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Indonesia News Digest 48 – December 23-31, 2011


West Papua Human rights & justice Freedom of expression & press Political parties & elections Labour & migrant workers Environment & natural disasters Refugees & asylum seekers Graft & corruption Terrorism & religious extremism Freedom of religion & worship Land disputes & mining Government & regional autonomy Parliament & legislation Jakarta & urban life Criminal justice & prison system Police & law enforcement Foreign affairs & trade Economy & investment Analysis & opinion


Aceh marks 7 years since Indian Ocean earthquake, tsunami

Deutsche Presse Agentur - December 26, 2011

Banda Aceh, Indonesia – Aliya Humaira scribbled a message on yellow paper in the shape of a petal: "I love Papa, I love Mama, I love Sister Icha, I love Brother Kiki."

The 8-year-old Aliya lost her parents, a brother and a sister in the December 26, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated Aceh province on Indonesia's Sumatra island.

She and other children marked the 7th anniversary of the tsunami by planting 5,000 paper flowers containing messages of hope from their Japanese peers on a golf course in Aceh Besar district.

The yellow paper flowers were sent by children in the Japanese city of Kobe, where more than 6,000 people were killed after a 7.3 – magnitude earthquake struck 16 years ago. "Let's rise up together," read one message written by a Japanese earthquake survivor.

Aliya is now being raised by her grandmother in Medan, the capital of neighbouring North Sumatra province. "Every year I take Aliya to Aceh so that she won't forget her family," said the grandmother, Khamariyah, wiping tears that rolled down her eyes. Like many Indonesians she uses only one name.

Aceh was the region hardest hit by the 2004 tsunami. The disaster, triggered by a magnitude – 9.3 earthquake off Sumatra, killed an estimated 230,000 people in 13 countries along the Indian Ocean, including 170,000 in Aceh and Nias island.

Thousands attended the ceremony marking the anniversary in Aceh Besar attended by Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf and guests from Japan.

"The paper flowers are called Shinsai Mirai No Hana, which means flowers of the future," said Ryo Nishikawa, a Japanese social worker who organized the project. He said Achinese children would also send similar flowers to their Japanese peers in Kobe.

Relatives gathered Monday at mass graves where thousands of Achinese victims of the tsunami were buried to say prayers.

At a mass grave in Siron, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists offered joint prayers while others in the staunchly Islamic province gathered at local mosques.

Days before the anniversary, an Achinese girl who was thought to have died in the tsunami was found and reunited with her parents. Her grandfather said she was forced to beg by her adopted mother for years before she left her to look for her biological parents.

Former GAM members deny corruption allegation

Jakarta Post - December 24, 2011

Jakarta – Former members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) denied on Friday any involvement in corrupt practices in local administrations and challenged anti-graft groups to come forward with evidence of their involvement.

"Please give us proof about our involvement in corrupt practices," said former GAM member Suadi Sulaiman, now a member of the Pidie local council.

On Thursday, the Anti-Corruption Solidarity Coalition (GaSak) accused GAM's former members, many of whom are now local government's officials, of being involved in corrupt practices, including the misuse of local budgets to benefit their comrades-in-arms.

Suadi said that the statement could be slanderous if GaSak failed to present hard evidence. He also said that it was impossible to find such evidence simply because none of GAM's former members ever engaged in illicit practices while in power. "We strive to maintain our integrity," Suadi told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He suspected GaSak timed the release of its report with the build-up to the 2012 gubernatorial election. "They should have been objective when they talk about Aceh. Or just shut up if they know nothing about Aceh," said Suadi.

Former GAM military advisor Teungku Jamaica also suspected that the anti- graft coalition might be on to something, and called on them to present evidence of their claims.

"Tell us how many ex-GAM members are corrupt and give us their names. But until they can produce evidence to prove our involvement in corrupt practices, they should not make any accusations," said Jamaica.

He also called on the NGO to give credit to what former GAM members had done. "Acehnese have enjoyed better access to education, health and other social services since GAM successfully took over the province from the central government," he said.

GaSak coordinator Mukhlis Munir rejected Jamaica's claim and said that former GAM members had contributed little to the progress in Aceh.

"GAM members used to only fight for freedom. Now, some of them have forgotten about the people's welfare and seek benefit for themselves. Now they lead a lavish lifestyle," he said, accusing Aceh governor, mayors and members of local councils of receiving kickbacks from government contracts.

He said that now there were at least three officials, all former GAM members, being investigated on corruption charges: Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf, North Aceh Regent Ilyas A. Hamid and Biruen Regent Nurdin Abdul Rahman. (msa)

Aceh police chief says punks are 'abnormal'

Jakarta Globe - December 24, 2011

Sixty-five punks detained and sent through a 10-day forced "re-education" program at a police camp in Aceh Besar were released on Friday. In an interview with the Jakarta Globe, Insp. Gen. Iskandar Hasan, chief of the Aceh Police, said that despite the controversy and accusations of human- rights violations flying in from around the globe, he was certain that local police and the government were correct to put to a halt what he saw as a "filthy," unhealthy lifestyle.

Question: How is this case being justified in Aceh?

For the municipal government, what the [punks] did is a violation of Islamic law. They do not deserve to live at Blang Padang Field. In the afternoon and evening they interfere with people who work out there.

The mass detainment occurred during a concert put on by some punk kids that had asked permission from the police with the recommendation of the community assembly. Apparently, the substance of the recommendation had been falsified. They gave false information, listing themselves as an Aceh youth community, while they actually were punk kids.

The concert on Dec. 10 at Taman Budaya [Cultural Park] was disbanded and the punks were taken to the police. Then we had a discussion and because they were also children of the nation, we decided to educate them all together by sending them to the [State Police Academy (SPN) Seulawah, in Aceh Besar].

Q: Was the re-education program financed by the police?

It was financed by the city administration. Our calculations say there were enough funds for 10 days at the SPN.

The [punks] participated in programs such as morning calisthenics, learning about the state and prayer. I visited once and saw them laugh. We treat them well. Not even a pinch. If we are considered to be violating human rights because they are not as free as they are on the street, whose human rights formulation is that? Please judge us. We do not torture them.

Q: They were subjected to forced head-shavings, forced dunkings and held for 10 days without any criminal charges being brought against them. Isn't that a violation of human rights?

Head-shaving and plunges into the pool are traditions. Every person has a different perception. Proverbially, they get into a 'washing pool' so it is not like we drown them. They are just happy because it has been a long time since they have taken a bath.

Now they clean, and we provide them with toothpaste, shampoo and prayer shirts. We ask them to live normally. Their lives have been abnormal and this is one of the police's responsibilities.

The [punks] have been enthusiastic during their education. They cry a lot [out of regret].

Q: Didn't one of the youths escape from the academy?

He missed his family. We do not torture them and we are open. We give freedom to the media to see inside the SPN (The Jakarta Globe visited the academy on Thursday night, but the youths were already asleep). Nothing is covered up. We do not violate human rights. Some of them are still 15 and they have a right to attend school. So who is responsible if we are just being quiet?

Q: What will happen after the youths are released on Friday?

Those who want to go to school and ask to go to school will be sent to school. If some of them with ear-piercing holes and other big [piercing] holes have made a request to close the holes, then we will fix it. So, what further human rights one might ask? I have no idea. We intend to help those who want to remove their tattoos, or those who want to build a stencil business or go to college.

Q: If the police are so concerned with punks being dirty, then why don't the police ever round up the homeless in Aceh as well?

There are no homeless in Aceh, there are only punks. After educating them, then our job is done. If you want the details of what should be done with them afterward, ask the municipal government, though we will be said if they are just left alone.

Punk is not a problem in Aceh alone, but it is also severe problem in other major cities. Incidentally, there is Islamic law in Aceh, so we care more.

Q: Why didn't you bring the punks to social welfare organizations rather than keeping them under police custody? Why were the police in charge of this program?

Yes, ideally that's what we would do, but everything happened so suddenly and we were the only ones who were ready. Therefore we recommend to the municipal government that there is a regional law for [punks'] guidance and education.

Q: So after this, will punks on the street be arrested?

Yes, possibly. How dirty would Indonesian society be if it was filled with homeless punks in every corner of the city. We do not have to emulate other dirty countries, but clean states such as Singapore. There are also punks that exist in different classes. They are clean. Not trashy. Trash does not fit the Islamic law. Muslims practice prayer and are meant to be pure, be clean.

Q: So if a punk is clean and diligently prays, he is allowed to a punk?

As long as he is not homeless and does not interfere with other people, why should we ban [punks]? That's the point. We do not see his label, but his looks. Alhamdullilah [thank God] we got strong support from the community, including 21 Islamic organizations. Although I also received around 50 SMS messages containing profanity and obscenities. We are the servants for society.

Q: If the police really care about the punk community, why is Aceh the only area undertaking these types of measures? Is there a double standard in policing in Indonesia?

Well that is your thought, not mine.

Aceh police chief trashes punk lifestyle as youths released

Jakarta Globe - December 23, 2011

Farouk Arnaz – Sixty-five punk rock enthusiasts detained by the Aceh Police and sent for "re-education" were released on Friday after 10 days of spiritual and physical coaching.

Aceh Police chief Insp. Gen. Iskandar Hasan says that despite the worldwide attention – almost uniformly negative – that followed the detainment without charges, forced head-shavings and re-education, he is certain that local police and the government were acting in the interests of the punks and the community at large.

In an interview with the Jakarta Globe on Thursday night, Iskandar laid out the reasons why police rounded up the punks, saying the so-called charity concert they were attending was a falsification, and that the attendees constituted little more than a filthy public nuisance.

He justified the head-shavings and dunkings in water – images that spread like wildfire across the Internet – as a misperceived "tradition" practiced by police cadets, and added that the detainees were "just happy because it has been a long time since they have had a bath."

"Gembel [homeless trash] does not fit the Islamic law. Muslims do prayer and are meant to be pure, be clean."

Iskandar also roundly denied that the detainees rights had been infringed upon, despite their being held with no criminal charges. "If we are considered as violating human rights because they are not as free as they are on the street, whose human rights formulation is that?" he said. "Please judge us. We do not torture them."

Just the opposite, he said, the re-education program was carried out – paid for by the city administration – out of a spirit of caring for the youths. "If some of them with ear-piercings and other big [piercing] holes have made a request to close the hole, then we will fix it. So, what further human rights what one might ask for? I have no idea."

Iskandar also brushed aside the idea that the punks should have been put under the care of social welfare organizations rather than the police, saying that at the time of the concert, the police were the only ones equipped to take in and care for the 65 detainees. "Therefore, we recommend that the municipal government create a regional law for [the punks'] guidance and education."

But the rounding up and re-education of the 65 youths did not constitute a war on "punk," Iskandar said. "As long as he is not homeless and does not interfere with other people, why should we ban him? That's the point. We do not see his identity, but his looks."

'Freedom fighters now corrupt' in Aceh

Jakarta Post - December 23, 2011

Jakarta – An anti-graft non-governmental organization has alleged that former members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), now members of the local `government, were involved in corrupt practices.

"Local budget allocations have been misused and [have] become the source of graft practices in the region," said Mukhlis Munir, the coordinator of the Anti-Corruption Solidarity Coalition (GaSak) on Thursday.

Mukhlis alleged that parties involved in budget misuse were government officials who belonged to the ruling Aceh Party (PA). He also accused governor, mayors and members of local councils (DPRK and DPRA) of receiving illicit benefits from government contracts.

The Aceh Party became the ruling party after it won the 2009 local election. The leadership of the party, as well as most of its members, are former members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM).

GAM fought the Indonesian Military from 1976 to 2005 trying to liberate Aceh from Indonesia, but dissolved after signing the Oslo peace agreement in 2005.

Under the agreement, Aceh received special autonomy and held its first election in 2006. Current governor Irwandi Yusuf won the election based on support from ex-GAM members. Irwandi himself is a former GAM negotiator.

Mukhlis also alleged that most of local government policies were designed to benefit ex-GAM members.

"We have seen that there are many manipulations through fictitious and mysterious government projects that were intentionally offered to the colleagues of ex-combatants," Mukhlis said.

He said that now the Acehnese had now become familiar with corrupt practices, "the modus operandi, such as embezzling local budget, has prevailed in the past years."

Mukhlis, who spoke during a press briefing held by the Partnership for Governance Reform (Kemitraan), said that several local NGOs had filed reports with the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) but so far, no probe had been launched.

"We hope that now the KPK, with its new leadership, can launch an investigation into some of the cases from the regions," he said.

Aceh will soon hold a gubernatorial election in 2012, which could prompt local politicians to intensify their corrupt practices to finance their re-election bids.

Laode M. Syarif of Kemitraan said that what happened in Aceh was a replay of common corrupt practices among councillors, government officials and mayors in other parts of the country.

"The problem is that these types of corruption remain untouched thus far and will remain intact in 2012," he told The Jakarta Post.

He said that now that the KPK could only prosecute a limited number of cases, the hope was that police and prosecutors could launch their own investigation at the local level. "We hope there will be improvements from those two institutions." (rpt)

West Papua

Freeport mine strike ends

ABC Radio Australia - December 28, 2011

Thousands of workers at Freeport mine in Indonesia have ended their three- month strike for better wages, after a signing a pay-rise deal with the company.

Production at Freeport's giant gold and copper mine in Papua has been at a standstill since workers began their industrial action. The workers are expected to return to work this week, but there are reports the Papuan police chief will charge protest organisers with sedition.

Presenter: Melanie Arnost

Editor of West Papua Media Nick Chesterfield

Chesterfield: It's seen to be a bit of a bitter sweet victory because whilst there have been ceremonies to enable peaceful resolution, the company, Freeport has given very little ground on the original demands and the Indonesian police in Papua have decided that they're also going to charge the union leaders and the organisers with sedition.

Arnost: What does this mean for the workers?

Chesterfield: Well sedition is basically the charge under which everyone in West Papua gets charged if they raise the Morning Star flag. What it means is basically between 10 to 15 years in prison, and it's not exactly a good faith act by the police. So there's a lot of people who are going to be fearful. It's designed by the police to stop anyone from taking legitimate industrial action by making out that it's treasonous.

Arnost: And how many workers are we talking about that look like they'll be charged?

Chesterfield: Well at the moment it's looking at the union organisers, certainly the heads of the union and key organisers who've been manning the blockades and doing the education out there and doing what union organisers do on the ground during strikes. Whether or not they charge everyone, this is a question that the workers certainly want to have answered, and also one of their conditions in returning to work is there's going to be no sanction on them for going on strike. There's no real gains in wage justice for any of the workers there, I mean they were initially going for quite a significant pay rise, and in the end they're getting less than seven dollars an hour for their efforts.

Arnost: So why did they decide to end the strike?

Chesterfield: At the end of the day companies like Freeport and the Freeport mine which is the most profitable mine on earth, it's the largest gold and copper mine on earth. It doesn't want to pay its workers, not its indigenous workers anyway. There's an understanding simply that there was no willingness on behalf of management to even budge even a few cents. So any money is better than no money.

Arnost: So these seven dollars, is that what they were originally being paid in the first place?

Chesterfield: Look they were originally being paid about a dollar 50 to three dollars an hour. So certainly there have been a few increases but it's far less than what they're asking for and there's no real guarantees of safety and security, and especially security from these ongoing attacks by unknown forces, which the police and military seem to not want to solve.

Arnost: When do you expect the workers will return to work?

Chesterfield: It could be any day but nothing is entirely guaranteed until we get the pictures from the ground really.

Arnost: It's said to be the longest in recent Indonesian history this strike, so do you predict something like this happening again?

Chesterfield: Look certainly there's an appetite for industrial action in Indonesia and certainly in West Papua. Certainly the Freeport Mine's got to be separated in some way obviously from the independence struggle in West Papua, but there's certainly issues of corporate behaviour and corporate impact on surrounding environments and surrounding social dislocation that workers have really switched on to. You can't unlearn what you've gone through in a situation like that, so certainly there's more of a willingness to take this kind of action. And they've certainly learnt a lot of lessons from it.

Pressure builds on Indonesian firm to settle Freeport dispute

Reuters - December 28, 2011

Pressure built on an Indonesian firm on Wednesday to resolve a local dispute with workers at a Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold Inc mine that has prompted the union to halt a return to work after a three-month strike.

The union said there would be no mobilization to return to work on Wednesday and not until contractor Kuala Pelabuhan Indonesia guaranteed that workers who took part in the strike would not be penalized.

The delay will push back the resumption of full operations at the world's second-biggest copper mine, which is on Papua island, eastern Indonesia. Arizona-based Freeport earlier said it expected full operations at the Grasberg mine to resume in early 2012.

"There's no mobilization today. If there's no mobilization, automatically there's no work. Principally we're just waiting now for KPI," union spokesman Virgo Solossa said by telephone.

The strike was settled on Dec. 14 when the union and Freeport agreed to a pay increase of roughly 40 percent for around 8,000 union members and to a framework for a better deal for roughly 15,000 other non-union workers and contractors.

The resolution, while not all the union wanted, is a watershed in relations between employers and workers demanding a greater share of the spoils in southeast Asia's largest economy at a time of rapid economic growth.

Workers have not returned immediately to the mine because of delays in organizing transport for thousands of miners in the highlands of central Papua where security is tense because of a low-level separatist insurgency and concerns that returning strikers would be penalized.

Police on Papua also urged KPI to resolve the dispute. "Contractors must follow the spirit of the agreement between Freeport and its union so that striking workers can return to work with a clean slate, no bad records on them," said Mimika Police chief Denny Siregar.

The police were acting as an unofficial mediator in the dispute that only emerged at the tail end of the strike, Siregar said.

KPI sacked 18 workers who failed to show up during the strike, which began on Sept. 15. It will allow 473 other workers to return under certain conditions, KPI senior manager for corporate and administrative support, Juarsa Oemardikarta, said in an e-mail.

KPI is also evaluating the status of 101 workers who have been suspended, Oemardikarta said. They were being asked to sign a document agreeing not to join a union, according to Maskat Kaliky, secretary general of the KPI union who said he had not seen the document.

Contractor KPI runs the Freeport port through which concentrate is shipped. It also operates road and transport facilities as well as mobile equipment and employs 2,100 workers.

Freeport union halts return to work post strike

Reuters - December 27, 2011

The union at Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc's Grasberg mine in Indonesia has halted a return to work after a three-month strike pending the resolution of a local labour dispute, senior union official Virgo Solossa said on Tuesday.

The union said local contractor Kuala Pelabuhan Indonesia must guarantee that no workers who participated in the strike would lose their jobs.

The company says 18 of its workers were sacked and another 101 temporarily suspended in September and October pending further evaluation.

Workers may delay return to work at Freeport mine: Union

Reuters - December 26, 2011

Timika, Papua – Workers at Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold Inc's mine in Indonesia may delay returning to work, despite a deal to end a three-month strike, in the absence of a decision on the removal of about 100 workers at a local unit, a union official said on Monday.

The workers at Freeport Indonesia's Grasberg mine in the eastern province of Papua were supposed to gradually return to work this week to end the strike that has crippled output and exports from the world's second-biggest copper mine.

They had agreed to a deal with management earlier this month on a pay rise of about 40 percent to end the three-month strike that crippled the company's production.

Some workers held a traditional stone burning ritual and removed a road blockage over the weekend near the mine, marking the end of the longest running strike in recent Indonesian history.

But the agreement is at risk as the local unit, Kuala Pelabuhan Indonesia, had failed to guarantee that 119 workers, who were suspended during the strike, would be rehired, said Virgo Solossa, a senior Freeport Indonesia union official.

KPI has a total of 2,100 workers, mostly at the port which handles copper shipments of Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold Inc's Indonesian unit.

Juarsa Oemardikarta, senior manager corporate and administrative support at KPI, said 18 workers had been sacked and another 101 temporarily supended in September-October until further evaluation.

Grasberg workers may also stay away from the mine until there is a decision on another 473 KPI workers who had to sign a disciplinary statement before resuming work.

Solossa said the union had asked KPI to scrap the dismissal and start afresh following the recent deal to end the strike. "Potentially, this would have a huge impact on our agreement recently," Solossa said.

Solossa said the union had mobilized nearly 250 workers to return to the mine on Monday, but they were still not back at work. Most workers at the Grasberg mine are on holiday for Christmas.

KPI was in the process of renewing its two-year agreement with its workers when the strike started on Sept. 15, Oemardikarta added. Freeport Indonesia declined to comment on the matter.

The strike at Grasberg mine harmed Freeport's total production and led the firm to declare force majeure on exports in October, helping lift global prices.

Work resumes at Freeport's Papua gold mine

Associated Press - December 25, 2011

Timika, Papua – Thousands of Indonesian workers have returned to work at Freeport-McMoRan's largest gold and copper mine.

Production at the troubled Grasberg mine in easternmost Papua province has been crippled since 8,000 unionized employees walked off their jobs in September, demanding higher wages. They ended their strike on Dec. 14 after getting a 37 percent wage hike and improved benefits.

Union spokesman Virgo Solosa says that on Sunday, workers removed roadblocks to the mine sites and a traditional stone-burning ceremony was held to officially mark the end of the strike.

It is expected to take about a week for workers to fully return and for full operations to resume at the mine.

Papuan villagers fear OPM revenge after police attack

Jakarta Globe - December 24, 2011

Banjir Ambarita – Tension was palpable in the hilly coastal district of Paniai, West Papua, more than 10 days after police raided a mountain hideout where armed separatists were believed to be staying.

On Dec. 12, police attacked a site in Eduda, Paniai, believed to be the headquarters for the local chapter of the outlawed Free Papua Organization (OPM)

They seized firearms, ammunition, knives, combat gear, documents and separatist flags, and according to a man claiming to be a spokesman for the OPM's Paniai chapter, 14 guerillas were killed. In the aftermath, villagers worry about the consequences.

"Residents are living in fear because of the possibility of a reaction from the OPM, since they usually conduct revenge operations and residents become the targets," said a local religious leader, Father Oktovianus Pekei.

Oktovianus said he hoped that security forces would stay alert and protect the residents. The whereabouts of the local OPM leader, John Magay Yogi, are unknown, and Oktovianus said the group might attempt to regain its headquarters under his leadership.

"They may continue to fight to get their headquarters back, which is what residents fear, because that will only lead to bloodshed," the clergyman said.

He said the guerillas had often extorted money, produce and livestock from the villagers. "Residents are afraid of the OPM because they always take," he said, adding that they feared the OPM more than they feared soldiers and the police.

Johanes Yogi, a local public figure, agreed that the OPM had frequently threatened and robbed local residents. "They say you'll be fined if you work with the Republic of Indonesia, and that they'll take livestock if you can't pay," Yogi said.

Oktovianus said he had not received reports of casualties of the local population from the raid. "There have not been any civilian casualties," he said.

After investigation, he added, reports that security personnel burned about 70 houses during the raid turned out to be false.

On Dec. 16, Indonesia Human Rights Committee said it received reports that people in Paniai were undergoing a "military siege involving horrendous destruction and violence," including the torching of villages, deaths and forced evacuations.

Paniai Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Jannus Parlidungan Siregar said police estimated there were about 800 OPM members at the headquarters, with about 500 members in Eduda and the rest in nearby Dagouto and Kamopa. He said police were still searching for John Magai Yogi and another OPM leader, Salmon Yogi.

"We want to arrest these two OPM leaders because they're responsible for all the actions that have caused unrest among the population, including the robbing of police weapons, the burning of two bridges and the robbery of people's livestock," Jannus said.

He said the situation in Paniai was secure, and he called on the people "not to believe in the various circulating rumors." Paniai district chief Naftali Yogi also said his territory was safe and under control.

"The activities of the population are proceeding smoothly now," Naftali said, adding that he believed people no longer feared disturbances from the OPM.

Papua's rage

Straits Times - December 24, 2011

Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Mimika – Mimika's population is just 184,000 but it is one of the top three richest regencies in Indonesia. Millions in development funds from Jakarta have poured into it over the past decade.

But as one drives into its capital Timika, a question comes to mind: Where did all the money go? The streets are punctured with potholes, while intersections do not have traffic lights.

And where are the native Papuans? Shops and restaurants that line the main street are owned and operated by people from South Sulawesi, Java, West Sumatra and other parts of Indonesia. The indigenous Papuans, with their distinctive Melanesian features, are a rare sight in the town center. Most live in the rural areas.

This divide, replicated in many cities and towns in this sprawling region, has added to the Papuans' sense of marginalization and resentment.

Grievances are stoked by the emergence of a new elite made up largely of outsiders. Accusing fingers are pointed at local leaders by angry Papuans for putting the largesse from Jakarta to questionable use; none has come their way, they say.

At the root of periodic bouts of unrest in this province is the view long held by sections of the Papuan community: They and their land are not part of Indonesia. Papua – which covers the western half of the world's second largest island and makes up over one-fifth of Indonesia's land mass – was once part of the Dutch East Indies.

Caught in a messy post-independence tussle between the Dutch and the fledgling government in Jakarta, it only formally became part of Indonesia in 1969, and for a time was known as Irian Jaya.

As the government opened up the resource-rich province for development, large numbers of immigrants from all across the archipelago moved over.

The influx added to the unresolved problems associated with its integration with Indonesia: Native Papuans complained of being sidelined and discriminated against by the culturally and ethnically different newcomers.

Tough action by security forces to stamp out separatist elements added fuel to the resistance. Precise figures on the toll of the decades-long insurgency are hard to come by, but a figure commonly cited by human rights groups is that some 100,000 Papuans have died as a result of repression and neglect since the 1960s.

After the downfall of President Suharto in 1998, the province was renamed Papua and granted special autonomy status – referred to widely as otsus, short for Otonomi Khusus – in 2001 in a bid to accelerate its development while acknowledging its distinctiveness. The north-west portion of the province was further hived off to form West Papua province in 2003.

But many among the approximately two-million indigenous Papuans – who now make up just over half the population in their homeland – have continued to agitate for independence.

This sentiment was evident in the many celebrations held throughout Papua on Dec 1 to raise the banned Morning Star flag to mark the anniversary of what some refer to as Papua's "independence."

Why this sense of alienation, which reports in the Indonesian media suggest is growing? For many, like sweet potato grower Alex Ouwame, 35, of the Amungme tribe, continuing poverty is a key factor, and he pins the blame on Jakarta.

"Otsus is not right. We want independence – out from Indonesia," he said shortly after a flag-hoisting incident in Timika Indah field on Dec 2, which prompted police to open fire on a crowd to bring down the two flags deemed separatist. There are no known fatalities, but Papuans and police have each claimed that five persons on their side were wounded.

The poverty that Ouwame refers to is made even more apparent by the continuing influx of new arrivals, many of whom have settled in Papua as part of the central government's transmigration policy.

Monsignor John Philip Saklil, head of the Catholic Church in Timika, the capital of Mimika regency, notes that these migrants compete directly with indigenous Papuans in trades and other jobs, and often, as they are more skilled, they do better. "This has created a wider gap in the distribution of income," Bishop Saklil said.

Here, as in many cities in Papua, the more established businesses are run by Indonesian migrants who come from Java, Sumatra, South Sulawesi and East Nusa Tenggara, while many Papuans work as security officers, store keepers or sell betel nuts and fruit on the road side.

The gap in earnings is evident. Recent disclosures of rampant corruption of development funds meant to help lift the lot of ordinary Papuans have only aggravated matters.

The otsus law stipulates annual transfers of funds to the Papua region for development and allows it to retain 70 per cent of its oil and gas revenues, a much higher retention rate than that allowed for other provinces. But well-intentioned as it is, the otsus efforts have created problems of their own.

The latest random audit announced in late November by the Supreme Audit Agency found that hundreds of billions of rupiah of some 28 trillion rupiah ($3.08 billion) of special autonomy funds channeled from Jakarta to Papua in the past decade have gone missing.

In the last two years alone, as much as 566 billion rupiah worth of expenses by the local governments in the provinces of Papua and West Papua could not be properly accounted for, the audit found. Some travel expense claims, for example, were based on counterfeit airplane ticket receipts.

The desire for independence would not have been as strong had native Papuans been better off economically, say analysts like Muridan Widjojo of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences.

Muridan said: "Had otsus been running smoothly and had there been no state violence, the calls for independence would have been weakened, because they no longer had justification.

"Corruption would just strengthen the Papuans' distrust in the Indonesian government," he added. "They don't care whether the government officials are Papuans or not. In other words, the Papuan commoners would just blame Jakarta."

In a bid to address this widespread discontent, Jakarta established a special government body – the Special Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua, or UP4B – in September. Its aim is to speed up development in Papua and get special autonomy back on track.

The unit is headed by retired Lieutenant General Bambang Darmono, who played a key role in bringing about a peace agreement in Aceh in 2005. He has long argued that economic development without a political settlement is doomed to fail.

The unit reports directly to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and is tasked with making sure there is enough food supply in Papua, that poor residents in remote areas get attention and that health care and education services are delivered to all.

Its mandate is to coordinate all government activities and projects in Papua that will lead to the improvement of the well-being of the Papuan people, Vice-President Boediono told foreign correspondents at a forum this month.

While Indonesia would reject all attempts to internationalize the issue of Papua, it would consider inviting foreign observers to the province to see the result of this new approach at a later date, Boediono added. In the meantime, the unit should be given time to do its work first, he stressed.

On the ground, views remain divided. Elminus B. Mom, an Amungme highlander tribe warrior turned parliamentarian, believes independence for Papua is "non-negotiable."

"It is everyone's right. Papuans will someday be liberated. It's just a matter of time. If it's not during my lifetime, my children will definitely experience it. Deep in his heart, every Papuan would want independence," he said.

But not everyone distrusts Jakarta. Said fisherman Herman Okoreyau, 46, of the coastal Kamoro tribe, who nets crab, fish and shrimp for a living: "The government has been nice these past years. They give away rice every three months. I got my boat engine free from them." Asked whether Papua should be an independent state, he simply smiled.

Over the past four decades, many Papuans have made inroads into top rungs of the bureaucracy in Jakarta. There have been ministers, top bureaucrats and senior military figures from the region, and many fly the country's flag in sports.

Yet a significant number among their fellow Papuans back home feel cut off in the management of the resources of their land and in the returns to be gained from them.

Papua has the world's biggest gold mine, operated by American mining giant Freeport-McMoRan, and a #100 billion ($156 billion) gas field – among the largest in the world – run by London-based oil company BP.

Said Jakarta-based veteran politician Angkola Pandapotan Harahap: "It's human instinct to want to be free, to want independence. If you ask people in Riau, they would say they want independence because they have oil. People in South Sumatra would say the same and claim they have plenty of plantations. But do we all want to break up and be weakened?"

U4BP has its work cut out for it in reaching a lasting deal in Papua. But there are glimmers of hope for those looking for a change in attitude, some to be found in unlikely places like the national football team where Papuans are the star players.

Asked about Papua days after Indonesia's footballers won the silver at last month's South-East Asia Games, striker and rising star Patrich Steve Wanggai, 23, told MetroTV: "We know there is lack of government attention on Papua, but there is no question, we are proud to play for Indonesia."

Freeport strikers to return to work

Reuters - December 23, 2011

Olivia Rondonuwu – Thousands of workers at Freeport-McMoRan's giant gold and copper mine in Papua will start going back to work today to end a three-month strike that shook labor relations in Southeast Asia's largest economy.

The union will also lift a road blockade that prevented other workers from accessing the Grasberg mine, senior union official Virgo Solossa said on Friday. The workers agreed to a deal with management last week on a pay raise of about 40 percent to end the three-month strike that crippled the firm's production.

The union had planned to mobilize workers to return to the mine on Dec. 17, but that was delayed as they waited for guarantees from management that no disciplinary action would be taken against the strikers.

"We reached an agreement about the guarantee from the firm just now," said Solossa, adding that no action would be taken against those who went on strike. "So [on Saturday] we will hold a ritual to conclude this process and lift the road blockade," Solossa said.

Many workers at the Grasberg mine are Papuans, and the union said it would hold a traditional stone burning ritual including a feast in which pigs are slaughtered and roasted over hot stones. Solossa said the workers would start returning to the mine after the ceremony was finished in the afternoon.

The strike is the longest in recent Indonesian history and represents the first major attempt by workers to reap greater financial rewards in one of the world's hottest emerging markets.

A senior Freeport official, Scott Hanna, confirmed Friday's agreement to lift the blockade and mobilize union workers, but he did not say when exactly they would return to work. The firm expects full operations to resume early next year and shipments of concentrate will remain limited until then, Hanna wrote in an e-mail.

Union officials say the deal to end the strike fell short of their expectations but still represented a significant advance that could galvanize other unionized sectors of the economy of the world's fourth- largest country by population.

The blockade, imposed in October at Mile 27 and 28 of the road leading to the mine, included a large tent inhabited by workers and several heavy vehicles.

Security is poor in the highlands of central Papua because of a low-level insurgency by militants demanding independence for the western part of the island from Indonesia. A recent military siege in Papua targeted these militants and yielded allegations of widespread human rights abuses.

Yudhoyono should set up an office in Papua, PDI-P says

Jakarta Globe - December 23, 2011

Markus Junianto Sihaloho – If he really wants to understand the grievances of the Papuan people, the president should set up an office there, an opposition legislator said on Thursday.

Tjahjo Kumolo, the chairman of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction in the House of Representatives, said that by working out of the country's easternmost province, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono would have a better idea of the various issues of concern to Papuans.

"That way, he can directly lead the law enforcement, security and development processes in Papua," he said.

Tjahjo was speaking following his return from a working visit to Papua with several other members of House Commission I, which oversees security and foreign affairs. He said the delegation had identified several problems that called for direct intervention by Yudhoyono or Vice President Boediono.

"Perhaps the president should also order some of his ministers to work from there too so that all of the problems can be resolved much quicker," he said.

Papua has for decades been beset by a low-level separatist insurgency, fueled in large part by accusations of human rights abuses by the security forces against the region's indigenous residents. There are also concerns that despite being the most resource-rich province in the country, Papua is the least-developed.

On Tuesday, Rev. Benny Giay of the Kingmi Papuan Evangelical Church told the Jakarta Globe that as long as Papua remained a part of Indonesia, "there will always be violence." "None of the stores there are owned by an indigenous Papuan. Even I wouldn't be allowed to run a store," he said.

Benny, speaking after a meeting with Yudhoyono, said there was "no separatism." "Papua was forced into Indonesia, and after that it has been subject to constant violence," he said. "Jakarta was the one that planted the seed of separatism and used that as justification for the heavy military presence there."

Hasyim Muzadi, a former chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's largest Islamic organization, said the situation was "critical" and could lead to Papua seceding from Indonesia. "What happens if there's an independence referendum and more than 100 countries acknowledge Papua as its own country?" he said.

[With additional reporting by Rangga Prakoso & Anita Rachman.]

Human rights & justice

Blame for police's rough justice may go to top of tree

Jakarta Globe - December 31, 2011

Nivell Rayda – For the families of the fallen students who 13 years ago were killed in a series of demonstrations that led to the ousting of former President Suharto, it was like losing their sons once more.

Tears, anger and disbelief were apparent when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono nominated Timur Pradopo as chief of the National Police in October 2010.

A 1999 investigation carried out by an ad-hoc fact finding team, revealed that Timur was at the scene of an incident in November 1998 where five students and six bystanders died from live rounds fired by the military and police.

The same team said that Timur was also responsible for the death of four students after police opened fire on a group of protestors in front of Trisakti University campus in West Jakarta on May 12, 1998. Timur was chief of West Jakarta District Police at the time of the May incident.

But the House of Representatives rubber-stamped the decision in a plenary session that took just 30 minutes. When the process was completed, Timur, now a four star general, was asked to step forward and was applauded by the legislators.

"We will never stay silent. Everybody must respect human rights and justice for all victims. A human rights violator should be brought to trial, and not end up as National Police chief," Poengky Indarti, executive director of the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor (Imparsial) said a day after the appointment.

A violent year

Last year, rights groups speculated that Timur's appointment would worsen the police's appalling human rights record. Their worst fears appear to have come true as the year has been rife with cases of killings and violence involving police officers.

Indonesian Police Watch, a monitoring group, said that this year 18 civilians died from police fire, and 78 were wounded.

The Commission for Missing Person and Victims of Violence (Kontras) has recorded seven major cases that point to excessive use of force by the police in the past four months alone.

That number includes an incident in August in which police opened fire on protesters trying to occupy an oil field in Tiaka, Southeast Sulawesi. Two people died, including one who was shot multiple times, and dozens more were wounded.

In October, police in Timika, Papua, clashed with mining workers of Freeport Indonesia. Two civilians and one police officer were killed. Two weeks later, police brutally dispersed participants of the Third Papuan Congress in Abepura, leaving at least three dead.

But two incidents caught the attention of lawmakers, prompting them to schedule a House inquiry for early next year.

Police forces are under fire after two demonstrators were gunned down and another died from his injuries after police tried to disband a group of protestors who were occupying a seaport in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, last week. The protestors were rallying against the presence of gold miner Sumber Mineral Nusantara in the village of Lambu.

The incident came just weeks after a group of farmers from Mesuji, Lampung, accused police of siding with palm oil companies in a land dispute that the farmers say has claimed at least 32 lives.

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) secretary general Tjahjo Kumolo questioned police reforms. Given it was separated from the military in 2000, police should use a softer approach to help protect civilians and facilitate peacekeeping, the lawmaker said.

"But what happens is the other way around. Police instead emulate the military style and approach. They now oppress instead of protecting, and kill instead of pacifying those involved in crime," Tjahjo said.

"Just look at the gear that they used [in the Bima incident]. They are not using non-lethal weapons to stop the demonstration, but rifles made for war. In the light of the recent incidents, it is time for the president to restructure the National Police."

But Kontras chairman Haris Azhar said that the lawmakers had only themselves to blame for supporting Timur's bid to lead the National Police.

"We have been opposing Timur's appointment because of his record. We know cases like these would happen," he told the Jakarta Globe. "How can we expect police to change the culture of violence when its leader also has a dark past?"

Uncertainty over procedures

The National Police were quick to say that officers in the field had followed proper police procedures in these incidents. But IPW chairman Neta South Pane disagreed.

"In nearly all of these incidents, Brimob were positioned face-to-face with civilians," he told the Globe, referring to the heavily armed police Mobile Brigade unit. "The procedures state that police should deploy Sabhara [riot police] to handle rioters. Where are the rubber bullets? Where are the water cannons?"

Imparsial program director Al Araf said police should be discouraged from using live ammunition to counter rioters and called for the long-overdue implementation of the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

The principles, enacted in 1990, stipulate the need for non-lethal weapons to counter riots and brawls and for the government to ensure that abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offense.

Imparsial said that there have been a least 143 cases of the police using force excessively since 2005.

Araf said that at the core of this year's violence is a regulation issued by former National Police chief (ret.) Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri just days before Timur was appointed. The regulation allows police officers to used live bullets to handle rioters when they become uncooperative and start attacking officers.

However, officers are only allowed to shoot to immobilize, not to kill. "We see that this is never the case. The regulation is open to multiple interpretations and has often been used to justify police excessive use of force. The regulation should be annulled," Araf said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has asked the National Police chief to avoid any form of violence and physical contact in cases where they have to disband a crowd or protestors, presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said on Tuesday.

"It is possible that there was an event, an action or an incident that was beyond normal or appropriate and that violent action could not have been prevented," Julian said.

Neutrality questioned

Said Agil Siradj, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim organization in the country, said that the police had stopped acting as a patron and protector of the people.

"Police have abandoned their creed, which is to protect and serve people," he said. "I am asking that [the Bima incident] be the last. The bullets bought with people's money should not be used to shoot and kill the people."

Police this year have been forced to explain the payments provided by Freeport Indonesia, which owns the world's biggest copper mine, Grasberg in Mimika, Papua. Antigraft and human rights activists recently highlighted Freeport's "Working Towards Sustainable Development" report, which said that the company provided $14 million to police and military officials last year.

Before a House inquiry, police argued that they are obliged to protect the mine, which is listed as a "national vital asset." Police also said they use Freeport facilities, because they are ill-equipped.

Kontras chairman Haris said that an investigation is needed to see if police have also been receiving payments or facilities from other companies.

"It would be next to impossible to find evidence if such payments have been made, but it is evident that police have been siding with big companies in their disputes with common people," he said.

In all of the incidents highlighted by rights activists, police have pledged to conduct internal investigations.

In the brutal crackdown of the congress in Papua, seven officers were punished with several days in detention, and in the Mesuji case, two officers were briefly detained and demoted.

During a House fit and proper test last year, Timur maintained that he was blameless for the 1998 student killings. "I did not break any law. The strategy and tactics were not dictated at my level but by my superior," Timur said.

He also said he had ignored summonses for questioning over the shootings by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) in 2002 because there was an institutional policy against it. "As a soldier, I have to obey what my commanders ordered," he said.

Imparsial's Al Araf said that the same culture of impunity was shown during Timur's tenure, which is scheduled to end in 2014, was the case during his predecessor's time. "Timur must take responsibility for his men's actions. The president should sack him," Al Araf said.

Freedom of expression & press

Violence against journalists on the decline: AJI

Jakarta Post - December 28, 2011

A. Junaidi, Jakarta – Independent Journalists Alliance (AJI) Indonesia has said that the total recorded number of violent acts against journalists decreased from 51 cases last year to 49 cases this year.

AJI Indonesia chairperson Eko "Item" Maryadi said the cases were recorded from December last year to December this year. However, he said that the number of physical violent acts increased from 16 cases to 19 cases.

"AJI urges people to stop violence against journalists and asks law enforcers to investigate violent attacks against journalists," Item said. He also warned of the threat of violence against journalists during the next general elections in 2014.

Political parties & elections

Let the wooing begin for 2014 polls

Jakarta Globe - December 31, 2011

Ezra Sihite – The general elections are two years away, but political parties are already courting public figures they think will help bring them votes.

The Golkar Party is taking steps to beef up its run up in the 2014 elections by singling out senior politicians for potential future leadership roles.

"One of the first steps in our strategy is to identify potential future leaders such as Khofifah [Indar Parawansa]," said the party's deputy secretary general, Nurul Arifin.

Khofifah was the women's empowerment minister under President Abdurrahman Wahid and now leads the women's wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's largest Muslim organization.

Her political career took off in 1992 when she became a lawmaker with the United Development Party (PPP). She was a deputy speaker at the House of Representatives before becoming minister in 1999. At the same time, she headed the National Family Planning Coordinating Board.

Nurul said Khofifah was a natural fit for the party because she was close to Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie. He added that other high-profile figures were being screened, saying Golkar was looking at both their character and their grassroots presence. He did not name any of these other figures.

Khofifah, however, dismissed claims that she had been handpicked for a key role in the party's leadership. When asked by text message on Friday if she had received a Golkar Party membership card, she replied, "enough already."

Khofifah would not say if she would be willing to join the party as a member without a position in its ruling structure. Commenting on the overtures made to her by several parties, Khofifah said she would "judge each in the context of the dynamic economic and political climate globally, and political and economic independence."

The PPP has also sought to bring her back into the fold as it looks ahead to 2014.

Other top officials Golkar has talked to include the chief justice at the Constitutional Court, Mahfud MD, and Paramadina University rector Anies Baswedan.

Meanwhile, the National Mandate Party (PAN) said it wanted to field two key ministers as its nominees for president and vice president in 2014. PAN deputy chairman Dradjad Wibowo said the party planned to nominate the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, Djoko Suyanto, and the chief economic minister, Hatta Rajasa.

"They would make a formidable pair," Dradjad said on Friday, comparing them to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and former Vice President Jusuf Kalla in the 2004 election.

"Which of the two we nominate for president will depend on the results of the legislative elections," he said. "But because the two are very focused on their duties at present, there hasn't been much discussion around the presidential election."

He added that PAN's target for the 2014 general elections was to win 15 percent of the seats in the House.

Is bad boy Nazaruddin the exception or the rule in Democratic circles?

Jakarta Globe - December 30, 2011

Febriamy Hutapea – With the Southeast Asian Games providing the stage for a number of major graft scandals that have entangled Democratic Party members, 2011 was a year to forget for the ruling party.

In late October, businessman Daniel Sinambela was convicted and sentenced to 16 months in prison for embezzling Rp 25 billion ($2.7 million) from Muhammad Nazaruddin, the former Democratic Party treasurer. The case revolved around Nazaruddin and Daniel's bid to supply 500,000 tons of coal to Indonesia Power in August last year.

Daniel is the husband of former "Indonesian Idol" winner Joy Tobing, who sang a song written by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the opening of the SEA Games in November.

Prosecutors argued that Daniel had embezzled the Rp 25 billion from Executive Money Changer, a company under the direction of Nazaruddin, to finance the project.

The defense, however, said Nazaruddin had siphoned off the money, distributing 50 percent to the Democratic Party, 15 percent to the coal consortium and keeping 35 percent for himself. For some observers, the case pulled back the curtain on the dirty dealings of some Democrats to finance the party and line their own pockets.

Another case that was a major blow-by-association to the Democrats was that of Wafid Muharram, a senior Youth and Sports Affairs Ministry official overseeing the SEA Games.

Wafid, who worked under Youth and Sports Affairs Minister Andi Mallarangeng, a senior Democrat but not a suspect in the case, was arrested by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on suspicion of accepting Rp 3.2 billion in checks in connection with the construction of the athletes' village for the SEA Games in Palembang – Earlier this month, he was sentenced to three years.

Forget the slogans

"Shake your head and say 'no.' Ignore the seduction and say 'no.' " That was one of the slogans the Democrats used to attract voters in the 2009 elections. Now it has become more of a punchline.

For a while it seemed that the Democrats were living a blessed existence, or had some protection, as they avoided being connected to graft cases while members of other parties found themselves in court. Dozens of members of the Golkar Party and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) were arrested in graft cases, while the Democrats seemed to skate by.

But the SEA Games-linked graft cases provided rivals with sufficient ammunition to target the ruling party. Adnan Topan Husodo, the deputy coordinator of Indonesia Corruption Watch, said, referring mainly to Nazaruddin: "Democrats lost badly this year."

The former treasurer made plenty of headlines with his escape from the country and his apprehension in Colombia in August.

Saiful Mujani, from the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI), said the Democrats' alleged involvement in corruption cases had provided a boost to rival parties. "There's nothing so sexy in trying to attack the Democrats as playing up a corruption case," he said.

Securing the future?

The appointment of Amir Syamsuddin as the justice and human rights minister and Denny Indrayana as his deputy led to talk that they had been chose to "take care" of corruption scandals involving Democrats. Amir was the secretary of the Democrats' ethics board and Denny was a member of the president's legal staff.

Activists and politicians have criticized President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's decision to put two people from his inner circle in charge of the Justice Ministry.

Pramono Anung, the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives from the opposition PDI-P, said Amir and Denny could have been appointed to look after the Democrats' interests. "We'll see how exactly our legal enforcement runs. I just hope they will not only work for the interests of the rulers, but also for the people," he said.

Questions have been raised about the track record of Amir, a former lawyer who used to work for Aulia Pohan, a Yudhoyono in-law and former central bank governor who was jailed for graft.

Other big parties like Golkar have also criticized Yudhoyono for being selective when it came to enforcing the law. A senior PDI-P lawmaker, Trimedya Panjaitan, said the law too often seemed to side with the Democrats and that discrimination was practiced by the police, prosecutors and the KPK.

Citing a graft case involving PDI-P members in Bekasi and Subang, West Java, who were quickly charged, Trimedya said a similar case involving a mayor from the Democratic Party in Medan had gone nowhere.

Root of the problem

Emerson Yuntho of ICW said Indonesia's weak legal system was the reason why corrupters often got away with their crimes. "They feel they will be protected and defended by the party," he said, referring to members of the Democratic Party.

A recent survey by the Reform Institute suggested that only 17 percent of those polled who voted for the Democrats in the 2009 elections were satisfied with the party's performance, with the remainder saying that they were disappointed. Other surveys have indicated that the Democrats will have a very difficult time repeating their election success in 2014.

As a founder of the Democrats, Yudhoyono has succeeded in turning it into the nation's biggest party. But many analysts say corruption is threatening to undo all of the party's gains, as well as the growth prospects for the country.

Jeffrey Winters, a professor of political economy at Northwestern University in the United States, said that establishing a strong and truly independent legal system was a necessity. "So that the powerful bend to the law rather than the reverse," he told the Jakarta Globe in an e-mail interview.

Corruption remains one of the root causes of the country's problems and a major bottleneck for progress. We will have to wait and see whether we can defeat it and make Indonesia a better place in 2012.

Lapindo mudflow no burden in presidential bid: Bakrie

Jakarta Post - December 29, 2011

Golkar Party chairman Aburizal "Ical" Bakrie dismissed on Tuesday the possibility that the Lapindo mudflow could be a major hurdle in his electability in the 2014 presidential election.

"[The Sidoarjo mudflow] is not a burden for us," said Bakrie when asked whether the controversial disaster would be a political burden to his presidential bid or to the Golkar Party's electability.

"We have resolved 90 percent [of the Sidoarjo residents' compensation]. That is fact; if there is anyone who says otherwise then so be it," he added.

Bakrie is affiliated with oil and gas company PT Lapindo Brantas, a company accused of being responsible for the 2006 mudflow disaster in Sidoarjo, East Java.

Bakrie said the company had paid victims compensation 20 times more than the real value of their assets. Bakrie went on to describe the Lapindo mudflow disaster as "no more than a business transaction".

Despite his assurance that Lapindo had paid 90 percent of the compensation to victims, the company has remained in the media spotlight throughout the year.

In May, hundreds of mudflow victims rallied on the fifth anniversary of the disaster and demanded unpaid compensation from Lapindo.

Mudflow victims from Mindi village, Sidoarjo, also staged a rally in July by blocking highways and dismantling railway tracks in Porong district, East Java, claiming that the government and Lapindo were ignoring their desperate plight. (sat)

'Flawed system' responsible for rampant poll violations

Jakarta Post - December 27, 2011

Bagus BT Saragih, Jakarta – Experts have blamed political immaturity and a flawed electoral system for rampant poll violations in local elections throughout the country.

"The country's poor electoral justice system has allowed opportunists to commit violations. This trend has persisted since the first direct local election in 2005. I have seen no significant efforts either by the government or the House of Representatives to fix the problem," Hadar Nafiz Gumay of the Center for Electoral Reform (Cetro) said.

The General Elections Monitoring Body (Bawaslu) announced last week that it received 1,718 reports of poll violations in 92 local elections in 2011. The majority of the reports concerned finances related to politics.

Hadar said that direct local elections were not problems in themselves. "Direct local elections are necessary in a democratic state. To address these problems, we should focus on improving the system for organizing elections, including the institutions and their legal umbrellas," Hadar said.

He also called on the government and the House to treat the amendment process of regional elections as a means to improve local elections instead of meeting the demands of certain political groups.

The bill, which some have considered controversial for containing the provision that governors will be no longer directly elected, is expected to be ready for deliberation next year.

Analysts considered that it was too early for Indonesia to have direct local elections, particularly given the limited resources to handle and monitor the process.

Critics also claimed that local elections were also too expensive. Cetro has proposed that regional elections be conducted simultaneously so that the government could save more than Rp 3 trillion (US$330 million) from local budgets.

In June last year, 13 out of 19 municipalities and regencies in West Sumatra held regional elections simultaneously with provincial governor elections. Local media reported the elections cost "only" Rp 62 billion, Rp 124 billion lower than if conducted separately, at a cost of about Rp 196 billion.

Election expert Ramlan Surbakti of the Partnership for Government Reform said simultaneous elections could save many expenditure posts in local budgets.

"Ballot boxes, polling stations and other supplies can be used for multiple elections simultaneously. Distribution costs as well salaries for staffs, especially volunteers, can also be more efficient," he said.

Could 2014 be the year for a president Wiranto?

Jakarta Globe - December 23, 2011

Ezra Sihite – The lack of a clear favorite in the 2014 presidential election leaves the door open for retired general Wiranto to make another run for office, an analyst has suggested.

Andrinof Chaniago, a political analyst from the University of Indonesia, said on Thursday that Wiranto had just as good a chance as any other potential candidate at this point. "So far there are no standout candidates," he said.

Wiranto, a former political affairs minister under President Abdurrahman Wahid, made an unsuccessful run for president in 2004 and in 2009 was Jusuf Kalla's running mate in their failed bid.

The candidates who have already announced their intention to run in 2014 will do well to pick a popular running mate soon and begin courting the support of community groups, Andrinof said.

While Wiranto is a viable candidate and popular among grassroots voters, the analyst said, he is not helped by his political party, the relatively little-known People's Conscience Party (Hanura).

A winning strategy might be for Hanura to center its own general elections campaign on its leader, much like the Democratic Party did with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2009, Andrinof said. "Hanura needs to systematically build up Wiranto's brand if he is to become a real contender," he said.

And with two years to go before the elections, he said, there is time for the party to do this, and to raise its own profile nationally. "Their platform has to be clear and the substance of their rhetoric has to improve because this whole time they've been seen as not all that substantial," Andrinof said.

Speaking at a party meeting on Wednesday, Wiranto said he was "always ready" to take up the mantle as Hanura's presidential candidate for 2014.

Wiranto is a polarizing figure because of allegations of human rights violations by the military in the days surrounding the fall of Suharto in 1998.

Rights activists have also held him responsible for the wave of violence that swept East Timor in 1999 following the independence referendum there. Wiranto was the military chief during both incidents.

Labour & migrant workers

Activist calls out SBY over workers left on death row

Jakarta Globe - December 27, 2011

Dessy Sagita – A leading activist criticized the government on Tuesday for failing to actively engage in efforts to save Indonesian migrant workers on death row overseas.

Migrant Care executive director Anis Hidayah said that instead of the government taking the lead, former vice president B.J. Habibie was the one lobbying the Saudi Arabian authorities to save a migrant worker threatened with imminent execution.

Migrant Care is a nongovernmental organization dealing with migrant workers' issues.

"I appreciate his good intentions, but it should not have been Mr. Habibie's responsibility. That is the responsibility of SBY as the president and not that of a former president," Anis said, referring to current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Habibie left for Riyadh at the weekend and has since obtained a promise from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal to assist in efforts to save an Indonesian migrant worker on death row for allegedly killing her employer.

The migrant worker, Tuti, a single mother from Majalengka, West Java, with a six-year-old son, was sentenced to death for the murder last year of her employer, Suud Malhaq Al Utaibi, whom she claims sexually abused her.

Jumhur Hidayat, the head of the Indonesian Migrant Worker Placement and Protection Agency (BNP2TKI), has said that Habibie's involvement was proposed by a number of lawyers, public figures and the family.

Anis said that if Habibie managed to secure a pardon for the workers who are now sitting on death row, then the sitting president should be ashamed of himself because someone else did what he should have done.

Forty-four Indonesian migrant workers are on death row in Saudi Arabia, according to Migrant Care.

On Oct. 6, Yudhoyono sent a letter to the Saudi King Abdullah asking for his help in seeking forgiveness for Tuti from the victim's family.

Anis said that in his experience, the government should push for more high-level diplomacy to protect its migrant workers facing legal problems overseas. Other countries would be more serious in dealing with those cases if Indonesia could show that it was serious about protecting its citizens, she said.

"Just take the case of Vietnam. One of their maids was tortured in Malaysia and the Vietnamese foreign minister immediately went there to demand answers. The Malaysian prime minister finally went to Vietnam to apologize. How many Indonesian maids have been tortured?" she said.

Anis said that instead, whenever a case arose, the government tended to blame the migrant workers. "They immediately become the main target, blamed for entering the country illegally, falsifying documents and their ages, even though the ones at fault should be the ones arranging it all," she said.

Anis said the government should halt the involvement of the private sector in the recruitment and placement of migrant workers as many companies push the workers to falsify their documentation.

The private recruitment and placement agencies, known in Indonesia as PJTKIs, are motivated primarily by profit margins and usually fail to provide the proper training for the workers.

Environment & natural disasters

Officials destroy homes in NTB protected forest

Jakarta Globe - December 23, 2011

Fitri. R, Sumbawa, West Nusa Tenggara – More than 100 families have fled their forest village in Sumbawa after government personnel attacked and set fire to their homes, an activist said on Thursday.

"Houses in the Pekasa customary village were damaged and set on fire by personnel from the joint task force, including guards from the West Nusa Tenggara [NTB] forestry office. The fate of more than 100 families remains unclear," activist Gunawan Jasardi said.

Officials acknowledged destroying the homes, but said they had been illegally built in a protected forest area. They said the task force was formed to clear out illegal settlements.

Gunawan, the chief executive of the Sumbawa chapter of the Alliance of Customary Societies of Nusantara (AMAN, said Wednesday's incident took place after the NTB forestry office accused villagers of engaging in illegal logging in the protected forest.

He said the task force that attacked the village, located in Lunyuk subdistrict, included police officers and soldiers and had arrested a respected local leader, Edi Kuswanto.

NTB provincial spokesman M. Faozal confirmed that the provincial forestry office had conducted a raid on the houses in Pekasa and destroyed them, but he denied that the houses had been burned down. He also said there were 50 families in the Pekasa settlement, not 100. Faozal said the forestry office raided the homes because they had been illegally built in protected forest.

"They had been warned before, but they claimed to be a customary village. In truth, there are no such customary villages in Lunyuk," he said. "We have had it clarified by the Sumbawa district administration that there are no such customary societies in Pekasa."

Customary village residents would be allowed to build homes in the forest. Faozal said that the residents claimed to belong to a customary society that had settled in the area generations ago but in fact, they were newcomers from Lombok.

NTB Deputy Governor Badrul Munir, Faozal said, was on his way to Lunyuk and would meet with authorities from Sumbawa and West Sumbawa districts. The forest in question straddles the two districts.

Faozal also denied that there was a relationship between the eviction and the presence of the Batu Hijau gold mines nearby. The mine is about 12 kilometers from the village.

"The people in that region were illegally logging the forest and this has nothing to do with the mine," Faozal said.

SBY tells foreign NGOs: 'Back off domestic affairs'

Jakarta Post - December 23, 2011

Nani Afrida, Jakarta – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has warned international green groups not to meddle in the country's domestic affairs, saying that their campaigns against forest destruction could hamper his government's efforts to lift people out of poverty.

Yudhoyono expressed gratitude for what international groups had done in the country, but reminded them to "stay away" from the country's domestic affairs.

"I welcome all criticism addressed to the government. However, criticism from foreign environmental NGOs sounds as if the Indonesian government does not want to save the environment. They even make it sound like the government doesn't exist. Don't tear this country apart," he said in his speech to commemorate Women's Day on Thursday.

Yudhoyono said it was impossible for the government to meet the demands by international NGOs to stop all palm oil companies from operating in Indonesia, as it would destroy both the economy and the livelihoods of many people.

"Indonesia welcomes international partnerships in saving the environment. But asking us to stop all palm oil companies from operating is too much," he said.

Environmental groups were baffled by the President's statement. "He should have pointed out which NGOs he accuses of tearing the country apart," said Elis Nurhayati, spokeswoman for The Nature Conservancy (TNC).

She also questioned the motive behind the statement. "It is a pity he made such a statement because, as one of the international NGOs in question, TNC always does its best when addressing environmental issues in Indonesia. We have also been partners with the government because it would be illegal to work here without involving the government," she said.

Elis said the government should be more open to criticism. "We criticize because we care about what happens in this country. The government must be open to all criticism because it will help improve the government's performance. TNC as a foreign NGO working in Indonesia appreciates what the government has been doing to promote sustainable development in the country. There is still room for improvement, so let's work together to make things better," said Elis.

Greenpeace's legal advisor, Muhnur, also said Yudhoyono should have been clear about which NGOs he accused of tearing the country apart. "We believe we are not in the same group with those NGOs the President accused of ruining the country. Greenpeace is a legal national organization," said Muhnur.

Muhnur said Greenpeace was aware of criticisms that they were deemed harsh in criticizing palm oil companies in the country. "Greenpeace doesn't oppose palm oil companies. We oppose companies that destroy the environment and violate human rights," he said.

The Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), a domestic environmental group which builds partnerships with many international NGOs, said the President's speech indicated that he had begun to take the side of the big corporations on the environmental issues in the country.

"The President has clearly misunderstood NGOs, which strive for sustainable development in Indonesia. It's also obvious that he sides with the corporations. He should have launched an evaluation on the performance of companies operating in this country and meted out punishments to those who violated human rights," Walhi's executive director, Berry Nahdian Forqan, said. (msa)

Refugees & asylum seekers

TNI members 'engaged' in unscrupulous deals

Jakarta Post - December 24, 2011

Wahyoe Boediwardhana and Indra Harsaputra, Surabaya/Banyuwangi – Members of the Indonesian Military (TNI) at the Brawijaya Military Command are suspected of having engaged in unscrupulous activities dealing with human smuggling outside working hours, says a military spokesman.

This was able to occur due to the weakness of their respective unit commanders, who have been unable to monitor the activities of their subordinates around the clock, Brawijaya Military Command (Kodam) spokesman Col. Sugiyono said Friday.

The respective unit commanders had limitations on their abilities to supervise the entirety of their command, despite the presence of personnel security units and intelligence units, he said.

"The irregular activities are committed outside duty hours, so their commanders could not monitor them due to limitations of not being able to oversee their men around the clock. Dishonest soldiers committing corrupt activities usually mix with members of the community," said Sugiyono.

The statement follows the disclosure of the alleged involvement of three soldiers from the Tulungagung district military command (Kodim) and a member from the Sumenep Kodim in a human smuggling case of Middle Eastern illegal immigrants.

The suspects were identified only as Chief Sgt KA, Assistant First Lt. S and Chief Pvt. K, from the Tulungagung Kodim and Chief Sgt. K from Sumenep Kodim.

The four TNI soldiers are currently being interrogated by the Brawijaya Kodam military police. "They remain as witnesses. The Brawijaya Kodam has taken over the examination, as their units are included in the inter- regional command," Sugiyono said.

The Brawijaya Kodam, Sugiyono added, was earnest in its investigation of involvement of TNI members in human trafficking.

He said that based on preliminary investigations, the TNI members believed to be involved in the case admitted they were unaware that the boat chartered by a person named Bambang would be used to transport asylum seekers to Australia.

The TNI member who received the order to rent the boat said he was only tempted by the amount of money promised by the client. Chief Sgt. K was the one who received an order to immediately contact his colleague at the Tulungagung Kodim. The three Kodim members later fulfilled Chief Sgt. K's order, assisted by a civilian employee at the Tulungagung Kodim.

"They are currently being interrogated. The military police are also investigating whether or not other TNI personnel are involved in the case," said Sugiyono.

The East Java Justice and Human Rights Office is also engaged in similar efforts. Office head Mashudi said his office would delve into the statements made by the immigrants who survived the boat accident in Trenggalek.

Mashudi said he believed someone had assisted the immigrants in their movements. Someone is believed to have arranged their journey. He acknowledged that his office had yet to find indications of immigration officers involved in the case, even following a statement by an Afghan immigrant, Mehdi Mutazzili, that police and immigration officers had facilitated them on their way from Jakarta to Tulungagung.

Most recently, the KRI Untung Suropati naval vessel found four bodies in waters off Gilimanuk, Bali, while the National Search and Rescue (Basarnas) Agency found two bodies in Alas Purwo waters off Banyuwangi, East Java.

"So, the total number of bodies found have been 96. All of them were placed in Banyuwangi and will be taken to the East Java Bhayangkara Police Hospital in Surabaya," Surabaya chapter Basarnas spokesman Tholib.

Bhayangkara Hospital's Medical and Health Affairs head Sr. Comr. Didi Agus Mintadi said a forensic team from the National Police headquarters's Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) unit had faced difficulties identifying the bodies.

TNI members probed in human-smuggling case

Jakarta Post - December 23, 2011

Wahyoe Boediwardhana and Indra Harsaputra, Banyuwangi – The Madiun Military Police (Denpom) is still investigating the alleged involvement of three Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel in a human-smuggling case to transport immigrants from a number of Middle Eastern countries to Australia.

Madiun Denpom commander Maj. Sarwo Edi Purnomo identified the three soldiers only as First Lt. S, and Pvt. K and KA, who are currently being held in Madiun Denpom detention in East Java.

However, the three men have yet to be officially examined because military investigators are still focusing on examining civilian witnesses who were earlier questioned by the police, some of whom have been named as suspects.

"Officers are still examining civilian witnesses to acquire statements on the three Army soldiers' involvement in the human-smuggling case," Sarwo told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

He added that the Madiun Denpom would provide legal assistance for the three TNI members. The legal advisors would accompany them in the planned examination.

Brawijaya Military Commander Maj. Gen. Murdjito earlier promised to impose sanctions against TNI soldiers who were found to be involved in the case.

East Java Anticorruption Network coordinator Lutfi Jayadi Kurniawan said it was difficult to wipe out the immigrant smuggling practice involving TNI soldiers as it had become a long-standing problem. "The only way is for the military institution to carry out bureaucratic reform," he said.

Separately, East Java Criminal Investigations chief Brig. Gen. Ari Dono Sukamto said in Jakarta that police had named Roni Bambang, 40; Nuri, 36; Joko, 20; and Roni, 32; all from Popoh hamlet, Besuki district, Situbondo, East Java, as suspects in the immigrant-smuggling case.

The four suspects have been charged with violating Law No. 17/2008 on shipping and Law No. 6/2011 on immigration, which carry a five-year sentence.

Roni Bambang and Nuri were the boat owners and skipper of the Barokah boat, while Joko and Roni were crew members. They were reportedly involved in transporting the asylum seekers to a blue ferry waiting out at sea.

While heading for Australia, the 25-meter-long wooden boat capsized after being hit by 4-meter-high waves in Prigi waters, Trenggalek, East Java, on the evening of Dec. 17.

A middle-aged Afghan asylum seeker, Samin Gul Afgan, told reporters at the Bhayangkara Police Hospital in Lumajang regency that he still wished to emigrate to Australia because he had paid US$3,000 to a group that promised to take him there.

In Banyuwangi, a joint search and rescue team again found 29 bodies from the ill-fated boat on Thursday. The bodies were already badly decomposed. They were immediately taken to the East Java Police Bhayangkara Hospital in Surabaya for identification.

Banyuwangi Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Nanang Masbudi said 74 bodies had been handed over to authorities in Banyuwangi. As many as 16 other bodies were found Thursday at separate places along Bali's southern shore.

"All of the bodies have been taken to state hospitals. Most of them were sent to Sanglah General Hospital in Denpasar," National Search and Rescue Agency's Denpasar office head Ketut Parwa said.

The bodies were found in offshore areas in North Kuta, Serangan, Batu Bolong, Cemagi, Dawan, Candidasa, Betel Mimba, Tanah Ampo and Nusa Lembongan. Those offshore areas extend over five regencies and more than 100 kilometers of shoreline.

[Ni Komang Erviani contributed to this article from Denpasar.]

Graft & corruption

'No hanky panky,' AGO says after end to three cases

Jakarta Globe - December 31, 2011

Rangga Prakoso – During 2011, the Attorney General's Office dropped prosecution of three major corruption cases: that of state coal miner Tambang Batubara Bukit Asam, pulp and paper firm Kiani Kertas and South Kalimantan governor Rudy Arifin.

"The ending of a prosecution case is decided professionally. There is no hanky panky. That is what is important," Attorney General Basrief Arief said.

Deputy Attorney General for special crimes Andi Nirwanto said that the office wanted to settle all its cases, but noted that legally, cases can be settled either by going to court of being dropped. "We do not want to suspend cases so as to assure that there is legal certainty," he said.

Andi said that all three cases that were dropped had been investigated prior to 2011. He said that none of the cases examined this year had been dropped.

In the Kiani case, Basrief said that the investigation found that the state did not suffer losses and appeared to have benefited. "If [losses] could not be proven, then why shouldn't we have halted the case?" he asked.

The case was linked to the acquisition of Kiani's assets, starting in 1999. They were purchased by a private company that borrowed money from state- controlled Bank Mandiri. The authorities, when they announced the dropping in the case in June, said that the loan was repaid in full. He did provide detail on why the other two cases had been dropped.

The case involving Bukit Asam involved allegation of violations in the lease that had been conducted without a tender.

Two Bukit Asam directors had been named suspects in the case, which was believed to have resulted in Rp 362 billion ($40 million) in losses to the state. The case was dropped in May.

In the case against Rudy related to suspected corruption during his time as the head of the South Kalimantan district of Banjar. He was suspected of corruption in the compensation paid for land worth Rp 6.4 billion that had been formerly owned by a state paper company. The AGO's office dropped the case in September.

Bank Century report a good job: Indonesian audit agency

Jakarta Globe - December 30, 2011

Anita Rachman – The Supreme Audit Agency has hit back at sharp criticism from the House of Representatives, saying it is willing to get its Bank Century's audit reviewed by a foreign agency to prove it did its job effectively.

The chairman of the agency known as the BPK, Hadi Purnomo, said the House could pick representatives from any countries it wished to act as the agency's peer reviewer.

"We will propose it to the House. Members can choose any countries. They then should write a letter to the appointed country's top audit agency," he said. "So far, we have been peer reviewed by two countries, the Netherlands and New Zealand. The results were good."

The BPK was lambasted by the House last week for its forensic investigation of the controversial Rp 6.7 trillion ($737 million) bailout of Bank Century. The House claimed the BPK audit was unsatisfactory because it lacked new findings. The BPK handed in a report contained 13 findings, including seven irregularities that the BPK had already reported.

"The idea of inviting an audit agency from oversees to review the BPK's work is too much. Let us just solve it here, in the country. Don't bring in a second party from another country," United Development Party (PPP) lawmaker Arwani Thomafi said.

As well as criticizing the BPK's audit for its lack of new findings, members of the House said the BPK must able to account for the Rp 6.7 trillion bailout. "Where did the money go?" asked Bambang Soesatyo, a Golkar Party lawmaker on the House's Bank Century committee.

Deputy BPK chairman Hasan Bisri said the agency had explained in the report where the bailout money went. "Anyone who said [the report] was shallow only read the summary. Had they read the [complete report], they would be dizzy. It was very complicated," he said.

The BPK had said that it was prevented from gaining more information on the flow of money.

Among the constraints were the fact that several key people involved in the Bank Century case were now missing, that some of transactions occurred overseas and that Bank Century lacked data on some transactions. Documents about Antaboga Delta Sekuritas, an affiliate brokerage to the bank, were stored by the Capital Market and Financial Institution Supervisory Agency (Bapepam-LK).

Hadi said the BPK could not interfere with Bapepam-LK because the supervisory agency was subject to its own law. That meant the House had to act if it sought the agency's involvement.

Hadi said the BPK had handed the audit result to the police, Attorney General's Office and the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) on Thursday, expecting the three to follow up on it.

Bambang insisted the BPK was just looking for excuses. He said that when the House investigated the Bank Century bailout, the House obtained documents from Bank Indonesia by asking a court to issue a permit.

Nunun gifts KPK 'strong evidence'

Jakarta Globe - December 29, 2011

Rizky Amelia – Graft suspect Nunun Nurbaetie has reportedly handed over evidence that is compelling enough to implicate the main players behind the bribery case linked to a 2004 central bank appointment process.

"The proof is strong enough to give us hope that we can catch the key perpetrator," Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) chairman Abraham Samad said on Wednesday. However, he did not disclose what kind of evidence Nunun had given, adding that it was still being investigated.

Nunun has been accused of distributing traveler's checks to dozens of lawmakers on the House of Representatives finance commission to secure support for Miranda Goeltom's bid for the position of senior deputy governor at Bank Indonesia in 2004.

She is said to have distributed Rp 24 billion ($2.6 million) via middleman Ari Malangjudho to 48 lawmakers and was named a suspect in the case in February this year.

Twenty-eight sitting and former members of the 1999-2004 House of Representatives have been jailed in the case, while two others died before they could stand trial. However, Nunun's lawyer Ina Rachman claimed last week that her client could prove that Miranda was party to the bribery.

Abraham said Nunun's testimony had led the KPK to compile a list of witnesses for questioning but again declined to name any of the witnesses. "We won't publicly identify the people we plan to summon as we fear they may flee," he said.

Nunun appears now to be healthy enough to face the KPK's questioning. She had been hospitalized twice in the recent past after fainting or feeling unwell while being questioned at the antigraft body.

The KPK also continued to investigate the possible role of Bank Artha Graha employee Suparno in the case.

A total of 480 traveler's checks were purchased from Bank Internasional Indonesia by Bank Artha Graha, at the request of palm oil firm First Mujur Plantation and Industry, meant to pay for plantation land in North Sumatra. However, they somehow made their way to Nunun.

Suparno was the one who reportedly purchased the checks from BII. "He is being questioned as a witness in the Nunun case," said Priharsa Nugroho, a spokesman for the KPK.

Miranda herself has been questioned multiple times by the commission but has not been named a suspect in the case.

Denny Indrayana, the deputy minister for justice and human rights, said the government had imposed a travel ban on Miranda starting on Dec. 12.

In an apparent attempt to deny Miranda's claim that she only knew Nunun as a fellow socialite from parties and other gatherings, Nunun's husband, Adang Daradjatun – the former National Police deputy chief and now a Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) lawmaker – also showed a photograph of Miranda, his wife and himself. He did not say when or where the photo was taken.

But on Tuesday, after being grilled by KPK investigators, Nunun told reporters that she "knew nothing about Miranda."

Adang questioned why Miranda had not been named a suspect in the case. Golkar Party lawmaker Bambang Soesatyo also came to Nunun's defense, pointing out that she was not the one who had been elected to the central bank.

"The one who has the motive, the one who enjoyed the position, is Miranda," Bambang said. He said both those who paid and those who accepted bribes should face legal charges, adding that the case seemed to have been built to protect Miranda.

Nunun's lawyer, Ina Rachman, also said that Miranda should be named a suspect.

[Additional reporting by Antara.]

Golkar members should not criticize BPK audit: Ical

Jakarta Post - December 27, 2011

Golkar Party chief Aburizal "Ical" Bakrie urged on Tuesday that all of his party's cadres stop criticizing the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) forensic audit on the Bank Century bailout.

"[Members of] the Golkar Party are not in a place to state whether the BPK audit is right or wrong," Bakrie said. "We should respect the result of this audit. People should not declare the BPK audit as illegitimate, erroneous or whatsoever," he added.

Prior to Bakrie's statements, Golkar was notorious for being the forefront party who was critical of the second-round BPK audit. Golkar lawmaker Bambang Soesatyo, for example, slammed the audit and lambasted it as "politically intervened".

Observers viewed that Golkar has been utilizing the bailout issue as a political bargaining chip. The Golkar Party led the movement in 2010 in forming the House inquiry committee, allegedly to unseat reform icon Sri Mulyani Indrawati as finance minister due to her row with Bakrie.

The BPK audit found no trace of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's inner circle, including Mulyani and then Bank Indonesia governor Boediono, who were two central policymakers behind the Bank Century bailout, profiting from rescue funds worth Rp. 6.76 trillion (US$716 million). (sat)

Death sentences urged for graft convicts

Jakarta Post - December 26, 2011

Agus Maryono, Purwokerto – Corruption cases in Central Java should be curbed with extraordinary measures by imposing death sentences for convicts, a local lecturer suggested.

Lecturer Ahmad Rofik from Jenderal Sudirman University's School of Social and Political Sciences sees the phenomenon as an indication of a lack of seriousness in the administration's efforts in coping with corruption cases in their respective regions.

"This is also the result of the selective handling of corruption cases; making corrupt officials who politically feel safe to continue committing corruption practices," Ahmad told The Jakarta Post recently.

He responded to a report by the Central Java Corruption, Collusion and Nepotism Investigation and Eradication Committee (KP2KKN), which revealed only two of 35 regencies in the province were considered corruption-free.

Ahmad blamed the condition on the loss of shame and empathy among corrupt administration officials. "This can only be dealt with by extraordinary decisions, such as death sentences for corruptors," he said.

KP2KKN said in its year-end reports that graft cases mostly involved important officials, including regents. Two regencies considered as having been free of corrupt practices are Purbalingga and Blora. Both have not reported any corruption cases.

"This is what we have collected in our 2011 year-end reports as a form of our public accountability in fighting against corruption," KP2KKN secretary Eko Haryanto told the Post earlier this week.

Quoting the reports, Eko said that among the 33 regional administrations, the Semarang municipal administration had been seen as the most corrupt based on 2011 findings, with 11 cases.

Salatiga municipality follows with eight corruption cases and Sukoharjo with seven.

Eko said that the committee found a total of 102 corruption cases in Central Java this year. "This is deplorable. The existence of the KPK [Corruption Eradication Commission] and Tipikor [corruption courts] in regions did not look to be deterring corrupt officials and giving chilling effects upon them," he said.

In average, with the exception of Purbalingga and Blora, each regency/municipality has three corruption cases involving top officials. The regency/municipal budgets were reported to have so far been the main sources of corrupt practices. "The 102 cases have caused a combined Rp 142 billion in state losses," Eko said.

In term of the amount embezzled, according to Eko, Sragen regency is ranked first with a total of Rp 29.3 billion from the regency budget through six different corruption cases. Karanganyar and Salatiga follow with corruption cases worth Rp 25 billion and Rp 20 billion respectively.

In term of sectors being corrupted, Eko said the three biggest sources of corruption are infrastructures (35 cases), social aid (25 cases) and regional budgets (22 cases).

Eko also said that of the 102 cases, 62 percent were still under investigation, 14 percent were being tried in court and the remaining 24 had been concluded. Of the cases, 82 percent were handled by the prosecutors' offices, 16 by the police and only 2 percent by the KPK.

"We do hope the KPK will be more active in the future because the integrity of other institutions, including the prosecutors' offices, the police and corruption courts is in doubt in dealing with corruption cases. Public distrust is partly triggered by the easy acquittance of corruption suspects," Eko said.

State funds 'lost' in private accounts: PPATK

Jakarta Post - December 24, 2011

Jakarta – The Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK) has raised the alarm on a new corrupt practice among local government officials who use their private bank accounts to funnel money from the state budget to pay for their re-elections.

"Heads of local governments and their staff members have misused local budgets by conducting transfers of state funds into their own private accounts," PPATK chief Muhammad Yusuf said on Friday.

"The officials then benefit by the interest gained from the money kept in the bank under their accounts. They then use the money to pay for their local election campaigns," he said. Data from PPATK said that such corrupt practices had transpired in all provinces across the entire country.

Jakarta received the undignified distinction of being the province most guilty of this form of graft, with some 101 reports of suspicious transactions, while East Kalimantan stood second with 96 reports and North Sumatra third with 84 reports. PPATK recorded a total of 783 reports of suspicious transactions involving local officials from July to December 2011.

In the report, PPATK also singled out local government treasurers as officials likely involved in this form of corruption. "We specifically targeted treasurers because in almost all provinces they were engaged in the practice. There are many examples in the investigation that occurred mostly during the year-end period," PPATK deputy chief Agus Santoso said.

Agus, however, said that PPATK could not disclose the names of individuals allegedly involved in the transactions, "Let the law enforcers do their jobs," he said.

PPATK recently announced findings of suspiciously large bank accounts belonging to low-ranking civil servants in the country. It found that 50 percent of young civil servants were guilty of engaging in corrupt practices, including 10 individuals who possessed personal bank accounts containing hundreds of billions of rupiah.

Yusuf also said that officials from local governments had also found new ways of swindling money from the government, including the use of accounts belonging to members of their own families. "Basically, the modus operandi is by using the bank account of a third person, including their wives and children," he said.

He added that the money kept in the private accounts of local officials was then invested in legal financial instruments, such as Bank Indonesia certificates (SBI). Agus said that reaping benefits from the interest could still be considered embezzlement, if not outright corruption.

He said embezzlement of state funds could only be prevented if family values could gain currency among government officials. "I am wondering where the family values have gone. For instance, when a wife acknowledges that her husband received a serious amount of money, she should have asked where the money came from," he said.

PPATK predicted that based on its analysis, money laundering practices would continue until at least 2014. "Suspicious financial transactions would increase 2.8-fold compared to 2010 if no preventive measures are taken," the PPATK 2011 year-end report said. (rpt)

House alleges BPK tampered with audit

Jakarta Post - December 24, 2011

Hans David Tampubolon, Jakarta – Most legislators are unconvinced by the results of the Supreme Audit Agency's (BPK) second audit of the Bank Century bailout that found no trace of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's inner-circle profiting from case.

Several legislators have even demanded that the BPK conduct a third audit or seek a second opinion from private auditors because there were indications of flaws in the agency's investigation.

The forensic audit, which was officially submitted to the House of Representatives by BPK chairman Hadi Purnomo on Friday, revealed no new findings other than reconfirming the role of several high-profile figures in profiting from the bailout.

"There's nothing new in the audit. Difficulties cited by the BPK in tracing the bailout money were unjustifiable," said legislator Akbar Faisal of the People's Conscience Party (Hanura). "We're suspicious that the BPK tampered with the audit. That is why we will demand it does a more comprehensive audit or hire private auditors."

The BPK's forensic audit, which was carried out over a six-month period following a request from the House, focused on the money trail of the bailout funds.

Golkar Party legislator Bambang Soesatyo said there were indications of political intervention in the audit that resulted in the agency working halfheartedly in tracing the money. "We can definitely feel it [the intervention]," said Bambang, who is also a former member of the now- defunct House special committee assigned to investigate the bailout.

Bambang was suspicious of BPK deputy chairman Taufiequrrahman Ruki, who led the audit, whom he said had close ties to the Yudhoyono camp.

Before the completion of the audit, expectations ran high over the results as many senior BPK officers said on several occasions that the audit would implicate many high-profile figures.

Legislators have another reason to suspect the integrity of the audit because BPK chief Hadi has the potential to be investigated in a graft case at the tax office while serving as the office's chief between 2001 and 2006.

The Attorney General's Office recently detained several of Hadi's former officials in a graft case revolving around IT equipment procurement. "There's the potential for horse trading to have the audit result tampered in exchange for terminating the case," said Bambang.

Hadi denied the allegation, saying there had been no outside intervention in the audit and that he had nothing to do with the procurement case. Ruki also strongly denied allegations of having links with the Democratic Party that could influence his work as an auditor.

The Bank Century controversy centered around suspicions that part of Yudhoyono's 2009 presidential campaign fund was financed by money from the bailout, which eventually multiplied tenfold to Rp 6.76 trillion (US$716 million) from the initial estimate.

In late 2008, then finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, now a World Bank managing director and then central bank governor Boediono approved a bailout to salvage Bank Century, now renamed Bank Mutiara, amid raging global financial turmoil.

Several parties, including Yudhoyono's Democratic Party coalition partners the Golkar Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), have continued to use the issue as a political bargaining chip since 2009.

Golkar allegedly used the issue in mid-2010 to form a House inquiry committee to unseat reform icon Sri Mulyani as finance minister, due to her standoff with the party's chairman-cum-businessman Aburizal Bakrie.

House deputy speaker Anis Matta of the PKS said the House monitoring team on the Bank Century case would grill the BPK to get to the bottom of the case.

The monitoring team, whose working mandate was recently extended until the end of 2012, is tasked with ensuring that those profiting from the bailout are prosecuted. Thus far, no government or central bank officials have been prosecuted in the case.House speaker Marzuki Alie urged fellow politicians to accept the BPK audit and end the lengthy political tussle.

"There was no controversy in the bailout. I think it's time to put the case to rest," he said.

High-profile figures dragged down by the audit

1. Legislator Emir Moeis of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P): An irregularity in Emir's receipt of US$392,110 from Bank Century

2. Bank Indonesia deputy governor Budi Mulya: Budi received a Rp 1 billion bank transfer from PT CBI, which was owned by the mother of Bank Century's owner Robert Tantular, who was sentenced to nine years in prison for a banking crime

3. Late businessman Boedi Sampoerna: Boedi was involved in the withdrawal of US$18 million during the Bank Century crisis

BPK audit flaws according to legislators

1. Failure to interview various key witnesses because most are on the run or abroad

2. Confidentiality regulations abroad hinder the BPK from accessing data

3. BPK did not do enough to access documents on Bank Century held by law enforcement agencies

4. As a supreme auditor, it was unjustifiable that the BPK could not access documents from the Indonesia Stock Exchange and the Capital Market and Financial Institution Supervisory Agency

5. BPK auditor team head I Nyoman Wara does not have a certified fraud examiner certificate, and therefore is not eligible to conduct a forensic audit

BPK audit ends with anticlimax

Jakarta Post - December 23, 2011

Rendi A. Witular, Jakarta – A two-year political tussle over the controversy surrounding the Bank Century bailout is likely to end in an anticlimax as a second-round audit by the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) found no trace of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's inner circle profiting from the bailout.

The BPK's forensic audit, which was carried out over a six-month period following a request from the House of Representatives, focused on the money trail of the bailout funds.

The audit, a copy of which was shown to The Jakarta Post late on Thursday, also found no indications that former finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati or Vice President Boediono gained financial advantage from the bailout funds.

In late 2008, Sri Mulyani, now World Bank managing director, and then central bank governor Boediono, approved a bailout to salvage Bank Century, now renamed as Bank Mutiara, as Indonesia felt the effects of global financial turmoil.

"There's no evidence to show Yudhoyono's administration took advantage of the bailout funds," said BPK deputy chairman Rizal Djalil on Thursday.

"There's no element of surprise in the audit. The BPK is ready to confront House members who are likely to question the audit's results and accuse us of tampering with them."

The BPK is scheduled to officially submit the audit to the House, and release it publicly, today.

The results of the audit were supervised and approved by the BPK's deputy chairman, Taufiqurrachman Ruki, who is the former first chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

According to the audit, the BPK had difficulties in tracking the flow of money, as many key witnesses escaped overseas and some supporting documents could not be found. The BPK also said most of the funds were channeled to overseas banks, causing the agency difficulties in accessing accounts.

The Bank Century debacle centered over suspicions that part of Yudhoyono's 2009 presidential campaign fund was financed by the bailout, which eventually multiplied tenfold to Rp 6.76 trillion (US$716 million) from the initial plan.

Several parties, including Yudhoyono's Democratic Party coalition partners, the Golkar Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), have been using the issue as a political bargaining chip up until now.

Golkar allegedly used the issue in mid-2010 by the forming of the House's inquiry committee to unseat reform icon Sri Mulyani as finance minister, due to her row with the party's chairman-cum-businessman, Aburizal Bakrie.

The committee, which was formed in early 2010 to investigate the bailout, has failed to uncover evidence that any member of Yudhoyono's inner circle, or Sri Mulyani, profited from the bailout.

Despite the failure, politicians kept the issue alive by requesting the BPK to launch a more comprehensive audit focusing on the money trail of the bailout.

While the audit result is not conclusive enough to drag down Yudhoyono, it does strengthen allegations that legislator Emir Moeis from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), central bank deputy governor Budi Mulya and late businessman Boedi Sampoerna profited from bailout funds.

The PDI-P, the country's third-largest party, is an opposition party to Yudhoyono's administration.

Former bailout inquiry initiator Mukhamad Misbakhun from the PKS said he was suspicious the BPK might have received political pressure from the administration to undermine the audit's results.

"I'm not sure the BPK is strong enough to handle the pressure. I believe they prefer to play safe," he said. "The BPK auditors tasked with the job were unqualified; deliberately chosen, of course, to fail to spot the big fish."

Misbakhun was once imprisoned for falsifying loan documents at Bank Century, a move seen by many as retaliation gesture by Yudhoyono's camp.

Bank Century controversy

2004: Bank CIC merges with Bank Pikko and Bank Danpac to form Bank Century.

2008 November: Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati reports Bank Century's troubles to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Washington, D.C., on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting.

November: The Financial Sector Stability Committee (KSSK), chaired by Mulyani and then Bank Indonesia (BI) governor Boediono, meet to declare Century a failure and bails it out.

2009 July: During a deliberation of the crisis bill, the government inadvertently discloses to parliament the swelling of the Century bailout, totaling Rp 6.76 trillion.

August: The House of Representatives requests the BPK to audit the bailout.

Nov. 23: The BPK submits its first investigative audit to the House.

December: The House officially endorses the formation of an inquiry committee.

2010 March: The inquiry committee finds no conclusive results of Yudhoyono's inner-circle profiting from the bailout funds.

May: Sri Mulyani resigns to take a job at the World Bank.

2011 June: The House requests the BPK to launch an audit to trace the flow of the bailout funds.

Dec. 23: The BPK submits its results to the House.

Terrorism & religious extremism

Terror in 2011: Major attacks, players and locations

Jakarta Globe - December 26, 2011

A rundown of the key terror attacks, players and attack sites in Indonesia in 2011.

Major attacks:

March 15-17: Four packages containing explosives in the guise of books were found in various locations, from the office of a Liberal Islam Network co- founder to the home of a rock musician. Only one package detonated after an attempt to defuse it by a police officer. Police rounded up the group behind these book bombs a month later.

April 15: Muhammad Syarif, 32, blew himself up during Friday prayers at a police mosque in Cirebon injuring 30, all but two of them policemen. Police recovered six other bombs from a river nearby that Syarif's group planned to use in future attacks. Five suspects were arrested.

May 25: Two police officers guarding a bank in Palu, Central Sulawesi, were gunned down by four assailants and another was wounded. The same group had also planned to attack a Mobile Brigade station. Police made seven arrests and killed two members of the network.

June 13: A number of unidentified gunmen opened fire at a police post in Poso, Central Sulawesi. No one was injured, perpetrators still at large.

June 18: A package containing explosives blew up at a convenience store in Lubuk Linggau, South Sumatra, injuring the store's owner. Two people were arrested and both were found to have prior terror convictions.

June 30: A police officer died after being stabbed repeatedly by a student from the Umar bin Khattab Islamic boarding school in Bima district, West Nusa Tenggara. The 16-year-old also claimed to be member of JAT and believed that police officers were infidels for working for a non-Islamic state.

July 11: A bomb exploded in the same boarding school, killing its treasurer. A tense standoff followed as armed students and teachers prevented the police from entering the school. Fourteen people were named as suspects, including the headmaster.

Sept. 25: Achmad Yosepa Hayat, 20, died after bombs strapped on his body exploded in a church in Solo, Central Java, injuring 20. Hayat was part of the network that planned and carried out the Cirebon bombing in April.

Number of known arrests: at least 108 suspected militants/terrorists. Deaths: 7 terrorists/militants, 3 police officers

Major players:

Umar Patek, 41

Patek and his wife were arrested in January by Pakistani officials while seeking refugee in a civilian's home. Despite his crimes, Patek cannot be charged with the tough anti-terrorism law since it cannot be used retroactively. Patek was instead charged with premeditated murder and immigration violations. He is currently being tried at the East Jakarta District Court.

Pepi Fernando, 32

Pepi faces charges for allegedly attempting to assassinate President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono twice and assembling the book bombs. Pepi and 14 others were arrested in April after the discovery of five massive bombs near a Catholic church outside Jakarta. Currently being tried at the West Jakarta District Court.

Abu Bakar Bashir, 73 Sentenced to 15 years in June for inciting terrorism and funding the radical Islamist group Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid in Aceh that was allegedly planning deadly Mumbai-style terrorist attacks on Westerners and politicians. Bashir's sentence was reduced to nine years in October after an appeal to the Jakarta High Court and he has filed another appeal in the hope of an acquittal. Abu Tholut, 51

Sentenced to eight years in October. Tholut became one of Indonesia's most-wanted fugitives after master bomb-makers Noordin Top and Dulmatin were killed in police raids last year. He also helped establish a jihadist camp for "Tanzim Al Qaeda in Aceh", which plotted attacks on foreigners and assassinations of moderate Muslim leaders.

Sites of attacks:

'Individual jihad' becomes new face of terror in 2011

Jakarta Globe - December 26, 2011

Ulma Haryanto – In 2011, the nation got several wake-up calls that radicalism was still alive in Indonesia despite the arrests and convictions of key terrorists the year before.

"We've had it coming," terrorism expert Noor Huda Ismail told the Jakarta Globe recently.

The first sobering wake-up call came in March. That month, mysterious packages containing explosives in the guise of books were delivered to several selected targets, including a co-founder of the Liberal Islam Network (JIL), Ulil Abshar Abdalla, as well as rock star Ahmad Dani.

Ulil's bomb package was found first, but it exploded when a police officer attempted to defuse it before the bomb squad arrived. The officer lost his hand in the explosion and two other officers were injured.

The people responsible for the book bombs were arrested in Aceh a month later, following the discovery of five bombs near a Catholic church in Serpong, Tangerang, that were scheduled to explode on Good Friday.

The ringleader of the book bomb plot, Pepi Fernando, 32, was not connected to any known radical groups in Indonesia, such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the Indonesian Mujahideen Council (MMI) or Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid(JAT), the terrorist organization of hard-line cleric Abu Bakar Bashir,

Pepi was, however, known as an activist for the Indonesian Islamic State (NII) movement, which aspires to overthrow the secular republic in favor of an Islamic state. He had built a network of like-minded people at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN) in Jakarta, where he had studied.

The 14 other people arrested for the attempted bombing in Serpong were also UIN alumni, all between the ages of 20 and 30 years old. "Pepi and his group learned to make bombs on the Internet," Noor Huda said. "They determined their targets by Googling, for instance, 'Indonesian Jews.'?"

The group's selected targets included Ahmad Dani, Yapto Soerjosoemarno, Ulil Abshar Abdalla and Gories Mere. Rock star Dani was picked because the plotters thought he often wore clothes with Jewish symbols and characters; Japto was perceived as a Jew and a fanatic defender of the national ideology, Pancasila, which the group regarded as inspired by Hindu teachings; Ulil allegedly misinterpreted the Koran; and Gories was targeted as the former head of the National Police's antiterror squad, Densus 88.

"[This year] marked the rise of individual jihad," Noor Huda said. "Small groups conducted their own acts [partially] as a protest to the larger groups that went silent [after their leaders were gone]."

The country's second wake-up call came in April when Muhammad Syarif blew himself up in a mosque at the Cirebon Police headquarters in West Java. It was the first attack targeted at the government and at Indonesian Muslims. Syarif was the only fatality in the blast, but 30 people were injured.

As police investigators tried to pick up a lead on Syarif's network, an Islamic boarding school in Bima district, West Nusa Tenggara, made headlines in July when a bomb detonated prematurely inside the school, killing the school's treasurer. In September, another suicide bombing occurred at a church in Solo, Central Java.

"We always forget that these people are radicals first, and then terrorists," Noor Huda said, referring to Syarif and the Solo suicide bomber, Achmad Yosepa Hayat, who were both sworn in by Bashir upon joining JAT in Tasikmalaya, West Java, in 2008. "They don't wake up one morning and realize that they're terrorists."

In the wake of the Solo attack, the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) said in October that radicals may constitute 2 percent of the country's population, or 1.8 million people. "That's why the BNPT needs all departments to collaborate in the de-radicalization process," said BNPT head Ansyaad Mbai.

The country saw how radicalism can spread among young people when a teenage student at an Islamic boarding school in Bima stabbed a police officer to death in July. The 16-year-old student, Sa'ban Uma, said police officers were infidels because they worked for a government that did not apply Shariah law.

The Islamic boarding school's principal, Abrory M. Ali, also admitted that he had participated in a paramilitary training camp in Poso, Central Sulawesi, where he learned how to use weapons and build bombs.

He had taken over the school after his predecessor, Mujahidul Haq, a JAT member known as Uqbah, was arrested on suspicion of raising funds for a terrorist training camp in Aceh.

Intelligence analyst Al Chaidar believes that with the "major players" gone from the scene, small cells are now "competing" with each other in jihad.

"There is a contest among the small terrorist groups," Chaidar said. "They compete in jihad, to see which group can do best. The small groups can be more brutal since they carry out their actions based on pure hatred. Hatred toward Christians, non-Muslims, churches, Americans or Israel, without a clear reason."

Chaidar also said small cells were more difficult to stamp out. "The smaller the size, the safer they are," he said. "If they're more mobile, they're less likely to be discovered."

He added that most terrorists tried to involve their own family members in their networks. "It minimizes the chance of betrayal and leaks," he said.

Ansyaad, the BNPT head, said the country had "dozens" of such terrorist groups, consisting of "hundreds" of members. "But out of these hundreds, we currently only have sufficient evidence to name 15 people as suspects," he said. "These people are still at large."

This year, security forces have arrested at least 108 suspected militants and terrorists. As of April, BNPT said it had made as many as 600 arrests, with 500 of those being prosecuted.

Noor Huda and Chaidar agreed that more government ministries, especially those for education and religious affairs, should be involved in national de-radicalization programs.

"There are more or less 127 Islamic boarding schools that could be linked to JI [Jemaah Islamiyah]," Chaidar said. "Has the government done anything to introduce multiculturalism to these schools?"

According to Sukemi, an adviser to the Ministry of Education and Culture, his ministry and the Ministry of Religious Affairs have been involved in several de-radicalization programs since 2010.

"We've held various workshops and seminars in universities and high schools, involving teachers, principals and students, at both private and state schools," Sukemi said.

Dhyah Madya Ruth, the chairwoman of the Jakarta-based peace group Lazuardi Birru, is involved with the government's de-radicalization programs, though she acknowledged that they had limited reach. "We are still trying to refine the methods," she said of the programs. "Every year we're trying to find the best one."

Aside from education, Noor Huda said the government should focus on the care and rehabilitation of convicted terrorists. "For people like Pepi and his friends who are self-made terrorists, what happens if they all meet charismatic leaders such as Abu Tholut in prison?" he said.

Abu was sentenced in October to eight years in jail for helping establish a jihadist camp for a group that plotted attacks on foreigners and assasinations of the country's moderate Muslims leaders.

In May, a former Australian intelligence analyst concluded that Indonesian jails often act as incubators of terrorism.

Based on interviews with 33 Indonesian terror convicts, the analyst, Dr. Carl Ungerer, found that the convicts were often placed in the same prison block where they could mingle.

He said jihadists also used prison mosques to preach and recruit new members. Chaidar also said that many convicts use "de-radicalization" funds to "re-radicalize" others. "They were given money to start a new life, but they use it to fund their next jihad," he said.

Noor Huda said a revised Anti-Terrorism Law might hold the key for improvements. "The law needs to be more rehabilitative, involving terrorist convicts and their immediate relatives," he said. "And it needs to employ extraordinary methods because terrorism is an extraordinary crime."

Freedom of religion & worship

Government promises solution to GKI Yasmin church

Jakarta Post - December 31, 2011

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta – The government has vowed to seek a peaceful solution to a protracted dispute over the existence of a church in Bogor, West Java.

Speaking to journalists on Friday, Cabinet Secretary Dipo Alam, said the government was committed to ensuring freedom of religion and that it was now looking to mediate between members of the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Taman Yasmin and local residents who oppose the church's existence.

Dipo did not elaborate on a solution, only saying that "the government will not allow the conflict to continue and will not leave it unresolved. There will be a peaceful and comprehensive solution to it."

He regretted the absence of the Home Ministry in any mediation, which he said should be handled by the central government despite the regional autonomy. "Where is the home minister? The religious affairs minister belongs to all religious communities, including the Protestant community," he said.

According to Dipo, officials from the ministry should have spoken directly to the Bogor mayor, the GKI congregation and local residents opposing the church building, to prevent the conflict from escalating.

He admitted that violence linked with freedom of religion had increased this year because authorities were reluctant to meet with all parties and maintain religious freedom.

He was also critical of those who blamed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for a lack of action in settling sectarian conflicts. "The President has always taken a tough stance on sectarian issues but relevant authorities do not implement it in accordance with the law," he said.

Parishioners at GKI Yasmin Church said on Thursday that they wanted action from the President as they had been barred from attending their own church for three years despite a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that orders Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto to allow them the right to worship in their church.

The Bogor administration insisted on sealing the church despite the ruling, saying that the church's existence could further trigger conflict with residents living around the site.

A spokesman of the church, Bona Sigalingging, said he praised President Yudhoyono for acknowledging their right to worship in their own church.

Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha was quoted as saying Yudhoyono had repeatedly asked the Bogor mayor to abide by the Supreme Court ruling.

But the congregation is still unable to worship in their church. Their last attempt to hold a Christmas Mass at the church failed amid protests from Muslim hardliners.

Violence against Shia not my problem: Djoko

Jakarta Globe - December 31, 2011

Arientha Primanita, Ezra Sihite & Antara – Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto said the Religious Affairs Ministry and not his office is responsible for resolving religiously charged violence following an attack on a Shia community in Sampang, East Java.

"It is the role of the Religious [Affairs] Ministry to handle violence that is related to religion. The impetus should be more on religious leaders to create awareness that differences and disputes should be resolved peacefully," he said on Friday.

Hundreds of Shiites in the village of Nangkernang in Madura Island fled their homes to safety after their boarding school, or pesantren, was attacked and destroyed by unidentified men on Thursday.

Shiites in the area have been facing intimidation and death threats from other Muslim communities in the area.

In April, a Shia cleric named Tajul Muluk was taken from his home by police officers, who claimed that it was for his own protection. But the Shia community believed that police were pressured by hard-line groups.

In September, a team of researchers from Human Rights Watch was also detained as they conducted a study on religious freedom there. Police again argued that they were protecting the researchers from the wrath of the locals.

Hidayat Nurwahid, a senior Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician, said that the Nahdlatul Ulama, a Muslim organization with strong support in East Java, must mediate tensions between the groups.

"Many pesantrens in Sampang belong to NU and [people in Sampang] are mostly supporters of Gus Dur," Hidayat said in reference to the late NU leader and former president Abdurrahman Wahid, who many see as a champion of religious freedom. "This is homework for Said Aqil Siradj [the current NU leader] to remind people there about Gus Dur's spirit."

Siradj on Friday condemned the attack, saying that "violence is not acceptable to any religion."

Sampang Police chief Adj Sr. Comr. Solehan said that police had deployed 800 officers to Nangkernang to prevent further violence. "We will closely guard the victims, who in this case are Shiites and at the same time anticipate and monitor the movements of the Sunnis," he said.

At least 225 Shiites were evacuated from the village. Separately, Fuad Amin Imron, head of the neighboring Bangkalan district, which also has a significant Shia community, said he was holding talks with religious leaders to prevent similar violence from spreading to the district.

SBY must learn from Gus Dur on religious conflicts: activist

Jakarta Post - December 31, 2011

Bagus BT Saragih, Jakarta – In the wake of the brutal arson attack against a Shiite Islamic boarding school in Sampang, Madura, East Java, an activist has called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to learn from his predecessor, the late Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, in handling rampant religious conflict in the country.

"After the fatal attack against Ahmadiyah followers in Cikeusik, Banten, in February, such religious conflicts continue. This is a result of the poor and weak leadership of President Yudhoyono, particularly when it comes to maintaining tolerance in this plural nation," International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) advocate Usman Hamid said in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Friday.

"The President should look at Gus Dur, whose demise will be commemorated on Dec. 31. Gus Dur was always at the forefront of defending minorities," he added.

A compound belonging to the Shiite community in Sampang was allegedly burned down on Thursday by Sunni Muslims, who make up the majority of the Islamic population in Indonesia. No casualties were reported.

Several buildings were damaged, including a student dormitory, a mosque, a kitchen, a store and the home of Shiite Islamic boarding school principal Tajul Muluk Approximately 250 Shiites who lost their homes have been evacuated to the Sampang sports center about 20 kilometers from their neighborhood.

Religious tolerance wanes while dogmatic bylaws gain ground: Institute

Jakarta Globe - December 30, 2011

Ulma Haryanto – The Wahid Institute, a Muslim organization that promotes tolerance, warned on Thursday that the worst was yet to come for religious freedom and tolerance if the country refused to take drastic measures.

"We have been recording the state of religious freedom and tolerance since 2008, and I have to say that 2011 was the worst," said Rumadi Ahmad, program coordinator at the institute.

Aside from the increasing incidents of religious violence and intolerance – 276, up from 198 last year – the Wahid Institute also highlighted the steady growth of religious bylaws.

The institute reported that 36 regulations had been drafted or implemented that banned religious practices that were deemed as deviant from Islam, including the Ahmadiyah, required dress, respect toward holy days and obligation to pay alms.

In 2011, West Java and its districts issued 10 religious bylaws, more than any other region including Aceh, which partially adopts Shariah law. West Java also ranked first in the number of religious violence and intolerance incidents with 160 recorded incidents this year, according to the institute.

"It is not as much as in 2004-2005 when we recorded that there were around 57 religious bylaws issued in that period. However, West Java was still the region with the most bylaws issued," Rumadi said.

According to the program coordinator, the strong historical presence of Darul Islam and the Islamic Troops of Indonesia, which launched a widespread rebellion during the 1950s in a failed attempt to establish a Muslim theocracy, has made West Java a breeding ground for religious intolerance.

Embattled GKI Yasmin wants action from President

Jakarta Post - December 30, 2011

Jakarta – Parishioners at GKI Yasmin Church said on Thursday that they appreciated the President's supportive statements toward the beleaguered church but hoped that the talk would be transformed into real action.

The church's spokesperson, Bona Sigalingging, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday that the church's members praised President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's statement that "they [GKI Yasmin] have a right to their church".

News station KBR68H quoted presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha as saying Wednesday that Yudhoyono had repeatedly asked Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto to abide by the Supreme Court ruling that favored the congregation in the dispute over the church. "Those who oppose the existence of the church, either religious groups or the [Bogor] administration, should explain their reasons," Julian said, quoting Yudhoyono.

Speaking before Christians at the national Christmas celebration at the Jakarta Convention Center on Tuesday, the President called on the people to uphold the Constitution and foster tolerance. "Let us build the culture of tolerance and mutual respect," he said. As of today, the church at Taman Yasmin, Bogor, is still sealed and its members cannot conduct any kind of religious activity inside it.

Diani had said that his decision to seal the church was aimed at maintaining peace and stability in the area. He said that residents living near the church had protested the church's existence.

With the mayor's high level of resistance to opening the church, Bona said that his church needed much more than "nice comments from the President".

Bona questioned the effectiveness of the President's order. "The words of the President should be listened to by his subordinates, shouldn't they?" Bona said.

Bona said that Diani's defiance of the order could undermine the President's authority. "If Diani ignores the order and the President does nothing, other regional leaders can do that too in years ahead," he said.

Mayor Diani did not return calls from The Jakarta Post for comment on Thursday.

Discrimination against GKI Yasmin's members highlights the high intensity of religious disputes in Indonesia. Bogor city administration withdrew the church's construction permit in February 2008 and forcefully sealed the church in April 2010.

The church took the case to the Supreme Court and won their legal status in December 2010. The Bogor administration insisted on sealing the church despite the ruling, saying that the church's existence could trigger conflicts with residents living around the site.

On Dec. 25 last year, the church's members were prevented from holding Christmas mass in their own church by a group of hard-liners who protested the celebration. The incident was repeated this year, as hardliners and police officers blockaded access to the church.

"The central government should have been our defender," Bona said. "If we let this discrimination continue, I am afraid that minorities will face a dark future in this country," he added.

The GKI Yasmin saga is one of many episodes of religious tension this year. In February, three members of the Islamic Ahmadiyah sect were killed by locals in Cikeusik, Banten, West Java. A few days later, three churches were destroyed by angry mobs in Temanggung, Central Java.

In October, the local administration in Bekasi, West Java, issued an ordinance banning members of Ahmadiyah from publicly practicing their faith. (lfr)

Shia Islamic boarding school torched, police do nothing: Allegation

Jakarta Globe - December 29, 2011

A Shia-run Islamic boarding school was set ablaze by an a group from a rival branch of Islam in East Java on Thursday.

The Islamic boarding school (pesantren), Tajul Muluk in Sampang district, was destroyed but there are no reports of injuries. The pesantren houses about 100 male and female students.

"We suspect the incident was carried out by a group of Wahabis who are also suspected of burning the house of one of the school's teachers two weeks ago," said Ahmad Hidayat, the secretary general of Islamic organization Ahlul Bait Indonesia. A later report identified the group as Sunni.

In the previous incident, the attackers locked the door of the home shut before setting the house on fire, with the occupants lucky to escape with their lives. Ahmad said security forces had failed to act after the first attack.

Moh. Hadun Hadear, another member of ABI, told BeritaSatu that a prior to the latest attack there had been rumors of the looming incident and despite appeals to the police for help, nothing had been done.

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution denied allegations that police had let the attacks occur.

"The police have tried to visit the location. But we were intercepted by a mob," Saud said. "We're still investigating, please be patient."

Shia Islamic boarding school attacked in Madura

Jakarta Post - December 29, 2011

Jakarta – A Shia Islamic boarding school (pesantren), Misbahul Hudayah, in Nangkernang village in Sampang, Madura, was attacked and set ablaze by an unidentified group of people on Thursday.

School adviser Iklil al Milal said the perpetrators also burned down his house and the house belonging to the school's principal, Tajul Muluk. "I heard this morning rumors that a group of people were going to burn our school building, so I rushed to the school," Iklil told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

"I was just about to discuss the issue with the school principal and a few students, when a group of people arrived and burned our school compound." Iklil said no-one was injured as they managed to evacuate everyone before the building was attacked.

"The perpetrators were the same people who attacked our school in 2006. They included both local villagers and people from outside," he said, "We have received threats and intimidation almost everyday since then. They even threatened to kill us."

Iklil said he had reported the incident this morning to police but the several police officers who visited the school did nothing.

Around 155 students and three teachers have taken shelter at one of the student's houses. However, they will not stay too long in one place; "because they have threatened to attack all the houses of people who have relations with us", Iklil said.

The majority of Muslims in Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, are followers of Sunni, one of the Islamic brances, while only a small percentage are Shia followers. (swd)

Polygamy dispute at center of Shia school burning: Teacher

Berita Satu - December 29, 2011

The torching of a Shia-run Islamic boarding school in East Java on Thursday stemmed from a sibling dispute after a cleric at the school denied his brother the right to enter into polygamous marriage with one of the students, a teacher said.

"A male resident sought revenge on his brother, a Shia cleric who refused to let him marry one of his female students as it would be polygamy," said Ustadz Muhyi, one of the teachers at Tajuk Muluk Islamic boarding school (pesantren) in Sampang district.

The pesantren was destroyed in Thursday's blaze, but there were no reports of injuries. The pesantren houses about 100 male and female students.

According to Ustadz, the cleric's brother and community leaders stoked anti-Shia sentiments among nearby residents. The Shia, like the Ahmadiyah, are facing growing persecution and discrimination from local people in Indonesia. The rising intolerance against minority groups in the country has received international condemnation, including from Human Rights Watch.

Ustadz said a crowd of roughly 1,000 people showed up at the school on Thursday morning and watched as the pesantren's buildings, including a mosque, were set on fire. "There was no security there when the mob arrived and burned the school," he said.

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution denied allegations that police had let the attacks occur. "The police have tried to visit the location. But we were intercepted by a mob," Saud said.

Moh. Hadun Hadear, a member of Islamic organization Ahlul Bait Indonesia, said that prior to the burning of the school, there had been rumors that an attack was being planned and despite appeals to the police for help, nothing had been done.

In September, prominent Human Rights Watch activist Andreas Harsono and an Australian researcher were taken into custody by police in Sampang as they attempted to investigate the local Shia population. The pair were taken to Sampang Police headquarters and interrogated for nine hours but were released due to a lack of charges.

Indonesia: A bad year for religious rights

Jakarta Globe - December 26, 2011

Anita Rachman – This year alone, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono used 19 of his speeches to encourage people to embrace tolerance, the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace has counted.

However, action has yet to follow his words. The reality on the ground, Setara says, is that intolerance has been steadily on the rise in Indonesia.

The country was shocked in February when a mob of some 1,500 people brutally attacked a handful of Ahmadiyah members in Banten, killing three.

Authorities in the West Java city of Bogor continued to seal a church there, GKI Yasmin, and more recently, the Bogor district authorities have also outlawed worshiping activities at the Roman Catholic Santo Joannes Baptista church in Parung.

Another report from Tawangmangu, Central Java, spoke of the desecration of a statue of Mary at the Goa Maria Sendang Pawitra (Maria's Cave of the Holy Waters) there last week.

"Cases of intolerance have intensified this year, numbering more than last year, and at the core of the problem is the poor law enforcement by the government," Setara deputy chairman Bonar Tigor Naipospos told the Jakarta Globe.

The institute reported 244 violations of religious rights this year. Last year, Bonar said, Setara recorded around 200 cases.

Although the increase was not dramatic, the fact is that the numbers remain too high. Violations cited by Setara included discrimination, intimidation, banning of religious activities, dismissals and arrests, and violators were both the government and citizens.

The No. 1 rights violator, however, was the police, followed by the military, district heads and mayors and governors, as well as the officials at the Religious Affairs Ministry. Hard-line religious groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) were the main violators among civilians.

"Public officials sometimes could not stay neutral in the implementation of policies. Secondly, there is the problem of political interests. We know that religion here is seen as a political commodity," Bonar said.

Separately, the Indonesian Protestant Church Union (PGI) reported the same trend. In 2010, the PGI recorded 30 acts of violence and other violations against Christians in Indonesia. This year, the PGI's Jeirry Sumampow said, there were 54 violations across the archipelago.

He said that in many of those cases the government was actively involved, including in the worst and most high-profile one, that of the GKI Yasmin church. "The worst cases [this year] were the attack in Cikeusik against Ahmadiyah and the closure of the GKI Yasmin church," Bonar said.

Anti-Ahmadiyah violence

On Feb. 6, a group of 1,500 people beat to death three Ahmadis and badly injured five others in the Cikeusik subdistrict of Banten's Pandeglang district.

The local and international outcry did not stop at the brutality of the attack itself. The sentencing of the perpetrators to just a few months in jail by the Serang District Court was well below the maximum of 12 years for assault resulting in death.

The judges also insisted that it was the Ahmadiyah group that provoked the attack by ignoring calls by police to leave their building and instead allegedly challenging the mob to a fight.

Twelve men found guilty of "participation in a violent attack that resulted in casualties" were only sentenced to three to six months. An Ahmadi survivor who almost had his hand hacked off was charged with provoking the attack and sentenced to six months in prison as well.

The wave of condemnation not only came from prominent domestic figures and organizations, but also from overseas.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide and British MP Siobhain McDonagh, who in the United Kingdom also chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, for instance, expressed their concerns about the light sentences.

In a news release, CSW stated that the astonishingly lenient sentences led it to call into question the integrity of Indonesia's judiciary system.

Human Rights Watch criticized the police and prosecutors, stating that they did not conduct a rigorous investigation, failed to call key eyewitnesses to the stand and erroneously blamed the Ahmadis for provoking the attack.

Indonesia's House of Representatives and the government responded with a push in deliberating a religious harmony bill, touted as a long-term solution to the religious conflicts plaguing the country and to give a stronger legal basis to joint ministerial decrees that now regulate certain religious matters.

GKI Yasmin church closure

In September, members of the House's Commission III, which deals with legal affairs, lashed out at Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto for his continued defiance of a Supreme Court ruling on the closed GKI Yasmin church.

Eva Kusuma Sundari, of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said Diani's "misleading logic is the logic of a sick person."

The mayor has revoked a permit he had issued for the church and has since ignored verdicts from various courts, including the Supreme Court, which have ordered him to lift the ban and allow the congregation to worship in its building.

He also refused to follow a recommendation from the Ombudsman, despite the fact that a recommendation is the highest verdict the Ombudsman can issue and that it is binding.

The Ombudsman also sent a letter to the president to take over the case, but Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi insisted that the president's involvement was unnecessary and that the case should be left to the West Java governor to handle.

As the GKI Yasmin congregation continued to face problems in conducting worship, international criticism kept up. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, for instance, sent a letter to US President Barack Obama calling on him to speak out against Indonesia's growing religious tensions.

GKI Yasmin church spokesman Bona Sigalingging told the Globe: "The congregation has been praying on the sidewalk every Sunday since April 2010. The one responsible for this is the entire nation, including the mayor, governor and the police."

He hoped that in 2012, the government would finally enforce the law and push for a deradicalization program aimed at groups spreading hatred.

'Isolated incidents'

Besides the cases mentioned above, Indonesia also witnessed other conflicts with a religious dimension in the past year, such as calls to take down a six-meter Buddhist statue from the top of a three-story temple in Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra.

But according to a former chairman of the country's biggest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, the level of tolerance in Indonesia has actually improved compared to a couple of years ago. Hasyim Muzadi said the violence and other violations this year were just isolated incidents, and in general, people lived side by side in harmony.

"You cannot generalize what happened in Bogor. This is a violation of regulations, a [single] case," he said.

Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali also said he did not see any serious problems of intolerance and violations of religious freedom this year.

"The case with GKI Yasmin is not about religion or interreligious relations, but about a building permit," Suryadharma told the Globe.

He argued that people of different religions were still living in harmony, for example in Maluku or North Sulawesi, even though religious tension has been on the rise in Maluku in recent times.

"I don't think there is [a serious problem]. Small [incidents], of course, occur. But all people fight, even with their siblings at home," he said, laughing.

But the PGI's secretary general, Gomar Goeltom, said he was afraid that things were more complicated than the minister would like people to believe.

"This is systematic, with the same pattern," he said, adding that other cases did not get adequate exposure and had failed to grab people's attention.

He said that although in quantity the number of violations might be smaller today than in 2005 or 2006, when many churches were closed down, but in terms of severity, recent incidents were much worse. And the trend might get even uglier next year if the government still refuses to act firmly, Gomar said.

"There are groups that spread flyers carrying a message of hatred and intolerance," he said.

Is there hope for 2012?

Zuhairi Misrawi, director of the Moderate Muslim Society, told the Globe that there were two solutions that could be explored next year.

The first is hoping for the nation's top leader to take firmer steps. The second is to create a new, stronger law to regulate religious freedom, he said. "The first option doesn't seem promising since he [the president] has already been defeated by a mere mayor," he said, referring to Diani.

Thus, the nation could only hope for the second option, a legal guarantee for all believers to worship based on their beliefs.

Zuhairi said the House could soon deliberate a bill on religious freedom. This is especially needed for beleaguered sects like the Ahmadiyah, because it has been proven that the joint ministerial decree on Ahmadiyah has failed to prevent violence, he said.

"Members of the House have proposed the Religious Harmony bill, but I don't think we really need that. We should steer the discussion of the bill into the direction of religious freedom," he said. "Can the problem be solved by a new law? Well, at least people will have a legal basis."

However, it seems that Zuhairi and the public will have to wait for at least another year.

The chairman of the Legislative Body at the House, Ignatius Mulyono, has said the bill is not among those prioritized for deliberation in 2012. He claimed that House Commission VIII already had too much on its hands, with four bills awaiting passage next year. Among those are bills were legislation on the hajj and halal products.

"The Religious Harmony bill was initiated by the House, but it has a long way to go – absolutely not next year," Ignatius said. Bonar said he was not very optimistic about next year, particularly when it came to the government.

"Our recommendations have never been followed up on by the government. There was no improvement," he said. "The government should have punished those found guilty in cases of violence. That would be a preventive measure, so others won't dare do the same thing."

Suryadharma, however, insisted that his ministry would work harder to increase people's awareness of the importance of tolerance and peaceful interreligious relations. "Religious diversity is God's creation. Denying his creation is just the same as denying him," the minister said.

[Additional reporting by Arientha Primanita.]

'Government must act on intolerance or things will get worse'

Jakarta Post - December 26, 2011

Tifa Asrianti, Jakarta – The constant harassment of members of the Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) Taman Yasmin is evidence of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's failure to protect minority groups in the country.

The harassment reached its peak on Sunday with locals preventing the congregation from performing Christmas mass.

Pluralism activists warned that the government's inaction toward religious intolerance during the year could incite more violence in 2012.

"If the central government, especially the President, does not take action against the perpetrators, there will be more of the same in the future," the deputy chairman of human rights watchdog Setara Institute, Bonar Tigor Naipospos, told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

Muslim activist Muhammad Guntur Romli said the government should take firm action simply because community members were prone to intolerance. "There's always a tendency for intolerance within society and it is incumbent upon the government to protect its people from all forms of violence," he told the Post.

Members of the GKI Yasmin congregation had to perform their Christmas mass at a private home on Sunday, after their place of worship was cordoned off and heavily guarded by the Bogor Police. A handful of protesters gathered outside the sealed church, taunting members of the congregation and preventing them from entering Jl. H. Abdullah Bin Nuh where the church is located.

This is the second time members of GKI Yasmin's congregation have failed to perform their Christmas service inside their church. Last year, the congregation was denied entry in spite of a Supreme Court ruling, which upheld the church's legality.

The harassment of GKI Yasmin's congregation is only one of many episodes of religious tension witnessed throughout 2011.

In February, three members of the Islamic Ahmadiyah sect were killed by locals in Cikeusik, Banten. The Serang District Court sentenced 10 men and two minors to between three and six months' imprisonment for their involvement in the killings of three Ahmadis during the brutal attack.

Also in February, three churches were destroyed by angry mobs who were angered by a judge's verdict during a blasphemy trial.

In October, the local administration in Bekasi, West Java, issued an ordinance banning members of Ahmadiyah from publicly practicing their faith. The ordinance prompted Muslim firebrands to harass Ahmadis living in the municipality.

Ahmad Suaedy, executive director of the Wahid Institute, said the central government should take action to protect minority groups, especially as some local governments had in fact been responsible for issuing discriminatory policies.

"In the case of GKI Yasmin, it is very clear that the Bogor mayor does not want to carry out the Supreme Court's ruling. So, this case is no longer the responsibility of the local administration. It is the responsibility of the central government," he said.

Guntur said the public could be forgiven for thinking that the central government was trying to hide something by allowing the oppression against religious minorities to proceed unchecked.

"The only reason was probably to divert public attention from corruption cases, like the cases of Nunun Nurbaeti and the former Democratic Party treasurer Nazaruddin," he said.

Three years on, GKI Yasmin church remains victim of absence of the state

Jakarta Post - December 24, 2011

The continuing saga of the Gereja Kristen Indonesia (GKI) Taman Yasmin church in Bogor, West Java, is a stark example of the government's inability to protect minority groups despite legal decisions upholding their right to build a place of worship. The Jakarta Post's Ida Indawati Khouw explores the issue:

Every weekend Nora Bimoro sends text messages to her fellow parishioners at the GKI Taman Yasmin congregation.

The half-finished church – located on Jl. H. Abdullah bin Nuh of the Taman Yasmin housing complex – was sealed off by the Bogor administration in 2010, reportedly due to public pressure.

Since then, about 70 faithful churchgoers await Nora's text messages to learn where the congregation will hold services on any given Sunday. "I even made room for the congregation in the kitchen when [Mass] was in my house," Nora said.

Members of the congregation said there was no way to get close to the church. The Bogor Police and officers from the city's Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) cordon off the compound every Sunday, often accompanied by Islamic hard-line groups.

The hard-liners have refused to acknowledge GKI Yasmin's right to hold services in the church, which was upheld by the Supreme Court in a decision released in December 2010.

The court rejected a request from the Bogor City Planning and Parks Agency to void the church building permit (IMB) it issued on Feb. 14, 2008, citing objections from residents.

One of the groups claiming to represent residents against the church is the Islamic Peoples Forum (FUI), which, according to the Setara Institute human rights watchdog, is a parent organization of radical Islamic organizations across the nation.

"The radical groups emerge under various names on different occasions. In the case of GKI Yasmin, they have also appeared as the Islamic Reform Movement [Garis] and the Muslim Communications Forum [Forkami]," Setara researcher Ismail Hasani said.

Forkami chairman Ahmad Iman said that the group was coordinated by the FUI. "We report our activities to the FUI," he said, declining to comment further.

Eventually, Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto revoked the church's IMB on March 11, three days after he promised to uphold the Supreme Court's ruling.

Diani cited the case of Munir Karta as a reason for revoking the permit. Munir, the chief of a neighborhood unit in Curug Mekar subdistrict, was convicted by the Bogor District Court earlier this year for falsifying the signatures of 10 residents during a community meeting on Jan. 15, 2006. Munir's appeal to the Supreme Court is pending.

During the meeting, convened by Curug Mekar subdistrict chief Agus Ateng and Munir, residents were asked to sign an attendance list that was used as part of the petition reportedly supporting the church's IMB application. Diani, who initially supported the church's construction in 2006, declined to comment on his volte-face.

Jayadi Damanik, a member of the GKI Yasmin's legal team, said the church did not attend the meeting and never kept the attendance list. "The document was kept by subdistrict chief Agus Ateng. He submitted it to the Bogor City municipality division head Anas South Resmana on March 4, 2010," he said.

The Indonesian Ombudsman previously issued a statement saying that Munir's case was not relevant because the church used two other petitions to obtain its IMB: one completed in 2002 with 170 signatures and a second completed in 2003 with 97 signatures.

Under a 2006 joint ministerial degree, the establishment of a house of worship requires photocopies of the identity cards of 90 of the religion's followers and a petition supporting the new church signed by 60 residents of the surrounding area.

Critics said the decree has been wielded in a heavy-handed manner by officials wary of Muslim hard-liners.

Forkami secretary Ayu Agustin said that the forum would continue to fight against the establishment of the church. "We have valid evidence [of the forgery]," she said. "Forkami will always push security forces to disperse the congregation from the [church's] sidewalk," she said.

Ayu said Forkami needed to be with security forces in front of the church every Sunday. "It was proven that when we didn't push hard enough, the congregation even dared to use musical instruments and sing."

Forkami would not allow the parishioners to congregate in front of the church over Christmas, Ayu said. "If they insist, we will act according to our Islamic law." When asked to explain, Ayu answered: "This is the land of Muslims."

The church purchased a 1,721-square-meter plot from PT Inovaco, the developer of Taman Yasmin housing complex, in 2001. The complex is under the jurisdiction of Curug Mekar subdistrict in West Bogor.

As part of a mandatory social and public facilities scheme, PT Inovaco allocated two plots for churches to accommodate Christians, who accounted for 30 percent of the complex's residents, according to GKI Yasmin.

"But when it turned out that a mosque had been built on the land, we decided not to make a problem. Instead, we purchased the present site," Jayadi said.

Although the congregation finished construction of a temporary 300 square- meter building, the Bogor administration sealed the compound in April 2010, leading the parishioners to hold mass on the sidewalks outside the church.

Members of GKI Yasmin reported that they have been harassed every Sunday since the church was sealed off, sometimes by hard-liner vigilantes, sometimes by the police and public order officers.

As tensions continue to escalate and the road to the church is blocked on Sundays, the number of regular churchgoers has dwindled to about 70, down from more than 100, while the congregation has dropped Sunday school religious education for members' children.

"We have managed to get the children to go to our central GKI Pengadilan church [in central Bogor]. We are afraid the poor condition will have a negative psychological impact on the children, for instance, creating hatred [of hard-liners]," Magdalena Paranginangin, a congregation member, said.

The police have repeatedly said that officers have been deployed to the church on Sundays to prevent clashes between the GKI Yasmin congregation and hard-liners. However, on the ground, it looks as if law enforcement officers are there to deter the congregation from entering the compound.

"[The parishioners] are forcing their will upon others," a police officer with a name tag identifying him as "Eman" said as a member of a hard-line group stood nearby.

The authorities have appeared at a loss as to how to resolve the situation. Home Ministry national security chief Widianto was visibly emotional during a recent meeting with GKI Yasmin representatives.

The government had spent an large amount of money to deal with the situation on Sundays, he said, describing the congregation as "stupid" for refusing money offered by the Bogor administration to relocate to another location.

Widianto referred to a plan to allocate Rp 4.3 billion (US$477,300) to relocate the church that was rejected by GKI Yasmin. Critics said the government's offer reflected a willingness to accommodate hard-liners.

On Dec. 11, GKI Yasmin congregation again assembled on the sidewalk near their church. The parishioners, including many senior citizens, knew that the blockade would again be in place.

Nora was phlegmatic. "It is just a kind of Sunday 'ritual' of visiting our church, asking the security guards whether they will open our church gate."

After they were dispersed by security forces, the Christians proceeded to the home of the Sidendens family in the housing complex to celebrate the liturgy for the third Advent Sunday, as part of the Calvinist tradition.

Christians worldwide are counting the days leading to Christmas. In Bogor, however, the members of GKI Yasmin do not know if they will be allowed to celebrate Christmas.

Timeline of GKI Yasmin saga:

2001: Congregation purchases a plot of land on Jl. K.H. Abdullah bin Nuh, a business district of the Taman Yasmin housing complex in Curug Mekar subdistrict, West Bogor district.

Mar. 10, 2002: The church building construction committee meets with local residents and gains 170 signatures for a petition supporting the church's establishment, as mandated by a joint ministerial decree.

Mar. 1, 2003: At another meeting with local residents an additional 97 signatures are collected.

Oct. 27, 2005: The Bogor administration approves the church building permit (IMB) proposal.

Jan. 12 and 15, 2006: Curug Mekar subdistrict chief Agus Ateng and neighborhood unit chief Munir Karta invite local residents to meetings on the church construction, collecting signatures on an attendance roster.

July 13, 2006: Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto issues the church IMB.

Feb. 6, 2008: Calls against the existence of the church released by the Islamic People's Forum (FUI) start to appear.

Feb. 14, 2008: The Bogor City Planning and Parks Agency withdraws the IMB.

Sept. 4, 2008: The Bandung State Administrative Court (PTUN) overturns the IMB withdrawal decision.

March 4, 2010: Curug Mekar subdistrict chief submits to the Bogor administration the signatures obtained from the Jan. 12 and 15 meetings.

April 10, 2010: The Bogor administration seals the church compound.

Dec. 9, 2010: A Supreme Court ruling restores the church's IMB.

Jan. 20, 2011: The Bogor District Court finds Munir Karta guilty of falsifying 10 signatures on the petition. GKI Yasmin says the church never used those signatures as part of its petition.

March 8, 2011: Following the Supreme Court's ruling, Bogor's mayor retracts the City Planning and Parks Agency decision that withdrew the IMB, restoring the permit to the church.

March 11, 2011: Bogor mayor revokes the IMB again, refering to the Munir Karta case.

July 18, 2011: The Indonesian Ombudsman declares Mayor Diani's claim is baseless. The congregation files a lawsuit against the mayor's decision with the Bandung Administrative Court (PTUN), which later overturns the decision. The municipality then submits a legal appeal to the Supreme Court but once again fails to win the dispute.

Bogor braces for Xmas

Jakarta Post - December 24, 2011

Theresia Sufa, Bogor – Despite potential disturbances involving disputes over the presence of places of worship in residential Bogor areas, the congregations of the Indonesian Christian Church in Taman Yasmin (GKI Yasmin) and Catholic Church Santo Yohanes Baptista have decided to hold Christmas services in their own buildings.

The Bogor mayoralty administration on Friday decided to move the services for GKI Yasmin to the nearby Harmoni building after a multiparty meeting that involved the Home Affairs Ministry, the Religious Affairs Ministry, the State Intelligence Agency (BIN), the police and military.

According to GKI Yasmin spokesperson Bona Sigalingging, an intelligence report indicated possible "acts from radical groups" should the GKI Yasmin continued with the plan to hold holiday services at the sealed church building.

"We will hold the services in our church, or next to it. We want to celebrate Christmas in our legally-owned church, as decided by the Supreme Court," he said on Friday.

The congregation has been unable to conduct its regular church services for more than two years since the local administration revoked a church building permit it had previously approved.

Bogor city councilor A. Usnar Hariman said that the GKI Yasmin case was final and that the mayor would execute the court's ruling. However, Usnar said that residents living nearby insisted on rejecting the church. To protect the peace, the administration decided to delay issuing the permit.

"The Council has agreed to allow the administration disburse money to rent the Harmoni building, which we consider a proper place for GKI Yasmin to hold services from Dec. 25 to Jan. 1. We hope that the church's members can cooperate for the sake of peace and stability," he said.

Father Albertus Fimbol Gaid Pratolo of Santo Yohanes Baptista in Parung said that the Bogor administration had asked them to move the service to a vacant lot in Kahuripan, Parung. "We won't back down. I will still lead the services even though several parishioners have warned me against this," he said.

The regency administration had issued an order to halt the church activities, arguing that its location in a residential area was in violation of spatial regulations. Albertus said that he had tried to obtain a permit for seven years, but had not found results thus far. "We cannot get the permit easily. After seven years of struggle, we are devastated. But we will hold on, no matter what happens."

No place for GKI Yasmin Christmas

Jakarta Globe - December 23, 2011

Vento Saudale, Bogor – Peace on Earth and good will to men may be thin on the ground this Christmas in Bogor, where one congregation is being told there is no room at the inn, or at their own church

Municipal authorities are standing firm in their decision to ban worship at the GKI Yasmin church, which has been contro versially shuttered for more than two years. The church members, in turn, remain adamant that they will observe the holy day there.

Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto, who has ignored a Supreme Court ruling ordering him to reopen the church, said on Friday that he would not tolerate any worship in or around the sealed church.

"I do not prohibit Christians from conducting their Christmas worship on December 24 and 25 – as long as it is held in the right place," Diani said.

He said the authorities were offering a separate building where the congregation could conduct worship. The Harmoni Center hosted the Yasmin Christmas service last year.

GKI Yasmin spokesman Bona Sigalingging was unimpressed by the mayor's offer. "Diani often lies," Bona said. "During the special coordination meeting at the ministry [on Thursday], it was agreed that the GKI Yasmin Christmas service be protected and there was no talk at all of moving the venue."

Bona said the congregation had not yet decided whether they would hold their Christmas service in the church or on the sidewalk in front of it. "If they force us to move the venue, it would be better if we move to the house of one of the members of the congregation," he said.

Bogor regional sec retary Bambang Gunawan said that the authorities continued to reject any plans to hold the Christmas service on the sidewalk in front of the church.

"This is to protect the GKI Yasmin congregation itself from unwanted things," he said. He said that if the congregation persisted in trying to hold mass in front of the church, they would provoke a harsh reaction from the people in the area.

The Bogor Police chief of operations, Comr. Syahroni, said officers would safeguard the area on Christ mas Eve and Christmas Day.

"There are 54 churches that we have to guard in Bogor, and even though on [Yasmin's] K.H. Abdullah bin Nuh Street there is still no decision on the church, we will deploy 700 joint personnel members on December 24 and 25," Syahroni said.

Meanwhile, the Ansor Youth Movement – the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's largest Islamic organization – said it planned to deploy members near the church to help the Yasmin congregation conduct its Christmas service in peace.

"This is no longer a national issue but an international one, because all the international church organizations are monitoring this," Ansor chairman Nusron Wahid said. Nusron deplored the idea that the church's congregation should be hindered in the act of worship.

Ansor's Bogor city chapter head, Zaenul Mutaqin, said that his chapter would fully support the decision by the movement's headquarters. "We have not yet been issued any specific instructions, but we are ready," he said.

Second Bogor church under threat by officials in Indonesia

Jakarta Globe - December 23, 2011

Ardi Mandiri, Bogor – A local mayor in Bogor has ordered a Catholic church in a residential area to halt its activities, winning the support of a Muslim group but fuelling fears of growing intolerance in the West Java district.

Bogor district head Rachmat Yasin issued the order, arguing that the Santo Joannes Baptista church's construction, in Parung, had been in violation of planning rules because of its location.

A group calling itself the Muslim Community of Parung Bogor pledged its support for the mayor, placing a banner near the church stating that it was backing Rachmat's decision to outlaw the parish's activities.

"The [Santo Joannes Baptista] church has been there for six years," said Hasis Jalil, the coordinator of the group. "The construction of the church was against the regulations regarding the building of a house of worship, because it was built close to private residences."

Bogor is also where the GKI Yasmin church has been embroiled in a long- dragging dispute with the city administration, which has sealed the church building and refused to lift a ban on the activities of the church, despite the Supreme Court demanding it to do so. The case has attracted condemnation from rights groups around the world.

Speaking on the Santo Joannes Baptista dispute, the Bogor district head said the parishioners were still allowed to worship, but that it should take place in an appropriate location.

"The site is not for a church; it is a [residential] house turned into a house of worship. It is a violation," Rachmat said. "Moreover, they worship on a regular basis."

He also said that while the government respected religious rights, the congregation should respect prevailing regulations. The district chief added that authorities had nothing to do with the banner that was put up near the church. "That banner needs to be taken away," he said.

The pastor of the church, Gaib Simbul Pratolo, said the banner had surprised him. "We have been worshiping peacefully for six years," the pastor said. "Even the neighborhood chiefs helped secure the services." The Catholic congregation has 2,000 members.

Meanwhile, the head of the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) and the head of its interreligious relations commission, Benny Susetyo, expressed his disappointment at the latest developments in Bogor.

"I am really concerned. This incident has sullied the values of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika," Benny said, referring to Indonesia's motto of Unity in Diversity.

He said that for six years, there had been no conflict between the church and the people living in its vicinity. "The problem arose when a group of people started to disturb the calm in the region around the house of worship," he said, without identifying the group.

Benny added that the district authorities had not only failed to be firm in dealing with the matter but had repeatedly rejected demands made by the church for a permit, without giving any reason. "This is despite us having clearly followed the procedure for the construction of houses of worship," he said.

Land disputes & mining

Saurip Kadi: A controversial and die-hard general

Jakarta Post - December 31, 2011

Hasyim Widhiarto – Maj. Gen. (ret.) Saurip Kadi made headlines in the past couple of weeks after screening video footage of a mass killing in Mesuji area, Lampung, in front of the House of Representatives' legal affairs commission.

Saurip and representatives of Mesuji residents told lawmakers of indications of human rights abuses committed by authorities in the killing of villagers following land disputes with plantation companies.

But Saurip has now received extensive criticism because of the video, into which footage of a deadly incident in Thailand was edited, thus distorting the case. His claims of 32 villagers being killed in the Mesuji area since 2008, due to land disputes, also could not be verified.

Although Saurip claimed he was representing the voices of all evicted Mesuji residents, some community leaders have said otherwise.

"We've never had any contact with Saurip. The only party we have been cooperating with is the government's fact-finding team led by Deputy Law and Human Rights Minister Denny Indrayana," said Mohammad Ayub, a resident of Tanjung Raya district, Mesuji regency, Lampung, said. Saurip has repeatedly denied exaggerating the case.

Born in Brebes, Central Java, on Jan. 18, 1951, Saurip graduated from the Military Academy in 1973, the same class as President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Great Indonesia Movement Party's (Gerindra) chief patron Prabowo Subianto and Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto.

Starting his career as a military officer in East Java's Brawijaya Military Command, Saurip entered the country's political stage for the first time in 1995 when he joined the House of Representatives as a legislator representing the Indonesian Military (TNI) faction.

Leaving the House in 1997, Saurip was assigned to several different positions in the Army headquarters and the Defense Ministry before then president Abdurrahman Wahid promoted him in 2000 to the Army chief's assistant for territorial affairs.

Saurip, however, was only in the position for several months after then Army chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto removed him, allegedly due to controversy caused by his book TNI: In the Past and Future. The book mostly depicted scandals within the military institution.

Although he was still a high-ranking Army officer, Saurip was left without any assignment or office at Army headquarters until his retirement in 2008. After his retirement, Saurip got involved in politics.

Prior to the 2009 general election, a coalition of 13 small parties, including the Reform Star Party, the Prosperous Peace Party (PDS) and the Labor Party, nominated Saurip as their vice presidential candidate to accompany veteran actor Deddy Mizwar, who they endorsed as presidential candidate.

In the same year, Saurip headed up Hutomo "Tommy" Mandala Putra's campaign team in his bid in the Golkar Party's chairmanship election. Tommy, the youngest son of former dictator Soeharto, instead witnessed the victory of businessman Aburizal Bakrie after he failed to secure any votes.

Together with other retired Army generals, Saurip has reportedly joined Aburizal's campaign team for the upcoming 2014 presidential election.

Video shows only fragments of deadly Mesuji incident

Jakarta Post - December 31, 2011

Hasyim Widhiarto – The disturbing images of the aftermath of a deadly brawl in plantation company PT Sumber Wangi Alam's (SWA) campsite still linger in the mind of Habibur Efendi. He was among the first people to arrive at the crime scene in Mesuji district, Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) regency, South Sumatra.

Efendi, the head of administration bureau at the Mesuji district office, along with several local administration officials and hundreds of police and Public Order Agency officers, could only get into the area a day after the deadly clash.

Furious villagers had blockaded all road access to the site, located at the heart of the company's oil palm plantation, to prevent authorities from entering. The clash between villagers and SWA workers claimed the lives of two villagers and five employees.

"The campsite was silent and deserted when we arrived in the morning after the incident broke out," recalled Efendi recently. "But then everyone's attention turned to a headless body hung by a power pole and two mutilated heads placed on top of a truck parked in front of the company's warehouse."

The chilling scenes, however, did not end there. Efendi saw two other dead bodies lying in another part of the site with large open wounds on their backs. "I've never witnessed such a horrible scene in my life before," he said.

The crime scene is located on the border of South Sumatra and Lampung provinces, more than 700 kilometers northwest of Jakarta. The area could not be accessed other than by four-wheel drive vehicle, due to 40 kilometers of muddy road in the middle of the oil palm plantation.

The area has come under the media spotlight after Maj. Gen. (ret.) Saurip Kadi recently led a delegation of local residents to the House of Representatives' legal affairs commission, showing lawmakers a purported video of the killings in the area.

Saurip also claimed at least 32 villagers had been killed in a series of similar clashes in the Mesuji area since 2008 as a result of long-standing land disputes between local residents and several plantation companies, including PT SWA, PT Silva Inhutani Lampung and PT Barat Selatan Makmur Investindo.

However, Saurip's claim could not be verified as there are only nine people killed in three different clashes in the area.

Video footage of a beheading shown to the lawmakers had also been edited, mixed with a killing scene in Thailand. This has distorted the truth about the real incident that took place in Mesuji's Sungai Sodong village.

The incident started when Saktu Macan, 21, and his colleague Indra Syafei, 18, were killed by SWA private security personnel. Saktu, the grandson of local leader Haji Jalang, was almost decapitated. Sabar, a member of SWA's security personnel, died on his way to the hospital being stabbed in the chest during a clash with Saktu and Indra.

The police recently exhumed Saktu's body for an autopsy, as witnesses believed he was killed by a gunshot wound.

Hours after the killings, hundreds of Sungai Sodong residents retaliated, attacking a SWA campsite located in the middle of the company's plantation, killing two company officers, Hambali and Hardi, and beheading two security guards, later identified as Sumanto and Saimun.

South Sumatra Police have named a local resident and 13 SWA security personnel suspects in the deadly incident. Eight security personnel, however, remain at large.

The Post's investigation found that only some parts of Saurip's video were really taken at the SWA campsite while some other remained unverified.

The Post, for example, could not verify whether footage displaying the beheading of a man near an asphalt road was taken in the area since the only road in the area is a muddy one.

But the company's wooden boarding houses and warehouse at the background of the mutilated heads and headless body shown in the video were all identical with those found by the Post at the crime scene.

SWA worker Supriyono, who is in charge of the operation of the company's crude palm oil factory next to the campsite, said the company had requested him to "redecorate" the camp to erase the bad memories about the incident.

"We already managed to move the truck that the local residents put two mutilated heads on top of, but are so far unable to move the power pole where they hung the headless body of our security guards," said Supriyono, who recently moved to the campsite with a few co-workers.

Government complacency triggers Mesuji deadly land dispute

Jakarta Post - December 31, 2011

This is the second of two reports on a deadly conflict between farmers and plantation companies allegedly backed by the police in the Mesuji area located on the border of Lampung and South Sumatra provinces. The Jakarta Post's Hasyim Widhiarto recently traveled to the area to investigate the case. Here are the stories:

Businesspeople and environmentalists have repeatedly warned of escalating land disputes between plantation and mining companies and villagers in regions.

Business watchdog Sawit Watch recently recorded 664 unresolved land disputes involving palm oil companies up to this year. This year alone, it found that the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police were involved in 11 disputes.

However, local administrations seem to have done little in helping to resolve the disputes, which have resulted in several deadly evictions by the authorities.

Unresolved land disputes in the Mesuji area, which have claimed nine lives since 2010, have highlighted the minor role local administrations have played to settle the problems.

Documents obtained by the Post last week reveal that the administration and law enforcement agencies of Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI) regency in South Sumatra had failed to anticipate the emergence of potential clashes between Mesuji district villagers and plantation company PT Sumber Wangi Alam (SWA). This is despite the administration receiving an early warning of escalating tension between the two parties following a series of failed negotiations.

The first document, issued by the Mesuji district office in April, contained a summary of 10 separate meetings, attended by local officials, SWA representatives and Sungai Sodong village community leaders, to help settle the long-standing land dispute between SWA and the villagers.

According to the document, the dispute centered around the status of a land management cooperation between the company and villagers whose land was located along the border of the company's plantation area.

The villagers, led by prominent local figure Syafei Hasan, also known as Haji Jalang, claimed they had submitted a total of 534 land certificates to SWA in the late 1990s in exchange for compensation and the right to manage 1,068 hectares of land within the company's oil palm plantation area under a smallholder scheme. However, as of today, the company has allocated less than 300 hectares of land for the villagers, they said.

SWA, however, has refused to acknowledge the arrangement, saying it was made by the residents with the previous owner of the plantation area before SWA took it over in 2004. The company also argued that the former management of the plantation had canceled the arrangement with the approval of the residents due to administrative matters.

Most of the 10 negotiation talks, according to the document, yielded no results, mostly due to the absence of representatives from SWA and villagers, and both parties refused to make any compromises. With the talks producing very little progress, tension was rapidly escalating.

In a meeting mediated by the OKI legislative council on Dec. 6, 2010, Sungai Sodong villagers asked for permission to harvest (oil palm fruit) on the disputed land, but neither the council nor the company replied, according to the document.

The document also had an attached copy of a letter sent on Feb. 1, 2011 by SWA director Muhammad Akib, former president director of publicly listed plantation company PT London Sumatra Indonesia, to OKI Regent Ishak Mekki, requesting that the latter help SWA evict Sungai Sodong villagers who "had been illegally harvesting and looting" oil palm fruit from the company's 1,200-hectare plantation.

The local administration and the Mesuji Police sent a joint team to visit Sungai Sodong village twice a week to persuade the locals to patiently wait for a settlement to their dispute with SWA. However, no progress was seen, and a deadly brawl involving villagers and SWA workers broke out on April 21, leaving seven dead – two villagers and five workers.

According to a classified police report issued after the incident and signed by then Mesuji Police chief Adj. Comr. Arkamil, the deadly brawl not only involved Sungai Sodong villagers but also those from nearby Pagar Dewa and Sungai Tepuk. The conflict escalated beyond the initial estimate of the authorities.

"At around 2 p.m., Sungai Sodong villagers, back up by neighboring villagers, stormed the SWA campsite in four trucks. Carrying sharp weapons, they found four SWA workers, killed them and beheaded two of them," the document says.

A couple of weeks after the incident, police chief Arkamil was replaced by Adj. Comr. Dwi Handoko.

The OKI regent's assistant for administration, Kashmir Abdul Kirom, who was among several officials supervising the negotiations between SWA and Sungai Sodong villagers, denied the allegation that the authorities had done little to prevent the incident.

He said the administration had ordered authorities in Mesuji to "closely monitor and handle the situation in Sungai Sodong village" prior to the April incident.

Conditions some 80 kilometers south of the area in Register 45, consisting of Tugu Roda and Pelita Jaya hamlets, in Mesuji regency, Lampung, may also underline a failure by authorities to act in resolving a land dispute. The problem started when the Forestry Minister issued a decree in 1997 granting PT Silva Inhutani Lampung the right to manage 43,100 hectares of land in the area under the industrial forest concession (HTI) scheme.

With the concession, the company has developed, as of today, 22,000 hectares of the total allocated land, while the remainder had been left idle.

The area's indigenous Megou Pak tribe then took over part of the idle land and claimed it as theirs. The tribe illegally sold the land to outsiders, who thought the land's status was legally clear.

Thousands of illegal farmers have occupied 12,000 hectares of the company's land over the past few years, making it hard for the company to maintain its plants as well as expand its planting areas.

Overwhelmed by the situation, Silva requested support from Lampung Governor Sjachroedin ZP, who established a joint team last year, supported by officers from the Lampung Police and Public Order Office, to implement an organized plan to evict the illegal farmers from the company's land.

Instead of using the persuasive approach, the authorities launched a raid by a joint team on Nov. 6 last year. A farmer who had bought land from the tribe, identified as Made Asta from Pelita Jaya hamlet, was killed after he was allegedly shot by a Lampung Police officer.

Silva's estate manager, Ahmad Safari, said his company had contributed money to finance the field operations of the joint team, but said it was only for food and accommodation.

"With fewer than 100 private internal security guards, it was impossible for us to handle the thousands of illegal farmers on company land without support from the local authorities," he said.

Three different areas, actors and causes

Jakarta Post - December 30, 2011

Register 45 residents vs PT Silva Inhutani Lampung

The Forestry Minister issued a decree in 1997 granting PT Silva Inhutani Lampung the right to manage 43,100 hectares of land in the Register 45 area in Mesuji regency, Lampung, under the industrial forest concession (HTI) scheme.

With the concession, the company has developed, as of today, 22,000 hectares of the total allocated land to plant rubber, acacia and albizia, which are all sold in the domestic market.

The land dispute between the company and local residents erupted in the late-1990s, when residents from several areas in Lampung occupied parts of the company's land, which had been intentionally left idle for future development.

The newcomers then built permanent houses, and began growing various plants, such as corn and cassava. A community known as Moromoro was then established, and villagers proceeded to independently build and manage their own public facilities, including elementary schools and houses of worship.

More people, mostly impoverished farmers from Java, Bali and Lampung, flocked to the area in early 2009 after the government separated the 2.1 million square-kilometer Mesuji district from Tulang Bawang regency and turned it into a regency along with two other new regencies.

The Post's investigation has found that most of the new settlers bought land from Megou Pak community leaders, who claimed the company's idle land as part of sanctuary land belonging to Lampung's indigenous people. Some farmers said they paid between Rp 5 million (US$550) and Rp 10 million for every hectare of land in the area to Megou Pak community leaders, in exchange for land-gift certificates, which they later found out were neither official nor legal.

"The land that already had ready-to-harvest cassava on it was, of course, sold for a higher price than uncultivated land," explained Mahdi, a farmer who resides in Tugu Roda hamlet.

The settlers then established more than a dozen new hamlets, including Tunggal Jaya, Pelita Jaya and Tugu Roda. However, the local administration has refused to acknowledge their presence, leaving villagers with no ID cards, birth certificates or other official government documents.

Megou Pak community leaders, however, strongly deny that they took advantage of people who had no clear information about the status of the disputed land.

Silva's estate manager Ahmad Safari estimates that thousands of illegal farmers have occupied 12,000 hectares of land in the company's plantation area over the past few years, making it hard for the company to maintain its plants as well as to expand their planting areas. Silva is a subsidiary of Sungai Budi Group – a diversified company with headquarters in Jakarta.

Overwhelmed with the situation, Silva requested support from Lampung Governor Sjachroedin ZP, who established a joint team last year, supported by officers from the Lampung Police and Public Order Agency, to implement an organized plan to evict the illegal farmers from the company's land.

In a raid held by the joint team on Nov. 6 last year, a Megou Pak tribesman, identified as Made Asta from Pelita Jaya hamlet, was killed after he was allegedly shot by a Lampung Police officer.

Lampung Police claimed, however, they have so far been unable to determine the person responsible for Made's death, but handed down warning letters to the official leading the raid, Adj. Sr. Comr. Priyo Wira Nugraha and First Brig. Setiawan, who shot into the crowd without authorization from his superior.

Safari said his company had contributed some money to finance the field operations of the joint team, but said it was allocated only for "food and accommodation". "With fewer than 100 private internal security guards, it was impossible for us to handle the thousands of illegal farmers on the company's land without support from the local authorities," he said.

Sungai Sodong villagers vs PT Sumber Wangi Alam

Located some 40 kilometers from South Sumatra province's main road, Sungai Sodong is a small village in Mesuji district, Ogan Komering Ilir (OKI), inhabited by 600 families consisting of 400 indigenous people and 200 migrants from Java.

The village is located just outside a plantation area controlled by PT Sumber Wangi Alam (SWA), one of three plantation companies operating in Mesuji district. The other two are PT Treekreasi Marga Mulia (TMM), which was acquired by SWA in 2004, and PT Gunung Tua Abadi, a subsidiary of publicly listed firm PT Sampoerna Agro. SWA is owned by businessman Muhammad Akib, former president director of publicly listed plantation giant PT London Sumatra Indonesia.

The dispute involving local residents and SWA, headquartered in Palembang, South Sumatra, has centered on the status of land management cooperation between the two parties.

The villagers, led by prominent local figure Syafei Hasan, known also as Haji Jalang, claimed that they had submitted a total of 534 land certificates to SWA in 1997 in exchange for financial compensation and the rights to manage 1,068 hectares of land in the company's oil palm plantation area under a small-holder scheme. However, as of today, the company had only managed to allocate less than 300 hectares of land for the villagers.

SWA, however, refused to acknowledge the deal, saying it had been made by the residents with the former owner of TMM before SWA took it over seven years ago. The company also argued that the plantation's former management had canceled such agreements with approval from the residents due to administrative matters.

"During the negotiations, the number of Sungai Sodong residents who requested rights to manage the small-holder land kept increasing, making the company reluctant to continue such cooperation," the head of SWA's legal team, Agus Effendi, said.

With no clear settlement, Sungai Sodong residents took the initiative to harvest oil palm fruit in parts of the SWA plantation they considered as "the disputed land", escalating tension in one of the province's most remote areas.

To mediate the land dispute, the OKI administration invited representatives from the company and the residents to attend 10 separate meetings held between October 2010 and April this year. The talks, however, produced little progress as both parties showed reluctance to negotiate their settlement offers.

As illegal harvesting and looting continued earlier this year, SWA hired dozens of private security guards to help secure its harvests – a move approved by local authorities.

The effort, however, resulted in a deadly brawl involving Sungai Sodong villagers, SWA officials and security personnel on April 21. Saktu Macan, 21, Haji Jalang's grandchild, and his colleague Indra Syafei, 18, were killed by SWA private security personnel. Saktu was almost decapitated.

Sabar, a member of SWA's security personnel, died on his way to the hospital being stabbed in the chest during a clash with Saktu and Indra. The police recently exhumed Saktu's body for an autopsy, as witnesses believed he was killed by a gunshot wound.

Hours after the killings, hundreds of Sungai Sodong residents retaliated, attacking a SWA campsite located in the middle of the company's plantation, killing two company officers, Hambali and Hardi, and beheading two security guards, later identified as Sumanto and Saimun.

South Sumatra Police have named a local resident and 13 SWA security personnel suspects in the deadly incident. Eight security personnel, however, remain at large.

Tanjung Raya residents vs PT Barat Selatan Makmur Investindo

Tanjung Raya is a district under the administration of Mesuji regency in Lampung. The district, which comprises 13 villages, came under the media spotlight after a deadly brawl involving residents from three villages – Sri Tanjung, Kagungan Dalam and Nipahkuning – and local police officers broke out on Nov. 10.

The clash, which killed one villager and injured several others, resulted from a long-standing land dispute between the residents and plantation company PT Barat Selatan Makmur Investindo (BSMI), which began after residents accused the company of illegally appropriating 7,000 hectares of their land when it expanded its plantation area in 1994.

The villagers also claimed the company had once promised to involve them in a "plasma cooperation scheme" (a scheme for smallholders). That plan, however, never materialized.

With very few jobs available in the area, many villagers received an offer from the company to employ them as plantation workers on salaries of Rp 31,000 (around US$3.5) per person per day.

"But the company only employed villagers for 10 days per month, making it difficult for us to fulfill our family's basic needs," said 45-year-old Nuri, a mother of four from Sri Tanjung village.

With a settlement of their land dispute still remote, the residents took the initiative in September to collectively harvest oil palm fruit on BSMI land, which they considered to be "disputed areas". In response to the residents' move, the company, according to some residents, deployed hundreds of police and military (TNI) officers to guard its plantation area.

On Nov. 10, a Sri Tanjung resident, identified as Zaelani, 45, was shot dead, while several other villagers were injured after police and TNI officers allegedly shot at a group of villagers who had just finished harvesting oil palm fruit.

Furious, hundreds of villagers went to BSMI's factory and campsite and ransacked the complex's facilities, including more than a hundred boarding houses and several warehouses.

After the incident, BSMI shut down its activities, leaving their oil palm fruit free to be looted by local residents. The company, whose headquarters is located in Bandar Lampung, has yet to make any official statement regarding the incident.

The looting was allegedly coordinated by local leaders, with proceeds from the sales of the fruit used to finance residents' education, the construction of a mosque and public utilities. The fund is managed as part of the village's budget.

The Lampung Police recently named three officers, identified as Adj. Sr. Comr. AZ, Adj. Sr. Comr. PWN and Second Brig. S, as suspects in the deadly incident.

Syahrudin, 48, a Sri Tanjung villager, has requested that the government simultaneously investigate both the fatal shooting and the allegedly illegal land occupation by BSMI, as both cases were substantially related. "The government must settle the land dispute problem to prevent similar violence from occurring," he said.

The case has strong indications of human rights violations, with witnesses claiming shots were fired by the police at close range. Residents have had no contact with civilians or high-profile figures in Jakarta, aside from the Deputy Law and Human Rights Minister Denny Indrayana. – Hasyim Widhiarto

Ethnic group plays victim to justify illegal land trade

Jakarta Post - December 30, 2011

Recently circulated video footage displaying brutal killings purportedly by security personnel in Lampung and South Sumatra have shocked the nation. Allegations of human rights abuses have been thrown at the government. The Jakarta Post's Hasyim Widhiarto traveled to the provinces to investigate the cases. Here is the first of two reports:

Tugu Roda hamlet inside the so-called Register 45 area in Mesuji Regency, Lampung, is located in the middle of a deserted plantation area some 500 meters from the east lane of Sumatra's busiest highway.

A line of makeshift tents have been set up since earlier this month to accommodate hundreds of Tugu Roda residents who were displaced in September after the authorities tore down their houses. The residents were allegedly occupying land belonging to plantation company PT Silva Inhutani Lampung.

The Mesuji area has come under the media spotlight after former army officer Maj. Gen. (ret.) Saurip Kadi, led a delegation of local residents to the House of Representatives' legal affairs commission on Dec. 14, to show lawmakers a video that he claimed were of killings, including a beheading, in the area.

The Mesuji advocacy team claims that at least 32 people have been killed since 2008 in violence between Mesuji villagers and palm oil companies allegedly backed up by the police. The group alleges gross human rights violations committed by the authorities and law enforcement officials.

But based on the Post's investigation at the scene, the claims may have been exaggerated, and suspicion is rife over the group's real motives in publicizing the video footage of the killings, some of which was actually of an incident in Thailand.

The deadly incidents as reported by Saurip actually took place in three different areas, and were unrelated and involved different actors and causes.

The first killing occurred on Nov. 6, 2010 at Tugu Roda's neighboring hamlet Pelita Jaya, where the police allegedly shot dead a villager resisting an eviction.

The second fatal incident occurred some 80 kilometers north of Tugu Roda on April 21, 2011, in a Sungai Sodong village in Mesuji district, Ogan Komering Illir, where seven people were killed – two allegedly shot dead by the police. Two of the victims were decapitated and filmed in this area.

The third incident occurred on Nov. 10 in Tanjung Raya district in Mesuji regency, located some 40 kilometers north of Tugu Roda, in which the police and the military allegedly shot dead one villager.

The clashes in Tugu Roda and Pelita Jaya were triggered by massive illegal land occupation by farmers, while those in Sungai Sodong and Tanjung Raya, were related to a long-standing dispute over land status between local farmers and plantation companies.

But how did a controversy over local incidents spread like wildfire to eventually stun the nation?

The answer may center on the Megou Pak tribe, an indigenous community from northern Lampung that is alleged to have illegally sold PT Silva's idle land to outsiders, who then formed Tugu Roda and Pelita Jaya hamlets.

Megou Pak's highest leader Wan Mauli Baheramsyah Sanggem said he and several of the tribe's leaders first approached Saurip several months ago in support of their legal battle against Silva over the ownership of 9,600 hectares of sanctuary land in the Register 45 area.

He confirmed that they had never made any official contact or met with the residents of Tanjung Raya and Sungai Sodong.

"We are actually open to forming a joint-advocacy team with Sungai Sodong and Tanjung Raya residents but up to now no one from those two places has called or visited me to offer legal cooperation regarding our separate land disputes," Mauli said.

Mohammad Ayub, a community leader in Tanjung Raya, said he did not know either Saurip or Mauli, saying the government's fact-finding team led by Law and Human Rights Deputy Minister Denny Indrayana was the only one working with his community.

Mauli claimed he had no knowledge of the origin of the video presented by Saurip to lawmakers. "But the video has opened the eyes of the public to the massive land conflicts in Mesuji," he said.

Tugu Roda resident Ponidi, 33, one of the evicted villagers, however, provided another side to Mauli's story. He said the Megou Pak community leaders had twisted crucial facts regarding the dispute.

"Not everyone appearing in the media or visiting high-ranking officials are the real victims of the land dispute. Many of them are members of the Megou Pak tribe who have been instructed by their leaders to mislead people about how those leaders have tricked newcomers into buying the land, which is legally owned by Silva," he said.

Moving to the hamlet in 2009 from his hometown in Lampung Timur regency, Ponidi said he had sold his motorcycle and his family's last 2,500 square meters of land to buy 10 hectares in Register 45 area from Effendi, a Megou Pak leader. He hoped to make a better life in the newly established Mesuji regency, which used to be a district under the administration of Tulang Bawang regency.

"The leader told me and other prospective buyers that the land they offered was part of the tribe's sanctuary land, and by buying it we would be automatically considered as members of the tribe," said Ponidi, who then built a wooden house and grew cassava in the land he bought for around Rp 80 million (US$8,729).

In less than a year, more and more people, mostly poor farmers from Lampung, Java and Bali, flocked to the hamlet, creating a community of more than 800 families.

These newcomers, who are mostly uneducated, bought the land at around Rp 5 million per hectare, and received a land gift (hibah) certificate signed by the Megou Pak community leaders.

However, most of them did not realize that such land transactions were illegal, until last year when the local authority repeatedly warned thousands of families living in a dozen hamlets in Silva's plantation area to immediately move out, otherwise they would be evicted.

Most farmers thought the land gift letters were sufficient to allow them to stay on the land, and they could someday be converted into official land certificates.

"Our camp coordinators warned us to say nothing about the land sales to journalists or government officials who visited us," said Warsidi (not his real name), 63, another Tugu Roda resident. Warsidi spent his life savings to buy four hectares of land in the hamlet, also from a local community leader, two years ago.

The residents believe that the widely publicized incident was part of the tribe's attempts to strengthen its bargaining power to force PT Silva to make over more of its idle land to the tribe, which will illegally sell it in stages to outsiders. Mauli denies the allegation, saying it was his job to reclaim part of the tribe's sanctuary land which he believed had been illegally occupied by Silva since the late 1990s.

Mauli also refused to acknowledge complaints from poor farmers who feel deceived after spending their life savings to buy the disputed land from Megou Pak community leaders, "Members of the Megou Pak tribe can give part of their land to other people as a gift, but is strongly prohibited to sell it," said Mauli.

Silva estate manager Ahmad Safari said thousands of families had moved on to more than a quarter of the company's 43,000-hectare plantation area during the past few years.

Overwhelmed by the situation, the company, according to Safari, had received support from Lampung governor Sjachroedin ZP, who formed last year a joint team consisting of officers from Lampung public order agency and Lampung police, to persuade the villagers, who claimed they were members of the Megou Pak tribe, to leave the area.

"After no progress in the persuasive approach, we had no option other than to evict these illegal farmers from our plantation area," Safari said, denying allegations his company had used violence to intimidate the villagers.

Mining, plantation disputes to intensify

Jakarta Post - December 29, 2011

Jakarta – Environmental groups predict that land disputes over mining and plantation activities will intensify throughout the country in the coming months and they have called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to immediately audit the operation of palm oil and mining companies.

The groups, including palm oil business watchdog Sawit Watch and the Mining Advocacy Network (Jatam) said that Yudhoyono should lead the cross- departmental audit, especially of the companies' operating permits.

"The President must immediately evaluate every operational permit issued to all companies throughout Indonesia, particularly in the palm oil and mining sectors. This will tell us how many of these companies got their permits illegally through dubious administrative processes that have given rise to conflicts with local communities. The audit must also check the number of companies operating without land-use certificates," Sawit Watch executive director Abetnego Tarigan said.

He said the audit would also help to paint a complete picture on where investors should really operate.

Sawit Watch said there were currently 11.5 million hectares of oil palm plantations throughout Indonesia. The government has also issued licenses for companies to operate in another 28.9 million hectares of land.

Sawit Watch campaigner Edi Sutrisno said that transparent and comprehensive data on the legality of the companies would also prevent conflicts with locals.

"The police and TNI [the Indonesian Military] set up security posts to secure oil palm plantations and take sides with the companies without verifying the status of the companies. No wonder they have become involved in so many land conflicts," he said.

Sawit Watch recorded 664 unresolved land disputes involving palm oil companies up to this year. This year alone, it found that the TNI and the National Police were involved in 11 disputes.

Sawit Watch has identified strong opposition to oil palm plantations in Mandailing Natal regency in North Sumatra, Muaro regency in Jambi and Tanjung Jabung Barat, also in Jambi – Other conflict-prone areas include four regencies in West Kalimantan, three regencies in East Kalimantan and two in Central Sulawesi.

"The President must not wait any longer," said Abetnego, adding that Sawit Watch and other nongovernmental organizations would call for help from the international community if the government refused "to listen to the people".

Jatam has also come up with a map of potential hot spots for conflict over land for mining activities. Jatam cites Bima in West Nusa Tenggara as one of the most conflict-prone areas in mining. Other hot spots include Sumbawa, also in West Nusa Tenggara, Aceh Besar in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, Obi Island in North Maluku and Timika in Papua.

"The high level of opposition toward mining activities in those areas and the overlapping authority as to who should issue mining permits has turned these places into hot spots for conflict," said Andrie South Wijaya, coordinator of Jatam.

Data from Jatam showed that the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry had issued 5,374 mining licenses up to November this year. However, Jatam found that 8,000 mining companies were operating in the country.

"We must verify which of the other 3,000 or so companies are not registered by the ministry. Overlapping authority between the central and local government might have caused this," he said.

Among the 5,374 registered mining companies, 349 are operating in protected forest areas. Forestry Ministry secretary-general Hadi Daryanto said that the government was not to blame. He said that the government had changed the designation of 927,648 hectares of protected forest and this had allowed 13 mining companies, including PT Sorikmas Mining in North Sumatra and PT Freeport in Papua, to operate in what had been protected areas.

"Apart from these 13 companies legally operating in protected forest areas the rest are illegal operators," said Hadi. (msa)

Land conflicts multiply in 2011

Jakarta Post - December 29, 2011

The Indonesian Farmers Union has said that the number of land conflicts across the nation multiplied by more than five times this year to 120 cases, compared with 22 cases recorded last year.

"This data excludes the land conflict in Bima [West Nusa Tenggara]," Union leader Henry Saragih said Thursday as quoted by tempo.co, referring to a clash between protesters and local police which led to the deaths of two protesters on Saturday.

Henry said many of the conflicts, which have involved farmers, private companies, mining and farming companies, drinking water companies and state-owned enterprises, have become protracted and with no resolution being achieved. "That's why farmers have to face problems like arrests, evictions and shootings," he said.

The union's national strategy analysis department chief, Yakub, said the land conflicts were triggered by diminishing land areas and a lack of land reforms.

Yakub said the National Land Agency recorded 2,791 land disputes this year. "The cases were mostly related to land acquisitions, which resulted in human rights violations," he said.

The union has urged the government, therefore, to issue a regulation on land reform to prevent such conflicts from happening in the future. (swd)

Australia 'concerned' over deadly events in Indonesia mine dispute

Jakarta Globe - December 29, 2011

The Australian government says it is closely monitoring Indonesia's investigation into events surrounding the deaths of two people protesting against the activities of an Australian-owned mining company in Sumbawa on Christmas Eve. Arc Exploration halted its gold exploration activities on Wednesday.

Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan said on Thursday that the government was "quite concerned" about the events at Sape port. "The Indonesia authorities are investigating what's gone on... and let's look at what they've got to say following their investigation," he was quoted by the Australian Associated Press as saying.

Christine Milne from the Australian Greens Party called on the government to determine whether Arc have, or have ever had, a "paid relationships with Indonesian police or military for onsite security."

"Up to now, the Australian government has turned a blind eye to payments to police and military by Australian mining companies in Indonesia, treating it as the cost of doing business," she was quoted by AAP as saying.

Arc denied any involvement in the protests. "Arc's activities and staff have no connection with the port of Sape, and any suggestion that Arc was involved with Saturday's events at Sape is incorrect," Arc said.

Arc issued a statement on Wednesday saying its activities were limited to exploration work. "The objective of this exploration work is to better understand the geology and mineral potential of the area, which currently is undefined," Arc said. "There is no gold mine existing or under construction, nor is any gold mine presently contemplated."

Arc Exploration shares plunge in trading following shootings on Sumbawa

Deutsche Presse Agentur - December 28, 2011

Sid Astbury, Sydney – Shares of Arc Exploration tumbled in Sydney trading on Wednesday following violent protests against the gold prospecting operations on Sumbawa island in eastern Indonesian island.

Sydney-based Arc lost 20 percent to 8 Australia cents (8 cents). Financial markets in Australia were closed Monday and Tuesday for the extended weekend Christmas holiday.

Two people were killed and 10 injured when police opened fire on demonstrators on Saturday in Lambu, Sumbawa. Dozens of buildings were set on fire and dozens of arrests were made. Sumber Mineral Nusantara of Indonesia is the local partner in a project in which Arc has a 95 percent stake.

Arc has suspended work on the project in Sumbawa where it has a license to explore 250 square kilometers. Sumbawa is located just east of Bali, a resort island popular among overseas travelers.

"Contrary to some reports, there is no gold mining existing or under construction, nor is any gold mine presently contemplated," Arc said in a statement to the Australian stock exchange. The company said that it was "an exploration company and does not undertake any mining."

Christine Milne, a member of parliament for the Greens, told Melbourne's The Age newspaper that an investigation into the deadly clash should be held.

"What we would like is to have the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade immediately investigate and report back to the Australian people about what exactly took place and what arrangements Arc Exploration has with the local police," Milne said.

"Australian companies should abide by the same standards of human rights and environmental compliance that they would have to undertake here in Australia," she said.

Bima protesters shot from close range

Jakarta Post - December 28, 2011

Jakarta – While the National Police admitted on Tuesday that the two protesters who died in the Bima riot were shot at a point-blank range, Law and Human Rights Minister Amir Samsuddin insisted that no human rights violation had taken place.

Amir said that a conclusion on whether human rights violations had occurred in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara could only be made after the authority had wrapped up its investigation of the clash, which occurred between police personnel and locals protesting against mining company PT Sumber Mineral Nusantara (SMN).

"Please don't be swift in passing judgement on whether a gross violation of human rights took place. There could have been a violation in the standard operating procedure. Let's wait to find out what really happened," Amir told reporters on Tuesday.

Amir said that he could understand if the police had exhausted all other means of dealing with the protestors. "They may have done it for the greater good. In certain situations, where the public interest must be defended and where the chain of distribution can be disrupted, the public and the media should understand this," he said.

When asked by reporters about his comments on the alleged mass killing in Mesuji, Lampung, Amir indicated that human rights were not his strongest point. "I should not talk about human rights. They are something that I'm not good at," Amir told journalists at the House of Representatives.

Separately, the National Police said that authorities in Bima had finished performing autopsies on the bodies of Arif Rachman, 18, and Syaiful, 17. Both students who died in the protest.

The National Police spokesperson Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said that no bullets were found in the bodies of the two victims. "This means that they were shot from close range," Saud told reporters at the National Police Headquarters in South Jakarta on Tuesday. Saud said that the gunshot wounds were found on the right waists of both victims.

He also insisted that so far, there were only two recorded victims in the incident. Saud also said that an investigating team was now compiling a list of police officers in charge of security posts in the vicinity of the protest site to establish whether they were involved in the shooting.

Komnas HAM raised the number of dead victims to three. The third casualty, Arifuddin A. Rahman, reportedly died in hospital soon after the clash. The National Police sent its own investigation team to Bima on Monday.

Last Saturday, hundreds of people from the People's Front Against Mining (FRAT) confronted the authorities, blocking the road to the nearby port and calling for Bima Regent Ferry Zulkarnaen to revoke SMN's permit, citing environmental concerns. On Tuesday, protest leader Delian Lubis said that both the protesters and the West Nusa Tenggara Police had made a deal in relation to staging a peaceful protest on the day.

"In a negotiation on Friday night, we made an agreement in which the West Nusa Tenggara Police chief, Brig. Gen. Arif Wachyunadi, agreed to sign a petition demanding the revocation of the permit. We agreed to tell the protestors. But in the morning we were confronted with members of the Mobile Brigade and the police personnel who then started shooting at us," he said.

Meanwhile, the Indonesian Mining Association (IMA) agreed that the government should revoke mining permits for companies that violated the law and threatened the livelihoods of local people.

Syahrir A.B., an executive director of the IMA, said on Tuesday that the 2009 Law on Minerals and Coal had several principles that guaranteed protection for the environment, sustainability of resources, maintenance of state revenues and protection for the lives of local people.

Sape demonstrations in several cities lead to clashes, arrests

Jakarta Globe - December 27, 2011

Hangga Brata & Fitri – Protests against police brutality in Sape on Sumbawa Island over the weekend continued in several cities on Tuesday, with some of them leading to clashes with police.

In Sukoharjo, Central Java, dozens of students clashed with police as they tried to take a civil servant hostage.

The demonstrators, from Muhammadiyah University, attacked police after the law enforcers tried to prevent the protestors from forcing a civil servant out of an office car that the students had halted at a road block they had set up. The attack was sparked after one of the police officers hit a student in the tussle.

Police then forcefully disbanded the protesters and arrested 15 of the students, according to one of the student leaders, Heri. The police declined comment, and witnesses said the 15 students were being detained for questioning at the Sukoharjo District Police headquarters.

The demonstrators, who had called for the National Police chief to intervene in settling the case of at least two shooting deaths on Saturday in Sape, West Nusa Tenggara, later threatened to hold a larger protest if their 15 peers were not released soon.

In Sape's Bima district, some 800 students calling themselves the "People's Front Against Mining" held a rally in front of the district office.

While some student leaders were busy haranguing the crowd, an object was thrown from the group of students toward officials inside the compound, prompting some of the police to advance on the students. More police came after the students tried to overpower the few initial officers who had gone after the crowd.

Warning shots were fired and tear gas canisters were thrown. Witnesses said two of the students were arrested.

In Mataram, the capital of West Nusa Tenggara, hundreds of students from two separate groups took to the streets to protest the violence in Sape. As some 700 protesters marched toward the provincial legislative building, stones began to fly from within the ranks after what some thought was a provocation by a plainclothes police intelligence officer.

It was not immediately clear what the provocation was. "There was someone trying to provoke the students, and this made them angry and [they] accused the individual of being police intelligence," said Nuraini, one of the protestors who was trying to calm down his fellow marchers.

At the legislative building, no lawmakers came out to meet the protesters, with a staffer saying they were in recess and were all out of town visiting their constituencies.

The students demanded the dismissal of the Bima district chief, Ferry Zulkarnain, and the heads of the national, provincial and district police. Their demands included a withdrawal of troops deployed in Sape.

The students also called for the immediate release of some 47 people arrested by police following Saturday's violence. "If these demands are not met soon, there will be a much larger mass that will conduct protests until the demands are met," said Marzuki, one of the leaders of the protest.

Nationwide protests decry mistreatment of civilians

Jakarta Globe - December 27, 2011

Dwi Lusiana, Rahmat, Fitri & Antara – Protesters in cities across the country on Monday continued to voice their outrage over police violence in the recent Sape incident.

In Malang, East Java, hundreds of students originally from Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, rallied at the city's main square before heading to the local City Council building to air their grievances. They carried a mock coffin to symbolize the death of human rights.

The students also called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to dismiss the head of the National Police for what they said was negligence that had allowed the conflict to turn deadly.

They demanded the resignation of Bima district chief Ferry Zulkarnaen, who had issued the mining exploration permit at issue in the Sape protest. They also called on the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to probe the incident and hold accountable the individuals responsible.

In Makassar, about 500 members of the "People's Challenge Front" marched some four kilometers from the Mandala Monument to the Urip Sumoharjo flyover. On the way, they damaged three traffic lights and police posts by pelting them with stones.

Protester Suhaini Mustamin said the police were behaving repressively toward the people who paid their salaries. "This is ironic because it is the people who pay for the police, but the police are killing the people," Suhaini said. "This is just savage."

The group called on Yudhoyono to dismiss the national, provincial, district and subdistrict heads of the police involved in the case.

In Jakarta, scores of students from Bima held a protest at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout. A scuffle almost broke out as police prevented them from burning a protest banner.

The protest caused intense traffic congestion, but the demonstrators disbanded when it began to rain. They boarded buses to continue their protest at the office of the National Commission on Human Rights.

In Mataram, NGO activists and some 700 students from various organizations held a protest at a main roundabout, blocking traffic for more than three hours.

They slammed the police not just for the shooting but also for the arrests of almost 50 people – including the wounded. "This is really making people angry," said Marzuki, one of the speakers at the protest.

In Surabaya, the student association of Muhammadiyah, the country's second-largest Islamic group, held a protest in front of the East Java Police headquarters. They carried posters with harsh words for the police and a president they said had failed to protect citizens.

In Tuban, East Java, just north of Surabaya, dozens of students, from the local Muhammadiyah Student Association, also held a protest in front of the local district police headquarters, preventing traffic from passing on the road in front of the building.

Governor fears Mesuji case will dent investment

Jakarta Post - December 28, 2011

Oyos Saroso H.N., Bandarlampung – Lampung Governor Sjachroedin Z.P. expressed his concern that the Mesuji case, which reportedly claimed the lives of 30 people, would provide a blow to investment in the province.

"We strongly object if Mesuji is named a place of massacre. I fear that the excessive focus on the Mesuji case will worsen the investment climate in Lampung," Sjachroedin said on Tuesday.

The governor and a number of traditional community groups in Lampung blamed the Megou Pak Customary Institute as a provocateur for disclosing the killing of the 30 people to the House of Reprsentatives' Commission III, which oversees human rights and security.

The killings took place in two different places in Lampung and South Sumatra, both of which coincidentally had the same name of Mesuji.

According to Sjachroedin, the data on the victims was invalid and was causing unrest in Lampung. He added that the Mesuji case in South Sumatra was different from that in Lampung.

"There were two cases in Mesuji, Lampung, which took place at the PT BSMI oil palm plantation and the Register 45 forest in Sungai Buaya, respectively. The case at PT BSMI has been handled by the police while, with regards to the case at Register 45, involving PT Silva Inhutani and local residents, the provincial administration has taken the stern stance of not providing identity cards to those living in the prohibited area," he said.

A Lampung resident who claims to be a traditional leader in Lampung, Sutan Syahrir Oelangan, demanded Maj. Gen. (ret.) Saurip Kadi apologize openly to the people of Lampung for issuing "misleading information".

"As a Lampung resident, I am very disappointed with the misleading information. We demand that those who cited an incorrect number of victims in the Mesuji incident go to the House to verify the information – including the media, which has blown up the story," said Sutan.

A member of the Mesuji Tragedy Victims Advocacy Team Bob Hasan remains firm that there were 30 victims in the incidents in South Sumatra and Lampung. The deaths occurred between 1999 and 2011 in various places, including Ogan Komering Ilir, South Sumatra and Lampung.

According to Hasan, the 30 victims that were reportedly killed in the Mesuji case were an accumulation of victims from several diffferent land dispute cases in Lampung and South Sumatra.

Based on data provided by the victims' advocacy team, seven people were killed in relation to a dispute with PT Sumber Alam Wangi (SWA) employees - Hambali and Ardi (plantation assistants), three security guards and two Sungai Sodong residents, while those killed in the conflict with PT BNIL were Wayan Gama, Nengah Gde, Raum, Ismail, Alam Ratu, Santoso, Salim, Suwarte and Piet.

In the conflict with PT Silva Inhutani at Register 45, Mesuji in Lampung, Made Aste from Pelita Jaya village, Yogian Yakub, Anjani and Sunarti, from Tugu Roda village, and Suratno from Tunggal Jaya village were killed, while in the conflict with PT Sugar Group, Rebo, Sodri, Usin Manan and Damsi were killed; a further three people died after being run over by a tractor.

In the conflict with PT BSMI, Jaelani was killed, while at PT Dipasena, Ruswandi, Slamet Riyanto and Heru (a member of the Police Mobile Brigade) were killed. However, Hasan did not provide details as to when the incidents took place and the names of survivors.

The advocacy coordinator of the Lampung chapter of Walhi (Indonesian Forum for the Environment), Mukri Friatnna, said other conflicts between farmers and oil palm plantation companies in Lampung would be inevitable in the future if the Mesuji case was not thoroughly resolved.

"A major conflict is also currently taking place between the traditional community in Banjar Dewa and Banjar Rejo villages in Ulangbawang regency, and PT Bangun Nusa Indah Lampung. The land dispute between them has been going on since 1990 and several residents have already been killed," said Mukri.

According to Mukri, the number of victims killed in these land disputes is just the tip of the iceberg.

In occupied Mesuji, a land long riven by power and politics

Jakarta Globe - December 27, 2011

Daniel Pye, Mesuji, Lampung – "We need to make a new model for how we distribute power in the countryside," retired Maj. Gen. Saurip Kadi told a crowd of people huddled under a tent where their village meeting hall once stood.

The former general was leading a delegation to Mesuji, Lampung, on Monday to publicly record for the first time testimony from the relatives of villagers killed in a land dispute with palm oil and rubber companies.

The relatives of villagers allegedly killed by police and paramilitary forces in the pay of those firms met with representatives of religious groups, human rights activists and media to demand a dialogue with the central government and the companies.

They say palm oil companies Bangun Nusa Indah Lampung and Silva Inhutani, among others, have carried out a systematic campaign of violence and intimidation since 2008 which has led to 32 deaths and the destruction of their livelihoods, forcing them from their lands.

The companies deny the allegations. Police have countered the release of a gruesome video showing a company-ordered raid on the villages by releasing footage they claim shows the destruction of company property.

The delegation, which included a member of the House of Representatives, Nudirman Munir of the Golkar Party, attempted to visit the BNIL factory but was prevented from entering by several dozen police officers.

Previously, residents of Mesuji's scattered villages and camps had been afraid to speak out, they said. But the presence of Saurip, television cameras and a lawmaker from the central government visibly bolstered their resolve.

Occupy Mesuji

Following the killings and subsequent exodus from parts of Mesuji in April, villagers returned to find their houses destroyed. The only permanent structure remaining in Register 45 is the burnt shell of a mosque, perched on a hill overlooking what is now a small displaced persons camp.

Villagers have pledged to continue occupying land held by palm oil firm BNIL in the Register 45 area until the central government holds those responsible for the violence to account.

Some 20 families are now living in tents on the site, and the local branch of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has helped build a clinic where Occupied Mesuji's first baby was born on Sunday.

"We will continue to occupy our traditional lands, the lands of the Megou Pak," said Surdi, 42, an elder of Kampung Banjar, in reference to Lampung's indigenous tribe. "There are few of us here, but if BNIL does not return the land to us according to our customary rights, we will bring more people to occupy our land. We are willing to die to demand our rights," he continued. "We are Indonesian citizens who have the same right to life as everyone else."

The Megou Pak have lived in the area for generations and claim land rights under customary law, known as adat, which isn't fully recognized by the courts. Members of the tribe were evicted from the Tunggal Jaya hamlet on Sept. 8 and some now live in the Register 45 camp.

BNIL and Silva were granted plantation contracts under recent laws, such as the 2004 Law on Plantations, that extended local governments' power to issue concessions. Those powers were limited under the 1960 Agrarian Law, the basis for many land transactions in the past.

A history of violence

The conflict over land in Mesuji began long before 2008. One woman who wished to remain anonymous said that in 1999, her hamlet – which is situated less than a kilometer from Register 45, down a pot-holed road flanked by palm oil trees – was bulldozed along with six others to make way for coconut and palm oil concessions.

"I had four children, and two of them went missing during the time of aggression of the owners of that plantation," she said, pointing behind the tent where she now lives with her husband.

Saurip, who spearheaded the latest investigation into the killings, blames a lack of political will on the part of the president for the tortuously slow progress on the case, which has been taken up by "all of the human rights groups in the country."

He said the government's move to blame National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo for rising violence against civilians across the country was misguided and showed a lack of understanding of the issues.

"What happened in Lampung goes back to the Suharto era. Now that Indonesia is democratic, people can see what is going on. It is very simple. Nothing has changed in the way land is managed," he said. "It all comes down to who can pay the most.

"Capital is king in today's Indonesia, as it was under Suharto. There is no justice and the government is more supportive to business than to the people."

Saurip, along with other members of the delegation, spoke of a growing need to address the issue of land rights in Indonesia.

"The case of Mesuji is just one case out of many abuses across Indonesia. Companies are granted land licenses by the central government, but in most cases the people who live there have done so for many years," he said.


A member of PAM Swakarsa, the private militia of the plantation companies, has come forward to refute claims made by the police that a video showing officers shooting and then decapitating villagers was faked.

Trubus, 34, said he had replied to a job advertisement under the impression that he would be working in forest preservation. Instead, he was told to spy on the people of Mesuji.

"All the events shown in the video were in Mesuji," Trubus said. "I know, because I was holding the camera. There has been conflict over the land for many years, but then the company formed what they called an 'integrated task force' to clear the villages."

Trubus (not his real name) said at least two palm oil and rubber companies had paid the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP), Forestry Ministry officials, the local police and PAM Swakarsa a total of Rp 7 billion ($770,000) to force transmigrant communities and the Megou Pak from lands they had farmed for many years.

"In April, I saw bodies lying in the street and as I walked through the streets I found two severed heads on top of a jeep," he said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has appointed the Deputy Law and Human Rights Minister Denny Indrayana to lead a joint fact-finding team to investigate the allegations of systematic murder for profit.

But the campaigners expressed little hope that the probe would help ease Mesuji's pain. "The main problem here is a lack of political will at the top," Saurip said. "This is about justice and empowering the poor people of the countryside."

The land around Register 45 is fertile and can sustain healthy crops, but several villagers said they may be forced to move to land five kilometers down the road.

"I may have to leave with my family if something doesn't happen soon," said Wayan, 48, a lanky man with mournful eyes. "The land over there is virtually worthless. This is completely unsustainable.

"Under our Constitution, the land is sacred and belongs to the people. That doesn't include already wealthy foreign firms that come here to exploit and care nothing for the people who rely on the land to survive."

Saurip asked to apologize for Mesuji killing videos

Jakarta Post - December 27, 2011

Jakarta – Local leaders in Lampung are demanding that Gen. (ret.) Saurip Kadi apologize for spreading a video reportedly depicting killings in Mesuji.

"The apology must be broadcast through the mass media, otherwise we will file charges," Lampung People's Communications Forum (Fokmal) chief Sutan Syahrir Oelangan said on Monday night, as quoted by tempo.co.

He said that Saurip's presentation of the videos of killings in Mesuji, whose veracity has since been called into question by media and the police, had badly affected investment and tourism in the city.

"Investors have become restless. A number of plantation investors have cancelled plans to invest in Lampung because our region is considered unsafe," he said.

A Fokmal meeting attended by about 100 leaders from several communities and ethnic groups criticized Saurip's conduct in the dispute. "We have forgiven him, but not in terms of the law. Saurip and his men have caused trouble for residents," Sutan said.

Saurip, who recently led a delegation of witnesses to the killings to the House of Representatives, showed lawmakers a purported video of the killings in the area.

He claimed that 32 people had been killed in the area since 2008 in a dispute between Mesuji villagers and a palm oil company - numbers that the police claimed were exaggerated.

The police also said that the video was edited and distorted the truth about the incident. (awd)

Legal confusion sparks nationwide land dispute

Jakarta Post - December 27, 2011

Tifa Asrianti, Jakarta – Legal confusion surrounding the management of land resources has resulted in conflict between businesspeople and locals, which at times has ended bloodily, agrarian experts have said.

Arie Hutagalung, the University of Indonesia's expert on agrarian affairs said that when deliberating the 2004 Law on Plantation, the 2009 Law on Mineral and Coal and the 1999 Forestry Law, the government and the House of Representatives had failed to make reference to the Agrarian Law of 1960.

"For instance, the Plantation Law opens the door for the local administration to give a permit for private companies to manage up to 100,000 hectares. The Agrarian Law meanwhile stipulates that it should be no more than 20,000 hectares," she said.

Arie said that there was also a clash between the Agrarian Law and the three laws on the issue of rights for indigenous communities. "The Forestry Law does not recognize the rights of indigenous communities, something that has been clearly regulated by the Agrarian Law," she said.

Iwan Nurdin, campaign deputy for the Consortium for Agrarian Reform (KPA) said that the three new laws were endorsed to secure the interests of the business community.

"Agrarian politics in those three laws is based on the interests of investors. Those laws close access to land for the local people," he said.

He said that the Forestry Law was clear in its stipulation on what the central government and local administration could give as compensation to companies.

The same also went for both the Plantation Law and Mineral and Coal Law, he said. "When the two laws allow for the forest to be given as a concession, they fail to take into account the presence of the local community that relies on the forest for their livelihood," he said.

As a solution, Iwan said that instead of appointing big companies to manage the concessionary land, the government should start trusting local communities to manage them.

Data from the KPA said that there were 163 agrarian conflicts during 2011.

Two weeks before the Bima riot on Saturday, the public was shocked by the alleged mass killing in Mesuji, Lampung, allegedly over the encroachment of traditional land by private companies.

Of the 25 million hectares of productive forest concessions (HPH), more than 8 million hectares were under the industrial forest concession (HTI) scheme and 12 million hectares were given to palm oil companies.

Arie said that to prevent future conflicts, local administrations should show more accountability to the local community.

Private companies should also fulfill their obligations in finding new lands for local people whose land would be occupied before the companies started their operations. In the mining sector, companies should also reclaim land, upon which they would run their operation.

She also said that it was not always a sad story for local communities. She said that in Bengkulu, a private company only needed to make a verbal request to locals who would later give up their land for commercial projects.

"It depends on the political will of politicians and government officials. They should work together to carry out agrarian reform," she said. Iwan said that the government should refrain from issuing new agrarian-related regulations before conducting a thorough review on the four laws.

Farmers and soldiers fail to settle land disputes

Jakarta Post - December 27, 2011

Agus Maryono, Kebumen – Eight months after the first conflicts flared up, conflicts between farmers in a number of villages in Urut Sewu, Bulus Pesantren district, Kebumen regency, Central Java, farmers and the Indonesian Military (TNI) have reportedly reached a deadlock over land dispute issues.

"No agreement has yet been reached. The locations and boundaries demanded by the farmers and TNI still differ from each other, including our data at our village," the Brencong village chief Suradi told the media on Monday.

He said the meeting between the farmers and TNI was held on Dec. 24, after the bloody clash between both parties several months ago.

As reported earlier, hundreds of villagers in Urut Sewu were involved in a clash with TNI personnel in April, leaving four villagers with gun shot wounds inflicted by rubber bullets. Six others suffered wounds from blunt objects.

The farmers claimed they owned land ownership certificates while the TNI also insisted they had legal claims on the land. The TNI Army has been using the land as a training ground and a site for heavy arms tests.

The farmers have complained that their crops are often damaged by military exercises. Even a number of local figures have said a number of residents have been victimized by military exercises on disputed land.

A number of farmers have been imprisoned by the Central Java High Court in Semarang over the conflict. Although they were only sentenced to five months, they, though the punishment was unreasonable, claiming that they were victims of abuse by military personnel.

Suradi said residents were not in agreement with the land measurements conducted by the National Land Agency (BPN) on disputed land. He added the locations set by the BPN were not in accordance with the measurements carried out by the village administrative office.

According to Suradi, the village administration had set the boundary between village land and state property by building an entrance at the beach resort.

"However, as was expected, the negotiation process was tough, despite the presence of officers from the Kebumen BPN, as both parties had failed to reach an agreement," said Suradi. He added during the meeting between the farmers and the TNI that a land measurement assessment was conducted at the Brecong Beach area.

"Had there been an agreement, we would have arranged for land ownership titles – but it turned out that the negotiations fell through; so we still have to wait," said BPN official Setyo Wibowo, who also attended the meeting.

Freeport link to latest anti-mine violence in Indonesia

Jakarta Globe - December 27, 2011

The Australian government has confirmed that it is aware of the shooting deaths of two Indonesians during a protest against the exploration activities of an Australian resources company on Sumbawa island over the weekend.

"The Australian Government is always concerned to see loss of life and injury," said a spokesperson for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in a statement obtained by the Jakarta Globe. "We note that Indonesian authorities have ordered an investigation into the incident."

At least two people were killed at Sape port in West Nusa Tenggara on Christmas Eve during a protest opposing the opening of a local gold mine project between an Indonesian company and an Australian company with ties to Freeport.

Australia's Arc Exploration and Indonesia's Sumber Mineral Nusantara were granted an exploration permit by officials to the outrage of locals who claim they fear the mine's potential ecological damage and impact.

According to Arc Exploration's Web site, a member of the board of directors is linked to Freeport Indonesia. George Tahija, the president director of Arc Exploration in Indonesia, is also a commissioner of Freeport Indonesia, which operates the giant Grasberg Mine in Papua. An Arc Exploration office in Jakarta could not be contacted on Tuesday.

The Australian Broadcasting Company stated that Arc Exploration reported the deaths to the stock exchange and a company spokesperson said shareholders would be informed of the incident after the Australian Securities Exchange re-opens following the holiday. Protests in June had also delayed exploration.

IPW wants police chiefs fired after Bima riots

Jakarta Post - December 27, 2011

Jakarta – The Indonesia Police Watch (IPW) wants the police chiefs of West Nusa Tenggara and Bima fired following the deaths of three people after officers fired into a crowd of demonstrators.

"The police have lied by saying [the shootings] were in compliance with SOPs. The standard operating procedures stipulate that police should use tear gas first, then water cannon, then blank bullets and then rubber bullets to disperse protesters," IPW chairman Neta South Pane said on Tuesday in a press statement.

Instead, the police fired live bullets during the Bima clash, he said. Neta called for an investigation of the police chiefs and Bima Regent Ferry Zulkarnaen for their roles in the dispersal of the protestors.

The three people died when the police fired into demonstrators on Saturday who were demanding the revocation of PT Sumber Mineral Nusantara's (SMN) mining permit due to environmental concerns.

The police claimed their actions were in accordance with standard operating procedures. (swd)

Protests across country against 'police brutality' in Bima riot

Jakarta Post - December 27, 2011

Jakarta – Protests flared up in parts of the country on Monday with demonstrators protesting against what they deemed as police brutality in the Bima riot, where two civilians died.

In Makassar, South Sulawesi, hundreds of protesters took to the streets, destroying three police posts and four traffic lights in the city.

The protesters, mostly students from universities in Makassar, also demanded that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono relieve from their duties National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo, West Nusa Tenggara Police chief Brig. Gen. Arif Wachyunadi as well as heads of local police in Bima.

"Members of the police force should protect the people, not kill them," Suhaini Mustamin, one of leaders in the protest said. The protesters also called on the local government to revoke the mining permit issued to PT Sumber Mineral Nusantara (SMN) for Lambu and Sape districts.

Similar protests took place in Medan, North Sumatra, where demonstrators condemned what they perceived as the National Police protecting the interests of the business community.

The protesters said that police involvement in safeguarding the mining activities of Freeport, their alleged complicity in the murder of the Mesuji farmers and now the shooting of locals in Bima, all constituted gross violations of human rights.

Other than calling for the dismissal of Timur, protesters pleaded for the National Commission for Human Rights (Komnas HAM) to run a thorough investigation of the incident.

In Bima, lawyers and rights activists set up their own investigation team to probe the shooting of civilians during a protest against SMN. A coordinator for a fact-finding team on the Bima riot, Dwi Sudarsono, said that so far there were 21 lawyers who had agreed to join the investigation team.

"We want to get the facts right. Police said only two people died. We have reports from families and relatives of the victims who said that more than five people had died in the incident," Dwi said.

Authorities claimed that two students, Arif Rachman and Syaiful, had died when the police fired into the crowd of protesters, who were demanding the revocation of SMN's mining permit, citing environmental concerns.

The mayhem began when hundreds of people from the People's Front Against Mining (FRAT) confronted authorities on Saturday at 7 a.m. local time (6 a.m. Jakarta time), blocking the road to the nearby port.

The demonstrators had been rallying since Dec. 19, demanding that Bima Regent Ferry Zulkarnaen revoke the company's mining permit.

The National Police announced on Monday that it had sent its own investigation team to Bima. National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said that the team was led by three generals, National Police Detective Chief Comr. Gen. Sutarman, the chief of the security maintenance division Comr. Gen. Imam Sujarwo and the inspector for general supervision Comr. Gen. Fajar Prihantoro.

"The team has been in Bima since Dec. 24," Saud said. Saud said that it was too premature to draw any conclusions as to whether local police had violated operational standards in handling the crowd.

Also on Monday, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) said that it had dispatched its own investigation team to Bima. "The team left this afternoon [on Monday], and will arrive in Bima, tomorrow," Komnas HAM chairman Ifdhal Kasim said.

Komnas HAM also raised the number of dead victims to three. The third casualty, Arifuddin A. Rahman reportedly died in hospital soon after the clash.

Police said that the death may not have been as a result of police firing at protesters. "Autopsy results will indicate whether the deaths were caused by bullets or not," National Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Ahmad said.

Killing of teens justified, police insist

Jakarta Globe - December 26, 2011

Farouk Arnaz, Fitri, Agus Triyono & Ismira Lutfia – Police defended their use of force on Sunday after the deaths of two men they shot while trying to disband a mob occupying the Sape port on Sumbawa island who were protesting a local mine.

"The protest by occupying and prohibiting activities at the Sape ferry harbor since December 20 disturbed the activities of society," National Police spokesman Insp. Gen Saud Usman said.

Police said the absence of ferry services had caused unrest among the people, prompting law enforcement to act. Saud also accused the protestors of "using women and children as shields" and refusing to negotiate.

Three "provocateurs" were arrested along with 44 others, including six children, for questioning. Saud said police had confiscated 10 machetes, four sickles, one spear and several fuel bombs from the protestors.

He identified those killed as Arief Rachman, 18, and Syaiful,17. Eleven others were wounded.

Lahmuddin from the National Student League for Democracy said people angered by reports of the shooting attacked and burned several buildings including village halls, subdistrict offices and the houses of several people known to work for the mining firm they were protesting against, Sumber Mineral Nusantara.

National Police assistant for operations Insp. Gen. Badrodin Haiti justified the shooting, saying the protesters were armed with machetes, spears and knives.

"If a protest clearly runs against the law by trying to enforce a wish, should it be allowed to happen?" Badrodin said, adding that the port was crucial to the local economy. "We tried to persuade them [to disband] but failed. I am not blaming the personnel in the field."

He insisted the shots had not been aimed to kill. "The personnel, of course, never had the intention to kill anyone," he said.

Hundreds of students held rallies in Mataram and Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, burning furniture they had removed from the district council building. The district council accused police of "arrogance" and vowed to form a fact- finding team.

Several religion-based student organizations issued a joint statement on Sunday accusing the police of failing in their reforms and of being "repressive."

The People's Study and Advocation Institute (Elsam) called for the dismissal of National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo and West Nusa Tenggara Police Chief Brig. Gen. Arief Wahyunadi over the incident, as well as a probe by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).

NGO claims 12 dead in Saturday's Bima police shootings

Jakarta Globe - December 26, 2011

Ronna Nirmala – While police are saying that three protesters were killed in Saturday's shooting at Sape port in West Nusa Tenggara, a human rights organization claims the number killed by authorities may be as high as 12.

"The exact number of casualties has not been confirmed, but from numbers of reports from family members, it is predicted that there have been 12 casualties so far," Wahijin, an activist with human rights organization Serita Tani, said on Monday.

"Three casualty reports came from the police, but the truth is there are more than that," Wahijin said. "The three victims reported by the police were the ones who died at the hospital, but other victims may not have had a chance to be brought to the hospital. According to some reports they suffered severe bleeding and died in their homes."

Wahijin added that some of the victims had refused to go to the hospital because they feared they would be arrested there by police. "If they went to the hospital, they were afraid that they would be turned into suspects like the other 56 people who have been detained by the police."

Three "provocateurs" were arrested along with 53 others, including six children, for questioning. Police said they confiscated 10 machetes, four sickles, one spear and several fuel bombs from the protestors.

According to Serita Tani, there are likely 12 dead and 10 severely wounded after Saturday's crackdown at an anti-mining protest in Bima district on Sumbawa.

On Monday, the Indonesian Human Rights Monitor said the deadly shooting of protesters by police at Sape port was proof of a government that was all- too-willing to allow the use of violence to quell unrest.

"Impunity for authorities will allow violence to reoccur because there's no deterrent effect for the authorities," said Al-Araf, program director of the human rights group known as Imparsial. Imparsial has declared the shootings a violation of human rights. The organization is calling for the officers involved to punished.

Two villages near the port in Bima, Desa Lambu and Desa Soro, have been sealed off by district authorities to prevent any further protests or violence.

Also on Monday, hundreds of demonstrators gathered at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Jakarta to show their support and solidarity with the Bima protesters.

"We demand the president dismiss [the National Police] chief and Nusa Tenggara Barat Police chief. We also condemn the incident that happened in Bima," said Jaya, one of the protesters.

Previously, National Police assistant for operations Insp. Gen. Badrodin Haiti justified the shooting, saying the protesters were armed with machetes, spears and knives.

"If a protest clearly runs against the law by trying to enforce a wish, should it be allowed to happen?" Badrodin said, adding that the port was crucial to the local economy. "We tried to persuade them [to disband] but failed. I am not blaming the personnel in the field."

He insisted the shots had not been aimed to kill. "The personnel, of course, never had the intention to kill anyone," he said.

Government's 'partisanship to businessmen' lead to police-local clashes

Jakarta Post - December 25, 2011

Mustaqim Adamrah, Jakarta – Confrontations between locals and police officers, as in the recent clash in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, that left two people dead, are attributable to police malpractice, Indonesia Police Watch (IPW) says.

"The trigger of [a clash] could be because the central government and regional administrations take the side of businessmen," Neta South Pane of the IPW said on Sunday in a press statement.

He said partisanship by the central government and regional administrations could lead them to using the police as a tool against the people on behalf of foreign businesses.

"Money has turned [government officials] into agents [working for foreign companies] in their own country," Neta said. "This is what alienates people from their own homeland."

In a case where a company caused environmental damage, the police should go after the businessman and government officials who abetted the crime by giving the businessman a permit to operate, he said. "But what happens is actually the other way around, people are shot when they try to fight for their rights," Neta said.

Hundreds of people from the People's Front Against Mining (FRAT) clashed with authorities on Saturday at 7 a.m. local time (6 a.m. Jakarta time), blocking the road to the port. They had been demanding that Bima Regent Ferry Zulkarnaen revoke PT Sumber Mineral Nasional's (SMN) mining permit since Monday.

The road closure caused disruption to the port's traffic between Bima and Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara. Buses and trucks had to wait in a line that stretched up to 3 kilometers.

Local police and West Nusa Tenggara Police Mobile Brigade personnel clashed with the protesters after several failed attempts to disperse them. Two people, Arif Rachman and Syaiful, died in the clash, and dozens of others were injured, while several others were in police custody for questioning.

West Nusa Tenggara Governor M. Zainul Majdi has asked the regent to review a mining permit issued for SMN in the districts of Lambu and Sape.

47 suspects named in Bima clash

Jakarta Post - December 25, 2011

Jakarta – The Bima Police have named 47 people as suspects in a clash between residents and authorities on Saturday morning in Lambu district, Bima regency, West Nusa Tenggara.

"[The Bima Police] have named 47 suspects but have not yet decided whether to arrest them," National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said on Sunday as quoted by tempo.co.

Quoting the latest report, he said two people, Arif Rachman and Syaiful, died and 10 others were being treated in a hospital from injuries received in the incident. "That's the [latest] report we've received from the Bima Police," said Usman.

Hundreds of people from the People's Front Against Mining (FRAT) clashed with authorities on Saturday at 7 a.m. local time (6 a.m. Jakarta time), blocking the road to the port. They had been demanding that Bima Regent Ferry Zulkarnaen revoke PT Sumber Mineral Nasional's (SMN) mining permit since Monday.

The road closure caused disruption to the port's traffic between Bima and Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara. Buses and trucks had to wait in a line that stretched up to 3 kilometers.

Local police and West Nusa Tenggara Police Mobile Brigade personnel clashed with the protesters after several failed attempts to disperse them.

The protesters reportedly destroyed the Lambu precinct police station, set fire to the Lumbu police chief's home, four units of a police dormitory and a bank, among other buildings.

West Nusa Tenggara Governor M. Zainul Majdi has asked the regent to review a mining permit issued for SMN in the districts of Lambu and Sape. (mtq)

500 Brimob officers sent to Bima after deadly incident

Jakarta Post - December 25, 2011

The National Police dispatched 500 police officers on Sunday from the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) division to Bima, West Nusa Tenggara following a deadly incident between local police and protesters at the Sape Seaport, which claimed two lives on Saturday.

"We have sent 500 officers as a backup force," National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said on Sunday as quoted by tribunnews.com.

Police reportedly shot dead two protesters when breaking up the demonstration that occupied Sape Seaport, the only seaport connecting West Nusa Tenggara with East Nusa Tenggara.

To avenge the deaths of the two protesters, civilians burned down four district police stations and one police officer's home. They also destroyed three local administration offices. Police arrested 47 suspects following the incident.

Police shoot dead two at Indonesia mine protest

Agence France Presse - December 25, 2011

Two men were killed and about 20 were injured Saturday when police opened fire on demonstrators during a rally in Indonesia against a proposed gold mine, authorities said.

About 800 police were deployed to disperse several hundred demonstrators who had been occupying a port in West Nusa Tenggara province since early this week, said National Police spokesman Saud Usman Nasution.

"The protesters turned violent. They threw Molotov cocktails and stones at police. There was no option but firing on them," he told AFP, adding that 20 people were also injured in the violence.

"For the sake of public interest ahead of Christmas and New Year celebrations, we have to take action against [demonstrators] as the port activity was totally paralyzed these past few days," the police spokesman added.

The Sape port is the main gateway to Flores, a neighboring island in eastern Indonesia.

Local broadcaster MetroTV aired images of anti-riot police firing on protesters and using water cannons to break up the crowds. Police said they seized petrol bombs and other weapons, including a dozen machetes and sickles.

At least 36 people were arrested "for questioning," including six children and five women, the spokesman said, adding that the port resumed normal operations Saturday afternoon.

Local officials recently granted an exploration permit to miner Sumber Mineral Nusantara, despite criticism over the proposed gold mine's ecological impact.

Indonesian students rally in support of villagers fighting gold mine

Jakarta Globe - December 24, 2011

Fitri. R, Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara – Students scuffled with the police on Friday as they rallied in support of villagers fighting a proposed gold mine in Bima district on Sumbawa Island.

The students gathered in front of the governor's office in Mataram, the provincial capital on Lombok, in support of the residents of Lambu village, who are demanding that the government revoke a concession for a gold mine in the area.

Villagers have blocked roads and the main harbor of Sape for the past five days to protest the proposed mine, which they say would threaten the forest and water resources. Sumber Mineral Nusantara, a mining firm, has been granted an exploration permit for the area.

The protesters on Friday also demanded the release of a student who was arrested during the last protest against the mine.

West Nusa Tenggara Governor Zainul Majdi refused to meet with the protesters, causing temperatures to rise and leading to some pushing and shoving between the students and the police.

However, there was no major violence and the student went home without further incident. But they promised that they would be back unless plans for the mine were halted. They also demanded that the authorities refrain from using violence to clear the villagers out of Sape harbor.

Usman Manto, a coordinator of the student protesters, said the authorities needed to do more than make promises. He said real action was needed to deal with this problem.

"Why don't the police look at why the people are taking to the streets, because of the mine?" he said. "We need a governor who can provide a guarantee that our demands will be met. We are tired of just being given more promises from the governor without any action."

The residents of Lambu, he said, had done everything in their power to force the authorities to review the permit they gave to the miner for land in Parado subdistrict, near the village.

After the head of Bima district, Ferry Zulkarnain, failed to act on their grievances, Usman said the villagers resorted to occupying Sape to draw greater attention to their cause.

The villagers, aided by the students, have said that they intend to continue their occupation of the port until the permit for the mine has been revoked.

Sape is a main gateway to Sumbawa from the neighboring island of Flores in East Nusa Tenggara. Governor Zainul has repeatedly called for the villagers to leave the port, saying that their "action to block the port has already caused losses and inconveniences for many parties."

He said the port was used by many people to return home to celebrate Christmas in their villages. East Nusa Tenggara is predominantly a Christian region.

Farmers from Java join forces to fight against injustice

Jakarta Post - December 23, 2011

Slamet Susanto and Kusumasari Ayuningtyas, Yogyakarta/Boyolali – Representatives of farmers from 10 regions across Java, attending a two-day congress in Yogyakarta, pledged Thursday to join forces and build solidarity to fight against what they considered injustice.

Via a declaration drawn up at the congress, the farmers said they were ready to fight against those people who made use of laws and regulations to justify social, cultural, economic and environmental destruction.

They also called on the state apparatus to stop committing any form of intimidation against, or repression and criminalization of, farmers and local people, as they possessed the highest sovereignty in the country, arguing that state officials were servants of the people, not of companies.

"Those of us from Kulonprogo, for example, have been struggling hard to reject a local administration plan for an iron sand mining project," Widodo, a participant from Kulonprogo, Yogyakarta, said.

He said they rejected the plan because local farmers have succeeded in cultivating sand fields into fertile and productive agricultural land that was the main source of livelihoods for over 30,000 residents in the area. "If the field is turned into an iron sand mining site, we will become marginalized and impoverished," Widodo said.

He added that the appropriation and conversion of agricultural fields for industrial purposes not only occurred in Kulonprogo but also in many other parts of the country.

That was why the farmers made their declaration, offering solidarity and moral support in the ongoing struggle to their fellow farmers in other regions, including in Mesuji and Takalar, who are facing similar problems.

The congress, the first of its kind, was attended by farmers from 10 regions: Kulonprogo in Yogyakarta; Kebumen, Cilacap and Padi in Central Java; Tasikmalaya and Ciamis in West Java; Lumajang, Blitar and Sidoarjo in East Java; and Banten. "We will include more regions in the future," said Andri Saputra of the congress' organizing committee.

Separately in Boyolali, Central Java, hundreds of tobacco farmers staged a rally on Thursday in front of the regent's office, protesting against a government draft bill on the control of addictive ingredients in tobacco products, which they perceived as economically harmful for them.

"We demand that the regent give us his support in rejecting the draft bill, which is due to be signed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono this month," farmers' representative Syukur Fachrudin said.

Sugeng Haryono, 60, a tobacco farmer from Selo, Boyolali, expressed concern that the draft regulation would limit the production of tobacco in the country and would, therefore, make it harder for him to earn a living.

"I depend solely on my tobacco plantation to earn a living," Sugeng, who owns an 8,000-square-meter tobacco plantation, told representatives of the regency administration who received the protesters.

No beheadings in Mesuji: Human rights commission

Jakarta Post - December 23, 2011

Jakarta – The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) says that no beheadings occurred in Sodong village, Mesuji district in South Sumatra, during alleged conflicts involving local residents and a palm oil company.

Commission deputy chief Ridha Saleh said Friday that the two people who died during the April 21 clash, Saetu and his nephew, Indra, had been shot.

Earlier, several video recordings depicting people being brutally beheaded and mutilated had been widely spread over electronic media. The videos were reported to have been taken around the village. "Some local residents said that there were no beheadings," Ridha said in his office.

On April 21, Saetu and Indra left home to buy pesticide at around 10 a.m. traveling by motorcycle past a crude palm oil plantation belonging to PT Sumber Wangi Alam (SWA).

At 1 p.m., a villager told their family members that Indra had been found dead. Family members found a wound on Indra's neck and three holes, allegedly from bullets, on his chest and waist.

Villagers also found the dying Saetu not far from where they found Indra's body. Saetu died on the way to a public health center. According to Ridha, Saetu was found on PT SWA's land.

Villagers, however, still have no idea what triggered their deaths, as both had not involved themselves in any conflicts with the company.

According to the local authorities, about an hour after villagers had found Indra and Saetu, they staged protests and vandalized the company's base camp, prompting a clash between the two parties. Five company security officers reportedly died during the incident.

"The villagers denied that they had vandalized the company's assets and said that they had only staged a demonstration," Ridha said. He also urged the government to reveal the names of people who had been questioned regarding the incident. (swd)

Government & regional autonomy

No direct elections for local deputy heads, government proposes

Jakarta Post - December 29, 2011

Bagus BT Saragih, Jakarta – Following reports that the majority of local heads are in acrimonious relationships with their deputies, the Home Ministry is proposing that the deputy positions no longer be contested in direct local elections.

Home Ministry spokesman Reydonnyzar Moenek confirmed on Wednesday that the ministry had finished drafting the Regional Elections bill, which stipulates that local elections will only directly elect regents and mayors.

Deputies for the two posts will be selected from among bureaucrats. "The positions will be no longer be political posts as we have today but will become structural jobs," Doni said.

With the proposed mechanism, elected local leaders will be free to pick his or her deputy from local bureaucrats and forward their names to the Home Ministry for approval. A regency or municipality could have more than one deputy regent or mayor, depending on the size of the area or its population, Doni added.

He said the proposal was made after recent cases came to light of disputes between local heads and their deputies, which the ministry perceived as a threat to the delivery of public services.

Data from the ministry stated that 93.5 percent of the 244 pairs of regional leaders had fallen out in 2010, and 67 pairs before their terms expired in 2011.

Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi recently said the rifts mostly arose from local heads and their deputies preparing themselves for the next election.

"I have observed that most local heads and their deputies only managed to maintain 'amicability' during the first several months following their election. After a regent and his or her deputy declare they will run again for re-election, I can assure you the pair is no longer effective in managing the administration," said Gamawan, who is also a former regent and governor.

In the draft bill, the government has also made a proposal for new rules in local elections, including reverting to the former system whereby a governor will be elected by local legislative councils (DPRD).

The ministry's director general for regional autonomy, Djohermansyah Djohan, based the proposal on the provision that a governor had neither constituencies nor territory, and their elections by local councils would not contravene democratic principles.

"Regents and mayors are leaders of autonomous regions and have more direct connections with the people. We should, therefore, maintain direct elections for regents and mayors," he said.

The government has also proposed a rule that would ban family members of incumbents to run in local elections.

The ministry recently finished drafting the bill and is set to begin deliberations with the House of Representatives in January 2012.

National Awakening Party (PAN) lawmaker Abdul Malik Haramain, of the House Commission II overseeing domestic governance and regional autonomy, said he opposed the ministry's proposal of picking local deputies from the bureaucracy.

"That's the wrong way of addressing the problem. What we need is a law that has a clear-cut division of labor between local heads and their deputies," he said. "We also need to draft a regulation that would impose penalties upon local heads or their deputies who resign before the expiration of their terms," Malik added.

Political analyst Hadar Nafiz Gumay from the Center for Electoral Reform (Cetro), concurred with Malik. "The real problem starts with the election process. The pairing is the result of political horse-trading," Hadar said.

Indonesian government in rush to spend by end of year

Jakarta Globe - December 28, 2011

Dion Bisara – Government agencies and departments have been in a late- season rush to meet spending targets, data from the Ministry of Finance showed.

On Dec. 7, the government had spent 51 percent of the targeted Rp 140.95 trillion ($15.5 billion) set in the revised 2011 budget. But by Dec. 27, that had risen to 76.5 percent, according to ministry data.

So in 20 days, the government accounted for 25.5 percent of its allotted annual spending. Hatta Rajasa, the chief economics minister, said this month that budget disbursements were concentrated at the end of the year because agencies and departments had to complete a time-consuming procurement process before the Ministry of Finance could release the money.

One problem, he said, is that tender procedures do not allow for single bidders, even when there is no other party capable or qualified for a project. That means the process is put on hold until a second bidder can be found, and usually finishes at the end of the year.

In an effort to deal with the problem, Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo said on Wednesday that agencies and departments would be allowed to begin the process earlier. "So we hope the disbursements can be much earlier [next year]," he said.

He said that as of Tuesday, the budget deficit, which stands at 0.64 percent of the nation's projected gross domestic product, was still short of the target. That's partly because overall spending as of Tuesday had only reached Rp 1,165 trillion, or just 88.2 percent of the target.

Parliament & legislation

2011 DPR's year of avoiding work, watchdog says

Jakarta Globe - December 30, 2011

Agus Triyono – A legal and policy watchdog has said that 2011 marked a low point in productivity for the House of Representatives as the body passed just 21 out of 93 pieces of legislation on the docket.

In addition, the Concerned Citizens for the Indonesian Legislature (Formappi) said, all 21 laws passed this year actually already had been deliberated the year before.

"Not only in terms of productivity; the quality of the laws passed is also appalling," Formappi coordinator Sebastian Salang said on Thursday. "So many laws have been passed by the House, only to be challenged and revised by the Constitutional Court."

He added that the sluggish progress was especially troubling considering the amount of money that was earmarked for the House this year.

The House spent Rp 6.2 billion ($682,000) in 2011, or Rp 600 million more than last year's budget allotted. The fund does not include money spent on overseas study trips, which he said could cost up to Rp 10 billion per bill discussed by lawmakers.

"The House must remember that back in 1999, the House only spent Rp 300 million and passed laws of much higher quality than those passed today," he said before adding: "Why is the opposite happening now?"

Formappi is also questioning the many lawmakers who were conspicuously absent during deliberations and plenary sessions this year.

On Aug. 17, House Speaker Marzuki Alie said only 384 out of 560 lawmakers, or 69 percent, attended the plenary session, which opened the 2011-12 sitting period. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also presented the state budget in that session. Last month, only 280 of the 560 members of the House attended the first day of its new session.

Shortly after opening the session at 9:45 a.m., House leaders had to suspend proceedings because only 50 lawmakers had arrived. When they reopened the session an hour later, there were still not enough lawmakers to constitute a quorum.

The appalling record compelled Marzuki to monitor attendance with an electronic fingerprint machine. Some lawmakers objected to the idea, saying they were "not schoolchildren whose attendance should be monitored."

Currently, lawmakers are obliged to manually sign an attendance sheet, but occasionally House members will leave the meeting room after signing in. To improve attendance levels, the House has been providing lawmakers with "attendance money."

Sebastian said the poor attendance record was to blame for the low quality and quantity of the laws passed this year. Marzuki, he said, has demonstrated poor leadership by failing to set a good example for other lawmakers.

"In 2011, the House speaker made numerous blunders in his many controversial remarks. This is damaging the House's reputation and good image and he is not setting a good example," he said. "That's why we see so many controversial statements from the House."

Politicians again criticized for wasteful official trips

Jakarta Globe - December 26, 2011

Agus Triyono – Indonesian politicians have been blasted for wasting almost Rp 85 billion on "insignificant activities," including ceremonies and official visits in 2011.

The Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra) said the House of Representatives (DPR) had wasted Rp 34 billion and the Regional Representatives Council (DPD) Rp 51 billion, or a total of Rp 85 billion ($9.35 million).

Uchok Sky Khadafi, the budget watchdog's advocacy coordinator, said the DPR figure included hospitality for local and foreign guests, as well as the heavily criticized official trips that have been previously criticized as lavish junkets.

"Fitra demands government institutions such as the [People's Consultative Assembly (MPR)], DPD and DPR to minimize their budget for less significant activities; we want them to allocate the budget for activities that would benefit the people more," Uchok said.

Jakarta & urban life

In Jakarta, a fight over money and water

Jakarta Globe - December 27, 2011

Philip Jacobson – As the central government pushes for the redrawing of numerous natural resource contracts with foreign companies, mostly in the oil, gas and mining sectors, another renegotiation effort is under way involving perhaps the most crucial resource of all: water.

Responding to public outcry against the third-highest charge in Asia and a service perceived as unapologetically poor, Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo in 2008 started refusing to allow any more hikes in water rates.

In Jakarta, where treatment and distribution of the city's piped water supply has been run by two foreign companies since the final years of then-President Suharto regime, public water authority PAM Jaya has aggressively sought significant changes to the deals it has with those private operators: PAM Lyonnaise Jaya (Palyja), a subsidiary of France- based utility company Suez Environment, and Aetra Air Jakarta, which is owned by a consortium based in Singapore.

PAM Jaya's efforts to renegotiate those deals, however, have elicited two different responses from the operators. While Aetra, which manages the city's eastern half, has largely conceded to PAM Jaya's demands, Palyja, which runs the western half, has taken a harder line.

The main point on which the companies differ concerns the water tariff. Aetra has agreed to cap the charge for the remainder of the contract, which ends in 2022. However, Palyja is adamant that it be raised, or that the government subsidize the system, which it always has been unwilling to do.

Looming over the situation is a huge, steadily mounting debt owed by PAM Jaya to the operators and the fact that Mauritz Napitupulu, who had served as PAM Jaya's president director since April 2010 and key negotiator in the new deal, was removed from his position on Thursday.

At last count, that debt stood at Rp 635 billion ($69.9 million), with more owed to Palyja, whose territory is more profitable, than Aetra. At the current rate, Mauritz has said, by 2022 the shortfall would reach Rp 18.2 trillion.

Why Mauritz was removed was not completely clear; neither was the effect his dismissal would have on the renegotiations.

Hasan Basri Saleh, an assistant to Fauzi, said Mauritz had reached retirement age and the decision was business as usual. "We must continue with the same policy," PAM Jaya technical director Sri Widayanto Kaderi, Mauritz's replacement, told the Jakarta Globe.

What is clear is that talks between PAM Jaya and Palyja have reached a stalemate. Meanwhile, public pressure is mounting and the shortfall continues to grow.

A different game

"The big problem is mismanagement," Mauritz told the Globe in December, before he was dismissed. "The operators cannot control the organization, and they want to compensate by increasing the tariff."

Although Aetra has agreed to lower the water charge and drastically curtail the indexation mechanism that feeds its growth, Palyja sees things differently.

Not only does the deal represent a one-sided capitulation on Aetra's part, claims Philippe Folliasson, Palyja's president director, it just won't work. "If people think it will work, then fine," Folliasson said. "We'll see who is right."

Aetra and PAM Jaya have not signed a formal contract, only a memorandum of understanding. At the time of Mauritz's dismissal, they had yet to agree on certain details, such as issues concerning transparency and procurement.

"We are working now on the reality," said Mohamad Selim, Aetra's president director. "At the time, we were working on imagination."

PAM Jaya pays the operators based not on actual revenue collected from customers but on volume of water supplied and billed. The tariff and charge are thus said to be "de-linked" in such a way that cost-recovery risks are completely borne by PAM Jaya.

A prime example, Mauritz said, has to do with tariff categories. The tariff is actually cross-subsidized, meaning the biggest houses and businesses pay the highest rates while the poor pay less than the cost of providing the service. The operators, however, charge PAM Jaya one set fee per cubic meter of water no matter who buys it.

"I have seen it in the field. This building, charged only Rp 1,050?" Mauritz said, referring to the lowest tariff category. "But it is a big building. How come?" Also, he said, a bill collector might take a payment at one tariff category but log it at a lower one and keep the difference.

Another of Mauritz's gripes concerned non-revenue water, which is water that has been produced but is "lost" before reaching the customer, usually through leaks in the pipes or illegal connections. He said the operators had done a poor job cutting down on illegal connections, failing to adequately work with law enforcement and penalize people for breaking the law. "They want to solve the problem by increasing the tariff," Mauritz said.

Under the new deal, that wouldn't happen, and Aetra would have no choice but to raise revenues by being more efficient. The company hopes it can sell more water by reducing NRW and cracking down on deep wells, which are often used beyond their legal limit and are controversial because they contribute to groundwater depletion.

The goal, Mauritz and Selim said, was to eliminate the shortfall by 2016. To do that, Selim said that Aetra must increase its sales by 6 percent per year. Making that happen would require the government's help to educate people and enforce the law about deep wells and stealing water, he added.

"The driver of this master plan is the conversion of well users and the reduction of NRW," Selim said. "That's the key. Otherwise, this new rebalancing contract will fail."

Follow the money

For different reasons, Folliasson told the Globe, Palyja cannot agree to something along the lines of what Aetra has put together.

"Our perspective is that it just doesn't add up," he said. "This idea that with no tariff or subsidy you can make a miracle, it is a fantasy."

The only way the operators could sell more water, Folliasson said, was if the government made a project to increase supply, which is limited because the city relies on the filthy West Tarum Canal – Folliasson called it a "ditch" – for more than 80 percent of its water.

"I don't think that the operator can take 100 percent of the burden of making the system work," he said. "It has to be a mutual effort."

For critics in government and civil society, however, the system already heavily favors the operators, providing for them unfair profits.

In 2009 and 2010, Palyja logged a net income of Rp 222 billion and Rp 216 billion, respectively, according to the company's income statement.

Since 1998, Palyja's total net income has amounted to more than Rp 1 trillion, which is a hefty return on its initial investment of Rp 200 billion.

Aetra in 2009 and 2010 logged profits of Rp 142 billion and Rp 140 billion, respectively. The company's overall figure was Rp 305.5 billion.

However, as Folliasson is quick to point out, profit is not cash. A significant part of Palyja's net income comes from accounts receivables, which is money that PAM Jaya owes Palyja but has yet to pay for lack of funds. Mauritz was more direct. "If it is not good business, give it to PAM," he said. "Give it back!"

Although the contract has been tweaked at times, some say it should be scrapped altogether. "How can we continue to do something that is illegal that costs the city so much?" said Reza, a member of the People's Coalition for Water Rights (Kruha).

He cited the 1945 Constitution, which states that "water... shall be controlled by the state and used for the maximum prosperity of the people," as proof that the contract should never have been allowed.

Reza is not alone in calling for an end to privatization. In major cities all across the world, the notion that management of the public's water can be run by private interests has stirred heated debates.

Proponents argue that privatization can bring much-needed investment and spur efficiency. Critics say the companies put the bottom line above all else, which is disastrous for something so central to the public good.

Mauritz, Reza said, was the first PAM Jaya director to acknowledge any credence behind Kruha's position that the contract should be terminated, not merely revise d. "Now we are a little bit pessimistic that this will end well," Reza said, referring to the director's sudden removal.

Criminal justice & prison system

Sandal stack suggests officer's put his foot in it

Jakarta Globe - December 31, 2011

Rahmat & Agus Triyono – Sandals of all colors and sizes are rapidly accumulating as part of a nation-wide protest against a police officer who took a teenager to court for allegedly stealing a pair of his footwear.

Organizers of the tongue-in-cheek campaign hope to deliver the footwear to the police after First Brig. Ahmad Rusdi took 15-year-old AAL to court in Central Sulawesi's Palu for allegedly stealing his sandals, valued at Rp 30,000 ($3.30). The boy faces up to five years in prison for the theft of the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) officer's property.

The Indonesian Commission for Child Protection (KPAI) on Thursday announced it would open a collection center to accept cash donations to buy 1,000 pairs of sandals.

On Friday, the campaign appeared to be making progress in several cities where collection points have sprung up, a KPAI volunteer said.

He said that even though the overarching plan was to raise money to buy sandals, the collection points have instead received sandals, mostly old, used flip-flops. "We already have received 224 pairs," said the volunteer, working at the KPAI headquarters on Jalan Teuku Umar in Menteng.

He said collection points had also opened in Bekasi, Depok, Cibubur and Tangerang in Greater Jakarta, Palembang in South Sumatra, Solo in Central Java and Palu itself. "We will [stay] open until January 4. We will gather everything and hand them over to the National Police chief," the volunteer said.

A local nongovernmental organization opened a collection point at a coffee shop in Palu and had already gathered about 100 pairs of sandals on Friday.

In Palu, the plight of AAL prompted Ruslan Sangaji to march to the Central Sulawesi governor's office, then on to the provincial legislature, police headquarters and finally to the provincial prosecutor's office. At each point, he delivered a speech calling for AAL's release and wore two pairs of sandals around his neck.

Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of the KPAI, called on the Palu court to quickly handle the trial. "Because it has already reached the indictment stage, we demand that the panel of judges conduct the trial in a marathon, following the defense plea with a prosecutor's argument and then acquit him of all charges," Arist said.

Rusdi and a colleague were both detained for assaulting AAL after the alleged theft, which took place in November 2010.

Palu offers 100 sandals for alleged boy thief

Jakarta Post - December 30, 2011

Ruslan Sangadji, Palu, Central Sulawesi – Residents of Palu, Central Sulawesi, have launched a "100 Sandals for Children" movement to support the 15-year-old boy facing five years' imprisonment for allegedly stealing the sandals of a Palu Police officer.

The residents chose to use sandals as a symbol of injustice, according to Sofyan Farid Lembah, head of the Central Sulawesi branch of the National Commission for Children Protection's (Komnas PA).

"We are making an alliance for Central Sulawesi children to demand justice. Children should not be punished, but educated," said Sofyan.

A member of the Indonesian Children's Congress, Taufiqqurrahman Madakara, 16, demanded that authorities drop all charges against AAL. "We also demand that police and prosecutors to be discriminate in handling legal cases," the SMAN 1 Palu state senior high school student said.

Central Sulawesi Prosecutor Isa Ansyari said he had not been briefed on the case. "I have forwarded the case to the Attorney General because it's already on trial."

Separately, Central Sulawesi Governor Longky Djanggola said that enforcement of the law must take into account the people's sense of justice. "I don't have the authority to stop the legal proceedings. I can only ask for law enforcement agencies to reconsider," he said.

Central Sulawesi Legislative Council Deputy Speaker Hendry Kawulur questioned what police had done to the child, saying they should have been focused on "big cases" instead of a boy who stole a pair of sandals.

AAL was detained for allegedly stealing sandals valued at Rp 35,000 (US$3.82) from First Brig. Ahmad Rusli Harahap. A Central Sulawesi Police officer, First Brig. Simson Jones Sipayung, was sentenced to 21 days' imprisonment on Thursday for beating AAL in police custody.

Police & law enforcement

AGO performed poorly in 2011

Jakarta Post - December 31, 2011

Jakarta – The Attorney General's Office (AGO) acknowledged on Friday that it had failed to take the lead in the country's bureaucratic reform and had not performed well in law enforcement. The office could understand why the public had given it the thumbs down.

Attorney General Basrief Arief said he had failed to spearhead reform in his notoriously corrupt institution. The attorney general made the statement during the annual press review at his South Jakarta office.

Over the year, Basrief said, his office had seen 206 prosecutors and 130 administrative staff punished for acts of indiscipline. "It's clear that there are still many prosecutors who commit illicit deeds. We are personally still unsatisfied with our own performance in serving the people," Basrief said.

According to him, of the 206 prosecutors who received punishment, around one third of them were "severely punished" after they were proven to have abused their authority as law-enforcement officials. Among 130 administrative staff who received punishment, dozens were dishonorably discharged because they "had not even gone to their office at all".

Basrief said he could understand why the public regarded the AGO as having performed poorly, specifically citing the AGO's weak human resources as the institution's biggest shortcoming.

"[The AGO's staff] are still weak in terms of moral integrity as well as technical competency in handling cases," said Basrief who vowed to boost the human resources sector in 2012 to restore public trust in his institution.

This year, the AGO has been overwhelmed by many highly controversial cases involving its prosecutors. Last week, Takalar State Prosecutor's Office head Rakhmat Harianto was reported to have allegedly blackmailed a witness for Rp 500 million (US$54,836) in exchange for not making the witness a suspect in a graft case.

In November, investigators from the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) confiscated Rp 99.9 million from the Cibinong State Prosecutor Office's parking lot and arrested a prosecutor named Sistoyo for allegedly taking the money as a bribe.

Also in November, Hari Soetopo, a prosecutor at Lamongan State Prosecutor's Office hit the headlines after being reported by a woman for allegedly making her pregnant.

Under Basrief's leadership, the AGO was also condemned by many for its "generosity" in issuing letters ordering a halt to investigations (SP3).

In 2011, the AGO issued SP3 letters in three high-profile cases: the floating crane procurement of PT Tambang Batubara Bukit Asam, the asset takeover of PT Kiani Kertas and the allegation of abuse of power by South Kalimantan governor Rudi Arifin.

Basrief, however, rejected allegations that there were "backdoor deals" behind the issuance of SP3 letters, saying that the AGO issued the SP3 letters professionally and based on established laws. "[In PT Kiani Kertas' case] there was no state loss, the state actually benefitted," he argued.

Andhi Nirwanto, junior attorney general for special crimes, said that the only reason the AGO issued SP3 letters was because it could not find enough proof to bring the case to court.

"There are many who say that the only job of the AGO's special crimes division is to halt investigations," Andhi said. "But if we don't have the proof and we insist on bringing the case to court, [the accused] will eventually be acquitted."

Despite all its flaws, Basrief claimed that the AGO had successfully prevented Rp 27 trillion (US$2.97 billion) and $2,920 in state losses this year. (sat)

Police, top human rights violators

Jakarta Post - December 29, 2011

Medan – The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and North Sumatra Legal Aid (Bakumsu) have placed the police force in first place for basic human rights abuses and cases of violence in the province this year.

Of 145 cases of human rights abuse and violence involving law enforcers recorded this year, the police reportedly committed 107 cases, followed by the Indonesian Military (TNI) with eight cases, the prosecutor's office (six cases), bureaucracy (four cases), public order officers (one case) and 16 other cases involving other offenders.

North Sumatra Kontras coordinator Muhrizal Syahputra said the high rate of cases of human rights abuse and violence committed by police this year showed that the police were unable to protect and serve the public as expected. Additionally, Muhrizal said, the police appeared to be against society as they were often used to safeguard businesses.

Imparsial wants SBY to fire Timur Pradopo

Jakarta Post - December 29, 2011

Human rights watchdog Imparsial called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to dismiss National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo following a string of violent incidents involving members of the corps nationwide.

"Clearly, the President should evaluate the performance of the police force. It is only a year and a half since Timur became the national police chief and yet the police already have a record full of violence," Imparsial executive director Poengky Indarti told a press conference on Wednesday.

The dismal record, Poengki said, included incidents in Papua where police dispersed participants attending the third Papuan People's Congress, which resulted in the deaths of three civilians in October.

Imparsial also said the police were responsible for the mass killings in Mesuji, Lampung and in South Sumatra. More than 30 people were reported to have been killed in land conflicts since 2009.

The latest incident, in Sape, Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, involved Mobile Brigade (Brimob) personnel shooting at close range protesters, who were demonstrating against the granting of a mining permit for an Australian- based company.

Imparsial said the National Police chief appeared to be doing nothing to deal with the violence from his corps. "We see how time and again the police chief remains silent or defends the actions of his personnel instead of taking responsibility and conducting an evaluation," Poengky said.

She said the police brutality was a throwback to the authoritarian Soeharto regime. "Members of the police force are much more militaristic now than during the Soeharto era. Then, the police were still part of the military but, unfortunately, the same attitudes remain, despite entering the reform era," she said.

Timur was appointed National Police chief in Oct. 22, 2010, as the President's sole nomination for the position. Many deemed the appointment was based on political interest.

Numerous human rights groups have spoken out against Timur's appointment given his bad track record during his junior years. He was the West Jakarta Police chief during the 1998 riots, when several Trisakti University students were shot dead by members of the riot police.

The organizations have also criticized Timur's close relationship with the hard-line organization, the Islam Defenders Front (FPI).

Meanwhile, the National Police said on Wednesday that personnel handling the riot in Sape had violated standard operating procedures. "There must have been violations," the head of the National Police internal affairs division, Brig. Gen. Budi Waseso, said as quoted by kompas.com.

Currently, the internal affairs division has questioned 58 personnel in connection with the Bima riot, including 27 members of Brimob and 17 members of the police crowd-control division.

Inmate dies, police station vandalized

Jakarta Post - December 28, 2011

Kupang – Dozens of residents mobbed Lembor Police station in Manggarai regency, East Nusa Tenggara, and demanded police assume responsibility for the alleged death of Arnoldus Hapong, 44, who died in police custody.

No fatalities and injuries were reported after the attack but the station office had its windows broken.

The mob was furious to learn that Arnoldus, who was being held in custody in connection to a gambling case, died in detention without having complained about ill health.

West Manggarai Police chief Adj. Sn. Comr. Enjay Sudrajat said in a statement that an autopsy had been ordered to be carried out. "If there is any indication that violence [occurred] during his detention, sanctions will be imposed," he said.

He attributed the attack on the police station to unfounded information that the victim had been killed by police. Arnoldus was nabbed along with 11 other people in a police raid on Dec. 18.

President warns against police's excessive force

Jakarta Globe - December 27, 2011

Anita Rachman, Dessy Sagita, Ismira Lutfia & Ezra Sihite – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has asked the National Police chief to avoid any form of violence and physical contact in cases where they have to disband a crowd or protestors, presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said on Tuesday.

Julian said the demand had been made "a few days ago" when National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo came to report on the incident in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara. Yudhoyono, he said, ordered Timur to work with local police to investigate the shooting.

At least two people were killed at the port in Sape on Christmas Eve after police fired live rounds into protesters who were occupying the ferry port as part of a protest against a local gold exploration involving Indonesian company Sumber Mineral Nusantara and an Australian firm.

Julian said the president had demanded a report and the police were conducting their own investigation into the event. "It is possible that there was an event, an action or an incident that was beyond normal or appropriate and that violent action could not have been prevented," Julian said.

He said that if there were any findings that law enforcement officers didn't follow standard operational procedures, they would be duly processed judicially.

Watchdog Indonesia Police Watch called on Timur on Tuesday to dismiss the heads of the Bima and West Nusa Tenggara police departments.

"The city police and the provincial police chiefs should be dismissed and face justice so as to prevent an escalation in protests and public anger," Indonesia Police Watch Presidium chairman Netta Satti Pane said in a statement. He said the police had lied to the public about the shootings when they said that their actions were in line with standard operational procedures.

Under the procedures, rubber bullets would have been used instead of live rounds, and police would have fired only as a last resort, after the use of tear gas, water cannons, shield and batons and blank bullets, he said.

The Bima Police, Netta said, had also erroneously sided with a mining company that had yet to obtain a permit from the Forestry Ministry as required by law. "Their action in backing the mining operation goes against Chapter 50 of the 1999 Law Number 41 on forests," Netta said.

Meanwhile, the Australian government expressed its concern over the fatal shootings in a protest against exploration activities of an Australian resources company on Sumbawa Island over the weekend.

"The Australian government is always concerned to see loss of life and injury," the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said. "We note that Indonesian authorities have ordered an investigation into the incident."

Australia's Arc Exploration and Sumber Mineral Nusantara were granted an exploration permit by officials to the outrage of locals, who claim they are concerned the mine's potential ecological damage and impact.

The Press Council on Tuesday said it was disturbed by the repeated screenings by television stations of videos showing police brutality in the Sape incident.

The 1999 press law and the journalistic code of ethics prohibit the broadcast of such scenes, council chairman Bagir Manan said. He said the council had no immediate plans to warn the private television stations that were involved.

Foreign affairs & trade

New export tax plan greeted with praise and criticism

Jakarta Post - December 26, 2011

Jakarta – Both praise and criticism showered the government's plan to tax the export of minerals and base metals starting next year.

Economists say such an initiative is a testament to the government's long- term economic vision, in which local manufacturers are encouraged to add value to commodities, as well as contributing to national energy security.

For local miners, on the other hand, the upcoming export tax would be an additional burden that could affect their financial performance amid global economic uncertainties that could jeopardize future expansion plans.

Arif Hadianto, a spokesperson for Indonesia's fifth largest coal miner, PT Berau Coal Energy, said coal producers already paid 13.5 percent of their total sales as royalties to the government, on top of the income and value-added taxes.

"A new tax would automatically be a burden. The government must take into account that coal producers have an obligation to meet domestic demand," Arif said on Sunday.

Separately, Resource Alam Indonesia head of investor relations Erif Tirtana said small- and medium-sized companies would be hurt most by the tax plan. "The export tax will be a double tax, as we are already paying royalties. I just hope that the ministry will consider our grievances," he said.

PT Antam corporate secretary Bimo Budi Satriyo said that the export tax would reduce his company's profits. Bimo said that Antam, which exports nickel to China, Korea, and Europe, had to give 5 percent off its sales prices per ton of high calorie (garnierite) nickel ore and 4 percent for every ton of low-calorie (limonite) nickel ore in royalty fees.

"We still don't know what the regulation will look like. As long as the government considers the royalty we are already paying. It will be okay."

Association of Indonesian Mining Professional chairman Irwandi Arif said that the government should calculate the amount of export tax to help companies maintain their profits. He said, the tax should be re-distributed to develop industry in the country.

"The export tax should be used to provide incentives in development of coal-powered power plants, for example, in Mulut Tambang [in Tanjung Enim, South Sumatra]. It would be troublesome if the government fails to synchronize the use of the tax," Irwandi said.

The tax plan was first introduced last week by Industry Minister Mohamad South Hidayat, who said that the ministry was preparing the export tax on mineral products to encourage the development of derivatives products from minerals and base metals by local industries.

Hidayat said the regulation was poised to be implemented in the first half of 2012, pending approval from the Finance Ministry.

"The growth of the downstream industry will create jobs, add value to our products and reduce dependence on imports," said Hidayat. He promised that investors who invested in downstream industries would be given tax holidays.

The planned export tax is in line with the ongoing process carried out by the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry, which is drafting a regulation that will ban exports of raw mining products beginning in 2014. Prohibiting exports of raw mining product is a part of the government's commitment to fully implement the 2009 Mineral and Coal Law, requiring miners to process coal and mineral into added-value products before exporting them.

Mining expert Kurtubi said that the government's move to impose export taxes on non-renewable coal and base metals was "logical" as other commodity-based industries were already paying more.

"State revenue from coal and general mining is very little. Corporate tax for general mining sector is about 35 to 40 percent, while the royalty as stated in the contract of work is only about 1 percent."

We have no hidden agenda: US

Jakarta Post - December 24, 2011

Erwida Maulia, Jakarta – The US Embassy in Jakarta expressed on Thursday its concern over many' "misperceptions" of US intentions in Indonesia, emphasizing that the US has no hidden agenda whatsoever.

The misconceptions, according to US Ambassador to Indonesia Scot Marciel, are among the greatest challenges the US is facing in Indonesia.

"In Indonesia, I think the biggest challenges we still face are misperceptions, weariness or even suspicion of the US; some of them going back to the 50s, some are linked to how we deal with Islam and these sorts of things. Whatever the facts are, the misperceptions are very clearly there," Marciel said during a discussion with The Jakarta Post in its office in Jakarta.

He denied accusations that the US harbored "hidden agendas" in Indonesia, specifically raising the issue of conflict-ridden Papua, where US mining giant Freeport-McMoran has been operating for decades and has been accused of being one of the catalysts behind the sources of bloody conflicts recurring in the province. He said most Americans barely paid any attention at all to the Papua-Freeport issue, let alone act as players in the conflict.

"Why would we want to create problems in Indonesia? Anything that causes turmoil here, or God forbid, any kind of separatist movement that hurts Indonesia also hurts international interests and our interests." Marciel said that to address the issue, the US Embassy in Jakarta had been continually trying to put forward transparency in its activities in Indonesia, hoping Indonesians would gradually become convinced that there was no hidden US agenda.

The US-Indonesia ties have been growing stronger over the past few years since US President Barack Obama's rise to power in 2008.

The US president spent part of his childhood in Jakarta and has visited Indonesia twice now – in 2010 and 2011. His visits have brought more attention to Indonesia, in the US and across the world. This is apart from Indonesia's rising influence at the global stage due to its membership in the G20 economic group.

Marciel admitted it would be more difficult to maintain US-Indonesia ties if Obama was no longer president after the 2012 US presidential elections. He expressed, nevertheless, optimism that ties could remain strong given a post-Obama scenario, given the signing of the comprehensive partnership agreement between the two countries during Obama's first Indonesian visit in November 2010.

"To me the real goal of [the comprehensive partnership] is to build a network of relationships, not just government-to-government, but between universities, businesses, NGOs, newspapers – so that the links are strong and you don't depend on having a president who has a special relationship here." Marciel added that to further strengthen the relationship, the US had been trying to boost the number of Indonesians studying in America, after it was down by half following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

He said the US Embassy in Jakarta was also continually trying to improve the visa application process for entering the US, while bringing along US universities, scholars and scientists to Indonesia to strengthen educational cooperation between the two countries.

Economy & investment

Infrastructure and interest rate woes seen holding back growth in 2012

Jakarta Globe - December 28, 2011

Ivan Dasa Saputra – The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the economy is unlikely to grow by 6.7 percent next year as traditional hurdles such as high interest rates, ailing infrastructure and energy supply crises remain stumbling blocks to growth.

The government has forecast the economy to grow by 6.7 percent in 2012 after expanding by 6.5 percent this year, on the back of strong consumer spending and a rise in investment.

"Kadin [the chamber] predicts that economic growth in 2012 will be 6.2 percent to 6.4 percent," the group's chairman, Suryo Bambang Sulisto, said at a forum in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Suryo said banks were still charging high interest rates to companies, especially micro to medium-sized businesses. The central bank's key interest rate is now at 6 percent, its lowest level ever, following cuts in October and November.

The bank cut its key rate by 25 basis points in October and 50 basis points in November. It said it wanted to encourage commercial lenders to lower their lending rates so more companies would be able to borrow money and expand their businesses.

Lending rates for consumers, working capital and investment hover at 11 percent to 13 percent, according to the bank's data.

The deputy chairman at Kadin for infrastructure, construction and property, Zulkarnain Arief, said the government's Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesian Economic Growth (MP3EI) was not being implemented efficiently.

"The MP3EI did not run well in 2011 due to many constraints. If these aren't tackled in 2012, I doubt the plan can be started," he said. Suryo also said that the government was not offering sufficient incentives to the manufacturing sector, which employs millions of workers.

Indonesia factory output to grow, World Bank says

Jakarta Globe - December 26, 2011

Faisal Maliki Baskoro – A World Bank report shows that despite challenges facing Indonesia, manufacturing is poised to grow as consumer-oriented companies set up businesses in the country because of its rising middle class and low labor costs.

The bank said in its economic quarterly report released this month that local manufacturers were likely to focus on Indonesia rather than ship their goods abroad. It didn't identify which firms would focus locally.

The share of local manufacturers that are exporters and the volume of the goods they are exporting have been declining, the bank said.

In the 2002-2004 and 2007-2009 periods, the number of manufacturers that were exporters fell to 11.6 percent from 14.4 percent of all companies doing business in Indonesia, while their average share of goods destined for exports by volume declined to 15.9 percent from 18.3 percent, according to World Bank data.

Industry Minister M. South Hidayat said on Dec. 17 that a debt rating upgrade, rising foreign direct investment and a strong domestic market were set to boost industrial production next year, despite the global financial crisis.

Manufacturing growth in 2012 could be in a range of 6.1 percent to 7.1 percent, with growth set to exceed the government's 6.1 percent target this year, he said. "So far this year, Indonesia has shown its resilience amid global uncertainties, but we are still not certain about the future," Hidayat said.

Manufacturing growth in the January-September period reached its fastest pace since 2005, according to Industry Ministry data. Output rose 6.49 percent in the nine-month period from a year earlier, and that was more than the 5.09 percent increase in the same year-on-year period for 2010.

Base metal production led the pace in the nine-month period this year, surging 15 percent; textiles, leather and footwear as a group rose 8.3 percent; food and beverage gained 7.3 percent; and heavy machinery industry was up 7 percent.

"These sectors and the automotive sector will be the drivers for manufacturing growth. We are optimistic that manufacturing could grow by 7.1 percent next year if Europe doesn't fall into crisis," Hidayat said.

Fitch's recent upgrade on Indonesia's sovereign debt to investment grade, the land clearance law, improving infrastructure and a new set of incentives will boost foreign direct investment in manufacturing sector, he said.

Electricity supply problems could trip Indonesia's economic growth

Reuters - December 23, 2011

Francis Kan, Singapore – Indonesia's inability to meet the rising energy needs of its businesses, from steelmakers to hotel resorts, threatens to put the brakes on growth in Southeast Asia's largest economy.

The recent update of Indonesia's sovereign debt rating by Fitch to investment status should help attract more investors. But analysts and industry watchers fear wasteful subsidies and rampant corruption will reduce crucial investment in the infrastructure needed to supply power.

"Indonesia is not fulfilling its full potential because of these energy and infrastructure problems," said Erman Rahman, director of economic programs in Indonesia at The Asia Foundation, a San Francisco-headquartered nongovernmental organization. "A business can't grow when it is facing blackouts a few times a week," he said.

Almost half of 13,000 companies surveyed by the foundation in 2010 and 2011 experienced power outages at least three times a week. Indonesia is the world's largest exporter of coal and the third-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), but almost one-third of its citizens have no access to electricity. In outlying regions such as Papua, the figure rises to more than half.

A World Bank report for 2011 ranks Indonesia 161st among 183 countries in the ease of businesses getting reliable electricity supply, down three places from the previous year. In this category, Indonesia has received worse grades than Congo and Albania. Recurring blackouts this year have forced hotels on the resort island of Bali to rely on diesel generators for back-up power, which costs more than regular power supplies.

"The situation has improved, but there are still blackouts from time to time. We have to use diesel which is more expensive and adds to our costs," said a senior executive at a Bali hotel.

Due to poor transport links in the archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, movement of coal is hampered by lack of railroads. A lack of pipelines is one reason why only a small percentage of Indonesia's rich natural gas deposits are being utilized to power industries at home.

"Indonesia needs to improve access to energy for the smaller islands to diversify the sources of growth now concentrated in greater Jakarta and Java," said Ferry Wong, head of research at Citigroup Securities Indonesia.

Indonesia's GDP is expected to grow by 6.3 percent next year, according to the country's central bank, while electricity demand is forecast to rise a robust 6.2 percent, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) estimates.

Subsidies pain

Heavy spending on subsidies and problems with land acquisition have held back investment in infrastructure. Analysts say that with Indonesia growing at more than 6 percent a year, it needs to spend the equivalent of 5 percent of its gross domestic product a year to keep up with growing infrastructure needs.

While a newly passed land acquisition law makes it easier for developers to secure land to build ports and power stations, there is political and public opposition to tackling subsidies.

The country's utilities sell power to end-users at subsidized rates of $70-$75 a barrel of crude oil, well below market prices of $95-$105 a barrel, said Citigroup's Wong. "If oil prices continue to rise, this will be a risk to Indonesia's economy because it puts a strain on the budget."

Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo said on Dec. 13 that this year's fuel subsidy bill will total Rp 168 trillion ($18.5 billion), up from the budgeted figure of Rp 129.7 trillion because of increased demand and higher-than-expected average oil prices.

The government plans to remove fuel subsidies in April for private cars in Jakarta and Bali, but the selective nature of the cuts is likely to limit their effectiveness.

"Motorcycles are exempt from the subsidy [cut], and there are roughly 10 times more motorcycles than there are cars in Indonesia," said Martin Adams, an EIU energy analyst in Hong Kong.

State utility PLN cannot cover costs at current tariffs, which the government has been reluctant to raise, capping the power firm's ability to fund investment, analysts said.

There are plans to raise electricity tariffs in 2012 by an average 10 percent on average for most customers, which would cut an estimated $1.1 billion from the state subsidy bill. But there is no certainty rates will be raised. Early this year, the government proposed a 15 percent hike, but the legislature thwarted the plan.


Underinvestment at the lower levels of government is also a problem, with only 14 percent of local government budgets allocated to infrastructure, compared with 60 percent for personnel, a study by the Asia Foundation shows.

"For road and bridge programs, the average funding allocated was only... around a quarter of the amount needed for periodic maintenance alone," said the report, "Local Economic Governance 2011," based on a survey of almost 13,000 businesses conducted for the foundation by Nielsen Indonesia.

Corruption is also a problem, and one that has been exacerbated by Indonesia's decentralization after longtime strongman Suharto resigned in 1998. Unlike during his tenure, officials in local governments far from Jakarta have the power to permit or block projects, and some provincial civil servants have grabbed the chance to enrich themselves.

"The situation is worse than I had thought, people are paying up to $10,000 to $15,000 just to get these jobs, although their annual pay is just 10 percent of that," said Rahman.

Bribery also puts off foreign investors at a time when Indonesia is seeking $100 billion of private investment to overhaul its creaking transport network.

Declining gas output

In recent years, Indonesia has shifted away from using oil towards gas to generate power as rising crude oil prices boosted subsidy bills and the country became a net oil importer in 2004.

PLN plans to cut oil's share of the energy mix to 3 percent by 2013, from about 20 percent now. Analysts estimate that producing power from oil-based fuels costs it $15 per million British thermal units (mmbtu), but gas-fired power plants would only cost $12 per mmbtu.

But the lack of gas supply has prevented companies from taking advantage of the lower-cost fuel source, since producers earn more from higher-priced exports. Gas shortages forced Krakatau Steel, Indonesia's largest steelmaker, to shelve plans to expand production capacity, President Director Fatwa Bujang said this month.

In response to the shortage, the government in July freed private firms to import natural gas for the first time. Indonesia will export 362 LNG cargoes this year, down 15 percent from 2010. It is building LNG import terminals with nearly 10 million tons of capacity to meet demand.

Long-term solutions

The PLN, where Nur Pamudji was appointed as director last month, wants to boost the national electrification ratio to more than 73 percent next year, from below 69 percent now. To reduce blackouts, the utility plans to add 10,000 megawatts (MW) of generation capacity by 2014 to the existing 30,000 MW. But even if realized, Indonesia's energy woes could still cap its economic growth in the short term.

"The government realizes that it needs to remove subsidies, improve the business environment, install more generation capacity and extend the grid, but these are all long-term undertakings and we can expect only gradual movement," said EIU's Adams.

Analysis & opinion

The people, events that made our year

Jakarta Globe - December 31, 2011

Nurhayat Indriyatno – The past year offered up a bounty of prime headline fodder, with plenty of people stepping into the glare of the public spotlight, willingly or not, to capture the nation's attention.

From the twists and turns in the globe-spanning saga of a corruption fugitive and the seedy revelations behind the lavish lifestyle of a high- flying banking executive to the meteoric rise of a lip-synching wonder, 2011 was never short of newsmakers.

Muhammad Nazaruddin

The person who arguably hogged the most headlines and TV airtime this year was Muhammad Nazaruddin, who at the start of 2011 was being feted as part of the new generation of savvy youngsters rising through the ranks of the ruling Democratic Party.

In mid-April, however, things began unraveling for him when a fixer caught during a bribery bust at the Youth and Sports Affairs Ministry revealed that she worked for Nazaruddin and that she had been ordered to facilitate a bribe to a ministry official to secure the contract to build the athletes' village for the Southeast Asian Games.

On May 23, he fled for Singapore, a day before the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) applied for a travel ban against him. Once abroad, he began leveling a rash of accusations against other Democrats, including party chairman Anas Urbaningrum.

He was arrested in Cartagena, Colombia, in August and repatriated, but the controversy rages on. In his ongoing trial, the former Democrat continues to drop names.

Diani Budiarto

Undoubtedly one of the most polarizing figures in the news this year was Diani Budiarto, the mayor of Bogor. Backed by Islamic hard-liners and lambasted by almost everyone else, his term in office has been defined by his controversial decision to seal off the GKI Yasmin church and prevent parishioners from using it.

Although in possession of a valid building permit issued in 2006, the church was sealed off by the city in 2010 on the grounds that church officials had falsified the signatures on the petition required to get the permit.

The Supreme Court in January ruled against the revocation of the permit and ordered the church reopened. However, Diani has refused to comply, offering up a range of excuses, including that churches cannot be built on streets with Islamic names.

Nor did it help his reputation when, in August, the 56-year-old mayor married a 19-year-old woman – his fourth concurrent wife.

Throughout the year, the GKI Yasmin congregation continued to be harassed by mobs of conservative Muslims every Sunday as it attempted to hold services outside the sealed-off building.

This Christmas, the congregation was once again blocked from going near the church and forced to hold Mass at a member's house. If the stalemate holds, they will be facing another Christmas without a church this time next year.

Malinda Dee

One of the most outlandish and literally larger-than-life characters to make the news this year was Inong Malinda Dee, a Citibank relationship manager who was arrested in March for allegedly embezzling Rp 17 billion ($1.8 million) from customers. Prosecutors later revised the figure up to Rp 40 billion.

In the ensuing probe, police seized two Ferraris, a Hummer and a Mercedes sports car from her. It was also revealed that she had undergone extensive breast augmentation surgery, as well as a procedure to implant silicone in her vagina. During her incarceration prior to her trial, she had to be hospitalized for several weeks because of complications from the implants.

Her trial, now under way, has revealed how she allegedly siphoned large amounts of money from clients and laundered it through accounts belonging to her sister and brother-in-law. These two are also on trial, as is Malinda's much younger common-law husband, actor Andhika Gumilang.

Angelina Sondakh

Another high-profile woman making waves was Angelina Sondakh, a former Miss Indonesia and currently a House legislator with the Democratic Party.

Angelina garnered nationwide sympathy back in February when her husband, fellow legislator and former actor Adjie Massaid, died of a heart attack at just 43. But that sympathy quickly disappeared when the SEA Games scandal broke and Angelina was one of several legislators accused of taking kickbacks from the project. Though questioned by the KPK, she has not been named a suspect.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that Angelina was involved in a "personal, close relationship" with a married investigator on loan to the KPK from the police.

Norman Kamaru

Long criticized as among the nation's most corrupt institutions, the police force received a welcome, though brief, reprieve this year through Norman Kamaru, a young officer with the Mobile Brigade in Gorontalo province.

In late March, a video of Norman lip-synching and dancing to the popular Hindi song "Chaiya-Chaiya" went viral on YouTube (to date, it has been viewed more than three million times).

The official reaction was one of outrage, with the National Police saying Norman would be punished for "naughty, childish behavior." They quickly relented, however, following massive public support for the officer.

Norman was jetted into Jakarta for a whirlwind tour of popular music and talk shows. But he was soon focusing more on his foray into the entertainment industry than on his job, giving rise to tensions with his superiors.

In September he tendered his resignation from the force, and after a standoff over whether he should pay back his training costs, the police finally gave him a dishonorable discharge this month for dereliction of duty.

Irfan Bachdim

Another young sensation this year was Irfan Bachdim, the half-Dutch heartthrob nationalized and recruited to the national football team.

It was in December last year that he captured the nation's attention with his model-good looks and electrifying skills on the pitch during the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.

Throughout 2011, he has appeared in numerous movies and commercials and been the subject of intense media scrutiny over his relationship with Indonesian-German lingerie model Jennifer Kurniawan, the sister of one of his teammates, Kim.

In October, though, things soured for Irfan when he was dropped from the under-23 team, after failing to show up to practice because he was doing a commercial shoot.

Marzuki Alie

Politics dominated much of the national debate this year, and front and center for much of it was Marzuki Alie, the House speaker from the Democratic Party.

Marzuki started the year out under a cloud, facing heavy criticism both from the public and from inside the House over his insistence on pushing ahead with a plan to build a costly new office tower for legislators.

In April, relenting to the public outcry, Marzuki finally pulled the plug in the project, but not until $2.5 million had already been spent in the planning phase.

The speaker also courted much ridicule this year for his many gaffes, from calling a caterpillar infestation in Java and Bali a biblical-style "warning from God" to suggesting that staff from the United Nations Development Program should vacate their offices in the legislative building because the UNDP was a "foreign nongovernmental organization."

He also put his foot in it in February, at the height of public indignation over the mistreatment of Indonesian migrant workers, by suggesting they were hurting the country's reputation. "Some of them can't iron properly, so it's natural if the employer ends up landing the hot iron on the migrant worker's body," he said.

Tifatul Sembiring

Another politician seldom out of the headlines was Tifatul Sembiring, the communication and information technology minister from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

The minister started the year the way he ended 2010, with a campaign to get Research In Motion, maker of the popular BlackBerry smartphone, to install porn-blocking filters for its services. Round one went to Tifatul, with RIM complying ahead of the mid-January deadline.

His antiporn victory, however, was soured by a scandal in April in which a PKS legislator was caught watching pornography on his tablet computer during a plenary session of the House. Tifatul, usually vocal about such matters, took much flak for not weighing in.

In December, he went after BlackBerry again, this time threatening to shut down its Internet service because it had not yet complied with an order to set up a data center in the country.


While the politicians may have been monkeying around, things were far more dire this year for the orangutan, the iconic, and endangered, red apes of Sumatra and Borneo.

The year started out positively enough with the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation getting the go-ahead in April to release captive orangutans back into the wild, following a nine-year hiatus marked by zero releases.

A month later, though, it was revealed that the concession in which the 1,200 animals were to be gradually released was rife with illegal logging and poaching activities. From there, things only got worse.

In November, a study showed that villagers in Kalimantan were responsible for the deaths of 750 of the apes over the past year. Days later, disturbing news emerged from East Kalimantan that an oil palm company there had ordered the slaughter of dozens of orangutans and other primates it deemed pests.


The year was more mixed for another iconic Indonesian animal, the Komodo dragon.

In March, Surabaya Zoo, notorious for the high rate of deaths among its animals, reported that three juvenile dragons went missing, possibly stolen for the lucrative illegal trade in exotic species. Sure enough, in October police arrested a man for trying to sell one of the animals.

A month later, an adult dragon was found dead at the zoo, with the cause of death believed to be food poisoning from consuming items thrown to it by visitors. But there was also good news, of sorts, for the animal in its natural habitat. Komodo National Park was in November named to the provisional list of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

The recognition, however, was tainted by the long and testy nature of the competition, which saw the organizer, the N7W Foundation, drop the Culture and Tourism Ministry as the official supporting partner for Komodo's bid over a fee dispute. In the end, the park made it into the final seven.

From Sumatra to Papua, in 2011 rule by law again trumped the rule of law

Jakarta Globe - December 31, 2011

Nurkholis Hidayat – The current state of Indonesian law prompts me to question once again whether the rulers (the investors, political oligarchy, the majority) are the law, or whether the law is the ruler.

This question comes to the fore because a number of incidents and human rights cases in 2011 appear to show that the legal and political conditions in Indonesia have suffered a significant decline.

To try to answer the question, I would first like to start with the defiance against the law that has taken place throughout the years – and that, ironically, has been one of the hallmarks of the government.

Disobedience is usually thought of as a term used to describe citizens. While the motivation for defying the law may vary, it is often a conscious rejection of a legal system that has been deemed unfair or oppressive. In other words, it is a decision made by someone who has a critical legal consciousness and is not a result of ignorance of legal matters.

In Indonesia, however, disobedience is often practiced by lawmakers and law enforcers themselves – the very people in the business of creating a society based on law and order.

The mayor of Bogor refused to abide by the verdict of the Supreme Court in the case concerning the judicial review sought by the GKI Yasmin church. The president and the education minister both refused to respect the Supreme Court verdict that declared the National Examination as violating the right to education. The health minister, the Food and Drug Agency (BPOM) and the Bogor Institute of Agriculture all refused to comply with a Supreme Court verdict demanding that they announce the name of formula milk tainted by bacteria.

This sort of defiance of the law is not a statement against injustice; it is an obstruction of justice. The supremacy of law is diminished, as is the trust people have in the legal system. The principles of a state of law are being held in contempt.

Human rights have regressed in 2011, particularly in the areas of religious freedom, the right to organize, the right to housing and the right to a fair trial.

At the start of the year, we were jolted by the Cikeusik tragedy in which intolerance, hatred and violence prevailed over logic as mobs killed members of the Ahmadiyah community. All year, Ahmadis in Indonesia have continued to face threats, attacks, violence, the closure of places of worship, damage to property and forced evictions. All this while the government, the House and the judicial institutions have failed to protect them or their constitutional rights.

Other religious minorities face a similarly dangerous climate as groups preaching intolerance are free to spread their hatred through the media.

In the labor sector, the dominant cases involved violation of the rights of workers and the freedom to organize. The Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta) received reports of 12 cases of muzzling of labor unions. Labor union activists have been threatened with dismissals, suspension and transfer and their offices shut down. Workers at Carrefour, Asiatex, Perusahaan Listrik Negara, Dok dan Koja Bahari and Indofood Sukses Makmur were all hit by the criminalization of labor unions.

Workers filed reports alleging criminal behavior by the entrepreneurs and labor supervisors they were fighting. The reports were pushed aside by police.

This year has seen a rising number (24) of violations pertaining to fair trial. Arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and case manipulation are becoming a pattern. Violators include police, non-state actors such as intolerant groups and entrepreneurs, prosecutors, and the court system itself.

Although the number of forced evictions decreased in 2011, there has been no fair settlement of disputes over urban spaces involving the poor. The government's policy of taking inventory of its assets is implemented widely without consideration for state housing occupants, as guaranteed by law.

A number of government ministries and state enterprises forcefully evicted occupants without providing an adequate or fair solution. Pawnshop operator Perum Pegadaian, train operator KAI, electricity provider PLN, a number of ministries such as home affairs and defense and the Indonesian Armed Forces were involved in forced evictions.

Meanwhile, in Papua, arbitrary arrests, torture and killings continued unabated. The government and security personnel are muzzling the Papuan people by accusing anyone and everyone of plotting against the state. At least 29 people have been sentenced for political reasons, with sentences ranging from 11 months to life. Most were involved in the raising of the Morning Star flag, and the rest were peaceful protesters.

In Papua, the law does not rule. The rulers are guns and the vast might of the wealthy. The revelation that there was Freeport money flowing into the pockets of the police and soldiers only served to throw the situation into sharp relief. Toward the end of the year, the atrocities committed against farmers in Mesuji in Sumatra came to public attention and snowballed with other similar cases that appeared to have taken place in other parts of the country.

The expansion of palm oil plantations, often the result of corrupt practices involving permit-issuing local rulers and greedy capital owners, has led to vicious human rights violations – from the destruction of houses and crops to outright murder – by security forces and law enforcers on the companies' payrolls.

The democratic transition in Indonesia has clearly resulted in a complex alliance between the military, the wealthy and fundamentalists. The current regime has been integrating this alliance by sustaining a political, judicial and economic infrastructure that exists to benefit all three.

Amid these political transactions lies the power of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the political parties. The agenda of the government and the House of Representatives is to service and accommodate their interests, while the interests of the people are placed far lower.

Several draft laws pushed by civil society, aimed at putting some order into the judicial system and promoting human rights, have faced obstruction and continue to be excluded from the list of the House's priority draft laws. This has happened with the draft laws on the Protection of Domestic Workers, on the revision of the Law on Human Rights Court, the ratification of international anti-torture protocols as well as the migrant workers' legal package.

The political oligarchy has made cabinet reshuffling meaningless. The president has ignored public calls to get rid of fundamentalist and self- interested factions. The political oligarchy has also turned the process of succession in so-called independent state institutions such as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) into a game of interest trading and political alliances.

The selection of judges for the Supreme Court has been similarly compromised. The political oligarchy has become a serious threat to the independence of the judicial system. The judiciary should be untouched by the influence, threats and pressures of politics and power. A political system that engages in transactions concerning the independence of the judiciary becomes a threat to the notion of an Indonesia based on the rule of law.

We can rightly conclude, then, that what is happening is not a case of the law as king, but instead of the kings as law. What is happening is the rule by law, and not the rule of law. The law has become an instrument for the government to legitimize its actions while the fundamental rights of citizens are not only violated but also ignored.

[Nurkholis Hidayat is director of the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta).]

Practical politics all along

Jakarta Post Editorial - December 27, 2011

After the completion of a six-month forensic audit process, the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) last week announced that its auditors found no evidence of corruption involving the key officials responsible for the US$700 million bailout of Bank Century at the height of the global financial crisis in November 2008.

The BPK's forensic audit – its second special audit of the Bank Century bailout, following the agency's similar effort in 2009 – was ordered by the House of Representatives in June after lawmakers completed their own special inquiry of the bank bailout in March 2010.

Politics have been evident in all these investigations of the Bank Century bailout: from the inception of the House's inquiry in December 2009 to the announcement of its findings and recommendations in March 2010 to the House's order for the BPK to complete a second special audit of the bailout.

As is true in most incidents of "practical" politics, the facts have been ignored. Even though the House inquiry found no evidence of corruption when it announced the results of its inquiry, lawmakers persevered and ordered a criminal investigation of then finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati and then Bank Indonesia governor Boediono.

Investigators at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), however, could find no evidence to support filing criminal cases against either Sri Mulyani, who resigned as finance minister and left the Cabinet in May 2010 to become a managing director of the World Bank, or Boediono, who was elected Vice President in July 2009.

Throughout the investigations, Sri Mulyani and Boediono, both internationally-respected technocrats of impeccable integrity, said that the bailout of Bank Century was necessary to avert a financial crisis and to prevent panic among depositors in Indonesia.

The main thrust of their argument, which has been fully accepted by financial markets, was that bank runs were contagious and might spread throughout the nation's banking system as happened in 1997 and 1998.

Indonesia escaped the 2008 global crisis unscathed – even though this could be attributed in part to a large domestic market that made the nation less dependent on exports and the fairly low exposure of investors in Indonesia to interntional structured financial products.

But we could have done much worse during the last quarter of 2008 when the stock market crashed, the currency plunged and the banking system was under severe pressure amid massive capital flight by jittery investors.

As in most crises, there is an inherent risk of honest mistakes during a bank bailout, given time pressures and rapidly worsening problems – even if all requirements have been fulfilled.

But if politicians dispute or attack actions taken in a good faith and in full compliance with proper procedure as stipulated by law, no senior official will have the courage in the future to take any economic or financial decisions – however urgent or imperative they may be.

Now that the forensic audit has been completed, it is time for the politicians at the House to move on to other more important matters of the public interest. Let's stop harrassing the KPK for what lawmakers have called an utter lack of courage to investigate and prosecute senior officials.

Broken promises in the year of bad luck

Jakarta Post - December 23, 2011

Usman Hamid, Jakarta – The year 2011 found the predicament of human rights in a state of decay. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's promises of justice for victims of past violations have been subordinated to political compromise, undermining Indonesia's role as a member of the UN Human Rights Council.

Indonesia is not without a human rights platform. There has been a series of five-year human rights national action plans, starting with the first RANHAM 1998-2003. Signed by former president B.J. Habibie and well applied by former president Abdurrahman Wahid, the plan led to institution building, ratification of international instruments and the application of norms.

Perpetrators of crimes against humanity were tried before civilian courts with poor results. Similar efforts were made under the second RANHAM signed by former president Megawati Soekarnoputri during 2003-2009.

This is what Indonesia presented when it underwent the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process at the fourth meeting on April 9, 2008. The council encouraged Indonesia to follow through on its intentions to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances.

The council also commended Indonesia for "its commitment to combat impunity". However, Indonesia has yet to implement such recommendations.

The third RANHAM was signed late by President Yudhoyono in April 2011. Nothing was new except that some action plans, which were meant to be a resolution for past cases through the establishment of the Human Rights Court and Truth and Reconciliation Commission, were missing from the list.

Nevertheless, the resolutions of past cases were listed on the Government Work Plan 2010-2014, particularly under the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister.

Other priorities on the list were terrorism, corruption and human rights protection. The ministry targeted the resolution, through investigation and prosecution, of 10 dossiers in 2010 and five dossiers each in the next four years.

This target is reasonable since the National Commission for Human Rights submitted six dossiers in total to the Attorney General's Office (AGO).

However, the budget allocation for this five year target was limited, with Rp 540 million for investigation and Rp 790 million for prosecutions by the AGO. This was almost nothing compared to other budget allocations.

For instance, the implementation of coordination for the resolution of terrorism consisted of Rp 884.14 billion for the police, Rp 1,485,02 billion for the Indonesian Military (TNI), Rp 1,055,29 billion for the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) and the biggest portion was Rp3,959 billion for the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister.

This does not include deradicalization programs for terrorism, with a total budget of Rp 7,466,08 billion under the same ministry, plus the Home Ministry, the TNI and the BIN.

But cracking down on terrorism without addressing problems of judicial independence or broader demands for justice, even with such massive resources, seems to not be enough to prevent bombing and other extreme forms of religious intolerance.

In September 2011, a suicide bombing took place in Kepunton church in Surakarta, Central Java. Earlier in the year, violence resulted in the deaths of Ahmadis after a brutal attack in Cikeusik, Banten, in February 2011, which was followed some days later by attacks against a church building in Temanggung, Central Java.

Meanwhile, the fate of the GKI Yasmin community church in Bogor, West Java, remains uncertain due to government inaction to execute the Supreme Court ruling allowing a church to be built. These events triggered letters of concern from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navarethem Pillay, and representatives of the US, Canada and European Union.

Furthermore, it is essential for the international community to encourage Indonesia to undertake more security reform.

Draconian bills on national security, states of emergency, and military service may be re-introduced in 2012 after the adoption of a Law on State Intelligence, which gives excessive power to the state intelligence agency, which in turn can potentially be intrusive and undermine civil liberties.

Yudhoyono appointed his brother in law, Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo, as army chief and an active military general, Marciano Norman, to lead the civilian BIN, despite a law on the TNI that bans the appointment of active military personnel to civilian posts equal to ministerial level and raised concerns over the 2004 murder of Munir, allegedly masterminded by BIN personnel with military backgrounds.

In Papua in 2011, several civilians died in patterns of violence and three TNI personnel were killed in Nafri and Abepantai. The shootings increased drastically after workers at Freeport began to strike in September 2011.

Instead of reducing personnel, which might have eased tensions, Jakarta deployed more forces to fight against alleged separatism. On Oct. 19 an attack against civilians occured after the end of Third Papuan People's Congress in Abepura resulted in three deaths.

On the eve of Papuan independence day, Dec. 1, armed officers raided Papuan student dorms in Jakarta, Bali, Yogyakarta and Bandung – Not a single case of violence against civilians has been resolved, most notably torture in Tinggi Nambut, Puncak Jaya, Papua.

Perpetrators brought to two military tribunals in 2011 were tried only for administrative charges of disobeying superior order, not for torture.

President Yudhoyono has always denied that any serious crimes have occured under his administration. Even if crimes exist, Yudhoyono prefers to see them as small excesses, and then bring perpetrators to military court, despite the likelihood of a miscarriage of justice in these tribunals.

The absence of justice continues to trigger stronger demands for the self- determination of Papuans, as presented before the President by Papuan church leaders on Dec. 19, 2011.

If he is willing to have a dialogue, the President must unconditionally release 66 Papuans, plus 24 Mollucans, who have been imprisoned for their peaceful expression of pro-independence views.

Unconditional amnesty for political prisoners will improve the opportunity for success of the newly created Presidential Unit for the Acceleration of Papua and West Papua Development (UP4B), led by Bambang Dharmono and the President's special envoy Farid Husein. It is also essential that the government implement the 2001 Law on Special Autonomy for Papua by creating a human rights court and a truth commission for Papua.

Perpetrators, whether military or civilian, are not being effectively prosecuted. Minority and vulnerable groups are not protected. All these things lead to the breakdown of trust and encourage further violence. And finally, for a better year to come, we require a better prosecution, judiciary and other accountability mechanisms.

The way forward will never improve unless the government repairs its broken promises. President Yudhoyono must listen to the voice of students and religious leaders calling for substantive justice as a solid basis of legitimacy for law and power.

[The writer is chairman of the board for the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and an advisor to the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).]

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