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Indonesia News Digest 27 – July 17-23, 2006

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House Speaker slams 'Playboy'

Jakarta Post - July 18, 2006

Jakarta – House Speaker Agung Laksono has asked the Indonesian version of Playboy to stop publishing.

"Please heed public objections," he told journalists in Jakarta in response to the third edition of Playboy Indonesia, which, like the previous editions, does not feature nudity.

The local version of Playboy has met fierce opposition from Muslim groups, who fear the it will ruin the nation's morals.

A mob of Islamic militants attacked the building housing the magazine's offices in Jakarta in April following publication of the first edition. The Jakarta Police later named Playboy's chief editor Erwin Arnada and two models as suspects in an indecency investigation.

The magazine has repeatedly moved its editorial offices to avoid violent reactions from opponents.

Abuse shadows Indonesian kids: Experts

Jakarta Post - July 24, 2006

Adisti Sukma Sawitri and Rendi Akhmad Witular, Jakarta – It was a terse, pessimistic message on a day when others chose to salute the country's youngest citizens with songs and stories.

"Let's not celebrate National Children's Day this year. Why?" The National Commission for Child Protection's gloomy perspective came from its alarm at rampant child abuse and trafficking in the country, and a lack of public recognition of the problem. "Why should we celebrate this day if the government, parents and teachers are becoming more ignorant of children's well-being?" commission secretary-general Arist Merdeka Sirait told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

The commission reported that the number of child abuse cases rose by 48 percent this year, with at least 71,000 minors suffering nationwide. In 80 percent of the cases, society's guardians of children – parents, other relatives and teachers – committed the abuse.

Arist said the common attitude that corporal punishment was effective to instill discipline left children vulnerable. "It makes abuse equally spread at home, school and everywhere children go. This is because our culture allows adults to beat children when they make mistakes," he said, adding the actual incidence of abuse was probably much higher than reported.

Abuse cases make for sensational headlines, with the victims earning 15 minutes of unwanted fame before the attention dies down.

In May, a schoolteacher in Mataram was reported to police for striking 25 students with a meter-long wooden ruler on their faces and bodies after they failed a math assignment.

A father in Sunter, North Jakarta, used a hot iron on his daughter's arms and legs earlier this year to punish her after he found money in a comic book, and mistakenly believed she stole it from a friend.

Children's rights advocates complain that the frenzy of publicity about such cases fails to translate into lasting action by the authorities, and the old beliefs of children as property persist.

"We must change our paradigm. The government must educate the people that physical abuse is not the way to teach children discipline," Arist said.

Commission chief Seto Mulyadi said the government also contributed to the suffering of the millions of sick and underfed children left to fend for themselves, especially in disaster- stricken areas. "Poor government policy results in the failure to provide food and shelter for these children," he said.

And abandoned children are at highest risk of trafficking. The commission estimates from 40,000 to 70,000 children are illegally traded for commercial sex annually. In a survey of 12 major cities, the commission also found 27,000 locations where minors under 17 were available for prostitution.

Indonesia Anti-Child Trafficking coordinator Emmy Lucy Smith said the problem was proliferating because of the absence of a human trafficking law. "There is no clear punishment for trafficking so far and the definition of trafficking is still unclear," she said.

Public ignorance is another problem, she added. "In most cases, parents and victims do not even realize that they are part of trafficking."

In a speech for National Children's Day at Taman Mini Indonesia Park in East Jakarta, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered local government leaders to provide special funds in their regional budgets to help finance basic needs and rights of children, as well as protect them from abuse.

Although Yudhoyono believed existing laws and regulations were sufficient to protect minors, he said the implementation was deficient due to various factors.

Yudhoyono, who watched children's performances and awarded prizes in national competitions in journalism, music and preaching, called for the establishment of child protection commissions at all levels of regional government to overcome the problem.

Yogya hunger strikers rushed to hospital

Jakarta Post - July 22, 2006

Slamet Susanto, Yogyakarta – Seven of 11 people who have been on a hunger strike outside the Yogyakarta provincial council building since July 12 have been hospitalized since Wednesday, including a hunger striker who was rushed to Sardjito Hospital on Friday.

The four remaining strikers have vowed to continue their action until the government delivers on promised financial assistance for victims of the May 27 earthquake.

Two of the protesters were taken to the hospital Wednesday and four others were hospitalized Thursday. All were suffering from dehydration and low blood sugar levels.

"One of the protesters was rushed to Sardjito Hospital today (Friday) after his condition deteriorated," said strike coordinator Iyan Aryo Samito.

Five volunteers and six survivors of the devastating quake which struck Yogyakarta and parts of Central Java are staging the hunger strike. They want the government to deliver promised financial assistance for quake survivors, including a Rp 90,000 (US$9.70) daily living allowance and up to Rp 30 million to rebuild damaged and destroyed homes.

The five volunteers began the hunger strike July 12, and were joined the next day by six quake survivors from Bantul regency, which suffered the heaviest damage in the temblor.

The remaining four protesters – two students and two quake survivors – have vowed to continue the action.

"We don't know for how long we will continue the hunger strike. We'll hold an evaluation meeting to check whether the government has met its promises or not. "If not, we'll continue the strike," coordinator Iyan said.

The strike has gained the support of quake survivors, many of whom have visited the protesters. Residents of Gondosuli hamlet in Bantul collected money to help the strikers.

"About Rp 250,000 was donated by two neighborhood units and is being used to support the strikers, such as to buy soap and other items," said Gondosuli resident Akhid Royadi, who visited the strikers.

Meanwhile, Bantul regency marked its 175th anniversary Thursday with a simple ceremony, during which a prayer was said for victims of the earthquake that killed more than 5,800 people.

Wearing traditional Javanese clothes, the participants, including fishermen, farmers, traders and officials, gathered in the regency's main field.

During the prayer, many of the participants broke into tears. "Let's hope these are the last tears before we get back on our feet," said Sadino, a fisherman from Samas beach.

Indonesian militants prepare to fight Israel

Jakarta Post - July 21, 2006

Ary Hermawan, Jakarta – At least 81 Indonesians have declared an intention to go to Lebanon and Palestine to join Hizbollah guerrillas in armed conflict against Israel.

"Some of them have left Indonesia," ASEAN Muslim Youth Secretariat (AMSEC) chairman Suaib Didu told The Jakarta Post on Thursday, adding that they did not carry legal travel documents. He said the militants, who were inspired by his book entitled Radikalisme: Antara Jihad dan Terorisme (Radicalism: Between Jihad and Terrorism), came to him to ask for guidance about jihad.

"I told them it was better to go to Palestine and Lebanon to fight Israel than to stir things up here," he said. "I also told them not to attack civilians in their jihad, especially women and children because they are innocent."

"'Our main purpose is to stop the Israeli military offensive. We're just trying to defend the oppressed'," Suaib quoted the militants as saying.

He said the 81 militants were mostly trained warriors who had previously signed up to fight in Afghanistan. "Some of them have been trained to be suicide bombers. They would do that only to destroy Israel's vital installations," he said, adding that the militants would join the so-called Palestine Jihad Bombing Force.

The group is said to have recruited 57 Filipinos, 36 Malaysians, 43 Thais, five Brunei Darussalam nationals, three Bangladeshis and one Singaporean.

A.S., 27, an Indonesian trained in Afghanistan who also joined militants in Iraq, confirmed that some Indonesians have left for Lebanon and Palestine. "Most of them are former fighters in Ambon," he said, referring to the city in Maluku, eastern Indonesia, long wracked by religious conflict.

"I will join them but I have to go Ciamis (West Java) first to help my family, who are among the victims of the tsunami," he told the Post.

Suaib said the Israeli attacks on Lebanon had ignited anti- Israeli sentiments. "The number of volunteers wanting to go to Lebanon is likely to increase, considering the situation there," he said. He added it was likely that there would be an open recruitment for volunteers later. "Currently, they are still using closed recruitment."

Noted Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra said the idea of waging war against Israel was fine as "rhetoric", but "going there without knowing the characteristics of the battlefield" was akin to suicide. "It is better for them to go on jihad here by helping earthquake and tsunami survivors and people living in poverty," he said.

Legislators shocked by estimate of TNI assets

Jakarta Post - July 20, 2006

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta – In a disclosure that quickly sparked doubt from lawmakers, a government team said Wednesday that the assets of military-owned businesses were worth a total of only Rp 1 trillion (US$108.2 million), far less than widely believed.

A supervisory team for the conversion of military-controlled businesses said the book value of 1,520 foundations and co- operatives operated by the Indonesian Military (TNI) was Rp 1 trillion. "It could be less or more than that figure," team chairman Said Didu said at a hearing with the House of Representatives' Commission I on foreign affairs and defense.

Didu said the figure was a rough estimate that his team received from TNI. "The TNI leadership came out with the estimate after it assembled more than 70 percent of the high-ranking officers knowledgeable about the businesses," he said, adding that the meeting to determine the value of the assets was initiated by former TNI commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto.

The revelation of the alleged value of the businesses took most Commission I members by surprise. "We have learned that during the New Order regime of former president Soeharto, a number of generals held concessions for mining, forestry and other lucrative sectors inherited by the TNI businesses, so the assets cannot be worth only Rp 1 trillion," said lawmaker Permadi of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

House member Soeripto of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) expressed similar shock. "As someone who has known a little bit about forestry, I learned that one way or another military members managed to get shares in all 550 logging concessions. How can there be only two concession-holders with connections to the military?" said Soeripto, a former secretary-general of the Forestry Ministry.

Didu said the government would soon set up a new agency to manage the assets of TNI-owned businesses until they were handed over to the government. A 2004 law mandated that all military businesses must be taken over by the government within five years.

TNI headquarters, the Defense Ministry, the Justice and Human Rights Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the State Ministry for State Enterprises set up the supervisory team led by Didu to manage the handover of the assets.

Didu said the new agency would resemble the now-defunct Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency (IBRA), which was tasked with revamping the country's banking industry after the economic crisis of the late 1990s.

The decision to establish the new agency was made after the supervisory team determined that the existing team could not accomplish its mission within the given time. "Due diligence on a company that performs well will take us one year. Here we have more than 1,500 companies with assets scattered from Sabang to Merauke, and not all of them are in good shape," Didu said.

Lawmaker Ade Daud Nasution of the Reform Star Party warned that the establishment of a new asset management agency would open the way for corruption. "Such an agency will be prone to corruption; look what happened to a former IBRA chairman, who's having a run-in with the law now," Ade said.

Group gives failing grade to water firms

Jakarta Post - July 19, 2006

Jakarta – Water customers represented by the People's Coalition for the Right to Water (KRUHA) complained Tuesday about the service provided by the city's two water companies. They urged the Jakarta administration to end its partnership with foreign firms PT Palyja and PT Thames PAM Jaya (TPJ).

"PT Palyja and PT Thames PAM Jaya simply haven't been performing well. The problem with the water shortages in Jakarta lies in their bad management, but instead they blame the dry season's effect on Jatiluhur Dam, where we get about 80 percent of our water supply," said Hamong Santono, KRUHA's coordinator.

"Those companies promised that they would deal with the water shortages when they signed their deals with city water operator PAM Jaya but they have failed to do so," Hamong told The Jakarta Post.

He said people living in Pejaten Timur, South Jakarta, had not had access to piped water since Thursday. "I had to take a bath at my office because there was no water being piped to my house in Pasar Minggu," Hamong said.

A tenant of the Hilton Residences apartments told the Post that last weekend residents had had no access to water from 10 a.m. Saturday until 11 a.m. Sunday. Hamong added that there had been no water supplied to the Kuningan Apartment on Monday.

He said that while the coalition acknowledged Jatiluhur Dam was running at below capacity due to the dry season, the water shortage was still the problem of the companies.

"What we cannot understand is why the two companies couldn't anticipate this problem. If those two private companies could have fixed about 20 percent of the shortages, about 20 percent of city dwellers wouldn't be having problems getting water."

Hamong said a failure to fix water pipes could be the reason for the huge water leakages the city's plumbing system suffered. "Personnel from PT Pam Jaya told me that the pipes have been in use since colonial times," he said.

KRUHA has reported that as of August 2005, clean water supplies from PT Palyja reached around 145,976,650,000 liters of water a year, with a leakage rate of 46.85 percent, while PT TPJ supplied 230,020,870,000 liters of water and lost 47.88 percent.

"Besides technical leakages, there are also 'leakages' in their administration. For example the companies often forget to charge some customers," Hamong said.

TPJ spokeswoman Devy A. Yheanne, said Jatiluhur Dam was running out of water during the dry season. "The unprocessed water supply has decreased dramatically, to about 24 to 25 percent from Jatiluhur Dam," she told the Post.

Jatiluhur Dam delivered 65 percent of its unprocessed water supply to TPJ and 35 percent to Palyja, she said.

Palyja spokeswoman Ratna Indrayani said the water shortages were the only reason for the poor service KRUHA had complained about.

"Our supply has decreased by 50 percent. PT Palyja normally gets about 6,200 liters of water each second (from the dam). For the last month we have been getting only about 3,000 liters each second," Ratna said.

Lawmaker bugged by wiretapping of Indonesian missions overseas

Jakarta Post - July 18, 2006

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta – Indonesian embassies in seven countries may have been wiretapped by the intelligence services of their host nations, a lawmaker said.

A member of the House of Representatives Commission I on foreign affairs and defense, Djoko Susilo of the National Mandate Party, said the alleged wiretapping was revealed during a session with the State Code Agency.

Djoko said the telephone lines to Indonesian embassies in Finland, Norway, Denmark, South Korea, Japan, China and Myanmar had been bugged for years. "The wiretapping was discovered in a regular survey during the 2005-2006 period," Djoko told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.

Djoko said wiretapping devices were also found in the rooms of Indonesian ambassadors to Japan and Canada. In the Indonesian embassy to Myanmar in Yangon, the listening devices were discovered only after meticulous testing.

"An investigation revealed that there was a 70-percent decrease in the electrical power going into the telephone lines in the embassy," he said, adding that a decrease of more than 50 percent usually indicated that wiretapping was going on.

Djoko did not give details on how the alleged wiretapping was conducted in Beijing and the Scandinavian countries. He said the bugging of Indonesian missions in the Scandinavian countries could have something to do with the Helsinki peace accord signed by the Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement in August of last year.

The Foreign Ministry should quickly write to host countries of the embassies to express its concern over the alleged violations, Djoko suggested. "Especially Myanmar, as this is the second time they have gone too far," Djoko said.

Two years ago, Djoko disclosed wiretapping at the Indonesian embassy in Myanmar, a revelation that soured the relationship between the two countries.

Indonesia appeared to be embarrassed by the wiretapping, since it meant the intelligence services of an impoverished country like Myanmar were able to penetrate the embassy of the largest member of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations. Foreign Ministry spokesman Desra Percaya could not be reached for comment.

Parties protest Israeli attack

Jakarta Post - July 17, 2006

Jakarta – Thousands of people from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) blocked the Bundaran HI traffic circle Sunday to peacefully protest the recent Israeli attacks on Lebanon, newsportal Detik.com reported.

The protesters unfurled and stepped on a large Israeli flag to show their strong disapproval of the attacks. Several activists from the National Mandate Party (PAN) also took part in the protest.

The crowd brought with them banners that read "Save Palestine" and posters depicting the flags of the United States, the European Union and Israel with the label "terrorists and Zionists" underneath.

The protest began early in the morning and ended around noon with no reported violence.


AMM asks government to clarify parts of Aceh governance law

Aceh Kita - July 22, 2006

Radzie, Banda Aceh – The Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM) is asking the Indonesian government to clarify a number of points in the Aceh Governance Law (UU-PA) that are not in compliance with the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The AMM's mission in Aceh is also to be extended until November 2006.

AMM chairperson Pieter Feith conveyed this following a meeting of the Commission on Security Arrangements (CoSA) at the Aceh Governor's attendance hall on Saturday July 22. Aside from Feith, also present at the meeting was the Minister for Communication and Information Sofyan Djalil, Indonesia's senior representative on the AMM Bambang Darmono, Free Aceh Movement (GAM) spokesperson Bakhtiar Abdullah and GAM's representative on the AMM Irwandi Yusuf.

Feith said that the articles that are not in compliance with the MoU are the points on the duties and role of the TNI (Indonesian military) in Aceh, which is not explicitly stipulated in the UU- PA, whereas the MoU says that the TNI should only play a role in external defense. In addition to this Feith also focused on the removal of the word agreement in the section on the authority of the Acehnese legislative assembly. The MoU states that all policies made by the central government that are related to Aceh must be done through consultation and with the agreement of the Acehnese legislative.

"As I have said, in general it is the same as the MoU, be we are asking for clarification from the government about the TNI's [role] in Aceh and we want to see the government and also emphasise to the government that it clarify the issue of the removal of the word agreement in the law", said Faith.

"If you read the MoU, it states that the Acehnese legislative must be given the authority on all polices from Jakarta. Whereas in the law it says there only need be consultation", he said. "The government must respond to the problem immediately".

During the CoSA meeting, Darmono said that with regard to the words "consolation an advisement" that are contained in Article 8, the government says that the meaning of the word consultation is that normally, consultation with the relevant Acehnese authorities would take place until a consensus is reached.

Djalil said that the deficiencies in the law would only be visible after the law is implemented on the ground. Aside from this he also said that there was a possibility of amending the law. "Amendments to the law of course continue to be possible. Laws are always amended. But what is important is don't talk about amendments first, implement it first and then we will know what its weaknesses are", he said.

Yusuf meanwhile said that GAM still needs time to study the law that was ratified on July 11. He said however that there are two articles that GAM have already decided to object to, the articles on authority (Article 11) and Article 8 on the authority of the Acehnese legislative.

"There are a number of articles in the law that are not in accordance with the MoU. In fact I have already spoken about it at a plenary meeting in Jakarta, I have already signaled that there is something amiss", he said.

Yusuf said that GAM is currently preparing a document (an assessment of the UU-PA) and will present it to the AMM. "We are currently in the process of writing a document and will present it to the AMM next week. The next step will be to go to the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) if the problem cannot be resolved at the AMM", explained Yusuf.

All of the parties agreed to hold another CoSA meeting on August 14 that will be attended by the former president of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari, who is also the head of the CMI.


The AMM's mission in Aceh will be extended until November 2006 or after the election of regional heads in Aceh. Feith said that he had met with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono who asked that the AMM's mission be extended until November. Faith said however, that the European Union has yet to make a decision on the matter. "But no decision has been made yet because the EU has not given [us] its decision", he said.

Base on the outcome of a meeting between regional governments, the National Election Commission and the AMM some time ago, it was agreed that the election of regional heads would be held in November. So far however, the stages of the election have not yet been worked out such as the issue of new identity cards. The MoU states that the government must finish distributing new ID cards to replace the red-and-white ID cards by April.

It has been decided that the red-and-white ID card, which remains valid since the government enacted the state of martial law in Aceh in May 2003, can be used to register to vote. Feith said he hoped that all Acehnese would obtain a new ID card by the time the elections are held. [dzie]

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Experts, lawmakers laud Aceh governance law

Jakarta Post - July 21, 2006

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – Despite opposition from former separatists and many other local people, legislators and analysts Thursday praised the passage of the Aceh governance law as a milestone in the effort to bring peace to the formerly rebellious province.

A general strike hit parts of Aceh when the House of Representatives enacted the law in Jakarta on July 11, with opponents charging it was biased in favor of the central government.

The legislation is designed to grant the Acehnese a greater role in politics and in managing the province's natural resources.

"Allowing independent candidates and local political parties to contest local elections opens up room for greater public participation, which will result in sophisticated politicians who are not merely adventurers," said lawmaker Ryaas Rasyid at a forum on implementing the Aceh law. The law carved out new territory in terms of the way the central government and local administrations related to each other, said Ryaas, who is a former director general on autonomy at the Home Ministry.

Political analyst Indra J. Piliang from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said it would trigger other regions, particularly those with rich natural resources, to demand a similar arrangement.

"Bali, whose populace is mainly Hindu and which has a lot of money, will want such a law. Riau will do so for its oil reserves. The next big thing we do could be amending the Constitution on clauses about the relations between the central government and local administrations," he said.

State Minister for Information and Communication Sofyan Djalil agreed the law could serve as a model for other areas of the country. "The law is very well thought out. Good governance is extremely important here," he said.

Sofyan was part of the government's team that negotiated with the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) in Helsinki, Finland, last year. The negotiations produced a peace accord to end three decades of fighting in Aceh, and paved the way for the new law.

Farhan Hamid, a House member from Aceh who was on the committee that deliberated the bill, said the law had the potential to succeed. He noted that it was drafted by the Aceh council and was produced with the support of all political factions.

The speakers stressed that there were still several clauses that required further elaboration to avoid disputes and multiple interpretations.

Muhammadiyah leader Ahmad Syafii Maarif said the section that allowed the adoption of sharia law should be approached cautiously or reconsidered altogether. He said sharia had the potential to alienate people, instill fear, and divide local communities.

Ryaas noted the absence of a specified rule to determine the winner of a local election. The 2004 law on local elections law states that the winner of an election must get more than 25 percent of the votes, while the 2003 law on presidential elections sets the bar at 50 percent. Farhan said problems with the law would be resolved in ensuing bylaws, presidential decrees and government regulations.

Indra said the government must work to ensure that all elements in Aceh felt invested the law. "There are people in many parts of Aceh that are not GAM strongholds. Will they feel attached to the law or not? In fact, these areas have stated their intention to break free and create new provinces," he said.

Aceh law bridges misunderstandings

Jakarta Post - July 21, 2006

Fajran Zain, Indiana – Despite the House of Representatives' endorsement, the new law on Aceh governance is still being debated.

The Free Aceh Movement (GAM) has in strong terms indicated its rejection of the newly adopted Aceh Government Law, while some other elements in Aceh associated with the Center for Information on the Aceh Referendum (SIRA) have also declared their opposition.

The arguments opposing the law mostly focus on the extent of the central government's authority in Aceh, the role of the Indonesian Military (TNI), and the jurisdiction of a human rights tribunal. Before its passage, the law had been revised many times, with many articles added and replaced and the final form some critics believe contradicts the spirit of peace accord signed last year.

In general, the newly passed law is less progressive than three laws related to Aceh that were enacted earlier: the 2001 Aceh Special Autonomy Law, the 2004 Regional Administration Law and the 2000 Human Rights Law.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who has played a key role in bringing peace to the troubled province, has played down opposition to the law. Kalla says the aspirations of GAM were heard and addressed accordingly.

Legislator Ferry Mursyidan Baldan of the Golkar Party, meanwhile, says that GAM's concerns may be based on a misunderstanding based on a focus on only the most controversial points. He suggests the critics view the law holistically.

There are certainly some points that exist in the accord, but are not covered in the law. There are also some points that are absent from the accord but were added later in the bill for some reasons that only the special committee debating the bill know about.

It is not easy to convince the Acehnese people that the House has sincerely passed a bill that will create long-lasting peace because their memories are still strong about the many abuses committed in their province the name of the Indonesia government.

The intention of the government to establish a special team to promote the understanding of the law locally is laudable. However, it is much more important to first direct those interpretations to GAM in a bipartisan dialog. The goal should be to get the government and GAM to work together on the law and join the dissemination process.

It is necessary to leave open spaces for amendments if during this bi-party dialog some ambiguous or contradictory points are found. As both groups have committed to a permanent peace, these interactions should lead to the formation and solidification of the new autonomous province. The talks should be a positive reinforcing process in which the relationship between the two parties is based on trust and cooperation.

It is vital to avoid attempts at domination, because when one group dominates another, trust and cooperation are at stake. The two parties should use a mediation mechanism if there is a dispute, as they promised to do in the accord.

The situation now resembles the previous Cessation of Hostilities (COHA) agreement in 2002, where the agreement had succeeded at the initial stage but failed later during the dissemination process. In that situation, the Indonesian government and GAM had separate teams with conflicting agendas. That deal fell apart and both sides stepped up their attacks on the other.

The continuing confusion and dissatisfaction about the new law must end. The law can not be forcibly implemented, to avoid a series of rejection movements. All of these will likely lead to the possibility of uncertainty and chaos.

No one expects the law to fail this time. Should we fail to convince the people of Aceh about the genuine meaning of the bill, then they will simply judge the government as being insincere about solving the conflict.

[The writer is a postgraduate student of psychology at Ball State University, Indiana. He can be reached at fzain@bsu.edu.]

Aceh governance law not in accordance with peace deal - survey

Aceh Kita - July 20, 2006

Banda Aceh – How do the readers of Aceh Kita regard the Law on Aceh Governance (UU-PA) that was ratified by the House of Representatives on July 11? Is it in accordance with the Helsinki Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) or has it in fact deviated from the agreement.

Out of 512 respondents to a survey carried out by Aceh Kita between July 12 and July 20, the majority, 442 people or 86.33 percent stated that the UU-PA is not in accordance with the MoU. Only 46 people or 9 percent of respondents said it was in accordance with MoU. Meanwhile 24 people or 4.7 percent of respondents said they did not know.

Are there grounds for readers of the Aceh Kita web site to regard the UU-PA as not being in accordance with the August 2005 agreement? How is it that a number of articles in the law are still problematic, particularly Articles 8 and 11. In Article 8 it only refers to the central government having to ask for an opinion and consult with the Acehnese legislative assembly on policies that affect Aceh. In the peace agreement it says that the central government must consult with and ask for the agreement of the Acehnese legislative assembly.

Meanwhile in Article 11, objections have been raised because the central government has the authority to regulate standards and norms in how the Achenese government is run. This article is seen as cutting into the authority of the Acehnese government. Civil groups and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) have both protested over these two articles. This still does not include the article on human rights violations that are not retrospective.

In Aceh, the UU-PA is still a subject of heated discussion in coffee shops, offices, and of course among activist circles, academics, students and politicians. Many Acehnese hope that the UU-PA can preserve peace and bring prosperity to the population of the province that for the last 30 years lived under the shackles of the armed conflict between GAM and the Indonesian government.

"Hopefully from now on it will be safe in Aceh after the ratification of the law", said Razali (47), a rickshaw driver at the Aceh Market when speaking to Aceh Kita a day after the law was ratified. [dzie]

[Translated by James Balowski.]

16 organisations including Walhi declared illegal in Aceh

Aceh Kita - July 17, 2006

Radzie, Banda Aceh – The Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Environmental Forum (Walhi) has been included in a list of illegal or banned organisations that was issued by the governor of Aceh through Decree Number 235/13246 dated June 21, 2006.

Walhi activists believed that the governor's decision has no legal grounds, moreover Walhi is already registered nationally with the Department of Justice and Human Rights. "We regret that the presence of the name Walhi in the governor's decree", said Aceh Walhi executive director Cut Hindon at a press conference in Banda Aceh on Monday July 17.

The decree, which was signed by Aceh governor Mustafa Abubakar has been submitted to the senior Indonesian government representative on the Aceh Monitoring Mission. The decree states that the Aceh provincial government (through a verification team) conducted a verification of a number of social organisations in Aceh on June 9. It also said that the verification team made persuasive approaches by inviting the directors of the illegal organisations and groups to provide an explanation about their organisation.

Based on the meeting on June 9, the verification team concluded that there are 16 illegal organisations in Aceh. Ranked number one as a banned organisation in the Aceh Referendum Information Center (SIRA). SIRA is followed by the Functional Youth Association (IPK), the Indonesian Islamic Institute for Proselytization (LDII), Student Solidarity for the People (SMUR), the Action Coalition of Acehnese Students (Karma), the Aceh Humanitarian Volunteer Association (Pemraka), Rajawali Cipta, Cardova and the All Indonesia Association of Street Vendors (APKLSI).

Also included in the list is the Mission Foundation for the Reclasseering (purification/cleansing) of the Republic (located in East Aceh and Gayo Lues), the Independent Peoples Forum (FRI), the Front for the Struggle Against GAM (FPSG), the Anti Separatist Bulls Peoples Front (FBRAS), the Red and White Garuda Peoples Struggle Front (FPRGMP) and the Front for the Defense of the Fatherland (FPTA).

Hindon said that Walhi was never invited to straighten out the regional government's erroneous views – in this case the Inter Community National Unity and Social Protection Agency (Kesbang Linmas) – about their organisation. Because of this therefore, on July 24 Walhi will be sending letter of protest to the regional government and Kesbang Linmas. "We will be seek clarification from the governor, what legal grounds and criteria was it that that resulted in including Walhi as an illegal organisation", said Hindon.

In addition to seeking a clarification, Walhi is also demanding that the governor revoke the decree and present a public apology to Walhi though the mass media. If this demand is not heeded, Walhi intends to resolve the case through the courts. "We will give [the governor] a deadline of three days", said Hindon. "If there is no response, Walhi will take legal action at the national level".

Hindon asserted that decree issued by the governor has damaged Walhi. "When meeting with government agencies, for example, they say what is the point of having discussions with an illegal organisation", explained Hindon.

According to Hindon, Walhi has been registered with the Department of Justice and Human Rights since 1988 through Certificate of Registration Number 11/1983. Then in May 2005 they renewed the certificate and were recorded under Certificate Number 1/2005. The corporate body Walhi is not a social organisation (ormas) under the guidelines of Law Number 8/1986. "Walhi is a foundation, so it follows the guidelines of the law on foundations", explained Hindon.

Walhi has been present in Aceh since before the tsunami. Hindon noted they had already reported Walhi's presence to the courts, the regional offices of the Department of Justice and Human Rights and the national police. [dzie]

[Translated by James Balowski.]

In Aceh, a year of peace but ex-rebels fear for future

Agence France Presse - July 17, 2006

Lambaro Neujid – Former separatist rebels in Indonesia's Aceh have enjoyed a year of peace but, as they slowly try to build new lives for themselves, they are worried about the future.

In the village of Lambaro Neujid, nestled at the foot of stunning mountains outside the provincial capital Banda Aceh, ex-rebel Syahir has just been married, with comrades Bunaiga and Marzuki in attendance.

A modest tent for the wedding guests has been erected in front of a semi-finished house built to replace one lost to the 2004 tsunami which lashed Aceh's shores, killing some 168,000 people here.

Syahir and his new bride remain in the house, as tradition dictates, while the guests line up for local goat ragout with heart of banana tree.

Just over a year ago, Bunaiga and Marzuki were members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), fighting for the province's independence from Jakarta as they hid in the mountains. While they have been welcomed back with open arms to their home village, they have no jobs and few prospects.

Marzuki, 28, entered the separatist movement at an early age so he did not complete his schooling and now lacks employable skills. "Many of us left school to join GAM, so it's difficult to get a job once you're back without qualifications," he tells AFP.

Shaven-headed, chain-smoking Bunaiga joined the rebels when he was only 17. Six years later, he is making do with small jobs buying sand or stone needed for the many houses being built by foreign aid agencies here. "But it's only for three or four days a month," he complains, lighting another cigarette.

Bunaiga lost his entire family in the tsunami, so he relies strongly on his former comrades for help and work. "Although we have all left the mountains," he says, "we still have a strong sense of solidarity".

As part of a peace pact GAM signed with the Indonesian government in August last year, some 3,000 former fighters have left the mountains to settle back into their respective communities, according to the European Union-led Aceh Monitoring Mission (AMM). Another 2,000 political prisoners have been amnestied, the AMM says.

The agreement ended a 29-year-old conflict that killed 15,000 people, mostly civilians. The peace process is not yet complete, with the Indonesian government only passing an autonomy law for the province last week. Ex-rebels are studying the law and have warned they may complain to the AMM over some provisions.

To help them start over, former GAM members have each been given economic assistance packages worth four million rupiah (about 400 dollars). The government has also poured 600 billion rupiah for 2006 into the new Aceh Reintegration Body (BRA), which is dealing with the issues faced by ex-combatants and conflict victims.

But Marzuki is impatient. "It's been three months since I filed a proposal to start a carpentry workshop, but I still haven't had any reply so far," he complains.

According to BRA head Yusni Saby, frustrations from ex-rebels stem from a misunderstanding of the body's mechanisms. "We don't deal with personal proposals anymore, except those coming from families of deceased, handicapped persons or people who lost their homes because of the conflict," he explains.

"The rest are dealt with through community-based assessment. Every village will get a certain amount of funding from the 600 billion rupiah to review proposals directly."

Lahmuddin, 30, used to command one of the regional GAM regiments around the southwestern town of Blang Pidie. He also fought around this village, where he met his wife Marlina.

He has a sense of belonging to the place, a feeling perhaps strengthened by the giggly six-month-old son he holds in his arms. But still, he still misses some of the times since he entered GAM in 1994.

"Even though we had to hide, our mind was at peace. Now all we worry about is finding a job and money," he says. "It has turned into an obsession."

 West Papua

Papuan defendants say statements elicited under pressure

Kompas - July 20, 2006

Jayapura – During the reading of defense speeches at the Jayapura District Court on Wednesday July 19, four of the defendants charged over the Abepura riots that resulted in the death of four police officers and an Indonesian airforce officer have retracted the statements made in their interrogation reports. They retracted the statements on the grounds that the information was provided under pressure from police investigators.

On the same day, the panel of judges presided over by Morris SH also postponed the hearing of the verdicts against the four other defendants. The four defendants, who are facing the same charges, are Markus Kayame, Patrisius Aronggear, Thomas Ukago and Fenius Waker. The defendants that retracted their statements were Othen Dapyal, Elkana Lokobal, Musa Asso and Moses Lokobal.

Monjefri Pawika also declared that he was retracting his statement in a defense speech read out by his lawyer from the Papua Land of Peace advocacy team.

Another defendant in the Abepura case who is being tried separately, Elyas Tamaka, also said in his defense speech that he was retracting his statement on the grounds that the information was elicited under pressure.

In another separate hearing, the defense attorney for Aris Mandowen in presenting his demurrer to the court also retracted his interrogation report on the same grounds.

In his dense speech, the secretary general of the West Papua Peoples United Struggle Front (Pepera) Selfius Bobii questioned the procedures used in breaking up the demonstration at the Cenderawasih University on March 16. He also refuted the testimonies of a number of witnesses that stated he had given a speech in which he ordered the protesters to attack police.

Bobii also questioned why police did not break up the smaller mass action earlier in the day when protesters blockaded the highway between Jayapura and the Sentani Airport. Bobii said he believes that police allowed them to continue demonstrating and provoked the demonstrators into committing violence against police.

"There was a game by security forces in the blockading of the road that ended in the clash. On the night of March 15, there were a number of intelligence agents who joined the protesters. On that night there were only 50 people. If the blockading of the road was indeed against the law, why didn't police break up the demonstration on that night", said Bobii.

In a separate defense speech, Bobii's defense attorney questioned an expert language witness (who is also a police officer) who stated that a press release issued by Bobii incited the demonstrators to blockade the road. Bobii's defense lawyer said that the blockade had been in place since March 15 while Bobii only distributed the press release at 1pm.

"The capacity of the expert language witness who concluded that the press release incited the protesters is also unclear. Moreover the expert witness failed to appear in court", said Bobii's defense attorney Anum Siregar in reading the defense speech.

Following the hearing, Morris declared that when witnesses provide information under oath to investigators, the information can be used even though they are not present in court. "On this question (the rebuttal against the competence of the expert witness) it may well be that the defense attorney considers this the case. We can also make a consideration, including in relation to the information from the witnesses and our own convictions", he said. (row)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

West Papuan student urges solidarity

Green Left Weekly - July 19, 2006

Alby Dallas – Hendrik Ervan Baldus from the People's Democratic Party of Indonesia is the chairperson of the Papuan National Student Front. He attended the 35th Resistance national conference, giving greetings from both organisations.

Baldus recounted the history of two centuries of Dutch colonial rule in West Papua and the sham United Nations referendum, which in 1969 formally handed Indonesia control of the resource-rich province. (Indonesia had formally administered West Papua since 1963.)

He outlined the military and economic repression experienced by West Papuans and said that, while the country is rich in minerals and other natural resources, most West Papuans still live by subsistence farming.

"The economy is driven by non-Papuans and the profits from companies [such as the giant Freeport goldmine] are not being put into health, education and agricultural improvements", Baldus said. He said that whether or not West Papua is a "failed state" is hotly debated within Indonesia. But, he added, this was rather academic because only when West Papua is truly free can its people begin to address the problems facing them. "West Papua must be guaranteed self-determination, regardless of what path they choose to take, without fear or coercion", Baldus said.

Asked what Australians could do, Baldus said they should pressure both the Australian and Indonesian governments to support Papuan independence and to demand an immediate end to joint military exercises. "Without full support, the struggle will be very difficult, even after independence has been won.

Australians must ensure that the Howard government supports the West Papuan people, otherwise the backward West Papuan economy will ensure that we remain slaves to imperialism."

Papuan trials open despite protest

Jakarta Post - July 19, 2006

Ary Hermawan, Jakarta – The Central Jakarta District Court opened the trial Tuesday of seven Papuans charged with the 2002 murders of two American teachers and an Indonesian who worked for PT Freeport Indonesia in Timika, Papua.

The suspects were forcibly brought to trial by police after twice refusing to appear. The defendants demanded that the trial be held in Timika.

"It's useless to hold the trial here. We won't talk," defendant Ishak Onawame, 54, told presiding judge Andriani Nurdin. The judge was questioning Antonius Wamang, who remained silent.

Antonius, 30, who is accused of orchestrating the killings, is being tried separately from the other six defendants: Ishak, Agustinus Anggaibak, 23, Yulianus Deikme, 26, Esau Onawame, 23, Hardi Sugumol, 34, and Yairus Kiwak, 52.

The seven Papuans insisted they would stand trial only in Timika, where the alleged crimes took place.

"Don't force us!," cried another of the accused, while Papuan supporters attending the session applauded. Antonius, who was seated in front of the judges, returned to the visitors' seats to join the other defendants in protest of the proceedings. "I want this trial closed now!" cried Ishak.

Judge Andriani pleaded with them to agree to stand trial but failed. The situation was exacerbated by the absence of the defendants' lawyers, who are from the Indonesian Legal Aid and Human Rights Association. They had been asked by the Papuans not to attend.

The police finally forced Antonius to return to his seat so that the indictments could be read. "You may file your objection in a written statement in your defense later," Andriani said, adding that the trial must go on.

In the indictment, prosecutors alleged that Antonius was a member of the Free Papua Movement (OPM) and was ordered by OPM leader Kelly Kwalik to sabotage Jalan Tembagapura in Timika and to attack Indonesian Military (TNI) troops that passed along the road near the Freeport mine.

"Antonius Wamang recruited 11 people to launch the attack," the indictment said. "In his action, he was backed by preacher Ishak Onawame who gave him two sacks of rice and a tent..."

The indictment claims that on August 31, Antonius and the rest of the attackers, using M-16, SS-1 and Mauser rifles, ambushed the vehicle carrying five Americans and an Indonesian, which they believed was also carrying TNI soldiers.

US nationals Ricky Lynn Spier, 44, and Edwin Leon Burgen, 71, and an Indonesian, FX Bambang Riwanto, died in the attack.

During the session, a Papuan woman kept yelling that the seven defendants were innocent. "They are just farmers. Farmers don't have guns, soldiers do!"

The defendants are charged with premeditated murder and weapons possession, for which they could face the death sentence.

Prosecutor Anita Asterida said the Timika District Court and the Papuan provincial prosecutor's office had pleaded with the Supreme Court to move the trial to Jakarta for security reasons. "It is exactly as stipulated in the Criminal Procedures Code," she told The Jakarta Post.

The trial was adjourned until August 1, when the defendants and their lawyers will present their pleas.

 Human rights/law

Give info bill priority: NGOs

Jakarta Post - July 20, 2006

Jakarta – A group of non-governmental organizations warned the government and lawmakers Wednesday to give a bill on freedom of information higher priority than one regarding state secrecy.

The NGOs, including Indonesian Human Rights Watch (Imparsial) and the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, said the bill on state secrecy was progressing more quickly.

They said clauses in the state secrecy bill could be accommodated in the freedom of information bill, whereas if they were passed as two different bills they would overlap.

The NGOs also said the state secrecy bill should emphasize ways to regulate information, rather than delineating types of information.

Witness protection law passed

Jakarta Post - July 19, 2006

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta – Legislators passed a landmark law Tuesday that affords protection to witnesses and victims of crime during the legal process, but victims' rights advocates complain its measures are inadequate.

The law, which has been in the pipeline for six years, for the first time allows for the establishment of an agency to ensure protection of witnesses and victims.

The Witness and Victims Protection Agency (LPSK) is mandated to provide protection not only to them, but also their relatives if their physical well-being is in danger.

The LPSK will also ensure victims are informed of their rights and receive appropriate assistance. Among the guaranteed rights for members of the program are freedom to choose the type of assistance and security protection, including to assume a new identity and safe location, and right to an interpreter.

The law has been praised in some quarters for broadening the definition of witness and victims to include those in cases of terrorism, gross violations of human rights, money laundering, drug crimes and human trafficking and gender-based violence.

Lukman Hakim Saifuddin of the United Development Party (PPP) said the passage of the law was a refreshing sign amid the otherwise lackluster fight against corruption.

"We have shown the public that while the government is busy preparing regulations that will protect corrupt state officials, the House can produce a law that promotes the contrary," Lukman Hakim said, noting the law would provide protection to those helping uncover corruption.

Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin said the law also marked a radical departure from the existing Criminal Code Procedures (KUHAP) which only gave protection to defendants in court. "For the first time, the rights of the victim and witness are recognized," Hamid told a House plenary session.

But several non-governmental organizations argue that law only gives "half-hearted" protection. The Coalition for Witness Protection criticized the new law as merely a carbon copy of the prevailing KUHAP.

"As a result, the lawmakers failed to include whistle-blowers in the definition of witness," said the coalition, consisting among others of Indonesian Corruption Watch, the National Commission on Violence Against Women and the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta).

Network for Pro-women legislation also criticized a stipulation in the new law which said that medical assistance and psychological rehabilitation would only be given to victims of human rights abuse. "Victims in other cases, especially domestic violence, also need such assistance," the network said.

Activists question effect of Citizenship Law

Jakarta Post - July 17, 2006

Ary Hermawan, Jakarta – The goodwill generated by the passing of the Citizenship Law on Tuesday will quickly dissipate if the government fails to end other forms of state discrimination against minorities in the country, experts warn.

Although the new law scraps the official distinction between "indigenous" and "non-indigenous" Indonesians, experts doubt it will end discrimination against Indonesians of Chinese descent. "The new law will only slightly reduce discrimination against Chinese-Indonesians. Theoretically, they no longer need an SBKRI (Indonesian citizenship certificate) to be recognized as Indonesian citizens, but what happens in reality is different," the chairwoman of antidiscrimination watchdog Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa, Esther Yusuf Purba, told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

The new law also has been hailed by activists for legally recognizing transnational marriages. However, they say government policy on citizenship will not change until regulations are issued to support the law. This is expected to happen in the next few months.

Esther said the new law did not provide any assurances that discrimination against Chinese-Indonesians would end in the near term.

"For them, (discrimination) is simply the consequence of being different. They will still have to bear the burden of prejudice from some people who think that all Chinese-Indonesians are well-off and therefore it is 'justifiable' to extort them.

"If they don't use an SBKRI, dishonest government officials will require other documents to make things difficult for Chinese- Indonesians to get what they want," she said.

Ethnic Chinese were required to obtain a citizenship certificate after Chinese premier Mao Tse Tung declared in 1950 that all Chinese around the world were "citizens of China". In response, Indonesia, which does not recognize dual citizenship, passed a law making the SBKRI mandatory for all Chinese-Indonesians if they wanted to obtain legal documents.

Ethnic Chinese in Jakarta say they continue to face difficulties when applying for legal documents, even though the law on citizenship certificates was scrapped in 1996, and a 1999 presidential decree specifically abolished the need to present the certificate.

They say local government agencies continue to ask for the SBKRI before issuing official documents. Some applicants choose the "fast lane", paying middlemen between Rp 300,000 (about US$33) and Rp 20 million to get documents to which they have a legal right.

Kompas daily reported Friday that Chinese-Indonesians in South Sumatra were still required to present a citizenship certificate when applying for passports and birth certificates, and to continue their studies. "This is terrible. We have to spend thousands of rupiah just to get an ID card," the chairman of a local Chinese community group, Fauzi Thamrin, told the newspaper.

Tamrin Amal Tomagola, a sociologist at the University of Indonesia, said ethnic Chinese would likely continue to suffer discriminatory treatment as long as the social segregation between them and "indigenous" Indonesians remained.

"The passage of the law must be followed by efforts to dismantle social segregation in society," he said. This segregation can be seen in the government policy regarding residential planning, he said.

Tamrin said many Chinese-Indonesians and some ethnic Indians lived in high-walled residences and studied at "exclusive schools", which "justified" the stereotype that they were a wealthy minority.

"The government has promised to put an end to any form of discrimination against minorities, but it hasn't even set up ways to dilute the segregation in society, which is actually the root of the problem," he said.

New law mandates witness, victim protection body

Jakarta Post - July 17, 2006

Jakarta – The final draft of a bill makes provisions for an institution to be set up to ensure that witnesses and victims are protected throughout their encounters with the justice system.

It is expected that the draft of the witness and victim protection bill will be endorsed by lawmakers Tuesday in a plenary session of the House of Representatives. Deliberations on the bill started six years ago.

Article 27 of the bill states that witnesses and victims in the cases of terrorism, gross violations of human rights, money laundering, drug crimes and human trafficking are entitled to protection from the Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK).

"A witness or victim may receive protection after the significance of their testimonies, the severity of the threat against them, medical or psychological records and their police record are considered," the bill says. The bill also compels the LPSK to provide protection for the relatives of witnesses and victims.

The independent body would have seven members, to be appointed by the President with the approval of the House. Members would be chosen for their experience in human rights activism or work for a non-governmental organization, prosecutor's office or the police force. Membership would end after five years.

The LPSK would also ensure victims were informed of their rights and received the appropriate assistance, such as reparation in criminal cases.

A number of factions in the House, however, are campaigning to diminish the role of the LPSK in acting as a mediator in the expending of compensation.

The National Awakening Party (PKB) faction, for instance, has said the LPSK should only be given the authority to determine how much money the government has to pay out in human rights abuse cases. "Reparation for victims in criminal cases is a matter for the courts," PKB faction spokesman M. Mahfud said.

The draft bill has also drawn criticism from a coalition of NGOs. The Coalition for Witness Protection said that in spite of the planned establishment of a witness and victim protection body, the bill only provided "half-hearted" protection.

"The lawmakers seemed to have succumbed to the government's attempt to water down the definition of witness and victim. There are numerous articles that put limits on how much the two should be compensated. But there is no mention of medical or psychological assistance," the coalition said in a statement.

 Labour issues

Child workers exploited in footwear factories

Jakarta Post - July 17, 2006

Theresia Sufa, Bogor – Going to school or playing is common for most children but it is a luxury for many youngsters living in the Ciomas district near Bogor. Many of the children are taken out of school as early as elementary level to help their parents earn additional money.

They spend nearly all day in small factory sweatshops, home footwear industries scattered across the region. Despite this, the children – aged between nine to 17 years – often earn only a fraction of what their parent and other adults do.

Ciomas district, just over 40 minutes drive from Bogor, has a high concentration of shoe factories, more so than other large industrial areas like Cibaduyut and Tasikmalaya where the businesses are common.

In Ciomas' 11 villages, there are some 2,000 workshops producing shoes, boots and sandals. While the industry employs many people in the area it also takes up young laborers to meet production demand.

Despite the meager wages, most of the children said they were ordered by their parents to drop out of school and go to work instead. Mohamad Hendar, 11, left school in third grade. His parents had divorced and his mother told him that she could no longer afford his tuition fees. His mother and sister Nia also work in one of the small factories.

"He was once offered a chance by his kakak-kakak (big brothers) from Saung Sararea to continue his study, at least until he finished elementary school. But he didn't want to. He said he was too tired to go to school," Nia said.

Saung Sararea is the name of a group co-founded by the International Labor Organization and local nonprofit group Elsppat to help child workers.

Hendar's job at the workshop is to glue the footwear parts – for which he can earns a paltry Rp 15,000 (US$1.63) a week. "I am happy whenever I give the money to my mother, that's enough for me," he said. His job may not require much physical activity but Hendar said he often felt dizzy because of the glue smell.

Being exposed chemicals like glue is just one of the hazards child workers face on a daily basis. When The Jakarta Post visited the footwear workshops, it found many of them were located inside the houses of factory owners. Hot air from a drying oven, smoke from cigarettes, dust, and the noise from machines are the daily companions of the child workers.

ILO project coordinator Mediana Dessy said the conditions for the child workers in Ciomas were deplorable. She said parents were often unwilling to admit the dangers because they were caught in a poverty trap.

"The ILO will support initiatives from the government and non- government groups to work together with us to eradicate child labor in this area," she said. Dessy said ILO began to closely monitor the conditions of child workers in the area in June 2005.

"Our target is by 2016, there will be no more underage labor employed in those workshops and in the meantime, we are using the persuasive approach to get these children back into schools," she said.

"It's hard to ask them to return to school. They know they can earn money, so what's the point of going back to school. This is already a culture here," Dessy said.

ILO and its local counterpart, Elsppat, also tried to educate adults about the hazards in their workplaces.

"Many of them still cannot accept this." Istiati B. Sapto, a doctor with the Bogor Health Agency, who initiated a program to treat the children, said the glue was having a terrible affect on the children's health.

"Many children are exposed to glue and sniff it for around eight to nine hours a day for up to two years at a time," she said. Other children complained of skin rashes, dizziness and a loss of appetite. "It takes some time to get them willing to be checked. They don't care about their own health," she said.

Child labor suspended for visit

Jakarta Post - July 17, 2006

Theresia Sufa, Bogor – Participants in the Asia Pacific International Labor Organization seminar, which finished in Jakarta on Friday, visited Ciomas, Bogor, on Tuesday to investigate the use of child labor in the footwear industry.

Locally known as Bengkel Alas Kaki, the Ciomas district is home to hundreds of shoe and sandal workshops. Many local children work in the industry, some part-time after school and others, school drop-outs, full time.

The 27 seminar participants, from Japan, Thailand, Mongolia, Singapore, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia and Indonesia, said they wanted to see for themselves the conditions Ciomas' child laborers worked in.

However, when the guests arrived at the workshops, only laborers aged between 16 and 18 years were working. Most of them said they had started working after graduating from junior high.

A participant from Japan, Yashusi Korube, told reporters he was glad to be able to see the living and working conditions of the laborers so he could tell people it was all right to use the goods they produced. "Child labor is not an issue in my country anymore. Maybe 20 years ago, we still had them," he said.

But when The Jakarta Post visited the workshops, a few days before the seminar participants' did, children as young as nine years old were to be found gluing shoe soles and synthetic leather.

There are some 2,000 workshops in the district, which has 11 villages. Local nonprofit group Elsppat and the International Labor Organization (ILO), as well as the Bogor Health Agency have been working with child laborers from six villages.

ILO project coordinator Mediana Dessy said there were a number of children working in the Ciomas home industry, most of whom were forced to earn additional money to support their families.

She said the ILO, Elspatt and the health agency had decided to focus first on the six villages from which the greatest number of child labors came. "Our latest data shows there are 545 children between nine and 12 years old working there," she said.

The regional seminar, held from July 12 until 14 at the Aryadutta Hotel in Jakarta, discussed the eradication of child labor. Government representatives, businesspeople and activitists from 11 countries took part.

 Politics/political parties

Preparations begin for formation of National Liberation Party

Suara Pembaruan - July 23, 2006

Jakarta – Student activists, workers, farmers and the urban poor have started planning the establishment of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Papernas) to fight for the welfare of the oppressed in the 2009 general elections.

This was conveyed by the general secretary of the Papernas preparatory committee, Lukman Hakim, during the launch of the committee today on Sunday July 23 at the National Library in Jakarta.

The event to launch the Papernas preparatory committee was attended by social activists who they referred to genuinely representing the aspirations of the ordinary people. Also present were groups from various layers of society that represent the interests of the ordinary people such as the urban poor, street buskers, trade unions as well as people who have been the victims of government policies that side with the ideology of neo- imperialism.

According to Hakim, the activists, both those from student groups, workers, farmers as well as the urban poor have been considering forming a political party to participate in the 2009 general elections, which can genuinely struggle for the people's welfare, not just turn the people into a commodity to increase their popularity.

They believe that governments since the New Order regime of former President Suharto up until the present government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla, have taken advantage of the people by making promises and using them as political flavoring for their campaigns, but after they get into power they fail to carry out a program that sides with the ordinary people.

In order to realise the concept of returning to struggling for the ordinary people rather than using them as a political commodity, the Papernas preparatory committee will be carrying out a program based on three banners of nationalism: The abolition of the foreign debt, the nationalisation of mining companies and the development of the national industry for the welfare of the people. [E-5]

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Workers, farmers and urban poor to form new political party

Detik.com - July 24, 2006

Ken Yunita, Jakarta – Thousands of workers, farmers and urban poor have started the process of forming a new political party but launching a preparatory committee for a national party of liberation.

A number of non-government organisations were involved in pioneering the formation of the Preparatory Committee of the National Liberation Party of Unity (Persiapan Partai Persatuan Pembebasan Nasional, KP-Papernas). The launch of the committee took place at the National Library building on Jl. Selemba Raya in Jakarta on Sunday July 23.

"Up until now there has yet to be a party that can unite the ordinary people, the urban poor. This party will be their vehicle", said KP-Papernas chair Dominggus Oktavianus Kiik before its membership that comprises activists from Bali, Central and East Java and North Sumatra.

The launch of the committee that was enlivened by a number of speeches with Dominggus saying that the event represented a pre- party formation. "This is to prepare a party that will be declared in November", he added.

Dominggus said that the essence of the party's struggle would include the nationalisation of mining companies, abolishing the foreign debt and developing the national industry for the welfare of the people. "Up until now we have remained [under the leadership of] the lackeys of foreign countries", he asserted. (wiq)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

National Liberation Party of Unity to be formed

Kompas - July 24, 2006

Jakarta – In the mist criticism over the performance of the political parties, a number of elite parties have initiated a process of internal consolidation as well as using public forums – not just the parliament – to issue statements. A new political party is also started to emerge.

On Sunday July 23 in Jakarta, no less than three political parities held activities to mobilise their supporters. The general chairperson of the central leadership board of the National Awakening Party (PKB), Muhaimin Iskandar, called on all components of his party and other political parities to get rid of the tendency to politicise all kinds of issues and reform themselves by having a clearer commitment to the interests of broader society.

Iskandar conveyed this yesterday after presenting a political speech at a peak reception to commemorate eight years of the PKB on the grounds of the Jakarta Raya A Arena Pekan Hall in Kemayoran. Present at the reception were PKB party members and supporters from around the country and a number of pubic figures such as Laode Ida (deputy speaker of the Regional Representatives Council), AM Fatwa (deputy speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly), Agung Laksono (speaker of the House of Representatives), Erman Suparno (minister for labour and transmigration) and Jimly Asshidiqqie (the head of the Constitutional Court).

"Many government officials have yet to work all out when faced by crisis. They take it easy or go to and go back and forth from Jakarta as if they are busy doing something, but they are not. As a consequence distrust has surfaced among ordinary people, not just with regard to political parties but also the government", said Iskandar.

Separately, the chair of the steering committee of the national collective leadership board of the Democratic Party of Renewal (PDP), Roy BB Janis, called on the political elite not to just criticise the performance of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government, but also assist in seeking a solution in order that the nation does not continue to sink into crisis. "The political elite should become part of the solution, not become part of the national problem", said Janis after inaugurating the Jakarta regional collective leadership board of PDP at the Proclamation Monument on Sunday.

The government's weaknesses should not just be blamed on President Yudhoyono, but also on the vice president as well as the United Indonesian Cabinet and the coalition of political parties that support it. In order to overcome the nation's various problems, the government must have the courage to make a breakthrough. The nation's problems cannot be resolved by ordinary measures. "There is concern that the legitimacy of the government has declined, as has been found in number of surveys", said Janis.

New political party

Sunday was also marked by the declaration by a number of politicians to form a new political party, the National Liberation Party of Unity or Papernas. The party's aim is to defend the poor who are currently being confuted by the interests of capital and those in power, that is neoliberalism. A preparatory committee for the party was formed on Sunday July 23 headed by general chairperson Dominggus Oktavianus Tobu Kiik (the general chairperson of the Indonesian National Labour Front of Struggle, FNPBI) and chairperson of the Advisory Committee Dita Indah Sari (the general chairperson of the Peoples Democratic Party, PRD). The committee will work until the Papernas founding congress is held in November.

Thousands of workers and urban poor crowed into the National Library for the event that was also attended by political commentator Wimar Witoelar, cultural observer Mohamad Sobary and Ray Sahetapy. (Ant/SUT/DWA)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Golkar forms four-party coalition for election

Jakarta Post - July 22, 2006

Adianto P. Simamora, Jakarta – Political parties have begun building strategies and forces ahead of Jakarta's first-ever gubernatorial elections, scheduled for next year.

The Golkar Party, ranked fourth in the 2004 regional election, revealed Friday its plans to join with the National Mandate Party, the United Development Party, the National Awakening Party and the Prosperous Peace Party.

"For the time being, we have only had informal meetings with the four parties to discuss the coalition. It is still possible (we will) join forces with other ones," Inggard Josua, secretary of the Jakarta chapter of the Golkar Party, told The Jakarta Post.

Golkar selected the four parties on the basis that they shared a common mission to create an environment in Jakarta that was conducive to economic and social development. "Just by chance, the four parties nominated the same figures to bid for the gubernatorial election," Inggard said.

Golkar hopefuls floated for the post include incumbent Deputy Governor Fauzi Bowo, city secretary Ritola Tasmaya, former Jakarta military chief Bibit Waluyo, Jakarta member of the Regional Representative Council Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, chairman of the Jakarta Golkar chapter Ade Surapriatna and former transportation minister Agum Gumelar.

"To ensure the choices, we will launch at least three surveys to get input from Jakarta residents about what they wish of the next governor. The most important thing is that the governor must have good leadership skills," he said

"We are not talking about the backgrounds of the candidates, whether he is from the military or an ethnic Betawi (native Jakartan) or not."

The Jakarta chapter of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) earlier also raised possible plans for a coalition with other parties.

The PDI-P, which came third behind the Democratic Party and Prosperous Justice Party in the regional election, is yet to announce the names of parties it will join with.

The party of former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, the PDI-P is currently the only party giving independents the chance to register as gubernatorial candidates.

Sarwono, along with Agum, the running-mate of former vice- president Hamzah Haz in the 2004 presidential election, and noted economist Faisal Basri have all registered with the party as candidates.

The PDI-P promoted religious tolerance and pluralism as its mission, saying that the multicultural residents of Jakarta needed to remain united despite their differences.

Meanwhile, the Prosperous Justice Party, which is contesting the election on its own, is still considering the opposition. "We have not discussed forming a coalition so far. However, we will see what other parties do," Tri Wicaksana, chairman of the party's local chapter, said.

He said the party was currently finalizing the names of candidates for the post. "Hopefully we will announce only two names for the posts of governor and vice governor next week," he said.

The party earlier considered actor Rano Karno, several retired Army generals, including Bibit and Agus Wijoyo and current National Police deputy chief Comr. Gen. Adang Daradjatun and party member Ahmad Heryawan.

New left party formed in Indonesia

Green Left Weekly - July 19, 2006

Katarina Pujiastuti – The spirit of unity filled the air as democratic organisations agreed to build a Party of National Liberation Unity (KP-PAPERNAS). Trade unions, student organisations, progressive political parties and poor people's organisations agreed on a common platform and strategy at a conference on June 20-21.

Participants agreed that imperialism and its agent in Indonesia, the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, are generating the main crises across the nation. Neoliberal policies have plundered the country's natural resources, devastated its national industry and impoverished its people. It has also removed the nation's independence, sovereignty and dignity.

As the elite's profits-first policies intensify, people's expectations of them are decreasing. Resistance is increasing, but it is fragmented and not yet a significant force. Given this, the conference agreed on the urgent need to unify, and therefore strengthen the progressive movement.

The conference set up a preparation committee for KP-PAPERNAS. "Liberation" reflects a desire to re-appropriate that word, and "unity" refers to the party's strategic project to broaden and deepen the democratic movement. The following set of demands for the new party was adopted by the conference.

Repudiate the foreign debt which has absorbed vast amounts of the state budget and prevented the state from modernising the industrial and technological sectors. It also deprives social programs such as education and health of funding; in 2006, debt repayment absorbed more than 27% of the budget (11% for interest payment and 16% for principal). Only 7% has been allocated for development.

Nationalisation of the oil, gas and electricity industries. The country's energy resources must be controlled by the state with priority given to supporting national industry and public services. Commercialisation will only be considered if the domestic industry and the people's needs are fulfilled. The electricity company has increased its tariffs because of the high price of petroleum and gas. But this accelerates the devastation of national industry, leading to more job losses and greater impoverishment.

Create jobs through a national industrialisation program. Job creation must not depend on foreign and private investment. Workers' rights have been removed as the government pushes for lower wages. Financial and economic resources are needed for a new national industrialisation of basic industries – steel, machinery, electricity, agriculture, pharmaceutical, automotive, train, shipping and telecommunications. This program will require a vast number of workers who, in turn, will benefit from having the work. Workers must also have free access to education and health care.

The national founding members of the KP-PAPERNAS are the People's Democratic Party, the Automotive Workers Union, the Indonesian National Front for Workers Struggle, Unity of Workers Struggle, the National Student League for Democracy, Unity of Buddhist Student, the National Peasant Union, the Urban Poor Union and the Indonesian Transportation Workers Union.

Joining at a local level are: Belawan Transportation Workers Union, (Medan-North Sumatra), Movement of the Poor, Labuhan Batu (North Sumatra), Lampung Street Vendor Union (Lampung Province), Jogjakarta Student Community, Solidarity of Indonesian Students, Amasutra, Lespek Boul, Central Sulawesi Union of the Poor, Forum of Lembata Youth (South East Nusa, NTT), Peasant Community of Rotanolet, Peasant Community of Liavua, Forum of Latena Community and People's Alliance for Decent Housing.

[Katarina Pujiastuti is the international officer for KP- PAPERNAS. For more information, email .]

 Natural disasters

Indonesia pays dearly for tsunami folly

Asia Times - July 21, 2006

Kafil Yamin, Bandung – As the death toll in the earthquake and tsunami that struck Java island's south coast on Monday passes the 500 mark, Indonesian officials admit they were caught by surprise – despite the elaborate precautions they took after the bigger December 2004 tsunami that killed an estimated 167,700 people in Aceh.

Indonesia's Social Ministry estimates that at least 530 people have been killed, 240 people are missing and hundreds injured in the latest natural disaster to ravage Indonesia. In the worst-hit Pangandaran beach town in southern Java, hotels, restaurants, houses and public facilities were destroyed.

Officials said more casualties were expected as rescue teams continued to search for survivors and dead bodies among the rubble of destroyed buildings.

Monday's tremor measured 6.8 on the Richter scale, according to an official at Jakarta's National Meteorology and Geophysics Agency. The quake then created 5-meter-high waves that crashed into Java's southwest coast, sending thousands of residents scrambling for higher ground.

Officials said 42,000 people living along Pangandaran beach had taken refuge in higher inland areas, while 52,000 residents of Cilacap, Central Java, had fled their homes and were now in refugee camps situated in the island's interior.

Soon after the initial earthquake, which caused tremors both on Java and underwater, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) in Hawaii warned Indonesia of a possible tsunami wave. But Indonesian officials, who received detection equipment and technical assistance after the 2004 Aceh disaster, were unable to put the technology to timely use.

Surono, an official of the Meteorology and Geophysics department, said the tsunami detector was not functioning when the killer waves struck. He said one reason for the government's inadequate response was a strong belief among scientists that Java's south coast was a tsunami-free region. "Our predictions were wrong," said Surono.

Kusmayanto Kadiman, minister for science and technology, said the government did not react to the PTWC's alert because it wanted to avoid creating panic and alarm. "Had the tsunami not occurred, what would have happened?" he asked while speaking to reporters in Jakarta. However, Kadiman did say that standing plans to install a nationwide tsunami early-warning system would be accelerated.

The quake was also felt in the capital Jakarta and several cities in West Java, though so far there have not been any reports of inland damage. Monday's tremor represents the latest in a series of powerful earthquakes to rock Indonesia.

On Cilacap beach in Central Java, where 107 people have so far been reported dead, the tsunami destroyed the area's largest power plant, cutting off electricity to the entire province. It's still unclear how much crucial infrastructure the killer waves damaged or destroyed.

Hundreds of people saved themselves by rushing toward nearby hills, fearing a repeat of the 2004 tsunami that killed so many people in Aceh. "We were in total panic and ran to the hills. Almost an entire village here was inundated by water," Maswan, a resident of Pangandaran, told the RCTI TV channel. Pangandaran survivors said they saw the wave reach a height of 5 meters before it crashed on to the coast. The waves destroyed at least 440 fishing boats and hundreds of shops along Logending Beach in Central Java. Most of the boats were anchored around a local fish auction site, Antara news agency reported.

On May 27, a strong earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale rocked Central Java's cultural city of Yogyakarta and nearby areas, killing about 6,000 people and injuring thousands more. Yogyakarta and its surrounding villages were just beginning reconstruction work when the latest tsunami struck.

Indonesia is located along the Pacific volcanic belt known as the Ring of Fire, where earthquakes and volcanoes are common. On December 26, 2004, a 9.1 earthquake off the west coast of Sumatra triggered a massive tsunami that slammed into nine countries around the Indian Ocean and destroyed half of Aceh's capital, Banda Aceh, and several coastal villages.

Indonesia's military has deployed 2,000 personnel on rescue missions on the main sites. "They will work on evacuation, medical treatment and distribution of relief," said Marshal Mohammad Suparto, chief of the Indonesia Military Information Center.

Monday's tsunami has added to the burden of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is already supervising reconstruction in Aceh and restoration work in Yogyakarta, home to some of Indonesia's internationally recognized heritage sites.

Yudhoyono, whose 21-month-old presidency has been attended by several massive natural disasters, asked local administration heads in Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi and Papua to be cautious and well prepared for further tsunamis.

"We have been going through a series of miserable disasters. I hope we learned a lot of lessons from this," Yudhoyono said.

[Inter Press Service.]

Rescue workers look for tsunami survivors

Associated Press - July 20, 2006

Anthony Deutsch, Pangandaran – Rescue workers dug decomposed corpses from ruined homes and hotels in this tsunami-devastated town Thursday, and a mass burial was held for some of the 547 people killed by the waves.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono vowed to have a nationwide tsunami warning system in place by mid-2008, months ahead of schedule, following criticism that the government failed to tell residents about the impending disaster. There is none despite the 2004 tsunami that killed tens of thousands in Indonesia.

Survivors whose homes were smashed scoured the Pangandaran beach for nails, wood, tin – anything they could use to start rebuilding their lives.

"We need a family shelter," said Sakiman, 71, who was among tens of thousands waiting to return home. "The camps are crowded, inconvenient. We've received donations of rice and noodles, but can't cook them because the water is too salty."

Hundreds stood at the edge of a mass grave, some covering their mouths, as unidentified corpses were lowered into the ground. The bodies were photographed and tagged in case relatives later wanted to claim them.

"I hope nothing like this ever happens again... It's horrifying," said Yeni Sukmayani, 44, who said she came to the ceremony with her 4-year-old twins so they could see nature's devastating power for themselves.

A magnitude 7.7 earthquake triggered Monday's tsunami, which pummeled a 110-mile stretch of Java island's southern coast, destroying scores of houses, restaurants and hotels. Cars, motorbikes and boats were left mangled amid fishing nets, furniture and other debris.

Police and army teams with dogs and mechanical equipment hunted for bodies in the ruins, while others searched the sea, going island to island for those listed among the missing.

The death toll stood at 547, the government's disaster coordinating board said, adding that 323 others were missing.

Indonesia was hardest hit by the 2004 tsunami that killed at least 216,000 people in a dozen Indian Ocean nations – with more than half the deaths occurring in Aceh province on neighboring Sumatra island.

Although Indonesia started to install a warning system after that disaster, it is still in its early stages, and Yudhoyono wants to speed up the process.

"We want to expedite efforts to get infrastructure for the tsunami warning system," he told residents in another coastal area that was rattled Tuesday by a powerful quake. "I will work with parliament to get the budget."

The government deployed monitoring buoys off Sumatra island, but the system still needs to be extended to Java and thousands of other islands across the sprawling archipelago.

Yudhoyono said the original plan called for the creation of a nationwide network by 2009. He promised to do what he could to push forward the date by several months.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla claimed most people fled inland after the earthquake, so "in actual fact there was a kind of natural early warning system."

But almost all people interviewed by The Associated Press said they did not feel the quake that struck deep beneath the Indian Ocean, 150 miles southwest of Java's coast. One survivor, Sri Rahayu, said she would not have known what was happening if her teenage neighbor hadn't run out in panic screaming, "The water is rising! Run!"

She escaped with her 5-year-old daughter and is now living in a makeshift tent camp overlooking Pangandaran. "I am traumatized," Rahayu said, adding that she would not return home until "the government announces formally it is safe."

The tsunami has taken away the jobs of tens of thousands who worked in shops, bars or gave surfing lessons to vacationers. Businessman Sirkusumo Sudjanarko, 58, who owns the Bunga Laut seaside hotel on Pangandaran, said his business has been devastated. "I lost my bungalow and restaurant just like that," he said, estimating the damage at about $110,000. "Tourists are going to avoid this place for at least three years."

Lilianti Bachtiar, who runs the Grand Mutiara Hotel with her American husband Oscar, saved her grandchildren by grabbing them from their rooms and running to the second floor when she heard neighbors screaming.

"The waves broke down the walls and washed away the car. We don't have a business anymore. It will be at least a year before we have recovered," she said from a run-down motel in Banjar, a nearby city. Her family all survived, but she identified the body of a former employee at a temporary morgue.

Indonesia has been hit by a series of disasters – natural and man-made – since 2002. Al-Qaida-linked militants have killed at least 260 people in terrorist attacks, the devastating 2004 tsunami that struck Sumatra island left at least 131,000 dead and a May earthquake on Java killed 5,800 people.

Though Pangandaran used to be popular with foreign backpackers, well-heeled tourists and busloads of Indonesian families, it was struggling to lure back vacationers even before Monday's disaster. "Actually, tourism has yet to fully recover to the level before the Bali bombing in 2002," Sudjanarko said.

Government not taking disasters seriously: NGOs

Jakarta Post - July 21, 2006

Tb. Arie Rukmantara, Jakarta – Non-governmental organizations slammed the government Thursday for what they said was a lack of seriousness in handling the procession of disasters the country has experienced. This has resulted in a failure to protect citizens, they charged.

"The fact that the government did not speed up the deliberation of the disaster management bill and has yet to carry out comprehensive mapping of disaster-prone areas shows that it is not serious about managing the calamities that can occur at any moment across the archipelago," Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi) executive director Chalid Muhammad told journalists.

Chalid said the government should have taken strategic and concrete steps to protect its citizens after a tsunami ravaged Aceh and Nias in 2004.

Besides failing to map disaster-prone areas, the activists said, the government has not disseminated information about the threats these areas face, and has not strengthened the capacity of people and institutions to deal with emergencies.

The inadequate response has increased the risks for Indonesians, who could face 60 or more disasters this year alone, Chalid said. He added that the costs would be counted in thousands of deaths and displacements, and billions of rupiah in losses.

"As part of the plan to face and mitigate disasters, we demand the government carry out such basic steps quickly, including allocating sufficient funds for disaster management," Chalid said.

On Tuesday, the government said it was running out of money for disaster-related emergency response, with less than Rp 100 billion left out of the Rp 500 billion set aside for the whole year.

Data from the Anti-Debt Coalition showed that the government allocated Rp 1.8 trillion for all disaster-related expenses this year, far lower than Rp 128.2 trillion earmarked to pay foreign debts.

"Indonesia has the option of asking creditor countries for a moratorium on debt due to force majeur (events beyond the government's control). The government should do that and use the money to help its citizens," said Binny Buchori of the Prakarsa Group, which researches civil society and globalization issues.

Rafendi Djamin of the Human Rights Working Group urged the government to immediately set up an independent body similar to the US Federal Emergency Management Agency to deploy people, equipment and money in the event of a disaster.

"It is the right of all Indonesians to have proper protection from disasters, and of the victims to get immediate and effective emergency aid," he said, adding that these prerogatives were guaranteed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.

"Since the government ratified the covenant last year, it's their obligation to fulfill it," Rafendi added.

Minister admits tsunami warning came too late

Jakarta Post - July 20, 2006

Tb. Arie Rukmantara, Jakarta – A minister said Wednesday there was a warning of the tsunami that hit the southern coast Monday, but added that it was issued at too short notice to alert local communities.

State Minister for Research and Technology Kusmayanto Kadiman's comments came after media criticism of the lack of a warning despite 2004's tsunami in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam. Other experts said Wednesday that traditional approaches could be used to alert coastal communities due to the failure to install high-tech, costly tsunami warning systems.

Kusmayanto said a warning was issued about seven minutes before the tragedy, which has left at least 500 people dead and more than 600 missing in beach resorts and fishing communities. "However, there wasn't enough time to alert all residents in the area," he said on the sidelines of a seminar in Jakarta.

He added that the Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG) also received the warning, and sent it by short message service to 400 government officials and the mass media. "Most importantly, (it was sent) to electronic media," he said, adding that the alert originated from countries equipped with high-technology warning systems, such as Japan, Australia, and Germany.

However, he added, the giant waves took only 20 minutes before inundating coastal areas, while the BMG had spent seven minutes to alert the officials and the media and was thus unable to reach the local communities. A BMG official admitted Tuesday that it announced there was no danger of a tsunami about 30 minutes before it struck.

Kusmayanto argued that the distribution of information was inevitably time consuming, and that even the fastest early warning system developed in Japan still could only alert the public 13 minutes before an incident.

Kusmayanto said the country needed to install tsunami early warning devices every 10 kilometers along the country's waters facing subduction zones, where ocean floor movements might trigger tsunamis. "Indonesia has around 1,200 spots that are prone to disasters, and we should install early warning systems in these areas."

Unfortunately, he added, the government had only 10 early warning devices, donated by the German government, but only two were installed and they had been vandalized. "We have installed two of them in the Indian Ocean next to Sumatra island to test the devices. We are planning to install all of them," he said, adding that he expected the installment would be completed in 2007.

The US, Japan and China have made a commitment to help the government provide early warning systems, as well as carry out research. "President George W. Bush is coming to Indonesia in November to talk about helping the Indonesian government to handle disasters," he said.

Japanese researchers, he added, would cooperate with their Indonesian counterparts to study the source of disasters, including lending a submarine and ships for deep-sea research.

Meanwhile, a senior researcher with the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology, Ari Herlambang, said the installment of a high-tech tsunami early warning system throughout the archipelago was infeasible because of the cost.

"Considering our present state budget condition, I don't think it's possible to do that," said the environmental technology expert. He said buoys using sensor detection equipment could cost about Rp 1 billion each, excluding maintenance costs and the essential communication system to relay information about development. "Each buoy should be equipped with its own communication system that could cost around Rp 5 billion," he said.

He noted that good telecommunication infrastructure should also be established. "The early warning system aims to mitigate the impact of tsunamis by informing the public from 10 to 15 minutes before a tsunami hits the identified area. Without proper Internet and fixed line infrastructure, how could you expect the information could be processed and sent to the people in a flash?"

Indonesia is hobbled by poor telecommunication infrastructure, especially in remote areas in the eastern part of the country, with only 9 million fixed line phones and 3 million Internet users compared to the country's over 220 million population.

Ari warned that without such infrastructure, the billions of rupiah spent on an early warning system would be useless. A more feasible solution, he added, would be to resort to traditional approaches, such as increasing awareness of danger signs among the public.

"One of the lessons learned from Monday's tsunami is that people fled to higher ground after high waves descended on the coast. They should have done it when the water subsided in the first place. People should understand this." As well as sirens, gongs and bamboo drums could be used to sound the alarm.

Senior official at the National Development Planning Board, Medrilzam, urged all regional administrations in tsunami-prone areas to review their coastal spatial planning, and ban the construction of buildings 100 meters or closer to the shoreline.

"We should do everything in our power to mitigate casualties of disasters, including upholding the environmental aspect in spatial planning," he said.

Yogya earthquake victims ask government to keep promise

Jakarta Post - July 20, 2006

Slamet Susanto and Tarko Sudiarno, Yogyakarta – Tired of waiting for reconstruction aid, a group of May 27 earthquake survivors in Yogyakarta decided the time had come for them to collect what they deserved.

On Wednesday, hundreds of the survivors staged a noisy protest outside a top-level coordination meeting at the Gedung Agung Presidential Palace in Yogyakarta.

The forum, attended by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Yogyakarta Governor Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, Central Java Governor Mardiyanto and other officials, was convened to discuss the reconstruction of the thousands of houses damaged when the 6.7- magnitude earthquake hit Yogyakarta and Central Java.

The survivors, who came from badly damaged areas including Bantul and Klaten, gathered outside the palace in the early morning, but were prevented from entering the compound by tight security.

Before the meeting, Kalla spoke with 15 representatives of the group. The survivors told the Vice President they had yet to receive reconstruction assistance – Rp 30 million (US$3,260) for collapsed houses, Rp 20 million for severely damaged houses and Rp 10 million for lightly damaged buildings – and said living allowances were being distributed unequally among victims.

The government has earmarked Rp 4 trillion for the reconstruction fund but only 1.2 trillion has been distributed.

"I've said it repeatedly, and it has been written in the media. The figures, Rp 30 million, Rp 20 million and Rp 10 million are the maximum (amounts to be disbursed to homeowners)... The government has already disbursed Rp 1.2 trillion (for that purpose)," Kalla said.

He promised the villagers they would receive money to rebuild their damaged homes. "The assistance will be given in stages... (We) use the (Rp 1.2 trillion) assistance first, then we move on," Kalla said.

He said the government had distributed living allowances worth Rp 90,000 each to 1.6 million people, at a total cost of Rp 200 billion. The allowance was to help people survive for one month.

The state had also prepared an additional tranche for 450,000 quake victims who had yet to receive the money, Kalla said.

"The central government has agreed to fund 60 percent of the shortfall (in the fund) so all 2.1 million quake victims in Central Java and Yogyakarta will get their living allowances."

Governor Hamengkubuwono promised to ensure the distribution of the allowances was hastened. "Tomorrow, those who have not yet received the living allowances will get them," he told the survivors.

Hamengkubuwono said the Rp 90,000 allowance, which the government had initially planned to give out for three months, would now be given only for one month.

Moreover, he said survivors would no longer be eligible for an extra monthly Rp 100,000 to buy clothing and household appliances because the money would be shifted to the reconstruction fund.

He said the provincial administration was sourcing building materials for the survivors at market prices. "We're working to provide 300,000 tons of cement at a normal price." An estimated 1.5 million tons of sand needed for the work would be sourced from the Mount Merapi area, he said.

"Currently, the prices of building materials are higher than normal. Bricks, which usually cost Rp 120 each, are now priced at Rp 500, while bamboo now costs Rp 10,000 a bushel, from the earlier price of Rp 4,000. These are not normal prices," he said.

Hamengkubowono said families would be organized into groups of 15 households to build around 200 houses. The families would get paid and the work would not involve building contractors, he said.

Grim search for bodies after Indonesian tsunami

Agence France Presse - July 19, 2006

Victor Tjahjadi, Pangandaran – Rescuers have dug with bare hands in a grim search for more bodies after more than 520 people were confirmed killed in the second tsunami to strike Indonesia in as many years.

The three-metre (10-foot) tsunami lashed the densely-populated south coast of Java island on Monday, sparking memories of the 2004 catastrophe that left 220,000 people dead across Asia, 168,000 of them in Indonesia's Aceh province.

Soldiers in Pangandaran, a resort area that suffered some of the worst damage, lacked heavy equipment to move debris and resorted to digging through the wreckage with their bare hands.

"We are looking for people who are still missing or buried under the rubble as well as clearing the debris," army officer Deden Rajab, who led a group of 27 soldiers at work here, told AFP. Wasdi bin Umri, a spokesman for Ciamis district which includes the area, said however that enough heavy equipment for the relief work was being used.

Bodies which remained unidentified or unclaimed were to be buried in separate graves starting Wednesday afternoon and would be photographed so that their families can identify them later, he told AFP.

With nerves still on edge, rumours of a fresh tsunami in Pangandaran triggered panic Wednesday when four strong quakes of magnitudes measuring 4.9 to 5.4 rattled the area.

They were among 52 strong aftershocks to have hit since Monday's 7.7-magnitude undersea quake unleashed the tsunami, a meteorology official said in Jakarta.

Frightened residents in Pangandaran jumped on motorbikes or in cars, almost causing traffic accidents as they tried to reach higher ground. Crying women and children ran towards the town's main mosque and even soldiers and police were seen fleeing the beach area, witnesses told AFP.

"There was a rising tide, but we can be sure that won't be a new tsunami," bin Umri said. "People are still traumatised. That's why they ran to higher ground in panic when they heard the rumours."

At least 525 people were killed by Monday's waves, the National Disaster Management Coordinating Agency said, while 273 people were still missing. About 38,000 people have been displaced, it said. At least six foreigners were believed among the dead.

Aid meanwhile trickled through as a haphazard relief operation took shape. The UN's World Food Programme said two trucks carrying 15 tonnes of noodles and high-energy biscuits had arrived in Pangandaran and begun unloading.

"We're trying to reach around 20,000 people in the next week," spokesman Barry Came told AFP, adding that a team of WFP staff were leaving Wednesday for the area to "figure out exactly what to do."

Relief coordinator Subur Dwiyano told the Detikcom online news agency that the local government had received food and cash aid. "So far we have received 650 million rupiah (71,000 dollars) in cash. The plan is to distribute the cash to relatives of dead victims," he said. He did not say how much each family would receive. He said 10 public kitchens had also been set up in Pangandaran.

One truck carrying a tonne of food supplies donated by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's wife arrived in the battered resort area. Eight trucks filled mostly with mineral water also arrived in the district of Cilacap, where more than 100 lives were lost.

A district official Sugiono said three large military tents and two public kitchens had been set up while four rubber boats were deployed to help in the search for the missing. "There's still confusion about what to do. The main priority is to save lives," he told AFP.

In Kebumen district, authorities dispatched rice and noodles to safe shelters where refugees were too afraid to return to the coast. "When people began to shout: 'Tsunami, tsunami!', all I could think of was to run for my life," said Sudarmin, a 48-year-old coconut farmer from Ayeh, a small village in the district, who was at a shelter.

The Asian Development Bank said it was ready to provide support to Indonesia Wednesday while Britain also offered assistance.

Indonesians mull new disaster

Reuters - July 18, 2006

Jakarta – Indonesian responses ranged from despair to acceptance after a tsunami on Monday killed at least 256 people on Java, the latest in a line of disasters to hit the sprawling, developing nation in recent years.

The biggest was the December 2004 tsunami that struck Indonesia's Aceh province the hardest, leaving 170,000 people dead or missing But since then, few months have gone by without landslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or floods that have taken or disrupted lives.

Some have been partially or wholly man-made. Wholesale logging has slashed the ability of ground to hold water, increasing the likelihood of floods and landslides, environmentalists say. Energy exploration in eastern Java caused a flow of mud and water that displaced 8,000 people recently. Sofyan, an employee at the finance ministry in the capital Jakarta, said the disasters should be seen as a warning from God about the need to preserve the environment.

"This is a warning from the one above. We have not taken enough care of nature. All has been cut out and we just have to wait for the disasters to happen." Parimun, a housekeeping worker in central Jakarta, had similar sentiments. "This is a regular thing, a reminder and notice from God." "This is just a punishment so we will continue to remember the one above," he said.

In a country where many believe divine powers take a view on rulers, President Suslilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who took office shortly before the 2004 tsunami, gets his share of the blame.

"Many people think that the disaster is correlated with SBY," said high school student Mala, referring to the president by his initials. "This can be a reminder for the president so he can lead this nation better.." Sofyan, however, gave Yudhoyono the benefit of the doubt.

"This is not a problem of SBY. His leadership is good. I think this is the result of our previous leaders. We are just receiving the bad things that came out of it." Sudaryati Darsono, a 54-year-old old business consultant in Indonesia's second-largest city of Surabaya, questioned whether the string of disasters were anything more than natural coincidences.

"We are religious people. We should believe that God would not test us beyond our limits," she said.

Certainly one could argue that some of the problems have little to with either God or man.

Indonesia's 17,000 islands sprawl along a belt of intense volcanic and seismic activity, part of what is called the "Pacific Ring of Fire." That means a greater, if unpredictable, probability for natural disasters than in other countries.

 Government/civil service

Selection process leads to inept bureaucrats: Study

Jakarta Post - July 22, 2006

Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta – Kusnari had to wait 10 years before the Jakarta administration paid him a monthly salary for his position as a semi-permanent state teacher. He said his patience had paid off, however, because it put him only three years away from becoming a permanent civil servant with a guaranteed income and pension. "I don't care how long or how hard it is to become a civil servant," he said.

Kusnari is one of millions of Indonesians who consider civil service jobs to be among the most privileged positions in the country. A study released Wednesday found that this perception has led to a closed recruitment system that does not consistently select the best applicants.

The study was sponsored by the Jakarta Consumers Foundation. It was conducted last year in Bandung; Sinjai, South Sulawesi; Bandarlampung, Lampung; Bima, West Nusa Tenggara; and Yogyakarta. It found that collusion and bribery among applicants and recruiting officials were common, since the results of the recruiting process often were not announced publicly.

In some cases, the process left applicants uncertain whether they had been accepted as new civil servants or not. Sometimes those who had not followed the selection process were accepted anyway. The study found the process resulted in the appointment of some civil servants who appeared incapable of providing good service.

"The main problem lies in the weak political will of the government in creating a good recruiting system. The State Ministry for Administrative Reforms cannot even reveal publicly the statistics on the number of jobs available each year and the types of positions," said Fajar Nursahid, one of the researchers on the study.

The only widely available data last year indicated that about 300,000 new civil servants were being sought, including 200,000 to be recruited from among semi-permanent employees at departments and regions. No further details were disclosed. This lack of transparency could enable administrations to manipulate the number of jobs available based on "special requests", Fajar said.

Eko Prasojo, an anthropologist at the University of Indonesia, said the government could start to reform the system by analyzing the number of jobs available each year based on the work system in each state institution.

Indonesia still has relatively few government employees, he argued. "We only have 3.6 million officials, which is far less than 5 percent of our total population. If we could define the need well there would be more people employed," Eko said, adding that according to an international study, the ratio of civil servants should be five to 10 percent of the total population.

Fajar suggested that the government establish an independent watchdog body to monitor the recruitment system. "The watchdog body would assure that only the best applicants become civil servants, just like in private institutions," he said.

Kusnari, however, disagreed with the call for a more competitive selection process. "I want to become a state teacher because it is less competitive and the job is less demanding than in private institutions. If it were as hard as being a private teacher, I would choose to be the latter since it would give me better salary," he said.

Common irregularities in civil service recruitment:

  1. Applicants required to pay bribes to move through the system.
  2. Manipulation of documents to allow unqualified applicants to pass.
  3. Outside help provided to certain applicants.
  4. Unclear announcements of results, leaving applicants uncertain why they were accepted or rejected.
  5. Collusion to turn away applicants that do not have good connections with recruiting officials.

[Source: Researcher Fajar Nursahid (2006).]

House slammed for poor performance

Jakarta Post - July 20, 2006

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – An alliance of non-governmental organizations criticized the House of Representatives on Wednesday for what it called poor performance over the past three months, during which time the legislature enacted only four new laws. Lawmakers still served the executive body and their own political parties rather than the public, critics added.

The NGOs said the House exhibited a poor legislative process and ineffective control and budgetary functions during the three- month session that began in May. The House is to end the term with a plenary session Friday.

Alliance spokesman Anung Karyadi said the bills passed into law during the past three months were poor in terms of both quantity and quality.

"Only four bills, including the ones on Aceh governance and the protection of witnesses and victims, have been endorsed and they are qualitatively poor because the House has failed to listen to the relevant stakeholders during deliberations," he said.

The House also lacked transparency and did not involve the public in deliberating bills, said Anung, who is also the advocacy coordinator of Transparency International Indonesia.

In addition, he said, the House had no clear policies and timetable for its legislative process, leaving it vulnerable to government control.

"The lack of transparency and the poor legislative policy and public participation were apparent in the process of passing the law on Aceh governance, and in the deliberation of the pornography bill," Anung said.

The recent enactment of the Aceh law met strong opposition from some Aceh residents, who staged a general strike. Activists criticized the deliberation of the anti-pornography bill.

Anung said the NGOs were pessimistic that the House could reach its target of completing the deliberation of 76 bills this fiscal year, because only 12 had been endorsed.

The NGOs included Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), Transparency International Indonesia, the Center for Electoral Reform, Indonesian Human Rights Watch, ProPatria, the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation and the Centre for Indonesian Law and Policy Studies (PSHK).

Ridaya la Ode Ngkowe, an ICW member, said the House also failed to follow up on various issues it had discussed in hearings with the government.

"The House set up a special committee to supervise its performance, but the committee has yet to make progress reports on the handling of the deadly earthquake that rocked Yogyakarta last month and the discovery of an illegal arms stash at the home of a deceased Army general," he said.

Riyada said the House's budgetary function was weak, since many agreements on foreign aid had been signed by the government without any approval or consultation from lawmakers.

"In this matter, the House still functions as a rubber stamp to approve the state budget, and fails to control foreign aid received by the government," he said.

However, Agung, Riyada and other NGO activists, who spoke at a news conference, applauded the House's recent harsh action against legislators for unethical conduct, saying it was a good step toward restoring the institution's tarnished image.

Lawmaker Aziddin has been dismissed by the House's disciplinary council for breaching the House's code of ethics. Aziddin allegedly acted as a middleman to help a private firm win a government contract to build a dormitory for people making the hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia. The council rebuked 18 other legislators for unethical behavior.

PSHK coordinator Bivitri Susanti said the House should review its internal rules to increase public participation and transparency in the legislative process.

"Besides giving priority to deliberating bills that will benefit the people, the House should also set a clear timetable for their deliberations. Legislators should pay more attention to their constituents' interests than to those of their parties and the government," she said.

Lawmakers decry newfound freedom of the press

Jakarta Post - July 20, 2006

Jakarta – Lawmakers made a plea Wednesday for the Press Council to rein in the media, which they said had gone too far in criticizing the House of Representatives.

Apparently dismayed by media reports highlighting political bickering, scandals and absenteeism, scores of legislators on Commission I on foreign affairs, military and the press accused news outlets of trying to belittle their contributions to democracy.

"We have produced hundreds of laws that have practically changed the face of this nation. Yet, the press seems to forget that and only focus on our ills," lawmaker Sidarto Danusubroto of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) told a hearing with the Press Council.

He said the media's actions were part of a plan to return to an authoritarian form of government by making the legislative body look incompetent. "Can't the Press Council do something about this?" Sidarto asked.

A similar accusation was made by Yusron Ihza Mahendra, a lawmaker from the Crescent Star Party (PBB). "We have performed better than the legislature of the New Order regime, but the press keeps making slanderous comments about House members, even in respected media outlets that have the largest circulation in the country," said Yusron, who was a correspondent for Kompas daily in Tokyo for seven years.

Permadi, another PDI-P legislator, said the thousands of journalists who covered the House in fact hindered members from performing their duties.

Press Council chairman Ichlasul Amal said the council cannot tell the press what to report. "The Press Council has no authority to make regulations, and the press follows only the journalistic code of ethics," he said.

Press Council member Sabam Leo Batubara said some coverage of House politics is driven by legislators themselves. "After all, I know there are dozens of journalists who are on House members' payrolls and have been used to further their political interests," Sabam said.

Over the six years following the 1998 downfall of Soeharto's autocratic New Order regime, 2,000 media outlets were launched. However, only 829 have survived, and of those, only 30 percent are fiscally healthy.

Yudhoyono's party recalls 'unethical' legislator

Jakarta Post - July 19, 2006

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – In an apparent face-saving measure aimed at boosting its chances in the 2009 elections, the Democrat Party (PD) has endorsed a recommendation by the House of Representatives' disciplinary council to dismiss one of its lawmakers for unethical conduct.

The party co-founded by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recalled Aziddin for abusing his position as a legislator to help a private company win a government contract to build a dormitory for Indonesian haj pilgrims in Mecca.

Jonny Allen Marbun, a PD legislator and executive board member, said the decision was based on a recommendation by the party's disciplinary committee, which carried out a thorough investigation of Aziddin's conduct over the past two years.

"The PD executive board delivered the recall letter to Aziddin this morning after a marathon meeting Monday night," he told a news conference here Tuesday. Jonny added that the dismissed lawmaker would be given another job in the PD to allow him to show his loyalty and political commitment to the party.

He admitted that Aziddin was found guilty of abusing his power in several cases over the past two years, but insisted the dismissal had nothing to do with the ruling issued by the House's disciplinary council.

"The executive board was not responding to the House disciplinary council's decision against Aziddin but is concerned with our ongoing process of internal improvement in the party," he said, citing this as the party's urgent priority in preparing for the 2009 elections.

Aziddin was one of 19 lawmakers recommended for sanctioning by the House disciplinary council for infringements of the parliamentary code of ethics.

The council said the dismissed legislator, a member of House Commission VIII on sports and religious affairs, acted as a middleman on behalf of PT Pondok Patin, which submitted a proposal last year to construct a dormitory to house some 37,000 pilgrims in Mecca.

"(Aziddin) has numerous cases but there are three major ones. He helped PT Pondok Patin win a government project to build the haj dormitory in Saudi Arabia, helped (another) private firm to purchase disputed land in Medan and assisted in the promotion of the current president director of state-owned palm oil company PT Perkebunan Nusantara IV in North Sumatra," said a member of the disciplinary council who requested anonymity.

The lawmaker also said the council has asked police to investigate Aziddin's alleged crime, and that President Yudhoyono had reportedly voiced support for Aziddin's questioning in the cases.

Gayus Lumbun, deputy chairman of the disciplinary council, said his office would notify the President and the General Elections Commission (KPU) of the dismissal.

"The President will issue a decree on the firing of the legislator while the KPU will determine who will replace the dismissed legislator from the same party," said Gayus, who declined to identify the dismissed legislator until a House plenary session scheduled for Friday.

Max Sopacua, who accompanied Jonny at the news briefing, said Aziddin was recalled without any consultation with President Yudhoyono, who also chairs the PD board of patrons.

"The President belongs to all the people and we hope this case will not tarnish the image of the party that nominated him for the 2004 presidential election," Max said, adding the party had no choice but to recall Aziddin to boost its chances in the next election.

House drops ax on one lawmaker, warns others

Jakarta Post - July 18, 2006

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta – The House of Representatives on Monday dropped the ax on one lawmaker, and warned several others for unethical conduct.

House Speaker Agung Laksono, addressing the press after a closed-door meeting with the House disciplinary committee, said the dismissed lawmaker had abused his position to help a private company win a government contract to build a dormitory for haj pilgrims in Saudi Arabia.

Agung did not mention the lawmaker by name, saying an official announcement would come during a plenary session Friday. However, it is clear he was referring to the Democratic Party lawmaker Aziddin, who is the only lawmaker implicated in the scandal.

"We have written documents that confirm his involvement in the scandal, including one from a Saudi prince," Agung said, adding that this was just the latest infraction by the lawmaker during his two years in the House.

Agung defended the House's decision on Aziddin, saying the disciplinary committee had the power to dismiss lawmakers for unethical conduct. "This decision is final and binding.... We will soon write to the President and the General Elections Commission to make it official," Agung said.

Aziddin is accused of acting as a middleman on behalf of PT Pondok Patin, a company which submitted a proposal last year for the construction of a dormitory able to house 37,000 pilgrims in Mecca. Aziddin is a founding member of the Democratic Party and lost a party leadership battle last year to Hadi Utomo.

Also on Monday, the House leadership reprimanded 18 lawmakers for various infractions, ranging from absenteeism to fraud. Thirteen members received reprimands for skipping more than three House sessions in a row. One member was cited for renting out his official residence and ordered to return the money he received to the state. The House leadership also recommended the police expedite an investigation of a lawmaker allegedly involved in an extortion case.

However, the House was relatively lenient on Ferry Mursyidan Baldan, head of the House's special committee for the Aceh Governance Bill. On the recommendation of the disciplinary committee, the House only gave a written reprimand to Ferry for violating "proper lawmaking procedures".

Ferry was accused of asking the Home Ministry to disburse funds to pay for the accommodations of lawmakers deliberating the bill.

A member of the disciplinary committee from the Democratic Party, Markus Silano, said his faction would accept whatever decision the House made on Aziddin. "We will accept it if it is a decision from the House," he said.

Aziddin, who was confident earlier in the morning that he would not be dismissed, did not return a call from The Jakarta Post later in the day.

 War on corruption

AGO told to get tough on crooked prosecutors

Jakarta Post - July 24, 2006

Jakarta – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh to take firm action against public prosecutors found guilty of unethical conduct to strengthen public trust in the profession.

"The attorney general must take resolute steps without discrimination against any prosecutors found to have violated their code of ethics," Yudhoyono said in his speech read out by deputy attorney general Basyrief Arief to mark the Attorney General's Office 46th anniversary celebrations here Saturday.

Abdul Rahman led a similar celebration at the Banjarmasin Prosecutor's Office in South Kalimantan.

In the speech, the President asked the AGO to increase its monitoring function and to follow up public complaints about prosecutors' performance. "The AGO must take immediate, thorough and proportional action in response to reports from the public to improve its image and performance," he said.

Yudhoyono stressed the AGO was an independent body and not beholden to the government. Nobody, including the president, is legally allowed to influence the work of law enforcement agencies, he said. "Although prosecutors are state officials and part of the government, I will never interfere their jobs," he said.

To improve its performance, the AGO has recently recruited new prosecutors, revamped its employment structure and is closely monitoring officials' work, Basyrief said after the ceremony.

Staff are being trained to help them prosecute cases of organized crime and corruption, he said. "Dealing with bad prosecutors has been our central focus" and unethical prosecutors will be fired, Basyrief said.

The AGO recently named two prosecutors – Cecep Sunarto and Burdju Roni – suspects for allegedly taking bribes worth Rp 550 million while working on a case involving state insurance firm PT Jamsostek. The two will be arrested soon, deputy attorney general for special crimes Hendarman Supandji said Saturday.

AGO chief of internal monitoring Togar Hutabarat said last week his office was investigating Jakarta Prosecutor's Office chief Rusdi Taher, subordinate Nur Rahmat, and West Jakarta chief prosecutor Dimas Sukadis for alleged misconduct in the lenient sentencing of drug dealer Hariono Agus Cahyono.

Hariono was jailed for three years recently after being found guilty of possessing and distributing 20 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine. Prosecutors had sought a six-year jail term for him, while the maximum penalty for the offense is death.

Kalla backs clean journalism drive

Jakarta Post - July 22, 2006

Jakarta – Vice President Jusuf Kalla is supporting a campaign spearheaded by the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) to ensure journalists reject gifts from their news sources.

AJI chairman Heru Hendratmoko said Kalla would order government officials not to give journalists money. "The vice president will order all government officials to omit funds allocated specifically for journalists as gifts," said Heru after meeting with Kalla.

In a recent AJI survey, 68 percent of journalists said a gift or favor from a news source could influence their reporting in favor of the source.

The AJI campaign is failing to garner support from most journalists covering Kalla, who argue receiving gifts from news sources is acceptable as long as there is no quid pro quo involved.

Graft body to widen wealth reporting system

Jakarta Post - July 19, 2006

Tony Hotland, Jakarta – The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) plans to widen its wealth-reporting system to target lower government and state officials rather than just those at the top.

"We want to expand the scope of the wealth-reporting system. Not only state officials, but also administrative ones will have to sign a statutory declaration," KPK chief Taufiequrrachman Ruki said Tuesday.

Speaking after a meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the presidential office, Ruki said the expanded system would apply to officials at echelon III and above. Echelon III officials include bureau or division heads at state and government agencies.

"Because in many instances, these officials are the ones with strategic roles. Such as traffic division heads or intelligence division heads at police units, or land regulation section heads in the land office. For the military, we could go from lieutenants up," said Ruki.

Under the 1999 law on good governance, only specified high- ranking state officials are obliged to report their wealth regularly to the KPK.

Ruki said the proposed changes to the system were aimed at complementing the KPK's plan to broaden the use of a reversed burden of proof in pursuing corruption cases. He said the KPK was now hosting roundtable discussions to gather comments toward a draft proposal.

The government was expected to give its view on the proposal, and the plan could be enacted either in a presidential decree or a government regulation, he added. "The President welcomed the idea when I told him just now. He said he would agree to any measures that could help result in zero corruption," said Ruki.

During the meeting, Ruki also advised Yudhoyono to drop a plan to protect officials from facing corruption charges if they make ordinary mistakes. Such a move, he said, could dismantle efforts to combat corruption. He also criticized widespread statements by officials that the ongoing anti-graft movement has hampered development.

"Some officials say the government's budget is not being fully spent because they are reluctant to initiate projects that could lead to graft charges or jail. Others say the business sector isn't working because banks refuse to give loans out of fear that bad debts could result in corruption charges. That is misleading," Ruki said.

Reasons such as these were cited by government officials including Vice President Jusuf Kalla, who later initiated the drafting of a regulation that could be seen as protecting officials from graft probes.

Among the concerns over Kalla's planned regulation is that internal mechanisms at a government agency could resolve alleged acts of corruption without involving law enforcers, Ruki said.

These moves, he added, were being initiated by those who were disturbed that they could no longer freely "commit acts of corruption, collusion and nepotism and not see them as mistakes... they are spending state money and appointing their nephews or brother-in-laws (to handle state projects)".

"The President said he is happy with the corruption eradication measures. He said nearly 20 percent of the state budget has been salvaged from potential graft through careful attention.

"People are afraid, and if that means the state budget gets absorbed more slowly, the President said he was fine with it," Ruki said.

Resistance mounting to planned presidential decree

Jakarta Post - July 17, 2006

Adisti Sukma Sawitri, Jakarta – Activists and legislators strongly oppose President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's plan to issue a decree protecting government officials from prosecution for creating "erroneous" policies.

Eva K. Sundari, a lawmaker from the House of Representatives' Commission III on legal affairs and human rights, told The Jakarta Post the move would be inconsistent with the President's much-praised antigraft drive.

"Two years ago, the President issued a decree to accelerate corruption eradication, now he wants to do something to challenge his own policy," she said.

Yudhoyono issued a decree in 2004, ordering top officials at all administrative levels to report their wealth to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), and to help it uncover graft in government.

Yudhoyono has since given permission for seven governors and 60 regents and mayors to be investigated for corruption offenses. Prosecutors throughout the country have launched investigations into 735 city councillors and 327 provincial legislators and the KPK has jailed several high-ranking officials for graft, including former Aceh governor Abdullah Puteh.

However, the government is drafting a decree to protect officials from criminal charges if their policies are judged erroneous but not illegal.

The planned decree, which was announced last month, would prevent law enforcement officers from investigating officials allegedly involved in graft cases until the Government Internal Oversight Body (APIP) conducted a review of the preliminary investigation.

Supporters of the decree have said some officials were afraid to carry out their duties because they feared their honest mistake would be prosecuted as graft.

Eva said officials' increasing fear of being reported to the KPK probably did contribute to the low spending in the regions last year. "The central bank has reported that regency and municipality administrations spent only an average of 20 percent of their budgets, but that should not be a good reason to shield them from audits or KPK probes," she said.

Meanwhile, anti-corruption activist Todung Mulya Lubis said that officials need not be afraid of prosecution if they acted honestly. "If they are afraid of being audited, they must have done something illegal," he said.

The decree would only make it more difficult for people to scrutinize the work of government officials, he said. Another activist, Ray Rangkuti, said if the government wanted to strengthen its antigraft programs, it should issue a decree to regulate its internal oversight bodies.

"Our findings in the field show that officials tend to misuse their authority by using the reporting mechanism to attack their political rivals. This is apparent by the unusually large number of cases reported by councilors and the executives," he said.

Ray said that among 136 graft cases across the regions, about 70 to 80 percent were reported by officials and councilors. He said some prosecutors and police officers in the regions used the reporting mechanism to blackmail politicians.

"If an official does not want his case to be reported he has to transfer money to the prosecutors or police," he said. "This court mafia and the administration officials are the groups that should be regulated," he said.


Indonesia, Malaysia launch move to defend palm oil industry

Jakarta Post - July 19, 2006

Medan – Indonesia and Malaysia have agreed to allocate 500,000 euro (about US$394,000) to pay the fees of a consultant or joint spokesman to counter campaigns launched by non-governmental organizations against palm oil production in the two countries.

The agreement was signed Tuesday in Medan, North Sumatra, by Indonesian Agriculture Minister Anton Apriyanto and Malaysian Plantation and Commodity Minister Peter Chin Fah Kui.

Anton said as quoted by Antara that the deal to appoint an international consultant or spokesman for all matters related to Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil production was triggered by what he said were unfounded accusations made by several foreign and local NGOs over the past few years. He said the NGOs had claimed that palm oil plantations damaged the environment and contributed to the destruction of the two countries' remaining natural forests.

Some NGOs also claimed that products made from crude palm oil (CPO) were hazardous to people's health as they contained high levels of fat and synthetic coloring.

"Those accusations, most of which aren't true, are very distressing. As the biggest producers of palm oil in the world, Indonesia and Malaysia feel that something has to be done to counter them so that we can avoid disruption to the palm oil trade," Anton said.

In previous years, the two countries had acted on an individual basis in countering the adverse publicity against the palm oil industry, but it was now felt that these efforts had been inadequate.

Minister Peter Chin Fah Kui said that it would be best for the two countries to launch a join effort, considering the emergence of increased competition in the global vegetable oil trade.

Both countries also agreed to tighten monitoring of land clearance for new oil palm plantations using burning. The aim here was to minimize the damage to forests and to avoid bad international publicity.

"In relation to the haze problem, we have agreed to apply the Zero Burning policy much more strongly against those involved in the palm oil business, especially the planters and growers," Anton said. He also said that Indonesia had enacted Law No.18/2004, which banned land clearance through burning.

A report from the World Health Organization states that there is strong evidence that palm oil consumption contributes to an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. However, other studies suggest the opposite.

For example, a study by a group of researchers in China in 1995 comparing palm, soybean and peanut oils and lard showed that palm oil actually increased the level of good cholesterol and reduced the level of bad cholesterol in the blood.

Meanwhile, a study by a renowned expert in the field, Gerard Hornstra, as well as many recent reports in scientific journals, produced similar results.

Haze from Indonesia persists over parts of Malaysia

Agence France Presse - July 19, 2006

Kuala Lumpur – Haze has persisted over parts of Malaysia due to smoke from forest fires in Indonesia but there are hopes of rain to clear the air, an official said.

Parts of the northern resort island of Penang, and Perak, Selangor and Kedah states were suffering poor visibility from smoke particles being blown from Indonesia's Sumatra island by southwesterly winds.

"There are more hotspots in Sumatra. The southwesterly winds are blowing the burning particles to Malaysia," an official with the meteorological services department told AFP.

But the official said some rain was expected later Wednesday which may bring some respite. "Hopefully, it will reduce the haze," she said on condition of anonymity.

The Department of Environment failed to release the country's daily air quality index at the scheduled time due to what was described as a technical problem.

But among the worst affected areas with visibility at five kilometres (three miles) or less were Bayan Lepas and Butterworth in Penang, Sitiawan in Perak and Langkawi in Kedah, the official said.

On Tuesday air quality in parts of Malaysia, including the major shipping centre of Port Klang west of the capital, plunged to unhealthy levels.

Meteorological authorities said the first haze seen this year, which is also affecting southern Thailand, could sweep over the Malay peninsula as it did in 2005.

Burning in Indonesia and some parts of Malaysia to clear land for crops causes an annual haze that afflicts countries in the region, including Singapore and Thailand.

Last August a state of emergency was declared in Port Klang and another town on Malaysia's west coast as pollution soared to extremely hazardous levels.

The complex journey of stolen timber

Jakarta Post - July 18, 2006

The illegal logging and smuggling of merbau timber from Papua involves a complex web of international middlemen, timber barons and financial backers, who cooperate with senior Indonesian government officials, environmental activists say.

"China and India are the main destinations for illegal Merbau logs. But before the logs get there, they have to travel to several other countries to be 'laundered' – to have their ports of origin changed," Telapak forest researcher and campaigner Yayat Afianto told The Jakarta Post.

A recent Telapak/Environmental Investigation Agency report shows that the smuggling of Merbau logs involves international syndicates working in Papua, Jakarta and Surabaya and in the neighboring countries of Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Vietnam. These networks often collaborate to ship the timber to China and India where it is processed and sold across North America and Europe.

And not all of the wood is illegally felled – although an estimated 70 to 90 percent of it is. Corrupt officials in Papua have persuaded and sometimes forced Papuan loggers to sell the wood in legal forest concessions for around US$10 per cubic meter, when the logs can fetch more than 20 times that on international markets, the report says. And this legal logging then serves as a front for the much larger illegal industry.

Papua's legal forestry concessions date from 1999, when the government issued a decree permitting the allocation of small- scale local concessions of 100 hectare community plots as part of special autonomy for the region. According to Forest Watch Indonesia, about 300 community units now hold almost 240,000 hectares of forest concessions in the province.

Representatives of timber barons then went to the concession areas, promising to help villagers develop their resources, with developers sometimes building roads and churches for the residents in exchange for the valuable timber on their land. More often than not, the value of the wood taken from these areas far exceeded the value of the projects, the report says.

Several Jakarta and Surabaya middlemen then found buyers for the merbau wood and guaranteed delivery of the timber to the agreed destinations, Telapak report said.

These brokers, who have close ties with high ranking government and security officials here, work with several Malaysian companies, which are already logging in Papua, using their heavy equipment transported from neighboring Papua New Guinea and Sarawak, Malaysia.

With the involvement of the Malaysians, only a fraction of the wood was sourced legally from the community programs.

"The problem is that the authorities in Sarawak and on the Malaysian peninsular seem to have different policies on logging. While environmentalists have successfully persuaded the Malaysian government to help Indonesia combat illegal logging, the Sarawak administration seems to have no obligation to follow this commitment," Yayat said.

Telapak coordinator Arbi Valentinus said logs were often taken to Papua New Guinea to have their papers faked, with officials there "certifying" them with them false documents and changing their places of origin.

Often timber illegally cut in PNG is also given false documentation stating it is Indonesian, Arbi said. In one example, the documents said the ship was carrying a timber subspecies that could only grow in Indonesian Papua, he said.

Illegally cut merbau wood was also being increasingly transported to Vietnam and given forged documents of origin there, Yayat said. Vietnam had become a popular destination for the illegal wood since 2002, when after international pressure the Malaysian government slapped an import ban on all logs from Indonesia, he said. Vietnam still allows timber imports from Indonesia.

"In recent years, Papuan timber has been sent to Vietnam before it is shipped to China. We have evidence to believe that these new Vietnamese companies are owned by Malaysians," he said.

The wood was also taken to Hong Kong and Singapore, Yayat added. The report says brokers in Hong Kong act as a vital bridge to the Chinese mainland, establishing connections with buyers there. Meanwhile, Singaporeans brokered deals with Indian buyers, chartering cargo vessels and barges to transport the contraband timber to destinations on the subcontinent.

"Many of the financial transactions for the merbau logs flow through Singapore's banks, including the opening of letters of credit between buyers and suppliers," the group report said.

As for the routes to India, Yayat believed the smuggling took place through the Philippines. "We think that they may also adding to their loads there, by picking up Philippines timber," he said.

The Greenpeace's Philippine office, however, doubted illegal loggers took more wood from the country. "The Philippines has no more forests. I believe the smugglers just use our country as a transfer point," the group's campaign director, Von Hernandez, told the Post.

After being processed in China, the timber products are then sold in North America and Europe. "Meanwhile, merbau that manufactured in India is sold to Japan," Arbi said.

The Telapak report notes the wood products are sold through international home improvement chain stores, such as the Home Depot and Lowe's that have thousands of stores in the US and Europe.

The report says more wood flooring was sold in 2004 than ever before, with Europe and the US consuming an estimated 189.5 million square meters – enough to floor all of Washington DC.

Logging operation suspects not convicted

Jakarta Post - July 18, 2006

No one caught in last year's Operation Hutan Lestari has been convicted of illegal logging because conflicting regulations are making it difficult for law enforcement agencies to fight the crime, the police say.

However, environmental groups have also blamed graft in law enforcement agencies, including the police, prosecutors and the country's notorious courts, for illegal loggers being let off the hook.

In 2005, police launched the second Operation Hutan Lestari and uncovered 137 cases of illegal logging in Papua. However, 52 of these cases never went to trial, while 13 others were later dropped because of a lack of evidence. Another 18 cases proceeded to trials but all of the defendants were acquitted.

National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Bambang Kuncoko said the 1999 Forestry Law, which gives the forestry minister authority to issue logging permits, conflicted with regional autonomy laws, which gives regents the rights to issue permits for small community-based projects.

Environmental groups say regional permits are being manipulated by unscrupulous officials, including regents and members of the military and police, who are working with local middle men and foreign logging companies to illegally extract the wood.

"Due to this regulation, there have been various interpretations among authorities in determining whether a log is legal or not," Bambang said.

In a 2005 police raid in Papua, three foreign nationals were detained for logging in the province. However, due to what police said was a lack of evidence, these men were set free. Police also said they had difficulties guarding and securing evidence.

"The cost of detaining a ship is huge plus there are the security costs of guarding evidence in remote places," Bambang said. "These conditions means some evidence gets damaged or lost, is not able to be presented in trials," he said.

The police have urged the Attorney General's Office to speed up the trial process to help the police. Former AGO spokesmen Mashyudi Ridwan said prosecutors had done their best to process the cases.

Regarding the 18 cases in which defendants had been acquitted, Mashyudi said the verdicts were the judges' final decisions. "We have brought serious charges against them but the verdicts were the judges'," he said. He said that the office was appealing the 18 acquittals made in the local Papua district courts.

Telapak researcher Rizman Azmi Aziz said prosecutors could charge illegal loggers with a series of crimes under the Criminal Code, conservation and antigraft laws. Illegal logging because of its scale was hard to conceal, and a single photograph could be damming evidence, he said.

Taufik Alimi of the Indonesian Ecolabelling Institute, which promotes certification for Indonesian timber products, said the state should be prosecuting foreign logging companies under money laundering laws.

"I believe this would create a deterrent effect, especially regarding foreign nationals, because money laundering involves Interpol," he said.

[Ika Krismantari and Tb. Arie Rukmantara.]

 Health & education

Tarakan Hospital employees demand better equipment

Jakarta Post - July 22, 2006

Jakarta – Inaccurate blood pressure gauges and stethoscopes, broken wheelchairs and a short supply of sterile gloves – this is what doctors and nurses work with at the city-owned Tarakan Hospital in Central Jakarta.

A representative of the employees association and the hospital director met Friday at a hearing held by City Council commission E on people's welfare, to discuss a dispute revolving around financial issues and the materials available at the hospital.

"Most of our equipment is not up standard. We had to ask the management to replace worn-out hospital equipment five times before they granted our wish in April," said Lulu Suswati, the paramedic delegation coordinator.

"There was an accident when a patient fell from a worn-out gurney. We just want to raise the quality of service of the hospital," she said.

Lulu said the management only provided 218 gloves a year, even though the hospital needed far more. "We once received 10 gloves that were non-sterile," she said.

The employees were also disputing financial matters and said they regarded the unclear distribution of money from the employees' health insurance as an indication of corruption in the hospital's management.

"Moreover, we demand an explanation for why the hospital still buys nutrition supplies for the patients from a third party at a cost of Rp 1.5 billion a year and outsourced the laundry service even though we have machines," Lulu added.

The hospital pays Rp 56 million per year for its outsourced cleaning service, while the previous cleaning service provided by the hospital employees' cooperative cost the management only Rp 23 million per year, she said.

The employees went on strike twice, on July 4 and July 11, but the industrial action did not affect the hospital's service to its patients.

Hospital director Hasannudin Abil Hasan said that he was ready to be replaced if he no longer had the trust of his employees.

"But I want to straighten things out, especially those that aren't true," he said. "We are in the process of purchasing surgery and nursery equipment. We have bought two new gurneys, three wheelchairs and an obstetrician's table, which we are using now," he told The Jakarta Post.

Hasannudin said the outsourced services were not expensive. "I took out the unnecessary cleaning of wallpaper to cut costs. The cleaning service used to cost Rp 26 million a month before I came. Now it is Rp 23 million," said the director of the last year and a half.

Hasannudin said the washing machines could not currently be used because the equipment had been packed up to be moved to a new facility. Tarakan hospital recently began construction on a new building, which will take three years to complete.

"Due to the development of our new building, we had to hire third parties to provide food and clean," he said. "This month we are going to do it ourselves because I also oppose outsourcing."

The commission's deputy chairman, Ahmad Hasan Ishak, said the councilors would bring the corruption and mismanagement allegations to the attention of the City Audit Agency.

Kalla blames local governments for failing to stop bird flu

Jakarta Post - July 22, 2006

Rendi Akhmad Witular, Jakarta – Vice President Jusuf Kalla has blamed the failure to curb bird flu deaths on regional administrations, which he said had deliberately defied orders from the central government to cull whole populations of infected poultry.

That defiance, he added, allowed the lethal H5N1 avian influenza virus to spread to 27 of the country's 33 provinces. Recently Indonesia's human death toll from the disease reached 43, the highest in the world.

"There must be sterner measures. Regional administrations should realize this. If the central government says a mass cull is needed, that means they have to do it," Kalla said after performing Friday prayers.

He said poultry owners had often resisted culling and sought protection from their regents, who backed them in their protests against the government's measures.

This was the case in the North Sumatra regency of Karo, Kalla said, where seven relatives died from bird flu in the largest family cluster of cases reported so far.

Local governments have argued a mass cull of infected poultry was impossible due to the lack of compensation for the birds' owners. Instead they have opted to promote public awareness to attempt to curb the spread of the killer virus and reduce human casualties.

"The cooperation from local governments is crucial in stamping out infections in birds. We will pay for mass culls. Don't join the people's protests against us. We sometimes need an authoritarian style of governance for such purposes," said Kalla.

Experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that can pass from human to human. That could spark a pandemic capable of killing millions of people.

The World Health Organization-sanctioned laboratory in Hong Kong confirmed that a 44-year-old Indonesian man who died last week was infected with the virus.

That confirmation brought the country's total deaths to 43 out of 56 verified patients, surpassing Vietnam's 42 of 93, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia.

However, the WHO counts only 42 deaths of 54 patients, since one death and one infection have been confirmed only by the CDC.

The first human casualties in Indonesia were reported in mid- 2005, after the government issued an announcement in January that the virus was circulating throughout the country.

The virus is endemic among billions of chickens across the archipelago.

The government's public campaign about the dangers of the virus appears to have failed to raise alertness toward H5N1 among the more than 220 million Indonesian citizens spread across more than 17,000 islands.

 Police/law enforcement

Police to get tougher on protesters

Jakarta Post - July 20, 2006

Jakarta – The National Police announced new crowd control guidelines Wednesday that would allow officers to fire real bullets to halt riots.

"This new procedure will wipe out doubts for officers about whether they're allowed to use real bullets when facing chaotic crowds," National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Paulus Purwoko said in Cikeas, Bogor.

He added that the use of real bullets was the last resort for police and would be allowed only when situations became highly dangerous, threatening their lives and the lives of others.

Police have identified three stages of a protest rally. The first, called the green stage, is when protesters demonstrate in an orderly manner. Officers are not allowed to use any weapons at this stage.

The second, or yellow stage, is when protesters start to use physical force, such as kicking and hitting officers. Police may use clubs to subdue them.

The third stage involves violence that could be life-threatening, such as burning buildings and throwing stones. In this situation, officers are allowed to use bullets, starting with firing blanks into the air three times as a warning, then progressing to rubber bullets, and then to live ones. "Even throwing stones can threaten an officer's life, as in the case of Abepura clash," said Purwoko.

Four police officers and one Army officer were killed by head injuries from thrown stones during a demonstration in front of Cendrawasih University in Abepura, Papua province, on March 16.

In Jakarta, the director of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, Usman Hamid, said the new crowd control procedures did not mark a radical departure from previous policies.

"Basically, there is nothing really new. I think there's no problem with the newly issued procedures as long as they're in line with the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Officers released by the United Nations in 1990," said Usman.

The co-chair of the ASEAN regional team on human rights mechanisms, Marzuki Darusman, said from a human rights point of view, the procedures protected the lives of officers as well as the public during violent protests.

Police nailing puncture problem with dawn patrols

Jakarta Post - July 19, 2006

Alia Azmi, Jakarta – Controlling hectic traffic during morning rush hour is not the only activity keeping the police busy these days. A newly acquired duty is "spike patrol", or clearing main streets of nails that mysteriously appear every morning and cause punctures to tires of passing vehicles.

"We have received complaints through text messages and by direct line that motorists, mostly motorcyclists, found their tires ripped by nails that caused punctures," the head of the patrol unit of the city traffic police, Adj. Sr. Comr. Edi Murbowo, told The Jakarta Post Monday. "Some of them had the same experience many times after passing along a particular road."

For the past month, police using metal detectors have patrolled Jl. Gatot Subroto from the Semanggi cloverleaf in Central Jakarta to Slipi in West Jakarta, an overpass in Permata Hijau, South Jakarta, and Jl. Prof. Dr. Satrio, South Jakarta.

Police have also found out that motorcyclists hesitate to take the left lanes of those streets to avoid running the risk of the "spike mines". "We search those streets every morning, finding hundreds of nails of various sizes. But still we find them, even a thousand more of them, the next morning. They could not have just fallen from the sky."

The finger of suspicion is inevitably pointed at the growing number of roadside tire repair services, especially those located near areas where the nails are particularly common.

One of the street tire repairmen, Putra, disavowed any involvement in the practice. "Sometimes I even collect the nails, too," said Putra, who runs his tire repair kiosk near the Permata Hijau overpass. "Police and customers have complained about them and accused me of spreading them." He said he usually served around five motorists each day. "About half of them ask me to repair their tires which have been punctured by nails."

Berry, who runs his repair kiosk at the Ciputat Raya-Pondok Indah crossroad, about a kilometer from the Permata Hijau overpass, also said he would never resort to dirty tricks to get more customers. "Most of the motorcyclists visiting my kiosk only ask me to pump up their tires. I don't care who spread the nails, God knows I don't do that."

Motorcyclist Nur, who works for a publishing company in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, found a nail puncture in a tire after he passed along Jl. Permata Hijau. "It was my first time to find one in my tire. It was this long," he said, holding up his little finger. "I know now that the street is no longer safe for my tires."

 Opinion & analysis

Politics and business mix in Indonesia

Asia Times - July 22, 2006

Bill Guerin, Jakarta – On taking office, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono advised his officials to divest their personal business interests to avoid any allegations of conflict of interest hounding his reform-oriented government.

Nearly two years into his term, that call hasn't been universally heeded, and the growing nexus of public and private interests is starting to win his administration unfavorable comparisons to former president Suharto's New Order government, where business and politics openly and often mixed to corrupt effect.

Nowhere is Yudhoyono's reform discrepancy more apparent than with the publicly listed conglomerate PT Bakrie & Brothers, which currently has a market capitalization of about US$500 million and is 80% owned by the family of Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Aburizal Bakrie, a holdover tycoon from the Suharto era.

The company accumulated more than $1 billion in debts at the height of the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, but the minister since has returned to the top echelon of Indonesia's richest people. Forbes magazine reckoned Bakrie was worth an estimated $735 million in 2004, making him the fourth-wealthiest person in the country after the three tobacco barons who owned cigarette makers Gudang Garam, Djarum Group and Sampoerna.

Bakrie's businesses were still running in the red that year, nursing high debt loads left over from financial crisis and generating total losses of about Rp200 billion ($21.9 million). After Yudhoyono's first full year in office in 2005, Bakrie dramatically returned to the black, generating positive net earnings and profits of Rp267 billion and Rp223 billion, respectively. And industry analysts predict that Bakrie's profits will soar this year.

Back in business

Nowadays, the diversified Bakrie group businesses are locked into several government projects and there are apparently many more in the pipeline. This week the government's Downstream Oil and Gas Regulatory Body, BPH Migas, announced it had picked Bakrie Pipe Industries as its preferred bidder to build a controversial new $1.26 billion gas pipeline connecting Java and Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo island.

Bakrie championed the 1,219-kilometer East Kalimantan-Java gas pipeline, part of the Trans-ASEAN Gas Pipeline (TAGP) project, in his former government capacity as coordinating minister for the economy. He is on record as saying the government could appoint the contractor of the project, which was later won by his family business, without competitive bidding.

State-owned gas transmission and distribution company PT Perusahaan Gas Negara (PGN) – which had teamed up with the China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC, that country's largest offshore oil producer) and landed funding from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank – has subsequently claimed that its bid had been leaked, although not pointing the finger at any specific competitor.

The deal has nonetheless gone through, and Bakrie is now negotiating with Kalimantan gas producers to secure supplies for the pipeline project, which the company expects to finish by 2009, according to Bobby Gafur Umar, Bakrie's president. The pipeline is expected to carry 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from gas fields in East Kalimantan to users in Central Java by 2009. Umar told reporters on Tuesday, "I'm sure the government will go all out to see this project gets completed."

Those estimates are highly controversial, however. Some industry analysts say the level of gas reserves in East Kalimantan are not sufficient for the project's scope and could quickly represent a conflict with Indonesia's liquefied natural gas (LNG) contractual export commitments to major customers in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Indonesia has in recent years been the world's largest LNG exporter, but the government is now considering importing the fuel to help meet its ballooning domestic energy demand. A recent government study shows it may cost Indonesia as much as Rp18 trillion a year in lost gas-export revenues to divert the gas for domestic purposes from gas-rich Kalimantan – raising big cost- benefit questions that some industry analysts contend have not been properly analyzed.

Shipping gas to Java, industry experts say, would be far more economical. LNG production at the Bontang plant in Kalimantan could fall to nearly half its current volume from 2009-10 when the new pipeline comes online, the same experts say. Bontang is already struggling to meet annual production commitments because of a shortfall in gas supplies from increasingly spent gas fields operated by Total, Chevron and Vico Indonesia.

With global oil prices soaring, the government's current push to switch to non-petroleum fuels to lower dependence on oil arguably makes good policy sense. At the same time, it will clearly benefit energy conglomerates such as PT Bakrie & Brothers as national power stations are converted to use more natural gas or coal and biofuel is given government priority over fossil fuel usage.

Bakrie, 59, who was chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce, Trade and Industry for 10 years until 2004, bats back any criticism of conflict of interest and that certain government policies favor his family's private concerns over national interests. He frequently maintains that he no longer has any management role or formal position in his family-run company.

Moreover, all government decisions for the energy sector, he insists, are made collectively. Bakrie admits he pressed for the controversial Kalimantan-Java pipeline project, but notes that "among 18 factories producing pipes, one of them is the Bakrie Group. That can't be helped."

Riches to rags to riches

Achmad Bakrie founded Bakrie & Brothers in 1942 as a general merchant and trading company. His eldest son, Aburizal Bakrie, took control of the family business upon his death in 1988, and along with his two brothers, Nirwan and Indra, the second generation of entrepreneurs rapidly expanded into areas as diverse as steel-pipe manufacturing, telecommunications, rubber and oil-palm plantations, petrochemicals, property, banking, insurance, infrastructure, mining, and media. By the 1990s, an era when Indonesia was heralded by the World Bank as a "miracle" economy, Bakrie & Brothers was one of the country's leading conglomerates.

Then the Asian financial crisis hit. By December 1999, Bakrie's three main holding companies owed Rp4.3 trillion to the government-run Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency, making it IBRA's fourth-largest debtor. Combined with the debts it owed to hundreds of different foreign creditors, its total debts peaked at about Rp10 trillion.

The debt-restructuring agreement the family signed with IBRA in November 2001 left the Bakries with a mere 2.92% shareholding in what had been the largest conglomerate in Indonesia with about $5 billion in net assets and 71 different subsidiaries. About 95% of the companies' shares were transferred to creditors in debt-for- equity swaps, while the remaining 2.08% of the company belonged to the public.

The Bakrie family's fortunes reversed again beginning in 2003, when the assets of one of the world's biggest thermal coal mines, PT Kaltim Prima Coal, were scooped up by the family soon after the government started negotiations with global mining giants BP and Rio Tinto, which were forced to sell their concessions to resources under new nationalistic mining laws.

Bakrie-affiliated PT Bumi Resources said it had received loans amounting to $404.5 million from international lenders to help finance the $500 million acquisition. Singapore's United Overseas Bank and Credit Suisse First Boston provided a combined $318 million, according to company statements. Bumi already owned PT Arutmin Indonesia, another big coal producer it had bought in 2001 from BHP Biliton Australia for $180 million in another government-forced sale. Together, these two mines accounted for nearly 40% of Indonesia's total coal exports last year.

Bumi, currently with a market capitalization of $1.76 billion, announced in March it would offload both mines to a consortium of local companies led by Jakarta-based investment bank Renaissance Capital for $3.2 billion, thus giving the company an apparent windfall profit of more than $2.5 billion.

Those earnings will provide capital to finance Bakrie's new plans to invest heavily in Indonesia's underdeveloped oil-and-gas sector. With the industrialization of China and India pushing up demand for oil and gas to unprecedented levels, and the upward impact the conflict in the Middle East has had on crude prices, Bakrie has its eye on plumbing Indonesia's under-exploited fuel reserves to cash in on spiraling global fuel prices.

Ken Farrell, Bumi's director of operations, reportedly described the opportunity as too good to miss. "After we've paid for a dividend and a share buyback, we will have – including debt – up to $5.5 billion in the war chest." Bumi is also in the process of taking over its sister company, PT Energi Mega Persada Tbk, a provider, developer and explorer in the upstream oil and gas business with a market value of about $841.7 million.

Big government deals

Bumi can use the cash from its divestment in coal-mining assets to bankroll Energi's mostly undeveloped oil and gas blocks and also make further acquisitions. Energi bought five oil and gas blocks in Indonesia late last year. If, as expected, the merger goes through, it will create a national energy champion that has the potential to be the biggest oil-and-gas concern in the Asia- Pacific region, with a market value of some $2.8 billion based on current prices.

Next year Energi will begin supplying between 120 million and 130 million cubic feet of gas per day to several electricity- generating power plants in East Java. The contract runs for 15 years and is worth an estimated $3 billion. It will also supply gas to PGN, state oil-and-gas company Pertamina, and PT Petrokimia Gresik.

The first phase of Energi's 100%-owned Terang-Sirasun-Batur field development off Java is targeting a production startup by 2008 and will cost at least $275 million. Bumi plans to issue 14.4 billion new shares to finance the acquisition, while each Energi shareholder will have the right to convert their shares to Bumi on a 1:1 basis. The domestic and foreign minority shareholders of both companies will vote on the merger plan at the end of July and the deal is due for completion on August 9.

Investor confidence in Energi has recently been hit to a degree by a drilling accident at one of its fields in Java, alleged to have been caused by subsidiary Lapindo Brantas. Energi says the damages are manageable and are partly covered by insurance, but traders believe the ecological disaster could result in huge damages and compensation payouts.

The government has recently announced an ambitious bio-energy program that will include a massive Rp200 trillion investment over the next five years to promote the use of alternative fuels such as bio-diesel and ethanol made from palm oil, cassava, jatropha and sugarcane. Toward that end, state planners hope to develop another 3 million hectares of plantations over the next five years to help meet biofuel demand.

In line with that policy, PT Bakrie Sumatera Plantations, which generates about 33% of Bakrie's total revenues, plans to expand by 2008 its oil-palm plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan to 40,000 hectares. The company also holds a 70% stake in Bakrie Rekin Bio-Energy, a joint venture with state-owned contractor Rekayasa Industri, which was established to construct a big new bio-diesel plant early next year.

The $25 million bio-diesel factory is expected to come onstream in mid-2008, and will have an initial capacity of 60,000-100,000 tons of bio-diesel. Bakrie will provide the raw materials needed, including crude palm oil and other feedstock, while Rekayasa Industri would provide engineering and construction expertise.

The bigger Bakrie money, however, will come from old-fashioned infrastructure. About 55% of Bakrie's revenues come from the infrastructure sector, which is highly dependent on government contracts and licenses for its livelihood. Bakrie has recently won several big-ticket infrastructure projects, including a $66 million gas pipeline connecting Java to Sumatra and a gas- distribution project to West Java worth $37 million.

Bakrie Power, meanwhile, is working with China-owned Chengda Engineering Corp and the Bank of China to resurrect the once- stalled Tanjung Jati project, a steam-powered 1,320-megawatt electricity-generating plant project in Cilacap, Central Java – the same area that was hit by Monday's tsunami. The project is worth an estimated $1.1 billion and will receive funding from the Bank of China.

The Bakrie subsidiary has also set aside $1.7 billion to build a 1,320MW coal-powered electricity plant with the help of state electricity firm PT Perusahaan Listrik Negara (PLN) and an integrated steel factory. The $1.4 billion power project will begin next year and is estimated to take about three years to complete. The $300 million integrated steel factory, meanwhile, is likely to be built in West Java and have an annual production capacity of 1 million tons.

Together with Indian firm Welspun Gujarat Stahl Rohren Ltd, PT South East Asia Pipe Industries (Seapi), a Bakrie subsidiary, won a tender to supply a 168.6-kilometer undersea gas pipeline for PGN. The pipeline will stretch from Maringgai harbor in Lampung, South Sumatra, to the Bekasi Estuary in West Java. Seapi won $65.8 million of the project's total $84.2 value.

Never been burned

The Bakrie Group has never in its long history been linked to any scandal or government corruption, despite perennial concerns about possible conflict of interest with the family's strong political connections. Unlike most developed countries and some regional neighbors such as Thailand, Indonesia has no legal regulations barring government officials from having business interests while they hold public office.

Anung Karyadi, a staffer with global corruption watchdog Transparency International's Indonesian affiliate, contends that the Indonesian government should establish clear regulations on how family members and close associates of government officials conduct their business.

The government has long planned to set up an independent national public procurement office to reform the procurement system, but those plans are still on the drawing board. There have notably been few, if any, government moves toward developing a national competitiveness framework aimed at breaking up big business monopolies and promoting more growth-promoting entrepreneurialism.

Some analysts argue that the growing mix of business and politics under Yudhoyono's administration looks familiar to those who remember Suharto's government. Then, Suharto's six children and a handful of his favored business associates controlled large swaths of the Indonesian economy. And, they note, the Bakrie family business was then, and is today, Indonesia's top conglomerate.

[Bill Guerin, a Jakarta correspondent for Asia Times Online since 2000, has worked in Indonesia for 20 years, mostly in journalism and editorial positions. He has been published by the BBC on East Timor and specializes in business/economic and political analysis related to Indonesia. He can be reached at softsell@prima.net.id.]

Protecting the witnesses

Jakarta Post Editorial - July 21, 2006

The House of Representatives' approval Tuesday of a bill on witness and victim protection hopefully will go a long way toward strengthening the legal system's ability to fight such major crimes as corruption, human rights violations, terrorism, illegal logging, gambling and smuggling.

In the past lawmakers seemed to have focused on the legal protection of the perpetrators of such crimes, presumably with the objective of upholding the principle of presumption of innocence, while neglecting the protection of witnesses and victims.

But fair legal trials, which are a requirement and a basic principle of universal human rights and a basic characteristic of a democratic nation, depend primarily on the evidence presented at the trials, including the testimony of witnesses and victims. Witnesses and victims, therefore, play a key role in determining the course of court proceedings.

In the past, many cases of corruption, human rights violations and other major crimes could not be resolved or were thrown out due to a lack of evidence from witnesses and victims, who often were reluctant or afraid to testify in high-profile cases because of pressure or threats from the powerful parties involved.

But the new law will provide witnesses and victims the protection they need against physical and psychological threats from person or persons related to the testimony they will give. Under the law, witnesses and victims also are entitled to legal advice and new identities, relocation and reimbursement for expenses, as necessary. These rights also are provided to the families of witnesses and victims in some cases.

An independent Witness and Victim Protection Agency will be established within one year to enforce the law. The agency will consist of members of the National Police, Justice and Human Rights Ministry, Attorney General's Office and human rights organizations, and the agency will be accountable directly to the president.

Though the law does not explicitly define whistle-blowers as witnesses, the law will bolster the campaign against corruption by encouraging officials to report to the authorities any evidence of wrongdoing, even when it involves their superiors. This law, together with the corruption and money laundering laws, will greatly strengthen the legal framework for fighting corruption and various other forms of white-collar crime.

However, the effectiveness of the new law will still depend mainly on the resources and authority the Witness and Victim Protection Agency receives from the government, and on the support and cooperation of other state agencies.

Enacting a law is one thing, but enforcing it is quite another. We are all too familiar with laws that are conceptually excellent, but fail to achieve their objectives either due to inadequate institutional capacity or an acute lack of political leadership on the part of the government, including the House, to get things done.

Take, for example, the money laundering law of 2002, which on paper looks like effective legislation for combating corruption because it places the burden of proof on the defendants.

Sadly, though, not a single person has been brought to court on charges of money laundering since the law was passed, even though the Financial Transaction Reports Analysis Center (PPATK) – the financial intelligence unit set up to enforce the law – has over the past four years filed more than 450 money laundering cases with the police for further investigation and eventual prosecution.

The money laundering law is truly an important component of Indonesia's fight against corruption, tax evasion and numerous other crimes. Because the crimes covered by the law are so diverse, it should allow the fight against money laundering to hit almost all major sources of dirty money, from corruption, drug trafficking, smuggling, gambling and banking crimes, to terrorism and the trafficking of women and children.

In theory, the law should have made it extremely difficult for embezzlers, tax evaders and other big criminals to bring their ill-gotten money into the legal financial system. But an acute lack of cooperation from the police and other law enforcement agencies has turned the law into a piece of toothless legislation.

The government, which has yet to issue the necessary regulations for the implementation of the law on witness and victim protection, or establish the Witness and Victim Protection Agency, should learn some very big lessons from the ineffectiveness of the PPATK financial intelligence unit.

Whether the new law will really be effective in providing protection for witnesses and victims will depend on the resources the agency receives from the government and the support of other government institutions.

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