless, his reply was a fundamental one, particularly for the devout.

When the trade official mentioned God, the businesspeople who were attending a seminar sniggered among themselves. Is there something wrong with being religious? When responding to criticism against his ministry's poor performance in protecting small-scale retailers against giant retailers, such as Carrefour, Ardiansyah insisted that the government had done everything in its power to ensure fair business practices, including the provision of laws and government regulations.

A participant alleged that Minister of Trade Mari Pangestu had no interest in helping small-scale retailers.

The senior official told his critics they had no business evaluating the results of his ministry's hard work, arguing that, "Judging the results is the territory of God".

As having a religion is required in Indonesia -- though unfortunately the Ministry of Religious Affairs is one of the most corrupt ministries here -- all Indonesians are expected to follow Ardiansyah's advice.

Meanwhile, Director General of Customs and Excise Eddy Abdurrahman offers a much more effective -- according to him -- way of combating corruption: Stop bribing his officials.

In responding to the findings of the World Bank and the University of Indonesia's Institute for Economic and Social Research -- that last year alone importers had to pay about Rp 7 trillion (US$800 million) in illegal fees to Eddy's officials -- he simply asked importers, "to refuse (to give money) if asked by customs and excise officials".

According to Chatib Basri from the University of Indonesia, the survey was based on fact and not perception. "Report to me directly, where, when it (extortion) happened and what is the case," Eddy boasted.

If you have trouble putting your faith in Eddy, dial his number; though naturally it would be nothing short of a miracle if he personally picked up the phone.

Expressing doubts over the accuracy of the survey results, which were announced on Friday, Eddy warned that the director general of tax had once come up against a similar case. Eddy is clearly more merciful to critics than his colleague at the tax office.

In April, outspoken economist, former coordinating minister for the economy, and former state minister of national development planning Kwik Kian Gie was forced to put an open apology in Kompas daily to the director general of tax for failing to prove his allegation that corruption was rampant in the tax office. Kwik's allegation had been printed by Kompas.

"Therefore, through this advertisement, I, Kwik Kian Gie, convey my apologies to the directorate general of tax. It is an error that will not be repeated," Kwik wrote.

It is regrettable that Kwik did not cite former People's Consultative Assembly speaker Amien Rais' description of corruption in the advertisement. "Corruption is like a fart, you can smell it, but cannot see it."

Millions of people would stand up and applaud if the tax director general, Hadi Purnomo, proved Kwik to be wrong by presenting evidence that his office is corruption-free and that all office employees depend on their salaries as civil servants alone. And that none of those employees have cars, savings or houses, the value of which is much higher than their official income.

Among the three, who takes a more humane approach in responding to criticism: Ardiansyah, Eddy or Hadi? Ardiansyah's way seems simple, but how should we access God's judgment, through the Ministry of Religious Affairs? Wouldn't the ministry officials tamper with God's message? At any rate, at least Ardiansyah's way is a peaceful one. Eddy's appeal not to bribe his officials is certainly amusing, and helps us to make peace with the extorters. For your own peace of mind, better to take his advice with a grain of salt.

And how about Hadi's way of dealing with Kwik? Kwik knows the best answer to this question.

Supreme Court urged to act against corrupt judiciary

Jakarta Post - June 25, 2005

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta -- A renowned legal practitioner has called on the Supreme Court to awake from its long sleep and take measures against the corrupt judiciary system as part of the ongoing nationwide anticorruption drive.

Todung Mulya Lubis told The Jakarta Post here on Friday that the Supreme Court should not wait for complaints and reports from the public but rather had to be proactive and closely supervise the judicial process, especially when it involved high-profile trials.

"The recent cases of Nurdin Halid, Adiguna Sutowo and Tengku Syaifuddin Popon show strong indications that the court mafia truly exists, and the Supreme Court has to take measures to eliminate it," he said.

He said the Supreme Court apparently did not care that citizens were disappointed with recent contentious decisions courts had made in high-profile cases.

Nurdin Halid, an official of the Golkar Party and chairman of the Indonesian Distribution Cooperative (KDI), was acquitted of corruption charges this month.

Adiguna, who faced a life sentence for shooting dead Yohannes Rudy Nathong, a university student and bartender at the Hilton Hotel, only received seven years jail.

Meanwhile, Syaifuddin Popon was caught red-handed by investigators trying to bribe a Jakarta High Court clerk apparently in a bid to influence the court's ruling against Abdullah Puteh, the former governor of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, who was sentenced to 10 years jail by the antigraft court for corruption. Ironically, the appeals court upheld the earlier ruling.

Todung, also a human rights activist, said the controversial verdicts were made under a corrupt judicial system and went contrary to the law and to citizen's sense of justice.

He said the court mafia really existed, but it was very difficult to provide hard evidence of its existence.

He said that whenever judges handed down controversial verdicts it could reasonably be assumed that bribery was involved.

"The recent arrest of Popon, who was caught red-handed giving Rp 250 million to a clerk of the Jakarta High Court, is an indication that giving bribes to lobby judges and other law enforcers is a common practice in the judiciary system," Todung said.

Separately, Kaman Sijabat, a lawyer at law firm Kaman Sijabat & Partners, concurred, saying giving bribes to judicial officers has been a "public secret" for years in this country.

He said he has handled hundreds of cases over the last several years and only a few have required payments and gratuities to law enforcers and court staff.

"Lawyers have been forced to give bribes to pursue their clients' interests. They pay the police to let their clients go, they pay prosecutors to negotiate sentences, or they pay court clerks and judges to overlook their clients' sins," he said, adding that law enforcers often created conditions that meant that those implicated in high-profile cases and their lawyers had no other choice than to give bribes.

Todung and Kaman were of the same opinion, saying that the Supreme Court was too slow in responding to public complaints and criticism of the systematic corrupt practices in the courts.

"Besides conducting regular supervision, the Supreme Court should respond quickly to public complaints and criticism on any controversial court verdicts by deploying a special inquiry team to check the bank accounts of judges trying the cases," Todung said.

Both also complained that the Supreme Court was not transparent when dealing with public reports of graft cases in the district courts and High Court.

Indonesian haj pilgrims feel they are ripped off

Jakarta Post - June 24, 2005

Hera Diani, Jakarta -- It seems that agnostics will have the last laugh, with the highly spiritual haj pilgrimage in this country being defiled by fraud and embezzlement.

But there is nothing funny about the emerging corruption case involving Rp 684 billion in haj pilgrimage funds at the Ministry of Religious Affairs. The House of Representatives has also found indications that in all probability much more money than this has been embezzled over the years.

Meanwhile, haj pilgrims themselves have long complained about the lack of transparency and accountability in the details of the haj pilgrimage fee.

Lukman Hakim Nyakne of the haj pilgrimage guidance group (KBIH) Iskandariah said each pilgrim must pay an obligatory fee of US$316 to the ministry, ostensibly for transportation in several worship places in Arafah and Medina.

"Over the past two years, however, each pilgrim must deposit US$2,670. Two months afterwards, however, the ministry gives the money back to the pilgrim, minus $316. This is questionable, because why then does all the money have to be deposited in the first place?" Lukman told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

When this matter was confirmed with the ministry, a spokesman gave a confusing response, saying that the money was retained in order to give the same treatment for pilgrims on the regular package scheme and the special package scheme.

"They said that it's regulated in the Ministry's decree so I guess there's not much that we can do," Lukman said.

Owner of KBIH Wakaf Madani, Zainun Kamal, said that there are also other levies imposed on pilgrims, such as one referred to as zakat, and an employee welfare fee.

"There have never been any explanations about these fees," said Zainun, a lecturer at Paramadina University.

He also questioned why pilgrims were compelled to pay the haj fee of around Rp 26 million (around $2,700) one or two years in advance.

"If pilgrims don't meet the quota, then the money is given back. But it takes a long time (to return), up to six months," Zainun said.

Another problem raised was that the services provided to pilgrims in the Holy Land turn out to be substandard and not worth the money spent. Pilgrims often compare with pilgrims from neighboring countries, particularly Malaysia, who pay less than Indonesian pilgrims but who get much better service.

Malaysian pilgrims, for instance, were housed in areas close to the Grand Mosque in Mecca and accommodated in good quality dormitories.

Endah Soekarsono, who went on her pilgrimage last December, said that the apartment she lived in was nice and comfortable, but it was indeed very far from worship places.

"Every single day, however, we were given meals consisting of rice and string beans. Whereas with the same money we paid we could have got much better," said Endah, an editor at the Femina group, who went on a regular haj package scheme.

The toughest thing, she said, was in one of the worship places called Mina, where there were 74 tents with 40 people in each, with only 40 toilets available for the 2,960 pilgrims.

"During my visit, a colleague made a calculation of the total haj cost, and he found that the cost should have been only $2,552 instead of the total $2,881 we paid," Endah said.

She tried to see the silver lining, however, saying that the shortcomings in the spiritual journey were a lesson to shed one's ego.

With all the problems, Zainun urged the ministry to privatize haj pilgrimage management instead of controlling the whole system.

He believed that privatization would reduce the costs and improve the services.

Lukman, meanwhile, thought that due to the high number of pilgrims each year, the government still needed to maintain control over management.

"The private sector is not necessarily corruption free, which means government should also control them. But the government must manage the haj system professionally and transparently," he said.

Money talks in corrupt judiciary: Public

Jakarta Post - June 24, 2005

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta -- A career woman expressed her frustration when the justice system did not side with her, with police ignored her demand that a truck belonging to a businessman be confiscated pending a court verdict to settle their dispute.

Kristina, an employee of a private bank, said the police's decision to let the truck re-operate after crashing into her car went against her sense of justice.

An investigator at the East Jakarta traffic police unit who handled the case eventually conceded that he had received a payment from the businessman in exchange for issuing the operation permit. The officer said the money was given to improve police welfare.

The woman admitted to having paid a considerable amount of money to obtain the police permit to release her badly-damaged car for repairs. Police had seized the car as evidence. Kristina said she had to pay an East Jakarta District Court clerk Rp 250,000 just to get a copy of the court verdict, in which the truck driver was sentenced to one year in jail for negligence that led to the accident. She said she needed the copy as evidence in order to file a civil lawsuit against the driver's employer and demand compensation for her damaged car.

Another woman, Sulastri (not her real name), shared a similar experience when was recently asked to pay Rp 4 million to a judge in exchange for his "assistance" in speeding up the hearing of her separation lawsuit against her husband.

"I could not avoid paying the judges who have slowed down the separation process. I want to divorce my husband as it will make me feel better," she told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

A clerk at the Central Jakarta District Court, who asked for anonymity, said that money was more important than the law in the judiciary system and it was just a reality that justice and court services could be bought by rich "justice seekers".

"Adiguna Sutowo is the latest example. He faced a life sentence for shooting a bartender to death and not admitting his wrongdoing, got only seven years in jail," he said.

The clerk said bribing law enforcers was a common practice in the country's judiciary system.

A reliable source at the East Jakarta prosecutor's office said that justice remained a dream for justice seekers.

"Our judiciary system has been affected by the corrupt culture in our society. Law enforcers are corrupt because they are underpaid, causing them to abuse their power to enable them support their family and send their children to school," he said.

He said a junior attorney stationed in Jakarta would be willing to take the risk of being dismissed for taking a bribe because they would not be able to survive otherwise in the city.

The source also said many prosecutors frequently abused their power in order to obtain additional income to cover their daily needs in performing their official duties.

"Many prosecutors, for instance, have to pay couriers to deliver summons letters to witnesses and to cover the latter's transportation costs to ensure that they show up in court," he said.

 Focus on Jakarta

As free as motorcyclists

Jakarta Post - June 25, 2005

Drivers in Jakarta need to be even more heedful and patient on the streets these days as they are full of speeding motorcyclists who invariably violate almost every traffic regulation that exists. Worse, most motorcyclists exhibit a strange habit of protesting or challenging car drivers who are just upset due to their dangerous behavior and maneuvers on the street.

Crossroads are now becoming danger zones as motorcyclists usually go straight through the red light, braving the flow of vehicles from the other direction. Drivers must be also more careful even driving in the correct lane as there are times when a speeding motorcycle suddenly appears from the opposite direction in the same lane.

Saturday night has become a special night out for motorcyclists who join clubs according to the make of their motorbike. They usually ride in a large group around the city, challenging the traffic by making a road block so cars cannot enter. The motorcyclists are usually angry if a driver honks the horn in protest over their behavior.

The city streets totaling less than 8,000 kilometers in length are crowded by at least 2.5 million motorcycles. A Jakarta-based daily reported the other day that Jakarta is fast becoming city of motorcycles. It's true that the growing number of motorcycles in the capital has become unexpectedly significant.

Financial reasons seem to motivate people to buy a motorcycle. An office boy of a private company said he had just bought a Japanese motorcycle, worth around Rp 12 million, with only Rp 250,000 as a down payment. Several showrooms in Jakarta even offer credit without a down payment.

Riding a motorcycle is much more economical than taking public transportation. With only two liters of fuel (worth less then Rp 5,000), a man living in the town of Tangerang, for instance, can ride to work and back. Motorcycles have also proven the most practical and stealthiest way to crisscross through the congested streets. Using a motorcycle to go to work is also seen as a way to be independent, as one can leave whenever one wants to without having to wait for public transportation, which is seen as uncomfortable and unsafe.

The problem now is the fact that motorcycles have become troublesome to other motorists. Motorcyclists' unpredictable maneuvers, which have frequently caused accidents -- some of them fatal -- pose a serious problem to drivers. No wonder car drivers were glad to hear about the proposal to make special lanes for motorcycles. So far, motorcycles have been restricted from entering the fast lanes on thoroughfares Jl. Sudirman and Jl. Thamrin.

It was Sr. Comr. Djoko Susilo, chief of the Jakarta Traffic Police division who proposed a special lane for motorcycles. The motorcycle lanes are expected to make the traffic more orderly and at the same time help traffic police uphold regulations. "The small fines fail to deter traffic violators and yet make motorcyclists repeat the offense," said Djoko.

While official discussions among relevant institutions have yet to take place and a public debate on the plan is not in the minds of city decision makers, Head of Jakarta Ground Transportation Agency Rustam Effendi has expressed disagreement with the proposed motorcycle lane. He argues that there is no space for the lanes. The existing streets would become narrower once the motorcycle lanes are made, he argues.

Motorcycle lanes are actually only part of a grand scenario to make Jakarta traffic more humane. Motorcycle lanes will mean nothing if law enforcement remains limp.

As many say that the damage has been done, the only remedy to the existing chaotic transportation system in Jakarta is the establishment of an appropriate mass rapid transit (MRT) system. However, the administration prefers toll road construction to establishing an MRT system. The city managers are obviously unaware that constructing new toll roads will only let motorcycles flock the existing non-toll roads.

While Jakartans are puzzled by the administrator's policy on transportation, they might have been more surprised by Governor Sutiyoso's response to the significant increase in the number of motorcycles. "I am concerned (gelisah)," he was quoted as saying by a local daily. Gelisah can mean worried, anxious, upset, bothered or disturbed. Whatever the governor meant by that, he has done nothing to curb the increasing number of motorcycles.

Cooperation is needed with relevant (government) institutions to control the number of motorcycles, and fines should have been given on the street once motorcyclists started to be more aggressively defy regulations. This all means that the city managers have failed to demonstrate a proper vision in solving public transportation problems. And Jakartans will still face the hardship of surviving wild traffic conditions in the next decade, whereas the administrator may just say, "I am bothered and concerned".

60% of public transport vehicles are polluters

Jakarta Post - June 30, 2005

Bambang Nurbianto, Jakarta -- A recent survey revealed that nearly 60 percent of 760 public vehicles taken as a sample in the study produced intolerable emission levels although they have passed the roadworthy test conducted by the Jakarta Transportation Agency.

During roadworthy tests all public vehicles are required to have tolerable exhaust emission levels as stipulated in Gubernatorial Decree No. 1041/2000 on vehicular emission standards.

"The result of the survey shows that vehicular emissions of public vehicles were not checked properly during the roadworthy tests," general affairs officer of the Clean Air Care Generation (GPUB) Dian Hasti told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

The survey was jointly organized from May 30 to June 3 by several clean air campaigning organizations, including the GPUB, Swisscontact's Clean Air Project and the Jakarta Transportation Agency.

Dian said the organizers tested exhaust emissions of 1,020 public vehicles as samples, but they could obtain valid data from only 760 of them -- 213 vehicles had carburetor engines, 39 had fuel- injection engines, and 508 had diesel engines.

The result of the survey also indicated that public vehicles with fuel-injection engines produced the cleanest emission. From 39 total samples of the survey, only the emissions of six vehicles failed to fulfill the existing standards.

Meanwhile, vehicles with a carburetor engine produced the dirtiest emissions. Around 87 percent of 213 such vehicles produced intolerable emissions.

Surprisingly, however, according to the survey, 52 percent of 508 vehicles with diesel engines had exhaust emission levels that complied with acceptable emission standards. Diesel engines produce visible black smoke and are often perceived as the dirtiest of vehicles in terms of emission levels.

According to the Gubernatorial Decree No. 1041/2000, emission standards of motorized vehicles are based on their respective engine system and age.

As an example, the acceptable emission standard of vehicles with carburetor engines produced before 1985 is 4 percent for carbon monoxide (CO) and 1,000 parts per million (ppm) for Hydrocarbon (HC).

Meanwhile, emission standards of vehicles with injection engines produced between 1986 and 1995 are 3 percent for CO, and 600 ppm for HC.

Dian said that the clean air organizations conducted the survey once a year to evaluate the quality of Jakarta's air, which is ranked the third worst in the world after Mexico City and Bangkok.

"We do not see any improvement in air quality in Jakarta from year to year. It means that all stakeholders must work harder," she said.

Currently, only public and cargo vehicles are required to have their vehicular emissions checked, according to Law No. 14/1992 on transportation.

The city approved Bylaw No. 2/2005 on Air Pollution Control in February, which requires all vehicles, including private ones to take emission tests. The bylaw will be effective starting in February next year.


Haze from fires spreads to Malaysian mainland

Agence France Presse - June 27, 2005

A thick haze shrouding Malaysia's tourist island of Penang and caused by fires in neighbouring Indonesia has spread to the mainland, meteorological officials said.

Air quality levels in several towns on mainland Malaysia, across from Penang and extending into northern Perak state, were officially unhealthy, a meteorological official in the Kuala Lumpur bureau told AFP.

An unhealthy reading means the air is likely to irritate eyes or cause sneezing and coughing, and may worsen chronic heart or lung ailments.

Visibility in Prai township was down to three kilometres (two miles) from a normal 10 kilometres, the department said on its website.

The deterioration in air quality was mainly due to the increase of "hot spots" or burning areas on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the meteorological authority said. Department of environment director general Rosnani Ibarahim said about 500 hot spots were raging in Sumatra on Sunday and it was difficult to predict how long the haze would persist.

The haze was being blown over Malaysia by monsoon winds coming from the southwest, she said.

Haze caused by fires in Indonesia and Malaysia is a common occurrence during hot, dry seasons.

In 1997 and 1998 choking haze caused by Indonesian forest fires enveloped parts of Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, for months.

They caused an estimated 9.3 billion dollars in economic losses to the region due to serious health problems, traffic hazards and flight disruptions.

Illegal logging 'public secret' in East Kalimantan

Jakarta Post - June 24, 2005

Rusman, Samarinda -- Junaedi, 32, waited for his illegally bought logs to be hauled out of the Mahakam River in the upper reaches of Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan, where they had been immersed for the past two months. After hours of waiting, the logs were released and dragged up onto the banks of the river, where they were cut up for transportation.

Illegal timber traders are not in a rush to move their logs out of the river. "We received a tip that a government team was monitoring the illegal timber routes. We would rather leave the logs in the river until the situation is secure than risk being caught and having our timber seized," Junaedi told The Jakarta Post.

Since the government set up a task force -- consisting of personnel from the police, prosecutor's office, customs and excise department and forest rangers -- to fight illegal logging in Indonesia, timber traders who illegally buy logs from residents have been forced to play a game of cat and mouse with officials.

The timber traders frequently receive information from one of the officials on the whereabouts and activities of the team. This lets the traders know when it is safe to haul their logs out of the river for transportation out of the area.

The illegal timber trade, in which the logs are cut in the interior of the province, has been going on so long and has become such a part of the area that there is very little about the trade that is secret. "There is no problem between the illegal traders and officials," said Junaedi.

Since the establishment of the task force, the price of timber has soared. One hundred cubic meters of timber that used to cost Rp 40 million now sells for Rp 60 million, said Junaedi. The price of Bengkurai and Ulin wood, in particular, has risen, from Rp 700,000 per cubic meter to Rp 1.1 million per cubic meter.

"The price of timber depends on the expenses of the traders, such as the cost of bribing officials and transportation. But the business is still the main employer for people here," said Junaedi.

It is no secret that many of the officers manning police posts along the illegal logging route in Tenggarong Seberang, Kutai Kartanegara, accept bribes from trucks carrying illegal timber.

Truck drivers stop about 100 meters from the posts, hand over a payoff and then go on their way. The transaction only takes a minute. "It depends on the type of truck. Nowadays, a small truck only has to pay Rp 15,000 and a big one Rp 30,000 to Rp 50,000. We used to give them Rp 5,000," said a truck driver.

Illegal logging has led to massive deforestation in East Kalimantan. The police have stepped up their investigations into illegal logging, uncovering 114 illegal logging cases in 2004 and naming 142 people as suspects. Police also seized as much as 105,000 cubic meters of timber in the province.

The chairman of the East Kalimantan chapter of the Association of Indonesian Forest Concessionaires agreed that illegal logging was out of hand in the province.

He said one of the factors behind the illegal logging was the province's reduced logging quota of 1.5 million cubic meters, far below market demand of five million cubic meters.

"The condition became more critical with the closure of many sawmills because of a lack of logs. The worst thing was all of the workers who were dismissed as a result," he said.

 Health & education

Indonesia gets poor mark in education quality

Jakarta Post - June 30, 2005

Jakarta -- A number of Indonesian students have stolen the limelight in international scientific contests, but in general the country's standard of public education has failed to match that of its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region.

The latest report released by the Asian South Pacific Bureau of Adult Education and the Global Campaign for Education ranked Indonesia 10th among the 14 assessed countries in Asia and the Pacific, with an average score of 42 out of a possible 100, or an E on its commitment to basic education.

Leading the list were Thailand and Malaysia, which both received an A, followed by Sri Lanka with a B. The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia and India were marked between C and F for performing poorly in ensuring access to free and equal, good quality basic education. Indonesia only performed better than Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Pakistan.

The report divided the countries into "class leaders" and "poor performers", using indicators such as access to full basic education, state action for free education, quality input, gender equality and overall equity.

Indonesia received the lowest mark for state action concerning its commitment to eliminating fees for basic education. This indicator measures the prevalence of school fees, textbooks, uniforms and other related expenses, based on a World Bank 2004 survey of 76 countries. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh top the list as they managed to scrap most of the fees imposed on students.

A recent survey on poor families conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) revealed that in Indonesia, an elementary student would need Rp 374,225 (US$39) annually to pay all the fees. A junior high school student would need almost three times that amount.

The Indonesian government has estimated the annual cost of educating an elementary student at Rp 235,000 and Rp 324,500 for a junior high school student, which is built into the state budget for free compulsory education, to be disbursed in the coming academic year.

When it comes to provision of full basic education, which was indicated by drop-out, illiteracy and early childhood education rates, Indonesia scored C.

According to a 2003 national survey, 6.7 percent of 40 million school-age children (seven to 15 years old) dropped out of school, while 1.7 percent of the population had never attended school. Some 67.6 percent of drop-outs said they quit school because their parents could not afford to pay their school fees.

Indonesia received a good rating in access to basic education, but saw a low quality input as indicated by a low teacher-student ratio of 1:62 and an average of $21 per pupil the government allocated annually. In comparison, Malaysia's teacher-student ratio stood at 1:20 with an average of $390 allocated to fund a student's education per year.

Indonesia performed better in gender equality and overall equity in education, with a score of 76 and 67 respectively. Education and gender activist Yanti Muchtar said, however, the marks did not reflect the true condition as they were based on incomplete data. "There have been more girls quitting school than boys, plus two thirds of those who are illiterate are women," she said.

Other activists said the grade given to Indonesia's basic education development assessment was "too generous", while government officials deemed it "too gloomy".

"Susilo must seriously tackle the issue of public education which in fact is not free and is heading to privatization and commercialization. He must work hard to translate into practice the legal guarantee for free public education," Yanti said.

National exam failure rate doubles this year

Jakarta Post - June 30, 2005

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, Jakarta -- In contrast to a reported rise in the average pass grade, the number of students who failed the national final examinations this year rose by almost 100 percent, highlighting a widening gap between provinces in the quality of secondary education.

"Compared to last year, the number of students who failed the national exams has doubled, especially in conflict-prone and geographically isolated areas," the director of the Ministry of National Education's research and development agency, Mansyur Ramly, told a media conference on Wednesday.

However, there was a significant improvement in the average pass grade from 5.32 last year to 6.25. The higher failure rate was mostly contributed to by senior high school students.

This year, the government increased the grade required for a pass by senior high school students to 4.26, up from last year's 4.01. The exams were held earlier this month.

Students who do not pass the national examinations will not be awarded the certificates that they require to continue their studies. Schools, however, are allowed to accept students who failed the exams under certain conditions, such as good marks in math and English.

Those who failed the national exams will be given extra lessons before sitting repeat tests from Aug. 23 through Aug. 25.

"The mechanisms and funding for these will depend on coordination between the regencies and provinces," said the ministry's director general of primary and secondary education, Indra Djati Sidi.

The ministry reported that students in 233 out of 433 regencies in the country scored below the average benchmark for junior high school level (53.8 percent). There were 189 regencies (43.65 percent) where junior high school students were rated below the standard and 183 regencies (42.56 percent) where vocational school students fared below par.

West Kalimantan, South Kalimantan, East Nusa Tenggara, West Nusa Tenggara, Bengkulu and Papua all had more than 26 percent of students failing. Aceh reported a more than 30 percent failure rate, mostly because of the tsunami, which also badly disrupted education there.

The highest failure rates were reported in Pegunungan Bintang and Sarmi regencies in Papua (for the junior and senior high school levels) and Riau Islands regency (for the vocational level).

In order to improve the country's standard of education, this year the education ministry does not propose to apply a grade equalizer, which in the past was used to close the gap in pass rates between more developed and disadvantaged regions. Last year, an equalizer was used as more than half of the students who sat the exams did not pass.

"The decision (to drop the equalizer) is needed to improve the quality of the country's national education," Vice President Jusuf Kalla said after a meeting with education minister Bambang Sudibyo.

The increase in the failure rate was partly blamed on the quality of the country's teachers. The ministry's director general of teaching staff development, Fasli Djalal, said that only between 10 percent and 20 percent of teachers scored above average in competency tests conducted to assess their capabilities.

"All regions have started evaluating their teachers' abilities," he said, adding, however, that so far only 10 percent of teachers nationwide had been assessed.

Fasli added that with the new national education legislation, teachers' competency standards would improve.

"The minimum requirement for teachers is a D4 or S1 education, with an additional 38 to 40 credits in the professional competence subject." D4 programs offer four years of study but no academic title, while an S1 refers to a bachelor's degree awarded by a university.

Fasli explained that currently there were no primary or secondary teachers in the country who satisfied these criteria, and that it would take 15 years to gradually upgrade their abilities through training.

Government withdraws history textbooks

Jakarta Post - June 28, 2005

Jakarta -- A historian has said history can sometimes be "his story". Indonesia's prolonged controversy over the various historical accounts of the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in the 1965 coup could fall into this description.

Recently, the issue surfaced once again following complaints that the latest history curriculum excluded PKI's attempted coup in Madiun, East Java, in 1948 and failed to mention its involvement in the country's 1965 bloodbath.

The complaints have forced Minister of National Education Bambang Sudibyo to withdraw the 2004 history curriculum.

The minister also banned the use of the history textbooks based on the latest curriculum and instead required teachers to temporarily use materials based on the 1994 curriculum.

"It applies to all secondary schools and we are considering issuing a supplement for elementary history textbooks based on the 2004 curriculum," Bambang said on Monday as quoted by Antara during a meeting with the House of Representatives.

Bambang said the history textbooks issued based on the 2004 curriculum had not been evaluated and were not issued by the ministry. He asked the National Education Standardization Body (BSNP) to revise the subject.

In response, BSNP chairman Bambang Suhendro said he would form a working group consisting of historians and other related experts to come out with the revisions to the history textbooks sometime this year.

Suhendro promised that his appointed team would take into account all versions and come out with an objective textbook. "We will evaluate both the 1994 and 2004 curriculums," he said.

In Monday's hearing, House Commission X gave the education minister six months to correct the current history textbooks.

"Commission X and the national education minister have agreed to solve the problems revolving around the history subject in six months, so as to include the incidents surrounding the PKI revolt comprehensively," commission chairman Heri Akhmadi of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said. He added that the meeting also asked the minister to conduct a comprehensive and thorough study of the history textbooks issued based on the 2004 curriculum before being declared an official subject in the national education.

In the meantime, teachers will have to stick to the old history textbooks based on the 1994 curriculum which still contain the story of the 1948 coup in Madiun and directly blame the outlawed PKI as the mastermind of the 1965 bloodbath.

Historians, however, have criticized what they call strongly biased information about the PKI and all related events written in the school textbooks, including those based on the 1994 curriculum. They have called for revisions to the books.

"After the reformation, people started questioning accounts of the country's history, especially some controversial issues such as PKI-related events," said Ministry of Culture and Tourism's assistant deputy for national history Susanto Zuhdi.

"PKI's involvement was a fact, but whether it was the mastermind remains a question." Susanto said that when an issue is still debatable, it would need a national consensus before including it in school materials.

"History in the context of education differs from that of academic discourse," he said. "It requires a balanced perspective that contains facts." Zuhdi added that for the 1965 coup alone, there were five versions among academicians.

AIDS cases soar, shared needles lead transmission

Jakarta Post - June 25, 2005

Jakarta -- The number of reported AIDS cases in Indonesia has more than doubled, with injecting drug users most affected, a report says.

A country report to be submitted by Indonesia to next month's Asia and the Pacific 7th International Congress on AIDS in Kobe, Japan, reveals that there were cumulatively 2,682 reported AIDS cases in 29 provinces, a significant climb from the 1,058 figure in March 2003.

The number, however, only represent the tip of the iceberg as there are still those who keep quiet about their illness due to fear of stigmatization and discrimination.

The official estimate of people living with HIV/AIDS in Indonesia is 90,000 to 130,000 people, cited the report. The global number has grown to 38 million people in 2003 from 35 million in 2001.

While in a previous report Jakarta topped the list of provinces with the highest AIDS rate, this year Papua has outnumbered the capital with a rate of 24.06 cases per 100,000 of population. Other provinces with high rates of AIDS are Bali, Maluku, North Sulawesi and West Kalimantan.

Data shows that drug injection is now the main mode of transmission for the disease. A Jakarta survey in 2003 showed that HIV prevalence had tripled from 15.8 percent in 1999 to 47.9 percent in 2002. Last year, the city saw a 44.1 percent increase in reported AIDS cases.

Despite the fact that drug injection is now the main mode of HIV transmission, harm reduction strategies taken to counter the spread of the virus still confronted legal impediments.

Harm reduction strategies include providing sterile disposable needles and disinfectants as well as providing heroin substitutes such as methadone and buprenorphine.

Such strategies aim to discourage the sharing of contaminated drug equipment. "These methods are still controversial and have not found full support," National AIDS Commission representative Suharto said on Friday.

The report also cites overlapping sexual networks as the second most important mode of transmission. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS has increased significantly in Papua increasing 6.69 percent in 1999 and 16.7 percent in 2002.

UNAIDS country coordinator for Indonesia Jane Wilson said that despite increasing funds from both the government and global donors, the country saw little progress in preventing the epidemic.

"One of challenges is the low percentage of condom use in commercial sex," she said, adding that this was yet another controversial issue that hampered prevention strategies, as promotion of the use of condoms faced religious and cultural obstacles. Suharto added that such conservative views were counterproductive in the fight against HIV/AIDS as they did not provide alternative solutions.

The National AIDS Commission, he said, was still had inadequate outreach to high risk behavior groups like injecting drug users, homosexual men, sex workers and their clients, as well as the partners of members of these groups.

All these obstacles have together led to the poor development the country has seen in its fight against HIV/AIDS, despite soaring funds, he added.

Malnutrition report dampens anniversary

Jakarta Post - June 23, 2005

Damar Harsanto, Jakarta -- As Jakarta celebrated its 478th anniversary on Wednesday, the city administration made public a report of a further 26 malnourished children in the capital. This brings the number of malnourished children in Jakarta to 39.

Yet, in his anniversary speech, Governor Sutiyoso made no mention of these child victims of poverty, focusing on the city's improved security situation, due, he said, to economic growth of 5.24 percent, a low inflation rate of 5.87 percent and "sharp improvement in the economy".

The announcement was made by Jakarta Health Agency head Abdul Chalik Masulili on the sidelines of anniversary celebrations, which featured a laser display and fireworks.

"One child is in an acute condition and the other 38 are malnourished. Twenty five are in hospital, but we consider the conditions of the other 14 allows them to be treated at home," Masulili said.

The agency earlier said that 8,455 of the total 923,000 children in the city were in desperate need of nutritious food. "Those undernourished children are at risk of becoming chronically undernourished," he said.

Reacting to such worrying figures, the administration told city hospitals on Wednesday to treat children who showed signs of undernourishment for free. "I have sent a circular to all hospitals, saying if they treat such a child the City Health Agency will foot the bill," said Masulili.

If a patient's bill has already been paid, their family can apply to the agency for reimbursement, he said.

Musulili provided the agency's hot line -- 34835118 -- which he said people should ring if they encountered difficulties in the reimbursement process. An agency officer confirmed the phone line was in constant operational readiness.

Masulili said undernutrition in children was the direct result of poverty. "That's why we need to boost the welfare of poor people through poverty-alleviation programs," he added.

The administration has earmarked between Rp 250 million and Rp 700 million for every subdistrict in the capital under subdistrict community empowerment programs (PPMK). The programs include the development of infrastructure and the channeling of low-interest loans to micro-businesses.

Some residents, however, say the programs have missed their targets. The city administration also plans to reestablish integrated health service posts (posyandu) for every community unit in the city.

"In fact, the posts serve a vital role in preventing such acute problems. Unfortunately, many become inoperative as the volunteers, mostly locals, do not receive any remuneration," Masulili said, citing his agency was looking into ways to encourage volunteers. There are 3,941 posyandu across the capital.

The nation's high incidence of malnutrition hit the headlines after a report of 40 deaths in West Nusa Tenggara province due to malnutrition since early this year.

 Society & culture

Teenagers lax on sex and drugs: Foundation

Jakarta Post - June 24, 2005

Damar Harsanto, Jakarta -- Young people in the capital have more permissive attitudes towards pornography, homosexuality, drug abuse and violence than their older siblings, according to one survey.

"We are witnessing a radical change in norms and values of our young people in the community," chief executive officer of the non-governmental organization Cinta Anak Bangsa Foundation (YCAB) Veronica Colondam said during a media gathering on Thursday.

YCAB conducted a series of focus group discussions involving 754 students aged between 15 and 17 from 23 mostly private junior and senior high schools, in the capital in 2004.

Quoting results of the discussions, Veronica said that one in two students had a permissive attitude toward pornography.

"The result also shows that one in three has a positive attitude toward homosexuality, while one in five has a positive stance against illicit drugs or violence," Veronica added.

She attributed the situation to strong influences of peer groups where the teens live, coupled with the failure of the education system to build strong a personality in every youngster. Those things, she added, would give them the ability to make and defend her/his own decision, especially if it differed from the rest of their group.

"Such a situation is quite alarming, especially when it comes to drug abuse," she asserted. "That's why we are focusing on efforts to empower the teenagers through personality programs to allow them to have stronger self-protection to fend off negative influences from their peer groups and instead encourage other teenagers to create their own positive activities in order to improve their environment," she said.

Last year, the foundation, which focuses on preventive measures to stave off drug abuse among students aged between 13 and 19, managed to include 57,618 students in its seven-hour training, of whom 8,503 became volunteer to take part in the battle against drug abuse and drug trafficking.

"I think all parties in the communities, including the government, have to have an immediate response to the alarming situation. Otherwise, at the end of the day, we will all feel deep remorse for failing to take the necessary action to save our children," she implored.

Dede Shinta Sudono, a national program officer on the elimination of child labor with the International Labor Organization (ILO) also emphasized that there was a strong link to how and where young people live to drug abuse and drug trafficking.

"Based on a research we did with a number of street youths in East Jakarta, we discovered that they are at high risk of drug abuse or drug trafficking, as they spend lots of their time on the streets hanging out with older people," Dede said.

Dede said 90 of the 92 street youths aged between 14 and 19 acknowledged that they had started using drugs when they were 13 and 28 of them had become drug pushers to pay for their drug habit.

'Second child prone to drugs?'

YCAB says that between 60 percent and 70 percent of teenagers addicted to drugs that seek counseling from YCAB are second children in their family. "This trend has been consistent over the past three years. But we have yet to carry out in-depth research on that," Veronica said.

Preliminary analyses show that the second child, especially in a family of three children, receives greater psychological pressure than her/his siblings amid poor parenting skills of their parents, forcing them to resort to drug abuse.

"Parents' bad attitudes of comparing one child to another child often does more harm than good," YCAB's counseling manager Elsar DA Hayer said.

 Armed forces/defense

Military wants battalions in border areas

Jakarta Post - June 28, 2005

Jakarta -- The establishment of military battalions in border areas is urgently needed due to the increasing threats to Indonesia from domestic and overseas elements, the Army chief said on Monday.

"But, the development of battalions at the country's borders must be in line with the support of funds from the government," Gen. Djoko Santoso was quoted by Antara as saying in a hearing with House of Representatives Commission I.

The plan received support from Commission I on foreign and defense affairs. One battalion comprises between 700 and 1,000 soldiers.

Last week, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited West Kalimantan, where he said the government would increase development projects in border areas in a bid to stop or reduce transnational crimes.

However, the President did not say whether the government would station more security personnel in the border areas and conflict regions.

The prevailing law stipulates that the Indonesian Military (TNI)'s territorial role must be focused on border areas to thwart external threats to the country.

Djoko said the military's strategic units in several border areas outside Java island were not independently capable of confronting various kinds of local and overseas threats and disturbances.

For instance, he added, the Wirabuana Military Command overseeing Sulawesi island has no an air defense artillery unit, for which it has to rely on forces from other areas to confront internal and external threats.

Djoko said the Army was tasked with defending Indonesia's land territory, including several border areas.

It should therefore enhance its defense composition in every region in order for it to be capable of facing such threats, he added.

Djoko told the hearing presided over by Commission I chairman Theo L. Sambuaga that plans to establish military battalions at the borders cannot be fully realized.

"The realization is just 30 percent. The human resources are ready, but the provision of weaponry and military barracks for the battalions are not," the Army chief said while urging the government to provide the necessary infrastructure.

In response, Theo said Commission I would urge the government to allocate a budget to develop battalions at the country's borders and conflict areas.

Djoko also said the Army was preparing to mobilize troops near several areas bordering Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.

Ministry makes secret bid for funds to crush Aceh rebels

Agence France Presse - June 29, 2005

Jakarta -- Indonesia's defence ministry has lodged a secret request for almost US$55 million dollars to continue military operations against separatists in tsunami-hit Aceh province, a report said Wednesday.

The classified request for funds to support the "security- restoration operation", which the Kompas newspaper said was signed by defence minister Juwono Sudarsono, comes despite ongoing talks to end 30 years of conflict.

Kompas said that a copy of the letter was also sent to a parliamentary commission dealing with security, politics and foreign affairs two days after it was sent to the finance ministry.

Commission member Joko Susilo told the paper that legislators deemed the undercover request inappropriate since a state of civilian emergency, which would entitle the defence ministry to more funds, has been lifted in Aceh.

Both Susilo and defence ministry officials declined immediate comment on the report.

The separatist Free Aceh Movement has been fighting since 1976 for the independence of resource-rich Aceh, Indonesia's westernmost province, and the conflict that has left close to 15,000 people- mostly civilians-dead.

The government imposed martial law in Aceh in May 2003 and launched a massive anti-rebel military campaign to rid the resource-rich province of the guerrillas.

It downgraded the status to civilian emergency the following year and in May 2005 returned the province to normal administration as it mounted a major reconstruction programme to rebuild after the tsunami disaster.

The government and the rebels are next month to hold a fifth round of talks in Helsinki, which officials say is likely to result in a lasting peace deal by August.

Ministry seeks defense funds payout

Jakarta Post - June 30, 2005

Jakarta -- The Ministry of Defense wants an additional Rp 530.27 billion (US$55.23 million), which it requested last week to cover the costs of military operations in Aceh, to be disbursed by the end of this month.

But these high expectations may be misplaced, with a member of the House of Representatives' budgetary committee describing the request as "impossible" and "ridiculous".

Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono said on Wednesday that he hoped the request would be approved by Thursday.

The funds, he said, would be used to support soldiers stationed or deployed to the troubled province of Aceh for another round of six-month security operations that will begin in July.

"Currently, we are dealing with reconstruction and rehabilitation projects and security will be the main demand for all parties there.

"Of course, we have to redeploy the troops, and such mobilizations will require some funds," Juwono told reporters on the sidelines of a visit to the first division of the Army's Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) in Cilodong, Bogor, West Java.

Based on a letter to the House dated on June 22, the defense ministry asked for Rp 530.27 billion in additional funds for military purposes in Aceh, Rp 314.8 billion of which will be used to support security operations, and the remainder to procure supplies for soldiers.

The government has said it would not pull out the 35,000 troops from the tsunami-ravaged province, despite the change in its status from "civil emergency" to "civil order" on May 18.

The decision to keep the military personnel in place, it added, was to crush the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebel group that was still active and continues to pose security threats.

However, the request for additional funds has failed to meet standing procedures, especially because the defense ministry did not append this request on its post in the revision of the 2005 state budget.

"Because Aceh has been given a normal status, according to the TNI (Indonesian Military) law, all funds must come from the state budget specifically allocated for the ministry," said Djoko Susilo, a member of the House budgetary committee.

He said that in emergency situations, funds to finance military operations should be disbursed from the emergency post.

"But in their latest proposal, it's not clear which post they expect us to disburse the money from. They didn't even give complete details on what they will do with the money," Djoko said, adding that the ministry was neither well-organized nor well-prepared.

He said the budgetary committee and the ministry were scheduled to resume discussions about the issue on Thursday.

Criticism was also raised by sociologist Otto Syamsuddin Ishak from the Syahkuala University, who said the government must allocate funds from the state budget to cover the current deployment of troops -- as well as the police -- in Aceh, and not from other sources, including emergency funds.

"The disbursement of funds from the state budget legitimizes the presence of security personnel in Aceh. The proposal for some funds from another source, that of the emergency funds, just shows that the presence of the military in Aceh has no legal basis anymore," Otto told The Jakarta Post.

Otto also said that efforts to strengthen the military's power in Aceh would be counter-productive to the ongoing peace process between the government and GAM in Helsinki, in which one of the key points is to reach a cease-fire agreement aimed at stopping or reducing the decades-old hostilities.

Army to annul its business interests within two years

Tempo Interactive - June 29, 2005

Jakarta -- Indonesian Army Chief of Staff Gen. Djoko Santoso has stated that the Army was prepared to speed up the process of annulling all TNI businesses within two years and not five years as planned earlier.

As a follow-up to this order from the Indonesian Military (TN)I chief, the Army already held a meeting to gather business data within the Army on May 19 this year.

Santoso said that the concept to hand over and manage the Army businesses must be carried out in stages.

The first stage is collecting data and categorizing business units included within TNI businesses. Second, categorizing all TNI Army businesses that are of the same type as a TNI business holding company. Third, the Army handing over its former businesses to enterprises established by the government clearly and legally.

In the future, all costs required by the Army will only come from the state. The management of budget funds will be increased under the principles of efficiency, economy, transparency, the economizing and accountability based on the existing regulatory mechanism.

"When the TNI businesses are annulled, we will hand over all efforts to improve the welfare of soldiers and the civil servants to the government," said Santoso during a working meeting with House of Representatives (DPR) Commission I on Monday (27/06). (Agus Supriyanto-Tempo News Room)

TNI chief against leadership rotation

Jakarta Post - June 29, 2005

Jakarta -- Indonesia Military (TNI) chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto expressed rejection on Tuesday of rotating the military leadership among its three forces.

"I disagree with leadership rotation, because it means that if (the military chief is) now from the Army, the next chief must be (someone) from the Navy," he said.

Endriartono argued that the most important condition in the leadership selection was the quality of the person, regardless of which military force he or she was from.

However, the law suggests that the TNI top leadership be rotated among the Army, Navy and Air Force.

Endriartono's statement apparently implied that he wanted his successor to be from the Army like him. Current Army chief Gen. Djoko Santoso has widely been touted to replace him.

Indonesian army to prioritize use of local weapons

Tempo Interactive - June 26, 2005

Surabaya -- Indonesian Army Chief of Staff General Djoko Santoso has said that the army would prioritize the use of domestic weapons. According to Santoso, his soldiers already use many weapons made by PT Pindad.

"The weapon products manufactured by PT Pindad are good enough and fulfill the needs of the Indonesian Army," said the Army Chief of Staff after officiating at the handing over of the Military Chief position of Brawijaya V from Maj. Gen. Ahmad Djunaidi Sikki to Maj. Gen. Syamsul Mappareppa in Surabaya, East Java, on Thursday (22/06).

Santoso said that the Indonesian Army's use of domestic weapons would reduce its dependency on purchasing weapons from foreign countries.

The Army Chief of Staff added that the equipment currently required by his troops included light weapons, communication tools and transportation facilities.

Asked about the additional Rp2 trillion budget for Indonesian Army, Santoso said that this matter was still being discussed by the government and the House of Representatives (DPR).

If this was realized, the allocation of the budget would be mainly used for soldiers' basic needs, such as housing and transportation. (Kukuh S. Wibowo-Tempo News Room)

Air Force to improve weaponry

Jakarta Post - June 24, 2005

Jakarta -- The Indonesian Air Force is hoping to fortify its minimum weaponry system with plans slated to procure more Sukhoi fighter jets and set up more radar units, particularly in border areas in the country's eastern parts.

Air Force Chief of Staff Marshall Djoko Soeyanto said his department was prioritizing the purchase of 12 more fully armed Sukhoi fighter jets to reinforce the existing four.

"The purchase is going to be made through export credit split between the 2005 and 2006 budgetary years. The first batch of six jets will cost US$310 million, and the second around $356 million," he said on Thursday during a hearing with House of Representatives Commission I for defense.

Djoko said he looked forward to seeing the House support the Air Force by securing a higher budget for the force to establish at least a standard weaponry system, as well as to improve the welfare of its soldiers.

He said the Air Force was also evaluating possible aircraft to be used pending the procurement of the Sukhoi fighter jets, such as the OV-10 Bronco, Hawk MK-53, F-5 Tiger, and F-16 Fighting Falcon.

Furthermore, Djoko said the Air Force was also putting at the top of its list the establishment of radar units on three main borders, in response to criticism that Indonesia has a poor early warning system regarding air monitoring.

"We have prioritized putting radars in Biak and Tanjung Pinang, to be operational in 2006; in Timika, to be operational in 2007; and in Merauke by 2008," he said.

Aside from integrating all operational radar through the Transmission Data Air Situation system, the Air Force also expects to either replace or revamp old radar set up in Congot, Yogyakarta; Ploso, Central Java; Ngliyep, East Java; and Pemalang, Central Java, Djoko said.

The establishment of these new radar units mostly in the eastern parts of the country, he said, was aimed at balancing the weaponry system on both sides of the archipelago.

"We acknowledge the imbalance, but it's mostly because of the very limited budget allocated for us. We hope to deploy more (equipment) to the eastern part," Djoko said.

Djoko said the Air Force would need about Rp 21.9 trillion in its 2006 budget to cover all expenses. The House, however, has set an indicative budget of only Rp 2.5 trillion.

The Air Force's "minimal" weaponry system was also lamented by Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono, while visiting Iswahyudi air base in Madiun, East Java on Thursday.

Juwono, quoted by tempointeraktif.com, said the force's weaponry only met 40 percent of the minimum requirement to create a fully prepared air defense system.

One way to quickly solve the problem, he added, was to overhaul several grounded or damaged aircraft, such as fighter jets, to cover needs within the next six months to one year.

Most of these US-assembled jets were grounded due to damage, with spare parts hard to come since the US slapped an arms embargo on Indonesia in the early 1990s.

TNI, ministry to boost efficiency

Jakarta Post - June 23, 2005

Jakarta -- The Ministry of Defense and the Indonesia Military (TNI) headquarters have agreed to improve communications aimed at boosting the efficiency in the procurement of military equipment.

Minister of Defense Juwono Sudarsono said on Wednesday that strong communications between the two institutions would be a basic principle to determine the priority in the purchase of defense materiel.

"Each military force must propose its realistic needs to the TNI headquarters in accordance with their priorities, while the Ministry of Defense will decide whether the state budget can meet the demand or not," he said after a meeting with Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

Meanwhile, TNI chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto said that he prefers that the government meet the basic needs of troops, such as barracks, clothing and guns, most of which, he added, were in poor condition.

The government is allocating an additional sum of Rp 2 trillion (US$210 billion) for this year's TNI budget, which was previously set at only Rp 21.9 trillion.

 Business & investment

Foreign interests in banking industry must be restricted

Kompas - June 28, 2005

M Fajar Marta, Jakarta -- The domination of foreign interests in the domestic banking industry continues to grow. As of March, banks owned by foreign interests were in control of as much as 42.33 per cent of the domestic banking industry meaning it has now eclipsed the domination by state owned banks.

Foreign domination is not only in terms of the control of assets but also in the accumulation of public funds. As of March, foreign owned banks controlled 43.38 per cent of third party funds totaling as much as 961.07 trillion rupiah. This is already greater than third party assets held by state owned banks amounting to 37.94 per cent.

"Up until now banks owned by foreigners have yet to show an especially good performance. There are even those who's performance is less than state owned banks or banks which are completely owned locally", said the director of the Institute for the Development of Economics and Finance (Indef), Iman Sugema, in Jakarta on Monday June 27.

Banks categorised as being owned by foreign interests cover foreign banks, mixed ownerships and private domestic banks where the majority of shares are owned by foreign interests such as BCA, Bank Danamon and Bank Niaga. According to the InfoBank Research Bureau, this has now reached 40 banks from a total of 132.

According to Sugema, the poor performance of banks owned by foreign interests can be seen from their financial performance, the lack of product innovation and a mediocre quality of service. "Banks owned by foreigners also mostly tend to be expanding into consumer credit. While what Indonesia actually needs are banks which are willing to provide credit for the real sector where there is little activity at the moment", he said.

Throughout 2004, Bank Danamon for example contributed credit to consumers amounting to 4.12 trillion rupiah, far more compared to credit for companies and small- and medium-sized business for working capital and investment.

According to Sugema, as a result of the role played by foreign owned banks, consumer credit is now becoming a nation banking trend. As of March, consumer credit in the banking industry had increased by 54.25 per cent compared with the same period last year. "Foreign banks usually have a strong bargaining position in relation to BI (Bank Indonesia) and the government is still warning [us about] the high dependency of Indonesia on foreign investment", said Sugema.

The domination of foreign ownership has also caused a flow of foreign bankers into management positions in the domestic banking industry. Not just at the highest levels but also in middle- management levels.

The secretary of the Bank Permata company, Imam Teguh Saptono, explained that banks owned by foreigners have a variety of orientations. There are those that are orientated towards investment as well as those who actually have a commitment to carry out an intermediary function.

Restrictions needed

Saptono acknowledged that the foreign banks which are popular at the moment are indeed those who are mostly contributing to consumer credit, but there are still foreign banks which focus on corporate financing. "So, not all foreign banks focus on retail and consumption", said Saptono.

A member of the People's Representative Assembly (DPR) Commission XI, Dradjad Wibowo, says that this foreign domination must be reduced by restricting ownership. "The maximum ownership limit of a bank by a single party should be 30 per cent. Especially state owned banks, the government [must be] able to own more than 50 per cent", he said.

The commissioner of Bank Rakyat Indonesia, Krisna Wijaya, says that foreign domination was actually created through market mechanisms and is a reflection of pubic trust. "In national terms, it is reasonable for us to worry because [Indonesian's] are no longer the masters of their own country", he said.

Wijaya says that as a consequence of foreign domination, many domestic economic interests could be disrupted. "So, the owners of domestic banks must reflect upon why public trust has declined", he said.

On one occasion, Bank Indonesia governor Burhanuddin Abdullah told the DPR that foreign ownership of domestic banks cannot be prevented at the moment. BI also cannot restrict the activities of the domestic private banking sector owned foreigners bearing in mind they operated as legal entities in Indonesia.

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Economic reform on track, World Bank says

Jakarta Post - June 25, 2005

Zakki P. Hakim and Urip Hudiono, Jakarta -- The Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI), a grouping of major foreign donors, was satisfied with the way Indonesia's economic reform was going, especially on efforts to improve the investment climate, a World Bank executive says.

Citing the reform process as "on track", Vice President Jemal-ud-din Kessum said on Friday that, "The government is very committed to improving the business climate, we have seen strong anti-corruption efforts recently." He was speaking at a press briefing after a CGI mid-year meeting at the Borobudur Hotel. Aside from the World Bank, the CGI was also represented by Ambassadors of the United States, Japan, Canada and Britain, who also represented the European Union.

"I am quite satisfied with the direction and pace to reform business climate, but there are still challenges that the government needs to face," he said, adding that the government must provide better strategy or coordinated policy environment conducive to private investment.

Kessum did not provide detailed examples of the progress, but a presentation of an Investment Climate Monitoring Survey at the meeting provided some clues. The survey was initiated by the World Bank, implemented by the University of Indonesia's Institute for Economic and Social Research (LPEM-UI) and funded by the Netherlands government.

The words of encouragement come amid critics at home over the relatively slow pace of economic reform. Investment has been held back in part by a high cost economy due to rampant corruption.

The open unemployment rate, for instance, continued to rise to 9.86 percent last year despite the country enjoying economic growth of 5.1 percent.

"Speaking for the World Bank and also for the members of the CGI, we would prefer to see a systematic approach to this (improved investment climate) that ensures quality investment for the better public interest, rather than a hasty approach that leads to poor quality investment," he said.

Elsewhere on the survey results, it is noted that corruption has dropped sharply, as bribes to government officials as a share of production cost declined from 10.8 percent in 2001 to 6.4 percent in the first semester of this year from the corresponding period last year.

M. Chatib Basri of LPEM-UI said that competition among local administrations to attract investment had apparently reduced informal or illegal fees demanded by local officials.

"Decentralization has been seen as only bringing problems, but now we can see some real benefits out of it," Chatib, who is also an advisor to Coordinating Minister for the Economy Aburizal Bakrie.

However, as there was no such competitive pressure at the national level, the survey revealed that inefficiency and corruption remained a major problem in customs and in the tax office.

The survey, involving 600 medium and large manufacturing firms in five major cities, showed that 82 percent of them have to make informal or illegal payments in their interactions with the customs. The informal fee amounted to 2.3 percent on average of their import value, recording a total loss of as much as $800 million annually, it said.

On value-added tax refunds, 57 percent of respondents said that they had to make informal payments and negotiate with tax officials in order to claim a VAT refund.

The survey also said it took five months to receive the refund, with respondents only receiving on average 87 percent of the net amount claimed.

 Opinion & analysis

Ending the cruelty of law

Jakarta Post - June 30, 2005

Christine Susanna Tjhin, Jakarta -- Almost seven years after reform, the rule of law as one of the key pillars of democracy remains a fragile one. In law enforcement, we seek the certainty of the law, but what we get is the cruelty of the law.

According to the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association's (PBHI) report for 2002, the police are responsible for 60 percent of reported cases of state violence. In 2004, another human rights organization, Imparsial, made similar conclusion after researching media reports on violence.

Since the National Police separated from the Indonesian Military (TNI) -- as part of the reform of Indonesia's security sector and the democratization process -- the police have regained their full original mandate to protect and to serve the people, as stated in Law No. 2/2002 on the National Police.

We know that police reform has not been as "popular" as military reform. The police face the extensive tasks of curbing corruption and fighting terrorism. Nonetheless, the police are a key element in the war against torture.

Is police culture one of violence? We do not want to jump to conclusions, though this notion may well stem from the idea of Indonesia having a culture of violence.

This thread can be traced from the legal and institutional structures of the National Police and Criminal Code and/or the courts. The law on the police is not conducive to mainstreaming an antitorture paradigm, as article 18 allows police officers "to take action in accordance to their judgments".

The inadequate human-rights education, meager wages and benefits, poor disciplinary records and laziness of the police utterly hamper "good judgment". If we combine this with the content of the Criminal Code, which accepts a suspect's testimony as legitimate proof in an investigation process, what we get is a "functional" action in the police structure.

The establishment of the National Police Commission through Presidential Regulation No. 17/2005, may open some opportunities. However, the commission possesses nothing more than a consultative mandate. It is not able to exercise control or impose sanctions. It is more assigned to monitor -- not investigate -- the performance of the police, sustain a professional recruitment mechanism, and to handle public complaints. Moreover, the independency of the commission is now under question.

Another front is the controversial Criminal Code bill. Torture is on the list of "new" types of crime. Yet the code is missing the "state apparatus" element in its explanation on torture. The state apparatus has the mandate, power and facilities to carry out law enforcement, which is beyond civilian authority. Infringements of such a duty, power and, most importantly, trust, must be severely punished. Violations cannot be treated as "mere" crimes.

At the very essence of matters, antitorture mainstreaming must penetrate all security and legal reform. There are at least nine bills in the National Legislation Program that are directly relevant to security sector reform, 19 in legal reform and 30 on matters crucial to civil and political rights. These are our tasks in embedding the antitorture paradigm in state structure.

On a societal level, building intolerance toward torture and distortions in the law-enforcement process will be a huge task for civil society organizations and the general community. How many realizes the hypocrisy behind calls for the government to serve the people's interests and basic rights made by the same people who take pleasure in seeing pickpocketers being beaten black and blue or those who maintain "those buggers deserve it!".

The media could be a crucial element in creating such an atmosphere by altering public perception through the crime reality shows that have been produced these past few years. Crime shows could pinpoint for the public where the abuses of mandate and power have occurred and then challenge the public to become critical and compassionate in responding to such abuses. Through this, the public will send a powerful signal to the state apparatus that we want certainty of law, not cruelty of law.

[The author is a researcher at the Department of Politics and Social Change, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and a member of the Anti-Torture Network under the Asian Human Rights Commission.]

Changes in the force

Jakarta Post Editorial - June 30, 2005

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has finally made up his mind to promote his long-time friend and a police officer with a good track record, Comr. Gen. Sutanto, as the new National Police (Polri) chief. The appointment comes five months after current chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar failed to meet the 100-day deadline Susilo gave him in October to arrest alleged Malaysian terrorists Azahari and Nurdin M. Top.

Da'i who was appointed not long after President Megawati Soekarnoputri came to power in July 2001, was widely expected to retire after Susilo replaced Megawati in October last year. And since then, Sutanto, who served as one of Soeharto's four adjutants from 1995 until the president's fall in 1998, has often been mentioned as one of the favorite candidates for the position.

Any change at the top of Polri always attracts public attention because of the police's important public service role; their mandate to maintain public order and domestic security.

At least that is the theory. People are also likely to take an interest because of the police's very shortcomings in this role; their frequent inability to realize their motto "To serve and to protect" the people, which has made them probably one of the most disliked state institutions in the country. The police have long had a poor public image here and unfortunately this has failed to improve since they were separated from the Indonesian Military in 1999 to become a civilian organization.

As illustrated by a World Bank opinion survey, people's perception of the quality of police services has remained unchanged since 1999. As nearly all of the current police personnel from all levels of the force were educated in a military fashion, it seems that more time is needed to change their military mentalities.

Then there are the jokes; that police have been known to declare a victim of a burglary or theft as a suspect in the same case. Or that people whose motorbikes are stolen might end up losing their cars as well after reporting the theft -- so high are the bribes officers require just to make a search. And, as any driver knows, the prices for licenses are always higher than the official rate, although in public police ask people to pay only the standard fee.

However, like them or not, we have to live with the police. And as Indonesia advances in its journey toward a civil society, a reliable, clean police force becomes key to maintaining a sustainable, democratic society. We should certainly not let police weaknesses become an excuse for the military to regain the role in domestic security and public order it had during the Soeharto era.

As horrible as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack and the 2002 Bali bombing were, they were a blessing in disguise for the National Police. After Bali, many Western countries and international organizations rushed to assist them with sophisticated counter-terrorism equipment, along with financial assistance and educational expertise. This wealth of help has often irritated the TNI, which is still facing a military embargo from the United States.

The contributions and cooperation have paid off. The police won international praise for their success in bringing to court the perpetrators for Bali and the JW Marriott Hotel attack in 2003. Last year's attack on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta could also be uncovered in a relatively short time.

But the threat of terror here remains, and two key suspects, Azahari and Nurdin, are still at large. There are cynics who believe the police's inability to arrest the Malaysians has nothing to do with Azahari and Nurdin's supposed genius at evading capture, or the police's lack of professionalism by first world standards.

Meanwhile, horizontal conflicts continue in Maluku and Poso, Central Sulawesi, while rebellions flare up with depressing regularity in the military-controlled areas of Papua and Aceh where police are unable to quell the violence.

Despite his shortcomings and those of the force he commands, Da'i has made some significant achievements. His public relations skill has helped him face up to public criticism. And compared to his two immediate predecessors, he is far less controversial.

So far Sutanto has had an impressive track record, especially during his terms as North Sumatra and East Java police chief. He keeps a low profile, and some people who have known him since he was a military colonel testify that his commitment to serve the nation as a police officer remains strong.

Sutanto, who is required by the law to retire at 58 in 2008, fully realizes the heavy burden he will have to bear and the high public expectations on him. With full trust from the President, he will be expected to enable the police to provide a much better service to the public.

The House of Representatives (DPR) is expected to approve Sutanto's nomination shortly and people should start expecting to see changes in the police soon.

Sharia law in Aceh only for petty criminals

Jakarta Post - June 29, 2005

Aguswandi, London -- A young girl falls into a hole and enters a world of confusion and absurdity. Everything has been turned upside down and she is trapped into dealing with small things, unable to focus on the world beyond.

The world of Alice in Wonderland is not dissimilar from the world the Acehnese now inhabit.

Last week in Aceh several poor people -- accused and found guilty of gambling under sharia (Islamic law) -- were publicly caned by a government-appointed executor. This was the first application of sharia since its imposition several years ago.

This is an absurdity; never in the history of Aceh has Islam been exploited in this way, simply to punish the poor. In the past Islam was the foundation and inspiration for the Acehnese to defend themselves against colonialism, social injustice and oppression.

Islamic values informed the fight against Portuguese oppression, which stopped their colonial expansion in Asia, and galvanized the Acehnese to defend themselves against Dutch invasion. The resilience of the Acehnese effectively bankrupted and thus defeated the Dutch. These values went on to imbue many Acehnese with the will to oppose injustice in the post colonial era. It was non-conservative values of Islam, a desire for equality and justice that motivated the Acehnese to seek freedom from any and all attempts to conquer them.

Only now, some ulema have been empowered by the government to punish petty criminals in accordance with sharia.

Gambling, if it is to be considered a crime, at least only harms the gamblers, at worst their families. Aceh is full of groups and individuals who are harmful to society, committing crimes that perpetuate conflict and exploitation.

The crimes of the powerful; the killing of innocent civilians or involvement in large-scale corruption seem to elicit a different response than the crimes of the poor. When the rich and powerful are immune from judicial action, even under sharia, and the poor are subject to the extremes of this religious law it only serves to institutionalize inequality.

A question was recently posed on the internet, circulated by some young Acehnese, asking jokingly how many times Aceh's suspended governor Abdullah Puteh would be caned if this law were to be applied to him.

How about if this law was applied to those who are killing Acehnese civilians? No, it will not apply to them, said the sharia authority. In fact it will not even be applied to the judge who is trying the first execution case, who has admitted to receiving money as a bribe from the defendant.

Indeed it is only for the poor, the powerless among the Acehnese, to bear the brunt of this newly emboldened sharia authority. The other group targeted are women, the most vulnerable groups of Acehnese society at present. Rather than government discussion about women's rights and education, the focus is now on clothes, the head scarf and women's manner of dress.

Sharia police have occasionally conducted sweeps to check whether Acehnese women are wearing their clothes in accordance with sharia. Recently, at a meeting of local government officials, a woman was made to sit at the back of the room. All this comes at a time when the women of Aceh are calling for equality, access to education and a voice in the reconstruction process.

This is an insult to Acehnese women, who in the past have asserted their will to play a significant role in society. To cite a few obvious examples, three women have ruled the kingdom of Aceh, there have been several female admirals and high-ranking members of armed forces. Most famously, Cut Nyak Dhien -- but there was also Cut Meutia, Pocut Baren and others. There has been no such discussion about dress code in the past, yet both Islam and women's involvement in wider society have flourished.

By emphasizing conservative aspects of religion and strict adherence to sharia, some leaders seek to blinker the Acehnese from wider problems in the region. They are exploiting the religious conviction of many Acehnese to manipulate them. In truth they are acting as an obstacle to change by distracting the locals from the main problem of injustice.

This orchestrated distraction is perfect for a government that seeks to neutralize progressive voices in Aceh. This is a strategic alliance, of the government with conservative religious figures, to pacify the Acehnese.

This use of religion as a political tool to pacify the population -- or as political bribery -- is a dangerous move. It is like setting a time bomb. When it goes off it could unleash a harsh era of intolerance and strengthen the forces of conservative Islam. This is the last thing anybody wants to happen in Aceh.

[The writer is an Acehnese human rights advocate working for TAPOL, the Indonesia Human Rights Campaign in London and Kontras in Jakarta.]

The customs of corruption

Jakarta Post Editorial - June 28, 2005

Nothing seems to have changed within our customs service. It remains among the most corrupt public institutions in the country, together with the directorate general of taxation and the police.

Even former president Soeharto, fed by the strongly entrenched web of corruption within the customs directorate general, felt it necessary to ask for foreign assistance to rein in the department. He stripped the customs service of its authority to verify and clear imports, handing the job over to Switzerland's Societe Generale de Surveillance for 10 years beginning in 1985. However, it was business as usual after the contract with the Swiss company ended in 1995 and the customs service was handed back its authority.

Reforming the customs service was supposed to be at the top of the government's agenda between 2001 and 2003, under the supervision of the International Monetary Fund. Yet there has been little progress. Foreign chambers of commerce and import associations still see the customs department as the most corrupt public institution.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono demonstrated his comprehensive understanding of the most pressing problems facing the economy by including the customs and taxation services among the four government institutions (Bank Indonesia and the Attorney General's Office were the other two) he visited during his first few days in office last October.

Yet the Economic and Social Research Institute at the University of Indonesia revealed last week that corruption remained a major problem in the customs service.

About 82 percent of 600 businesspeople the institute surveyed in April and May admitted to paying illegal fees to customs officials. The survey, conducted in cooperation with the World Bank, covered businesses at five major seaports: Tanjung Priok in Jakarta, Tanjung Perak in Surabaya, Semarang in Central Java, Makassar in South Sulawesi and Belawan in North Sumatra.

The respondents also complained of gross inefficiency in the customs service, saying it took at least six days to get a document cleared.

We wonder then what is the purpose of the Coordinating Team for Facilitating Imports and Exports, which is chaired by chief economics minister Aburizal Bakrie. Customs problems should be at the top of the team's agenda since an efficient and competent customs service is key to smooth trade.

Even though graft in the customs service is simply a reflection of the embedded culture of corruption in our nation, the government should realize that the impact of a corrupt customs service on the economy is more devastating than, say, malfeasance in the National Police or tax office.

The effects of malfeasance within the tax service are limited to the loss of state revenue as the government receives much less than is due it from taxpayers. But corruption within the customs service causes far-reaching damage, resulting in revenue loss and creating distortions in the domestic market because foreign goods pay much lower duties and taxes than mandated by law. This creates unfair competition for domestic products such as electronics, garments and produce like rice and sugar.

The customs service plays a vital role in facilitating the smooth flow of imports, which is vital for the domestic manufacturing industry due to its heavy dependence on imported goods.

No trade policy will be effective if the customs service, which is responsible for guarding the gateways (airports and seaports) to the country, remains as corrupt and technically incompetent as it is now. Put another way, there will never be fair trade without an efficient, fairly clean customs service.

The findings of the latest survey clearly show how technically inept the current customs and excise tax director general, Eddy Abdurrahman, is in managing his office.

Abdurrahman's comment that businesspeople should not pay illegal fees to customs officials and should report directly to him any corrupt customs officials indicates one of two things: He is either completely ignorant of what is really going on at his office, or the internal controls and internal audit system in his directorate general is ineffective.

True, the corrupt mentality at the customs service is a disease that cannot be cured in one or two years, and cannot be treated in isolation from other government and state institutions. But the finding of the University Indonesia-World Bank survey warrants an overall reform of the customs service that should start with its chief.


Jakarta Post Editorial - June 24, 2005

In the past, journalists reporting on baffling cases had come to depend on the wisdom of rights activist Munir, who would discuss with them his suspicions or findings.

Thus, from sheer habit, the initial reaction last September was to turn to the slight, inquisitive and passionate young man -- or his ghost -- for insight into the murder en route to the Netherlands. Munir's colleagues have continued with his work, an assignment taken on in the last years of Soeharto's rule: to investigate disappearances, torture and murder cases. Included now is the death of their friend, and they joined, though reluctantly, a government-sanctioned fact finding team.

Their reluctance was fast proven as they came across hurdle after hurdle in gathering evidence and testimonies, in spite of being able to wave around the signature of the President.

The verbal instruction of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to the National Police and National Intelligence Agency (BIN) that they fully cooperate in the investigation did not help either. The President may indeed be sincere, "but he should know that the police and BIN are ignoring him," said Munir's widow, Suciwati.

The fact finding team at last reiterated suspicions raised early in its inquiry, reporting this week to the President that BIN "is believed to have been involved in a conspiracy to murder Munir." Its members have rightly refused suggestions that its six-month mandate, which ended on Thursday, be extended, saying that the police should take over and act on the team's recommendations, mainly to further investigate the role of BIN and all related officials.

Obviously the glaring question here is -- is this May 1998 all over again? For the story of the riots in Jakarta and other cities virtually ended with the announcement of the deductions of a government-sanctioned fact finding team. None of the recommendations were followed up; no one has been prosecuted for the deaths, nor the suffering of surviving victims.

Not surprisingly, in the Munir case, members of the fact finding team may hit a dead end, rather than respect for the group instructed by the President himself to determine the circumstances of the activist's death.

Arrogance prevails because experience has shown that no one needs to be accountable for their actions if they have the power to fend off irritating nobodies with irritating questions. Some of them being basic queries: how does a passenger get arsenic in his meal? And why would anyone be afraid of Munir -- he was just going to study in the Netherlands? Or, who was feeling discomfort when Munir exhibited his knowledge of past and contemporary cases -- the shooting of students in 1998, the possible masterminds of communal conflicts and the like? This case must not be one of several thrown in the closet, where we keep all the other skeletons for fear of prodding sleeping, powerful dragons.

Munir's death will remain a test case for Susilo's administration. Can the President make a significant contribution to breaking down the wall put up many years ago around what has become a comfortable cushion of impunity. It is not enough for our former chief security minister to express anger and deep sorrow over Munir's death; it is far from enough for him to "lament" the failure of his former boss to cooperate in the investigation.

Munir was a rare Indonesian who only sought to ensure that all his fellow citizens and their children, including his own, could live in freedom from fear. Putting the fact finding team's report on the shelf and leaving it there would spread the message that in spite of all our talk of democracy, we remain a nation where those who live in freedom from fear include the untouchables with a license to kill.

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