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Indonesia News Digest 5 – February 1-7, 2013

News & issues

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News & issues

Police in Sulawesi detain teacher for insulting local leader on Facebook

Jakarta Globe - February 7, 2013

A junior high school teacher in the Pangkep district of South Sulawesi has been reported to police by the local district chief for insulting him in a comment on Facebook, a report said on Thursday.

Budiman, 37, was reported by district chief Syamsuddin A. Hamid for calling him "the most stupid district head in Indonesia," in a comment posted to Facebook, the Kompas online portal reported. The comment that was deemed offensive was made on Monday and police detained Budiman the next day, following the report by Syamsuddin.

However, Pangkep Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Deni Hermana said that although the police had granted a request by Budiman's wife for a stay of detention, the man remained at the police station, citing fear of retaliation by Syamsuddin's supporters.

"Budiman is opting to stay at the district police station because he said he felt his life was in danger in connection with the Facebook status," Deni said.

Deni said the reason for granting the stay of detention was that keeping him in jail might disrupt the education process at the school where Budiman teaches. In return, local authorities had demanded that he periodically report to the police station.

In the comment, Budiman contrasted Syamsuddin with his late predecessor, Sjafruddin Nur, whom he said "would always be remembered, not like the current district chief, the most stupid district head in Indonesia."

Deni said Syamsuddin had actually already forgiven Budiman, but added that the report against the teacher had not yet been officially withdrawn.

"Therefore our investigators are in a dilemma. The legal process will go on, with the district chief as the plaintiff, unless the report is withdrawn.

"It is advisable that this case does not drag on as was with the case of Prita in Jakarta. The dispute should be settled in a family way, through restorative justice," Deni said.

The police chief was referring to the case of Prita Mulyasari, who was taken to court in 2009 after a private hospital reported her to authorities for saying disparaging things about the hospital's service in private e- mails to a couple of friends. The defamation case went viral on social networks and raised widespread public outrage and sympathy for Prita, including triggering a coin collection campaign to free her.

A guilty verdict handed down to Prita by a lower court was ultimately overruled by the Supreme Court in September 2012.

Based on the report to the police, Budiman could be charged with violating the 2008 Law on Electronic Information and Transactions and face up to six years in jail and a fine of up to Rp 1 billion ($103,000).

South Sulawesi Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Endi Sutendi said the stay of detention was based on instructions from the head of the South Sulawesi Police, Insp. Gen. Mudji Waluyo.

Speed bumps should be declared haram: MUI Samarinda

Jakarta Globe - February 7, 2013

Tunggadewi Matangkilang – Speed bumps should be declared forbidden under Islamic law according a cleric at the Samarinda chapter of the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI).

Cleric Zaini Naim, the head of the Samarinda, East Kalimantan, chapter of the MUI, released a statement on Thursday recommending that the MUI issue a fatwa (an official edict) declaring speed bumps haram (forbidden) or makruh (not recommended).

"Prophet Muhammad once said if someone saw a rock on the street that could harm another road users, it is their obligation to get rid of that rock and any other obstacle on that street to make it more convenient for another users to pass the street," he said.

The Samarinda office made the recommendation after receiving numerous complaints from the public, Zaini said. While the speed bumps were originally placed in narrow alleys to prevent speeding, they often are the cause of accidents and damage motorists' vehicles, he said.

The police should instead tell people not to speed, Zaini explained. "If the streets were properly constructed, they wouldn't need speed bumps," he said. "If the government wants to prevent people from speeding, they should make an announcement or a suggestion instead of putting out obstacles that endanger people's lives."

The MUI is considering whether to issue a fatwa, Zaini said. Fatwas issued by the MUI are not legally binding but are considered to be strong moral guidance for the country's large Muslim population.

Actions, demos, protests...

Angry residents go 'bananas' in protest

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2013

Hundreds of residents planted banana trees in the potholes along Jl. Raya Serang in Tangerang regency on Tuesday to protest to the government's neglecting of the damaged road.

"So many motorists get injured, even die, because of accidents caused by the potholes," rally coordinator Saepudin Juhri said. "We will continue blocking the road until we get the government's attention."

The residents of Cikande, Jayanti, Sumur Bandung and Gembong villages blocked a section of the highway that connects Tangerang with Serang, the capital city of Banten, which forced the police to reroute traffic.

Tangerang Traffic Police deputy chief Insp. Darto said that the protest was understandable because "not only did the potholes cause road accidents, but they also slowed down traffic."

Residents protest ash from Batam power plant

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2013

Fadli, Batam – Around 300 residents of Batam, Riau Islands, have rallied to shut down the Tanjung Kasam steam-powered electricity plant (PLTU) until state-owned electricity company PT PLN stops it from pouring ash onto their homes.

The residents of Telaga Punggur subdistrict in Nongsa have complained of respiratory and skin ailments due to ash from the plant since the Tanjung Kasam PLTU started operations at the end of 2012

The 2x55-megawatt (Mw) plant, built by a Chinese contractor, supplies 30 percent of Batam's total power demand of 383 Mw. The plant uses up to 30,000 tons of coal a month to fire its generators.

Residents were stopped by the police as they approached the station's managers on Jan. 2 to demand that the plant be shut down.

A Telaga Punggur neighborhood unit chief, Susanto, said that residents wanted to ask the station's managers to stop off loading coal from a ship berthed nearby using a conveyer belt due to the ensuing dust pollution.

"We have urged a temporary stoppage of operations until a solution regarding our complaint is reached," Susanto said.

He said that the areas around the power station had been covered in coal dust and soot since the plant came on line.

"Besides health disorders, like respiratory and skin ailments, the homes of residents have also been covered in black ash," Susanto said.

Representatives from several neighborhood and community units have said that they attended a meeting with the power station's management, which promised to wash down the coal before it was unloaded so as not reduce the amount of coal dust falling on the community.

"It turned out that the ash is still there," Susanto said. During the protest on Monday at the entrance of the power station, the residents were seen yelling demands that the management heed their complaints.

Separately, the spokesman of PLN's Batam office, Agus Subekti, confirmed that the management had met with the neighborhood and community units to resolve the issue.

Agus said the coal dust covering the community was from unloading coal and not the plant's operation.

"The coal freighter was unloading coal from the barge and strong winds in the afternoon carried away the ash," Agus said. "The PLTU management then arranged things so that the unloading process would not spew ash."

"We will wash down the coal ahead of the unloading process so as not to cause pollution in the housing complexes. In the future, Tanjung Kasam PLTU will seek to create a safe unloading process. Now, the wind is apparently strong, so it causes dust. Previously, it was okay," Agus said.

Pedicab drivers protest against violent harassment

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2013

Ainur Rohmah, Semarang – Hundreds of becak (pedicab) drivers in Semarang staged a rally in front of the mayor's office on Tuesday in protest against frequent raids by municipal public order officers (Satpol PP) claiming violence and brutality.

The pedicab drivers claim that public order officers have vandalized pedicabs and forcibly confiscated them.

"We beg them not to mark our pedicabs because it makes them look dirty. They say they only want to supervise us, so why do they have to damage our vehicles?" said Haryadi, whose pedicab had been confiscated, at a hearing with Satpol PP and the transportation agency in Semarang on Tuesday.

For the last month Satpol PP has targeted pedicab drivers waiting for passengers along the city's main thoroughfares. They are considered to damage the city's image and cause traffic congestion.

Over 40 pedicabs have been seized. To get their cabs backs, owners are obliged to fill in personal data forms and promise not wait for passengers on main streets.

Wahyu Nandang of the Legal Aid Institute (LBH) Semarang said that pedicab drivers deserved to be treated the same way as any other workers.

Satpol PP, according to Wahyu, has acted inappropriately as no bylaw or mayoral regulation stops pedicab drivers operating in busy streets. "Harassing them undervalues the profession of pedicab drivers," said Wahyu.

Article 27 (2) of the 1945 Constitution guarantees citizens the right to decent work without discrimination.

Meanwhile, head of Satpol PP operations, Aniceto Magno, said that raids were a last resort and previous warnings had been ignored. "We have warned them over 30 times." He admitted that there was indeed no bylaw on which the raids were based.

Satpol PP and the municipal transportation agency had planned to oblige pedicab drivers to paint all the pedicabs the same colors, to wear a uniform and traditional headgear locally known as caping. The same system already applies in Yogyakarta and Surakarta.

City transportation agency secretary Agus Harmunanto said that bringing order to the streets was not just about pedicab drivers but also other vehicles parked haphazardly along the streets.

"The raids were made in the public interest. We understand that pedicab drivers need to work to earn a living, but they also must bear in mind the comfort of other road users by not waiting for passengers wherever they please," he said.

Pedicab driver Purwanto said that they understood that the raids were made for public order purposes and called on Satpol PP to disseminate information regarding the program prior to the raids by, for example, placing signs in places where pedicabs are not supposed to stop.

"We are in full support of the government's supervision program but everything must be conducted peacefully," Purwanto said.

West Papua

Two more civilians attacked in Papua

Jakarta Post - February 4, 2013

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jakarta – Violence remains rampant in Papua as two civilians were attacked by unidentified people in two different areas.

The body of Yerson Wonorengga, 22, was found in the Skyland River, Jayapura, on Friday morning with an open wound on the waist. It is alleged Wonorengga was a victim of a brawl between two groups in Skyland on Thursday evening.

Jayapura City Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Alfred Papare said the brawl began when a group of drunken youth hit an ojek (motorcycle taxi) driver. He said the drunkards hit the man because there were not enough motorcycles available to carry the seven youths around the town.

The ojek driver informed his friends of the incident, they chased the drunken youths and fighting broke out, causing disruption to the flow of traffic on the Jayapura-Abepura highway until the authorities dispersed both groups. Two people were hospitalized, the police have questioned two witnesses.

Earlier in the week, on Thursday, an unidentified gunman shot Bahar, an ojek driver, during a ride from Wagethe to Enarotali, the administrative seat of Paniai regency.

"An unknown passenger asked Bahar to take him to Enarotali to buy motorcycle parts," Papua Police chief spokesman Sr. Comr. I Gede Sumerta said. "The passenger shot Bahar in the neck. When he fell, the gunman tried to shoot him again, he missed and ran away."

Sumerta said Bahar said the bullet entered from his neck and pierced his left cheek. A motorist found Bahar and took him to Enarotali General Hospital.

"The gunman probably used a pistol. We are still looking for the culprit and the motive," Sumerta said.

In August 2011, a gunman killed a Paniai Police officer, Yohan Kisiwaitoi at the Enarotali Airport and a local resident, Mustafa, was shot at his home in West Paniai district. Separatist group Free Papua Organization (OPM) claimed its members were the perpetrators of the two shootings in August, tempo.co reported in August.

Papua police searching for gunman in Paniai shooting

Jakarta Globe - February 1, 2013

Farouk Arnaz – Police in Indonesia's restive Papua province are searching for a man who shot a motorcycle driver in the neck on Thursday in Tigi Timur, in the district of Paniai.

"We are still looking into the identity of the perpetrator. The shooter was a passenger of the motorcycle taxi and the name of the victim is Bahar, 28, who was shot in the neck," said Sr. Com. Agus Rianto, the head of the National Police general information department, on Friday.

Bahar was left injured after the bullet went through his cheek and is currently being treated in a hospital in Paniai.

Agus said that according to preliminary investigations, a man demanded Bahar take him to Enarotali for Rp 50,000 ($5.15), claiming that he wanted to buy motorcycle parts.

However, halfway along the trip, the passenger shot the driver from behind using a hand gun. The perpetrator then ran into the forest while a passing truck driver took the victim to hospital.

"The motive is yet unclear because the motorcycle of the victim was not even taken," Agus said.

Paniai is known as one of the strongholds of armed separatist groups in Papua.

Sexual & domestic violence

KY, Supreme Court at odds over Daming's dismissal

Jakarta Post - February 7, 2013

Ina Parlina, Jakarta – The Judicial Commission (KY) and the Supreme Court are at loggerheads over whether Judge Muhammad Daming Sunusi, who attracted widespread public outcry for making an insulting remark about rape victims, should be fired.

The commission insisted on Wednesday that a judicial ethics committee should be established to pave the way for Daming's dismissal, although the Supreme Court has balked at the request.

In a letter sent to the commission on Feb. 1, the Supreme Court said an ethics hearing for Daming was unnecessary and that he should be handed an "appropriate punishment".

After examining Daming over the incident, the commission announced recently that he had breached the judicial code of ethics and should be dismissed from his current position. The commission added, however, that Daming should be dismissed honorably and still be given his pension.

"The Supreme Court cannot reject the establishment of an ethics panel for Daming unless we withdraw our recommendation," Judicial Commission member Asep Rahmat Fajar said on Wednesday.

"The establishment of an ethics panel is in line with Article 22[F] of Law No. 18/2011 on the Judicial Commission as well as a joint commission- Supreme Court regulation."

Asep said the commission and the Supreme Court were obliged to form an ethics hearing for Daming, who has the right to defend himself.

According to Asep, three out of five judges brought before ethics hearings last year over allegations of serious breaches were dismissed. The two others received punishments but remained in their jobs.

In the letter, the Supreme Court argued in Daming's defense that the embattled judge had made a public apology for his remark. He had also served on the judiciary for 35 years and had never before committed a disciplinary violation, the letter said.

"Clearly Daming was wrong to utter [the rape remark]. But it was merely because he was out of control. It would be unfair to dismiss him via a hearing," Supreme Court spokesman Ridwan Mansyur said on Tuesday as quoted by Antara news agency.

During a fit-and-proper test at the House of Representatives in January, Daming said that some rape victims may enjoy the sexual intercourse and so introducing the death penalty for rapists would be inappropriate. His statement caused a public furore.

The Supreme Court, however, would agree to impose a commensurate sanction against him as the statement was made outside a courtroom, Ridwan added. Ridwan refused to detail the kind of sanction envisaged, saying the court would seek to discuss the matter with the commission.

The commission insisted, however, that they had considered all the Supreme Court's arguments. "We weighed all the facts before we decided upon dismissal," Asep said.

The commission, which is tasked with proposing candidates for Supreme Court justices to the House, has admitted it made a mistake in selecting Daming. According to the commission, Daming passed an overall evaluation during the commission's selection process.

Since this case erupted, the commission has tightened the requirements for Supreme Court justices in its upcoming selection process.

KY to raise standards after rape joke incident

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2013

Ina Parlina, Jakarta – After admitting to having made a mistake in recommending "rape joke" judge Muhammad Daming Sunusi for "fit-and-proper" tests, the Judicial Commission (KY) has decided to tighten requirements for Supreme Court justice candidates.

The commission said that in future, they would select candidates who were more sensitive to gender issues.

"The Daming incident taught us a lesson [...] we need to measure how sensitive a candidate is to gender issues during the selection process," the commission spokesperson, Asep Rahmat Fajar, said on Thursday.

Responding to a request from the Supreme Court to conduct a selection process to fill seven vacant justice seats, the commission is scheduled to start a registration period for candidates between Feb. 4 and Feb. 22, 2013.

The candidates will undergo a five-stage selection process before the commission submits the names to the House for a fit-and-proper test.

Following the fit-and-proper test, candidates will undergo an administrative test, competency assessment, psychological test, medical check-up and interview. During a fit-and-proper test earlier this month, Daming made the controversial "rape joke".

Daming said that some rape cases might involve consensual sex and that rape victims "might have enjoyed the intercourse".

The commission later announced that Daming had breached the judicial code of ethics and should be dismissed from his current position. The commission said that it would also dig deeper into candidates' personal lives.

Asep, however, said that background checks would not include a look into any history of extramarital affairs. "Everything related to candidates' track records, including work backgrounds, living and social environments, will be scrutinized," he said.

Asep said that the commission was currently looking into an extramarital affair allegation involving one judge. The commission is also set to approve a new condition that would limit how many times failed candidates could reapply for the job.

Daming himself failed to pass the fit-and-proper test in 2011 and joined another selection round this year.

"Now, a candidate can't reapply after having failed twice," KY commissioner Taufiqurrahman Syahuri said, adding that candidates, however, could reapply after taking a break.

"Those who don't pass the health test can improve their health; those who don't have enough knowledge can better prepare by reading more books; and those who lack integrity [...] can show remorse first," he said.

The KY also sets a condition that would ban career judges from applying non-career judges enrollment track.

The current selection process is aiming to fill a total of seven slots in the three chambers, including one left vacant by Ahmad Yamani, who was sacked after an ethics panel found him in violation of the judges' code of ethics for falsifying a ruling involving a drug lord.

"We hope that we can meet the challenge. But, as we repeatedly stated, selecting justice candidates is a difficult task," Taufiqurrahman said.

He also denied that the salary gap between justices and high court judges would give disincentives for candidates applying for the country's top judge position.

Data from the commission said that a high court judge received around Rp 40 million (US$4,125), while a Supreme Court justice received only Rp 33 million per month. The high salary of high court judges was based on Government Regulation No. 94/2012 signed last year by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which was issued as part of a concerted effort to eradicate corruption in the judiciary.

"We will see. It's up to them. If they are aspiring for something great, they will join the selection process. If they only care about money, then they need not apply," Taufiqurrahman said.

In Solo, a call to fire officials who abuse women

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2013

Kusumasari Ayuningtyas, Surakarta – Activists rallied in Surakarta, Central Java, on Thursday, calling on the Home Ministry to remove regional government officials who abuse women.

The protesters brought with them pillow cases bearing 1,001 signatures, chosen to symbolize that officials' lives at home should be subject to public scrutiny, as they are supposed to set examples for the community.

"The Home Minister has to act firmly, according to the prevailing laws," women's rights activist Maria Suci Aningsih said.

Maria said that cases where elected regional officials had abused or assaulted women were handled slowly by police and the central government.

She cited as example the case of Garut Regent Aceng Fikri, who has been grilled by police after his 4-day unregistered marriage to and SMS divorce from a 17-year-old girl.

Aceng has not been removed from office, despite Supreme Court approval of a Garut Legislative Council petition to remove him.

The protest follows a similar event held last week in Magelang, Central Java, against Magelang Deputy Mayor Joko Prasetyo for allegedly assaulting his wife, Siti Rubaidah.

"The case is already in the P21 dossier stage. We urge the police to arrest Joko and uphold Article 10 of Law No. 13/2006 on witness protection," one of Siti's lawyers, Dian Sasmita, said.

Completion of a P21 dossier is the final step in a police investigation. It must be submitted to prosecutor to issue an indictment and begin trial proceedings.

Dian said that the deputy mayor's wife was entitled to witness protection after Joko, in what she described as retaliation, filed a police report against Siti for defamation.

According to Dian, Siti has been prevented from seeing her children, as she has been living separately from her family for the last two months.

"Hindering a mother from seeing her own children is already a form of violence, not to mention the other threats. This cannot be just ignored. As a victim-cum-witness, Siti Rubaidah should not have been reported back for her testimony," Dian said.

Siti's lawyers have petitioned the Magelang Police to drop Joko's complaint against his wife and to help Siti see her children.

According to the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) there were 113,878 cases of domestic violence in Indonesia in 2011, the last year for which statistics were available. There were 57 cases of domestic violence reported in Surakarta in the first half of 2012.

Separately, the Integrated Service Center for Women's Empowerment and Child Protection (P2TP2A) in Mutiara Klaten, Central Java, reported 67 cases of violence against women and 45 cases of violence against children in the region in 2012.

Labour & migrant workers

Government to exempt hundreds of companies from minimum wage rise

Jakarta Globe - February 7, 2013

ID/Agusyanti, Dessy Sagita – Hundreds of companies will be exempt from paying their employees the new minimum wage to prevent bankruptcy, the manpower and transmigration minister said on Thursday.

"There are 941 companies requesting the delay of the minimum wage increase, we will grant about 80 percent of them, but please note that the delay was needed as a logical alternative rather than closing down those companies," said Muhaimin Iskandar, the manpower and transmigration minister.

The announcement was made just a day after hundreds of workers demonstrated in Jakarta to demand the government enforce the minimum wage increase which was announced at the end of last year.

The monthly minimum wage of Rp 2.2 million ($227) is a hefty 44 percent increase from the 2012 standard. This prompted scores of businesses to apply to the city administration for an exemption from having to pay it. Muhaimin argued that the government had a selective process in choosing the companies who really needed to delay increasing the wages, adding that a request was only granted if an agreement had been reached between the company and its workers, or if a company could prove, through financial reports, that it could not afford the new minimum wage. He said 500 companies had already been granted a delay.

Said Iqbal, from the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Union (KSPI), previously said that the workers would not stop demonstrating as long as the government continued to protect companies by letting them escape their responsibility to pay the minimum wage.

Said said companies requesting the delay should be publicly audited to prove they really needed to be exempt.

"We have sent our legal warning to the governor of Jakarta, Banten, West Java, Central Java, and Riau Islands, to remind them that only companies that have been audited can be exempt, if they ignore our warning we will bring this case to the State Administrative Court (PTUN)," he said.

Workers decry social security contributions

Jakarta Globe - February 7, 2013

Several thousand workers from across Greater Jakarta gathered at various locations in the middle of the city on Wednesday demanding the government to reduce their monthly social security contribution.

The president of the Federation of Indonesian Metal Workers Unions (FSPMI), Said Iqbal, said that the workers were adamant that employers, and not them, should pay monthly social security premiums.

"We also ask that the workers who earn less than the minimum wage be covered by the social security scheme and exempted from paying premiums," he said.

Under the 2004 National Social Security System (SJSN) Law, workers are required to pay 2 percent of their monthly salary into the social security fund, with their employers contributing 3 percent of the same base salary.

Union officials have proposed that the worker's contribution start at 1 percent and gradually increase to 2 percent.

Said, whose federation organized the rallies, said the workers also wanted the government to instate mandatory pensions for retiring private-sector employees by July 2015. Currently, only civil servants are entitled to a pension for life.

The protesters also rejected a newly revised Manpower Ministry regulation that calculates the minimum wage based on the cost of items that workers are expected to buy.

Unions have long argued that the Reasonable Living Cost (KHL) index derived from this calculation, which is then used to determine the minimum wage, is unrealistically low. This is despite the fact that the ministry has revised up the total number of components in the index to 64 from 48. The unions are pushing for a total of 86 components.

The workers staged their rallies at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, outside the State Palace, in front of the House of Representatives and outside the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration, all in Central Jakarta.

The rallies prompted police to divert traffic from the affected streets, causing worse congestion than usual in surrounding streets.

In addition to the FSPMI rallies, a group of several hundred workers gathered outside City Hall in Central Jakarta to urge the governor, Joko Widodo, to enforce the 2013 minimum wage in Jakarta that was announced at the end of last year.

The monthly minimum wage of Rp 2.2 million ($227) is a hefty 44 percent increase from the 2012 standard. This prompted scores of businesses to apply to the city administration for an exemption from having to pay it.

Joko agreed to meet with representatives of the protesters. Afterward he told reporters the representatives had aired their grievances about employers refusing to pay them according to the new minimum wage.

"They asked that the city administration ensure compliance with the new minimum wage by visiting every factory in the city, especially in the industrial estates," he said, as quoted by Okezone.com.

"There are obviously sanctions in place for businesses that don't comply, but keep in mind that they're allowed to request an exemption." Joko added he not yet received any exemption applications.

However, the worker's claim that at least 46 businesses are refusing to pay the new wage on the grounds that they have been granted exemption by the city administration. "I'll immediately call in the city manpower office chief and ask him about the process," Joko promised.

Greater Jakarta: Workers educated on minimum wage

Jakarta Post - February 5, 2013

Tangerang – About 300 workers from the Alliance of Indonesian Labor Unions Congress (KASBI) distributed information on new minimum wage rules.

At a rally on Monday, the workers distributed copies of a gubernatorial regulation dictating sectoral wages for 2013 for industrial firms.

KASBI coordinator Sunarno said that 134 local companies have delayed implementing the wage hikes, claiming fears of bankruptcy and threatening to fire employees or to relocate their factories.

"Through this rally, we are trying to familiarize workers with the new wage rules and the obligation of their employers to meet our demands. This will be a peaceful rally, because we have written to the management of the industrial firms to let representatives of their workers meet with us," he said.

In a decree issued in December, Banten Governor Ratu Atut Chosiyah raised the monthly minimum wage for Tangerang municipality to Rp 2.2 million (US$227).

Political parties & elections

Vote-buying deemed the norm in West Java

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2013

Arya Dipa, Bandung – Some people in West Java consider vote-buying in gubernatorial elections to be the norm.

The Indonesia Survey Circle's (LSI) communication image executive director, Toto Izul Fatah, said around 36.1 percent of the community regarded vote- buying as normal. "The survey was conducted with 440 respondents," Toto said in Bandung on Tuesday.

The study, using a multistage random sampling method, was conducted from Jan. 10 to 16. According to Toto, the matter was worth noting given the gubernatorial election in West Java will be held on Feb. 24.

As much as 5.2 percent of respondents thought vote-buying was very common, 30.9 percent considered it quite common, while 60.3 percent regarded it to be uncommon.

Those who regarded the practice as common hoped to receive nine basic foodstuffs, locally known as sembako, and cash.

"More than 50 percent of respondents were in favor of being provided with sembako, while those who preferred cash handouts amounted to 25.7 percent," said Toto. Only 6.6 percent of respondents preferred to be given campaign memorabilia from candidates.

"Only 1.8 percent of respondents preferred clothing and another 1.8 percent preferred other memorabilia, with 13.6 percent not answering the question on contributions," said Toto.

Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) deputy head Adnan Pandu Praja said vote-buying existed in almost every province. "Everyone knows that it is dirty, but it cannot be denied. Why is it tolerated? Because of basic needs in the sector," said Adnan.

Despite being included as a corrupt practice, the KPK has no authority to deal with the matter, as its investigations are restricted by regulations and a minimum limit of money being misappropriated.

"We hope that members of the public who know about it will report the matter to the election supervisory committee. If it [money politics] exists, it is down to the law. We depend on the public to participate and empower supervisory committees well," he added.

The survey also showed the candidate pairing of incumbent Deputy Governor Dede Yusuf and his running mate former West Java provincial secretary Lex Laksamana as most likely to win the election. The pair, nominated by the Democrat Party, was chosen by 35.3 percent of respondents.

Incumbent Governor Ahmad Heryawan and his running mate senior actor Deddy Mizwar were chosen by 27.4 percent of respondents while in third position were House of Representatives' member Rieke Diah Pitaloka and anticorruption activist Teten Masduki, picked by 13.3 percent of respondents.

The survey showed the candidate pair of former Indramayu regent Irianto MS Syafiuddin and former Tasikmalaya regent Tatang Farhanul Hakim in fourth place, chosen by 9.5 percent of respondents. The independent candidate pair of former South Sumatra Police chief Insp. Gen. Dikdik Mulyana Arief Mansyur and former Indramayu regency secretary Cecep Mulyana Toyib were picked by 0.7 percent of respondents. "As many as 14 percent of the respondents have yet decided to choose," said Toto.

West Java, the most populous province in Indonesia, is known for its deep Islamic roots. Previously, a survey reported that West Java was the province with the highest level of religious intolerance violations in Indonesia.

Issues related to the spread of hatred through religious activities were also taking place in the province. The number of cases related to the criminalization of faiths stood at 23 in 2012, 15 in 2011 and 10 in 2010.

Yudhoyono needs Anas to save Dems

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2013

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Democratic Party chief patron President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is relying on party chairman Anas Urbaningrum to unite the party until the 2014 general elections, and he will do whatever it takes to retain Anas in his post despite the graft allegations leveled against him, analysts say.

Syamsuddin Haris of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said Yudhoyono had no option but to back Anas' leadership for the sake of the party's future.

"Although there is apparent tension between Yudhoyono and Anas, the President has to support Anas as he is party chairman, the formal leader of the group. SBY has no other option because his close confidant, Andi Mallarangeng, has been named a suspect in the Hambalang scandal," Syamsuddin said. Yudhoyono, however, would only support Anas until the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) decided his fate, he added.

"SBY needs Anas to consolidate the party ahead of the 2014 elections and he will support Anas only while the KPK does not name him a suspect," he added.

Syamsuddin warned of the increasingly apparent tension between Yudhoyono and Anas, with the latter trying to control the party's local leadership. "This will make it hard for the party to finish even second in the 2014 general elections," he said.

Other analysts have said that it would take substantial effort to wrest Anas from his post as he remained in strong control of the party.

"Anas remains powerful within the party. He is probably holding a trump card on corruption cases that may implicate other senior figures in the party," said Hamdi Muluk, political analyst with the University of Indonesia (UI).

Anas and former youth and sports minister Andi Mallarangeng have repeatedly been named by former Democratic Party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin as accepting bribery money from the budget for the Hambalang sports complex in West Java.

Nazaruddin accused Anas of accepting Rp 50 billion (US$5.18 million) to finance his bid for the party chairmanship in 2010, in which he ran against Andi.

Anas won the chairmanship even though Andi was backed by Yudhoyono's son, Edhie Baskoro "Ibas" Yudhoyono. After his win, Anas shrewdly appointed Ibas as the party's secretary-general.

Anas stated in March that he was ready to face a firing squad or be hanged at the National Monument if he was found guilty of corruption.

According to a recent survey by the NGO, Founding Fathers House, Anas was considered the country's most-loathed politician of 2012 as his name appeared almost daily in national newspapers alongside graft allegations.

Many have suggested that Yudhoyono could at least suspend Anas from the party chairmanship to reassure the public about the party's commitment to fighting corruption.

Hamdi, however, said that Yudhoyono was reluctant to do that as he was concerned about Anas going rogue. "SBY is now in a difficult position. He is worried that Anas will launch an attack against him."

PKS faithful unhappy with Anis as leader

Jakarta Globe - February 4, 2013

SP/Carlos Paath, Ezra Sihite & Rizky Amelia – It was with great fanfare that Anis Matta was appointed the new president of the Prosperous Justice Party on Friday.

But two days later, rifts in the country's biggest Islamic party have become apparent, with recriminations echoing that the party chose the wrong person to guide it out of a historic low.

"Anis was the worst choice that the party could have made out of the options available," said Karel Susetyo, a political analyst from Point Indonesia, a think tank. "As the party's secretary general, he made no meaningful achievements, and he continues to be implicated in a corruption case."

Anis was promoted last week by the party known as the PKS to replace Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, the previous president, who was arrested on Thursday after being named a bribery suspect by antigraft investigators.

Many analysts had assumed that the party, one of the few major parties with a relatively clean record on graft, would have appointed Hidayat Nurwahid, a former PKS president, to guide the party through the current scandal.

The decision to name Anis, however, has stunned observers and left party stalwarts pointing the finger.

"I doubt that Anis can be the uniting force that the party needs right now," Karel said on Sunday. "The issue of trustworthiness is paramount in this case, and he doesn't have that because he's still tainted by the Budget Committee scandal."

Karel was referring to allegations made repeatedly by Wa Ode Nurhayati, a former legislator from the National Mandate Party (PAN), that Anis, as the deputy speaker of the House of Representatives overseeing the House Budget Committee, had rigged funding for regional development.

Wa Ode, who was convicted and sentenced last October to six years in prison in a separate bribery case, claimed that Anis took a Rp 7.7 billion ($793,000) kickback to divert a Rp 40 billion allocation meant for Papua to other regions in 2011. However, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) says there is no evidence yet to corroborate her claim.

Justice versus prosperity

Karel warned that the PKS had split into two factions. He identified one, made up of more conservative members and holdovers from the party's days as the Justice Party (PK), as the "justice" faction. The other, he said, is comprised of newer and more politically savvy members like Anis and Luthfi, called the "prosperity" faction.

The justice proponents, Karel argued, would have taken a firm line on Luthfi's case. They certainly would not have championed the former president, which Anis did in an emotion-laden speech after his appointment last week.

He added that the prosperity branch, however, was different, practicing what he called "a more flexible form of politics."

Yusuf Supendi, a PK co-founder, acknowledged that there was a rift between the two sides and that Anis's appointment would further polarize the PKS.

"The war between the party members will never be over. There will always be in-fighting," he said. Anis, he added, was "110 percent from the prosperity faction."

Mashadi, another PK co-founder, called for the PKS to disband in the wake of Luthfi's arrest and Anis's appointment. "With Luthfi's case coming to light, the PKS leadership should simply declare the party disbanded," Mashadi said.

"The case doesn't just reflect badly on the party. It also compels the [prosperity] members to face up to what they've done. This kind of scandal can't be erased in just one or two generations."

Mashadi said Luthfi's arrest was the culmination of the "political taint" of the prosperity faction, blasting the latter for breaking with the PKS's core conservative values by practicing dirty politics.

"The way they've conducted themselves in the political arena is far from the example that they should be setting for the Muslim faithful," he said.

'Arrest Anis'

Yusuf said that Anis faced "a really tough task ahead" in helping the PKS recover from the scandal and perform well in the 2014 legislative election.

"He's got to find a way to get the party members believing in their leader again, and this means winning back voters' trust," he said. "If he can't do it, then the PKS should prepare to bow out after the elections."

J. Kristiadi, a political analyst from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank, argued that the burden of reviving the PKS's fortunes was not for Anis to bear alone.

"This is not a responsibility that should be borne by a single person over the long term," he said. "The PKS has to have the [structural] strength [to support Anis]. It'll take more than just a great character; it'll take a great party system."

He added that public trust in the party would be difficult to restore, given the damage done by Luthfi's case to the PKS's long reputation as one of the cleanest major parties in the country.

He said the way forward was for the party to forsake any self-interest image-building campaign, and instead position itself as a champion of the people. "It must not fall back on political image-building," Kristiadi warned.

Yusuf, however, said the only way to stop what he called the destruction of the PKS was for the prosperity faction leaders to be arrested along with Luthfi.

"If you ask me, the party can only be saved if Anis and Hilmy are arrested," he said, referring to Hilmy Haminuddin, an Anis protege and new chairman of the PKS's advisory council. "Short of their arrest, the PKS can't be saved," he insisted.

Yusuf also called on Luthfi, Anis and other prominent prosperity faction members, including Tifatul Sembiring, the gaffe-prone minister of communications and information technology, to swear a "death oath" that they were not implicated in any corruption cases.

Luthfi was arrested on suspicion of being the recipient of a Rp 1 billion bribe given to Ahmad Fathanah, a PKS member caught taking the money from two executives from Indoguna Utama, a meat-importing company.

The KPK alleges that Luthfi had demanded the money in exchange for helping steer a government meat import contract to the company. The plan was to use his influence over PKS legislators and government officials to direct the contracts, investigators say.

The contracts are determined by the Agriculture Ministry, whose head, Suswono, is a PKS member. However, he has not yet been implicated in the case.

PPP continues reaching out to fringe groups

Jakarta Post - February 4, 2013

Arya Dipa, Bandung – The Islamic United Development Party (PPP) has continued to make overtures to a number of fringe groups in the country in an effort to shore up support from traditional Muslims.

On Sunday, party chairman Suryadharma Ali, who is also the religious affairs minister, announced that his party was open to members of the Indonesian Islamic Propagation Institute (LDII) and Al-Zaytun boarding school, two institutions that have been seen by many as part of a radical movement; the outlawed Indonesia Islamic State (NII).

"I know this is controversial," Suryadharma said in his speech during the commemoration of the party's 40th anniversary in Bandung, West Java.

Suryadharma went on to say that the PPP was ready to embrace members of other Muslim organizations viewed by the public as "firebrand" organizations. "I don't have to say these groups are extremist. But then, what should we do [about these groups]? Should we just let them be or embrace them?" he said.

Suryadharma said that the PPP was ready to reach out to the groups and bring them to the true version of Islam, as promoted by the party. "We have to embrace them first to build communication," he said, adding that Islam was not a religion of terror but of peace.

Last week, Suryadharma made a similar gesture to the vigilante group the Islam Defenders Front (FPI). The PPP even went so far as to nominate Munarman, the FPI's outspoken figurehead, as a legislative candidate.

Suryadharma Ali believes that Munarman is well-qualified for the job. "He comes highly recommended. He is knowledgeable and a lawyer – a perfect fit to be active in politics," he said.

The PPP is also expected to enlist a family member of Panji Gumilang, the suspected leader of the NII, as a legislative candidate.

Snuggling up to the FPI and the NII could be seen as part of the PPP's strategy to remain an exclusively Islamic party and to go against the trend among Muslim-based parties to become more secular. PPP executives declared that the party would only nominate Muslims to run in 2014.

Faced with the prediction that Muslim-based parties would lose a significant number of votes to secular parties, some Islamic parties have begun to woo secular voters.

The National Mandate Party (PAN) is planning to be less visually Islamic and more inclusive during campaigns, while the National Awakening Party (PKB) plans to increase the number of non-Muslim members to expand the party's inclusivity.

This is far from the first time Suryadharma has made controversial statements.

In September last year, responding to a clash between the majority Sunni population in Sampang, Madura Island and the Shia minority, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma said that the conversion of the latter would be the best way to prevent violent outbreaks between the two groups.

Meanwhile, the West Java provincial branch of PPP said in a statement on Saturday it was ready to nominate Suryadharma as its presidential candidate.

The chairman of PPP's West Java, Rachmat Yasin, said the party was ready to gather more votes that would allow Suryadharma to be nominated as president.

"If the party's provincial branch could get at least 15 percent of the vote [in the legislative election]there is no reason for the party not to nominate our chairman as a candidate for the position of president or vice president. West Java is a guarantee," Rachmat said. (nad)

Prabowo dreams of homegrown auto industry

Jakarta Post - February 3, 2013

Arya Dipa, Bandung – Chief patron of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) Prabowo Subianto is concerned that despite Indonesia's resource wealth the country has always been seen as market by producers from abroad.

"We have all the necessary requirements to build an automotive industry but we still choose to import vehicles from abroad instead of fostering an industry ourselves," Prabowo said in a meeting organized by the Indonesia Muslim Scholars Association (ICMI) in Bandung on Saturday.

If elected president in 2014 Prabowo claims he would make the construction of an automotive plant one of his top priorities, guaranteeing that the plant would be different from those that exist today.

"We will build our own brand and not just manufacture old branded vehicles," he said.

Prabowo then cited South Korea and Japan as success stories in building their own automotive brands and selling them to the world as best practices.

PKS resorts to conspiracy theories after ex-chief's arrest

Jakarta Post - February 3, 2013

Ina Parlina and Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – In a country where conspiracy theories are alive and well, pointing your finger to a clandestine operation – be it the universe, spy agencies or, well, the Jews – for the ills that have befallen you, is perhaps the easiest thing to do. But that is probably not a good PR strategy if you are a political party embroiled in a corruption scandal.

Political observers were astounded when the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) claimed that a "big conspiracy" was behind the arrest of its former chairman, Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, on graft charges.

The party's members are convinced Luthfi is innocent and that the only explanation for the Corruption Eradication Commission's (KPK) charging him with graft is the work of a "conspiracy". Some party members alleged that it could be the work of its political enemies, but senior PKS politician Hidayat Nur Wahid went the furthest, suspecting that the Jews could be involved.

Hidayat said there were parties within the country and beyond who did not want his party to grow bigger for a number of reasons, including the fact that it had been consistently supporting the rights of the Palestinians under Israel's oppression. "They could be the Zionists," Hidayat told reporters at a press conference at the party's headquarters on Friday.

Hidayat argued that there were many irregularities in the case against his colleague. Refusing to name names, he pointed out the fact that a politician from another party had not been detained, despite having been named a graft suspect. It is clear, however, that he was referring to former youth and sports minister Andi Mallarangeng, who remains free after having been named a suspect in the Hambalang graft case.

As the scandal broke, speculation also emerged that the PKS' legal quagmire might be linked to Cabinet Secretary Dipo Alam's move to file a report on alleged graft in three ministries to the KPK last November. Dipo did not reveal details, but it was reported that the three ministries were the Agriculture Ministry, Defense Ministry and Trade Ministry.

The former People's Consultative Council (MPR) chairman made it clear that he was not implying that the KPK had intervened, but that there was something fishy about the KPK's move to charge and detain Luthfi. "We are in politics, we should disclose every allegation," he said.

PKS executive Sohibul Iman said on Saturday that conspiracy was a normal term in politics. "As long as we don't pinpoint someone, as long as we don't accuse someone," he said.

Despite the suspicions, the party has decided to leave Luthfi's case to the KPK, though with a caveat. "Insya Allah [God Willing] we trust the KPK. But, they must be careful and not let 'free riders' manipulate [them]," he said.

Political analysts said that the PKS' defensive attitude would not help the party restore its credibility. "The language of conspiracy used by Anis Matta and the PKS elites is not helping the party restore its image. They should understand that such an attitude gives the impression that the party's elites are just looking for a scapegoat," Burhanuddin Muhtadi, a political analyst from the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI), said during a discussion in Jakarta on Saturday.

"If you ask the PKS who is actually behind the conspiracy, they will be as confused as you are," he said on Saturday, adding that the party was likely using the jargon to build up the morale of its members cadres.

Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) called on the PKS to respond to the legal problem involving its members wisely. "The PKS members should act maturely in dealing with the case. Let it be. Look at the facts. If [Luthfi] is proven guilty, then accept it," ICW coordinator Danang Widoyoko said.

Antigraft body 'will affect political dynamics' ahead of 2014 election

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2013

Ina Parlina and Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – With a number of top politicians accused of being implicated in graft, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), which has vowed to remain independent, will shape the political dynamics of the 2014 elections, analysts say.

The arrest of former Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq by the antigraft body earlier this week has dealt a major blow to the Islamic party. The party believed the case against its top politician was engineered by its political enemies and that the same fate may befall other parties.

"Even though the KPK is working according to an existing legal framework, its investigations into cases related to politicians or political parties will affect the country's political dynamics ahead of 2014," political observer Gun Gun Heryanto of Paramadina University told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

He argued that cases under the KPK's investigation did not necessarily come from its own findings. "The cases also come from reports from the public or others," he said. "It doesn't rule out the possibility that these hints are political maneuvers. The public [who file the reports] probably do not realize it."

Other than the imported meat graft scandal that has hit the PKS, the KPK is still investigating other cases that could implicate top politicians in other parties.

In December last year, the KPK named Democratic Party politician Andi Mallarangeng a suspect in the Hambalang sports complex case, making him the first active Cabinet minister to be named. The commission has yet to detain Andi, who later resigned from his post.

The case put a spotlight on party chairman Anas Urbaningrum after former Democratic Party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin repeatedly accused him, as well as Andi, of accepting money in the project.

Nazaruddin claimed Anas used his share to pay for his campaign for the party chairmanship in Bandung in 2010. The KPK has questioned Anas as a witness in the high-profile case but he has yet to be named a suspect, despite various incriminating testimonies against him.

The Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) is also in the spotlight, when in July last year, the KPK named politician and lawmaker Izedrik Emir Moeis a suspect in a graft case surrounding the construction of a coal-fired power plant in Tarahan, Lampung, in 2004.

In a separate case, Golkar Party lawmaker Zulkarnaen Djabar is now facing trial for his role in the Koran procurement scandal at the Religious Affairs Ministry and computer laboratories at junior Islamic high schools. KPK prosecutors accused Zulkarnaen of accepting bribes during the deliberation of the budget for the projects in 2011 and 2012.

Golkar's executive Priyo Budi Santoso, who is also the House of Representatives deputy speaker, has been implicated in the case. He has denied the allegations.

The KPK is still investigating the Bank Century scandal, a highly political graft case that has been repeatedly used to pressure the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. While the PKS suspected a political conspiracy was behind corruption charges levelled at its chairman, other parties said they still trusted the KPK.

Golkar deputy secretary-general Nurul Arifin said that her party would not meddle in legal affairs. "We'll leave all indications of corruption, including those allegedly involving our members, to the KPK," she said.

KPK spokesman Johan Budi said the KPK only worked within the legal sphere. "We don't deal with politics. We prosecute people as individuals, not as political party officials," he said.

Anis replaces Luthfi, as doubts linger over credibility

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2013

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – The embattled Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) appointed its secretary-general, Anis Matta, as its new leader on Friday following the resignation of chairman, Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, who is currently being held on corruption charges.

Chairman of the party's Majelis Syuro (consultative council) Hilmi Aminuddin announced Anis' selection at the party's headquarters in South Jakarta after a prolonged meeting attended by party executives. Anis was picked over Hidayat Nur Wahid, who declined to take the job as he had served as party chairman before. Taufik Ridho will replace Anis as secretary-general.

Anis, who is also a House of Representatives deputy speaker, is expected to restore the party's credibility in the wake of a corruption scandal analysts said would deal a major blow to the Islamic-based party ahead of the 2014 elections. He said he would resign from the House and would focus on his new role.

Analysts, however, have doubts whether Anis is up to the job due to his questionable track record. He was accused of complicity in a bribery case surrounding deliberations over the 2011 Regional Infrastructure Adjustment Fund (DPID).

Wa Ode Nurhayati, the main suspect in the case, accused him of abusing his power to smooth the graft-riddled disbursement of DPID funds totaling Rp 6.3 trillion (US$648.9 million). Anis, who was questioned by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in connection with the case, has always denied the allegations.

In 2011, Yusuf Supendi, one of the party's founders, reported Anis and Luthfi to the House ethics council and to the KPK for alleged graft.

Yusuf accused Luthfi of misappropriating donations from the Middle East for his personal use when serving as the party's treasurer and lashed out at Anis for allegedly embezzling Rp 10 billion from the Rp 40 billion campaign fund donated by Adang Daradjatun to the PKS during the previous Jakarta gubernatorial election.

Arbi Sanit of the University of Indonesia said the PKS had made an unwise decision in picking Anis as its new leader. Anis, he said, could drag the party down further if the KPK moved against him.

"This is a careless choice. The PKS didn't think through such an elitist decision. I suspect that Anis is only a token made to secure support from prospective voters due to his influence among the party membership," he said.

Yunarto Wijaya from Charta Politica said that as a young politician, Anis had the ability to unite the party and restore the morale of party members. "As a young man, he [Anis] will be able to generate enthusiasm among the party rank and file," he said.

However, Yunarto conceded that the fact that Anis was once implicated in a graft case might put the party's reputation at greater risk.

Speaking to journalists after his election, Anis said a "conspiracy" was behind the arrest of Luthfi, who has been charged with accepting a Rp 1 billion bribe from two businessmen in exchange for a slot in the 2013 government-run beef importation program overseen by the Agriculture Ministry. "What the PKS is facing now is a big conspiracy that aims to destroy the party,"he said.

Separately, the KPK said that it would question Agriculture Minister Suswono, who is also a PKS politician, in the case.

The minister, who claims to have no involvement in the graft case at his ministry, said he was ready to face questioning. "If the KPK needs my testimony, I will cooperate," he told a press conference at his office on Friday.

New PKS chairman alleges 'big conspiracy' behind Luthfi's arrest

Jakarta Globe - February 1, 2013

Ezra Sihite – The newly-appointed chairman of the Prosperous Justice Party, Anis Matta, said on Friday that the naming of the party's former leader as a graft suspect was all just a "big conspiracy."

Anis, the former secretary-general of the Islamist party known as PKS, made the statement shortly after he was announced as the new chairman in Jakarta on Friday, following the resignation of the party's former leader Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, who was detained on Wednesday over graft accusations.

The news of his appointment was welcomed with shouts of "Allahu Akbar" (God is great) by other PKS cadres waiting outside the meeting room.

Many of them looked emotional and some were even seen shedding tears as Anis delivered a speech before the press concerning his appointment and Luthfi's graft-suspect status.

"The PKS is facing a big conspiracy aimed at destroying this party," Anis told a press conference after the meeting.

"This, Insha Allah [God Willing], should be a historical event that will wake up the sleeping lion; I believe this is a big signal from Allah that the PKS should make this a momentum to reform ourselves."

He added that Luthfi had the support of PKS cadres and called on them to fight against "tyrannical" actions in anti-graft combat. "Corruption eradication remains an agenda of all of us, but we should fight the use of tyranny in the process," Anis said.

Anis, 44, who is also a deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, is the fifth president of the PKS, after Nur Mahmudi Ismal, Hidayat Nurwahid, Tifatul Sembiring and Luthfi.

Luthfi resigned from the PKS on Thursday after the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named him as a suspect over an alleged bribery case surrounding Indonesia's meat imports quota.

Luthfi was allegedly promised Rp 40 billion ($4.1 million) in bribes from executives of company Indoguna Utama to influence lawmakers in charge of Indonesia's beef import quota to raise that quota.

The party's deputy chairman for youth affairs, Muhammad Taufik Ridho, will replace Anis as the new secretary-general.

Prospects grim for PKS after chief named suspect

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2013

The arrest and detention of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq not only shocked the party members but also surprised its critics, who have longed argued that the party no longer lives up to its ideals. Margareth S. Aritonang and Bagus BT Saragih look into the long term implications of the scandal for the party.

The arrest of Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq is a body blow for the party and will adversely affect its chances in 2014, analysts have predicted.

Hanta Yuda of the Poll Tracking Institute said that the Muslim-based party needed a new approach to mitigate fallout from the government imported beef bribe scandal to avoid losing the support of rank-and-file members.

"The PKS must search for other issues than anticorruption, because the public will no longer trust in its massive campaigns against it. Just like the Democratic Party, the PKS will automatically be associated with corruption after the investigation of Luthfi," he said.

Hanta said that the naming of Luthfi as suspect in the scandal has shaken the foundations of the party, which has long promoted itself as clean and free of graft.

Burhanuddin Muhtadi, a political analyst with the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI), said that the PKS was facing an existential crisis.

"This case will also disorient party members, who have long had the impression that their leaders have been working very hard for them," Burhanuddin told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Burhanuddin also said that it would be difficult for the party to recover, given that its chairman was the target of a graft investigation. "The party is relatively clean, but apparently, the only time the party is linked with a graft case, it involves the party chairman."

According to Burhanuddin, the graft case implicating the PKS chairman was not an unusual occurrence in the nation's political scene. He said that corruption has been the easiest way to get funding for the political parties.

"Bribery schemes always come to the minds of politicians because of the high cost of politics in this country," Burhanuddin said. "Ministries have been the 'milch cows' for political parties. The same goes for the Agriculture Ministry for the PKS," he said.

The KPK has detained three others in the scheme to allegedly deliver a bribe to the PKS chairman.

The commission confiscated Rp 1 billion (US$103,000) in cash from the back of the car of suspect Ahmad Fathanah, the reported courier for Juard Effendi and Aria Abdi Effendi, the directors of the meat importing company.

According to the KPK, the money was intended as a bribe for Luthfi to use his influence to award a government contract to a meat importing company, PT Indoguna Utama. The contract was to have been awarded by the Agriculture Ministry, which is led by another PKS member, Suswono.

Soon after the news broke that Luthfi was named a graft suspect, PKS executives and members voiced suspicions about the timing of the arrests, calling it a conspiracy aimed at bringing down the party. A member of the party's central board, Refrizal, said that the KPK made the arrests to distract the public attention from other scandals.

"The exposure for the case has obviously distracted the public's attention from other corruption cases that involve politicians from other political parties. We are wondering who has orchestrated the prosecution of our party leader. No matter what, we believe that justice will be served," Refrizal said.

Meanwhile, another member of the PKS, Arif Luqman, 33, voiced similar sentiments. "As a member, I still believe this bribery scandal is a conspiracy against the party ahead of the elections," Arif said.

However, Arif said that the party has not been what it used to be, with members leaving the party in anger in recent years. "Many of them have started to think that the party's leaders are no longer fighting for the party ideology. They have strong convictions that some of the leaders only follow the money," he said. (nad)

'Political noise' poses threat to Indonesia growth

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2013

Jakarta – Although Indonesia's economic fundamentals remain among the strongest in Asia, "political noise" ahead of the 2014 elections may affect the country's economic growth, an international ratings agency has warned.

Speaking at a press briefing in Jakarta on Thursday, Christian de Guzman, a vice president and senior analyst with Moody's Sovereign Risk Group, said that "political noise" might lead to more policy and regulatory uncertainties, which could in turn affect the investment climate.

Moody's has upgraded Indonesia's credit rating five times over the last six years, and the ratings agency says it is "unlikely any upgrade [will be made] over the next 12-18 months", mostly due to the political climate.

"That's got a lot to do with political uncertainties and regulations [in the lead-up to the elections] that may have an effect on the investment climate," he said. "And much of the noise will probably persist through next year's elections," he added.

Indonesia is slated to hold its third presidential election in 2014 as well as legislative elections and observers fear that policymakers – especially those affiliated with political parties – may lean toward more populist policies and avoid making necessary reforms.

The government's failure to raise petroleum prices in April last year meant that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's administration "missed the window to reform the energy subsidies" that put pressure on the country's fiscal sustainability, said de Guzman.

The imminent elections may also fuel growing nationalist sentiment, which came to light leading up to the disbandment of upstream oil and gas regulator BPMigas. De Guzman said that he "would not be surprised" if in the near-future, cases similar to BPMigas emerged, causing further legal uncertainty for prospective investors.

Despite all its concerns about the country's political climate, Moody's believes that Indonesia should be able to maintain its impressive economic achievements, thanks to its strong growth in consumer spending and investment. The ratings agency forecasts the country's economy will expand by at least 6 percent in 2013.

"By and large, despite all the noises and pressure, Indonesia's numbers continue to look good compared to its peers," said de Guzman.

Overall, Indonesia's macroeconomic fundamentals remained in "healthy" shape despite recent concerns about the rupiah's depreciation and the current account deficit, he added.

Moody's, one of the so-called "Big Three" ratings agencies, granted Indonesia an investment grade status (Baa3) earlier last year. The investment grade status helped the country to attract an influx of both portfolio and direct investments from offshore investors.

The Jakarta Composite Index (JCI) stood at 4,300 by the end of December last year, a 13 percent gain on the previous year's figure. Meanwhile, foreign direct investment realization in Indonesia in 2012 stood at a historic high of Rp 221 trillion (US$22.8 billion), jumping 26 percent compared to a year earlier.

Robust investment figures have helped cushion Indonesia's consumer-driven economy from the global downturn that has put pressure on its exports. Indonesia has successfully retained its six-plus percent economic growth for eight consecutive quarters since Oct. 2010, having expanded 6.17 percent in the third quarter last year.

Government officials have estimated Indonesia's annual economic growth rate in 2012 was 6.3 percent – a figure that, if correct, would be the second- highest among G-20 members after China. Moody's says that certain Indonesian companies will capitalize from the continuing trend of such robust economic expansion.

The ratings agency sees a "stable" outlook for corporations in the sectors of exploration and production, refining and marketing, power utilities, telecommunications and marketing. Meanwhile, it gives a "negative" outlook for firms focusing on industries such as coal mining and shipping. (sat)

Surveys & opinion polls

Poll shows Joko can shake up 2014 ballot

Jakarta Globe - February 7, 2013

SP/Robertus Wardi – Joko Widodo may only have been sworn in as governor of Jakarta last October, but a new survey suggests he could aim even higher next year.

A poll by the United Data Center (PDB), conducted from Jan. 3-18 with 1,200 respondents in 30 provinces, found that Joko was the figure most people wanted to see as president in the 2014 election.

The pollsters presented respondents with a list of 33 potential candidates, which Joko topped with 21.2 percent of votes. In second place was Prabowo Subianto, the retired Army general who has topped most polls to date, with 17.1 percent.

In third was Megawati Sukarnoputri, a former president, with 11.5 percent, followed by Rhoma Irama, a dangdut singer turned conservative cleric, with 10.4 percent. In fifth was Aburizal Bakrie, the chairman of the Golkar Party, with 9.7 percent, followed by his party predecessor, Jusuf Kalla, with 7.1 percent. Joko also topped the PDB's poll of most popular vice presidential candidates.

Didik J. Rachbini, the head of the PDB, said that Joko and Rhoma could really shake up the presidential race if they ran.

"They're both newcomers [to the political scene], yet they're already livening up the presidential race," he said. "What's really surprising is that Joko turned out to be more popular than all the established figures we've seen so far."

He said that because of Joko's appeal and popularity, his party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), should seriously consider nominating him as its presidential candidate rather than Megawati, the PDI-P chairwoman.

"The choice for them is either to stick with Megawati or to acknowledge the popular demand and go with Joko. If necessary, the party should carry out a survey of its own and compare it to our findings," Didik said. "But their survey shouldn't be aimed just at pleasing Megawati."

The PDB survey also showed that Golkar and the PDI-P were the most popular parties, polling at 14 percent each. The ruling Democratic Party, which won 20.8 percent of votes in the 2009 election, polled just 9.9 percent, consistent with several surveys over the past six months suggesting that it would fail to break double digits in the next election.

Prabowo's Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) was fourth in the poll with 8.7 percent, followed by the National Awakening Party (PKB) with 6.7 percent and the National Democratic Party (NasDem), which will be contesting its maiden election next year, with 5.5 percent.

Of all the potential presidential candidates, only Aburizal has announced he will run for the country's highest office. However, he faces doubts from within his own party because of his consistently low polling numbers, with most surveys showing him to be less popular than Jusuf Kalla, the former vice president.

The message from the PDI-P is mixed, with some officials insisting that Megawati is the logical choice, and others, including her husband, Taufik Kiemas, calling for a younger candidate to be nominated.

With President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono unable to seek a third term, the Democrats have been left without a clear figurehead for 2014, and have suggested they might go with an outsider.

Among those linked to the party are Prabowo, who needs the support of a major party to be nominated, as well as more fringe officials such as Dahlan Iskan, the minister of state-owned enterprises, and Mahfud M.D., the chief justice of the Constitutional Court.

Rhoma, meanwhile, is pursuing the nomination of the PKB, and insists that he has "a calling" to run for president. "I'm being compelled to run by the people and clerics, which makes this a calling from God," he said last month.

Yudhoyono's job approval rating improves, despite scandal

Jakarta Post - February 4, 2013

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – A new public opinion poll released on Sunday shows that the job approval rating for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has in fact been improving in spite of graft scandals that rocked his Democratic Party and other political parties in his ruling coalition.

Saiful Mujani Research & Consulting (SMRC) firm found that the President's approval rating stood at 55.8 percent in late December last year, up from 54 percent in September 2012.

In its latest opinion poll, SMRC interviewed 1,220 respondents in the country's 33 provinces between Dec. 6 and Dec. 20.

The research firm found that Yudhoyono's performance steadily improved in spite of a series of political storms that rocked his political party and cabinet. His approval rating stood at 50 percent in May, 52 percent in June, and 54 percent in September 2012, SMRC said.

SMRC research director Djayadi Hanan attributed the improvement in Yudhoyono's job approval ratings to the economic growth that the country had enjoyed for the past couple of years.

"The President's approval rating has a strong correlation with the public's perception of the country's economy," he said during a press conference on Sunday.

The survey found that 38 percent of respondents thought that the economy was in better shape than it was the year before, while 32 percent were of the opinion that the country's economic condition was as good as it was last year. Only 21 percent of the respondents thought that they were worse off.

Djayadi also said that the fact that Yudhoyono decided not to increase the price of fuel since he was reelected in 2009 had also helped him significantly.

"Yudhoyono raised the subsidized fuel prices three times during his first term. However, he has not made the same policy during his second term," he said. "This could have given rise to a positive assessment from the respondents," Djayadi said.

Political analyst J. Kristiadi from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), meanwhile, disagreed with Djayadi, saying that the improvement in Yudhoyono's approval rating was only superficial and had nothing to do with the government's performance in the economy.

Kristiadi said that income inequality was widening under Yudhoyono. "While the country's economy has been improving, we still have an alarming and widening economic gap as shown by the recent Gini ratings, which reveal a worsening distribution of wealth between the rich and the poor," he said. "Therefore, we have to dig deep to see whether the public is really satisfied with the economy."

But in spite of improvements in Yudhoyono's approval ratings, his Democratic Party has suffered. The SMRC found that the electability of the Democratic Party has sunk to a new low of 8 percent from 32 percent at the height of the party's popularity back in December 2009.

"This is an anomaly. The public perception of Yudhoyono should have been able to boost the public support of the Democratic Party," said Djayadi. "So we can conclude that, the source of the anomaly is not the performance of Yudhoyono, but the internal conflicts besetting the party."

Djayadi said the Democratic Party had not been able to mount an effective public relations campaign to dispel the image that its politicians were among the most corrupt.

An SMRC survey in June 2012 showed 44.8 percent of respondents believed the Democratic Party was the most corrupt. Golkar Party trailed in second position at 6.5 percent of respondents and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) at 2.4 percent.

Democratic Party patron Achmad Mubarok, said that it was unfair the Democratic Party had gotten this image as there were also other parties that were as corrupt, if not more so. Djayadi, however, said it was only natural for the public to hold a spotlight on the Democratic Party as the ruling party.

"This is fact that the Democratic Party has to accept. People will expect more from a party that holds the most power. They will also expect more of a party that boasts a clean image," he said.

Mass organisations & NGOs

NU shows face of tolerance, harmony

Straits Times - February 4, 2013

Zakir Hussain – The world's largest Muslim organization, with some 40 million followers, marked its 87th anniversary with a musical ensemble and a wayang performance featuring a Javanese saint last week.

The choice of entertainment was intentional. The general chairman of Indonesia's Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Said Aqil Siroj, is concerned that a growing minority in Indonesia sees such shows as un-Islamic.

Taking a stand against the spread of puritan Wahhabi teachings, he told more than 300 followers at the courtyard of NU's central Jakarta headquarters last Thursday night that art is "the voice of truth that can help guide us to the Almighty."

"This is more so today, when even religion is misused. Turbans, beards, robes, can be deceptive," the clean-shaven Said Aqil, who favors batik, added to laughter from the audience.

In recent years, NU has become increasingly outspoken in defending the moderate and accommodative approach to religion for which Indonesia is known.

While NU followers far outnumber radicals, the fear is that hardline influences could spread even among NU members, and heighten tension between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Last year, during Jakarta's gubernatorial elections, Said Aqil said it was not an issue for Muslims to elect a non-Muslim leader.

And when some clerics frowned on Muslims sending Christmas greetings, he assured NU members that they would be no less Muslim if they did so. Said Aqil studied comparative religion and philosophy at a top Mecca university, but has been called deviant by radicals.

NU members also help security agencies guard churches from terrorist attacks at Christmas.

NU leaders feel they can play a greater role beyond the shores of Indonesia, especially now, when extremist Muslims are defiling cultural sites in places such as Mali. After all, the NU logo features a globe.

"Muslims from Russia and Central Asia approach us and even ask for NU teachers to visit them because they feel our approach to Islam is appropriate: It strives to be harmonious with local culture but also works with the state for the greater good," NU vice-chairman Slamet Effendy Yusuf told The Straits Times.

NU – Arabic for "awakening of the clerics" – was formed in 1926 by a group of Indonesian Muslim leaders to appeal to Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi rulers to spare sacred graves from being leveled and allow pilgrims to keep to their traditional rites.

The founders were also reacting to the push by Indonesia's other major Muslim group, Muhammadiyah, founded in 1912, for a back-to-basics approach to the faith that downplayed the role of clerics and frowned on long-held practices such as venerating saints and visiting graves.

Since then, NU has grown through its vast network of pesantren, or religious boarding schools, especially in rural areas. An ongoing challenge is to ensure that the NU version of Islam is suited to a multicultural and multi-religious society.

"We have to see things in context," Slamet Effendy said. For example, sculptures and statues are frowned on by many Muslim scholars, who fear they could lead to idolatry, but they remain integral to Java's Hindu and Buddhist heritage sites. Muslim craftsmen near Borobudur have long been at ease working on such sculptures.

"They don't worship them, and they are beautiful," Slamet Effendy said. "God is beautiful and loves beauty after all." He said that if religion has deep cultural roots, it will have stronger staying power.

To promote NU's ideals, Said Aqil hopes to set up the first 10 universities to carry the NU name by 2015, when his term ends. Three are already running – in his hometown of Cirebon, and in Halmahera and Lampung. NU is awaiting approval for five more from the Education Ministry.

Many NU leaders have been active in politics, and the National Awakening Party (PKB) is closely affiliated with the organization, although NU members are found across all parties.

NU leader Abdurrahman Wahid was Indonesia's fourth president from 1999 to 2001, and his grandfather Hasyim Ashari was an NU founder.

Strong NU links are seen as critical to winning elections in many seats in East Java. The group has moved to bridge the gap with Muhammadiyah, which shares its disdain for radical leanings.

NU observer Nur Munir, who teaches religion at President University, tells The Straits Times that NU's grassroots network and the sense of belonging it gives followers have kept it strong.

"But it has also sought to stay relevant, and at a time when more NU members are better educated and travelled, they feel their experience here can make a contribution to world peace."

Environment & natural disasters

Paper giant APP promises no deforestation in Indonesia

Agence France Presse - February 5, 2013

The world's third-largest paper producer Asia Pulp and Paper said on Tuesday it had stopped using logs from Indonesia's natural forests, after fierce campaigning by green groups against the company.

The firm has in recent years lost packaging contracts with big brands such as foodmaker Kraft and Barbie's Mattel, after Greenpeace accused APP of clearing carbon-rich forest, home to endangered Sumatran tigers and orangutans.

"APP has committed to stop logging in all natural forest," APP sustainability head Aida Greenbury told AFP. "We will only expand operations on open land and scrubland."

In a statement the company said that from "February 1st, all of APP's suppliers have suspended natural forest clearance," and that it was conducting assessments to identify high-conservation-value forest for protection.

The Indonesian firm has failed to carry out similar commitments before, including an agreement with environmental group WWF signed in 2003 to protect high-conservation-value forests over an initial 12-year period.

WWF cancelled the agreement in 2004, saying the company had failed to make any progress on its commitment.

The company has also been accused of greenwashing (making deceptive claims of green benefits) with environmental projects, including a Sumatran tiger sanctuary which was questioned by scientists and activists.

Louis Verchot, a scientist with the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research, said APP had made claims of sustainable forestry several times but continued to destroy peat swamp forests which had dense carbon stocks.

"If they're making a commitment to no deforestation and they are paying attention to problems with their past reputation, then that's a great step in the right direction," he said. "But if it's greenwash, then it would really be unfortunate to lead folks down that path again."

Deforestation accounts for 70 percent of carbon emissions in Indonesia, the world's third-biggest emitter, according to UN data.

Coal exports risk biodiversity of Kalimantan, say activists

Jakarta Post - February 5, 2013

Jakarta – Environmental activists urged the government to drop its plan to boost coal exports from Kalimantan, as it would not only contribute to greater carbon emissions but would endanger the island's biodiversity.

A recent report released by Greenpeace entitled "Point of No Return" shows that the country's plan to massively expand coal exports from Kalimantan, which would add 460 million tons of carbon dixoide a year by 2020, would bring serious harm to local tropical forests.

Greenpeace Indonesia climate and energy campaigner Arif Fiyanto said that Indonesia would rank number four in the world's carbon dioxide emission polluters in 2020, should the government press ahead with its plan to increase coal production to 500 million tons per year. The country ranked number 12 in 2008.

"Indonesia produced around 390 million tons of coal last year and the country has claimed the title as the world's top coal producer since 2011. Ironically, the country has only 3 percent of the total world coal reserves," Arif said in a press conference on Monday.

Kahar Al Bahri, the coordinator of Mining Networks (Jatam) said that Kalimantan was now a big mess of mining activities.

Kahar said East Kalimantan had only 19.8 million hectares of land, but local governments had granted licences, mainly to mining and plantation companies, for an area of 21.7 million hectares.

"More people in Kalimantan will lose their homes if the government allows the expansion of coal production. More people will lose their jobs as well," he said.

He said that intensified mining activities could also cause social problems. Kahar added that more and more Kalimantan residents relied on the coal mining industry for their livelihoods, without realizing that coal reserves would only last another 20 years.

Kahar said the revenue from coal contributed little to the development of local communities. He said that the total coal production in Kalimantan was around 265 million tons last year, more than 70 percent of the country's total coal production.

"Sadly, 82 percent of coal production is for the foreign market and is not being used to develop Kalimantan. In addition, we still have to deal with a serious electricity shortage," he said.

He said that environmental disasters caused by mining activities in Kalimantan would leave permanent damage as Kalimantan had no volcanoes that could help fertilize the land. "For every million tons of coal exported from Kalimantan, the island loses the exact same amount of soil," he said.

Arif said that the only way to rein in coal production was by issuing a regulation that would reduce coal production and promote the use of renewable energy.

Data from the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry said that renewable sources would only contribute less than 5 percent of the country's energy sources, with the rest coming from fossil fuels.

"The country should look into developing its geothermal and solar power, and not shifting from oil and gas to coal to produce electricity," he said. (nad)

Indonesian peat emissions a 'global disaster'

Jakarta Globe - February 1, 2013

Hayat Indriyatno – Thousands of years' worth of carbon stored in Indonesia's peat forests is being released at an alarming rate as a result of deforestation, a new study by UK scientists shows.

In the paper "Deep instability of deforested tropical peatlands revealed by fluvial organic carbon fluxes," published online in Thursday's edition of the journal Nature, the researchers noted that tropical peatlands "contain one of the largest pools of terrestrial organic carbon," amounting to about 89 billion tons.

"Approximately 65 percent... is in Indonesia, where extensive anthropogenic [man-made] degradation in the form of deforestation, drainage and fire are converting it into a globally significant source of atmospheric [CO2]," the paper says.

"We measured carbon losses in channels draining intact and deforested peatlands, and found it is 50 percent higher from deforested swamps, compared to intact swamps," Sam Moore, the lead author of the study and former Open University PhD student, said in a press release.

"Dissolved organic carbon released from intact swamps mainly comes from fresh plant material, but carbon from the deforested swamps is much older – centuries to millennia – and comes from deep within the peat column."

The researchers said that carbon emissions from deforested peat swamps "may be larger than previously thought."

"Carbon dating shows that the additional carbon lost from deforested swamps comes from peat which had been securely stored for thousands of years. Carbon lost from the drainage systems of deforested and drained peatlands is often not considered in ecosystem exchange carbon budgets, but the research team found it increased the estimated total carbon loss by 22 percent," they said.

"[W]ater falling as rain would normally leave the ecosystem through transpiration in vegetation, but deforestation forces it to leave through the peat, where it dissolves fossil carbon on its way."

Vincent Gauci, the paper's corresponding author and a senior lecturer in earth systems and ecosystem science at The Open University, attributed the loss of stored carbon to increased agriculture, especially for oil palms.

"Ancient carbon is being dissolved out of Asian peatlands as they are increasingly turned over to agriculture to meet global demands for food and biofuels," he said.

"This has led to a large increase in carbon loss from Southeast Asian rivers draining peatland ecosystems – up by 32 percent over the last 20 years, which is more than half the entire annual carbon loss from all European peatlands. The destruction of the Asian peat swamps is a globally significant environmental disaster, but unlike deforestation of the Amazon, few people know that it is happening."

Health & education

Nuh fails to answer Komnas HAM summons

Jakarta Post - February 7, 2013

Jakarta – Education Minister Mohammad Nuh failed to answer a National Commission on Human Rights' (Komnas HAM) summons on Wednesday to clarify a controversial government draft regulation on the teachers unions.

A draft revision to the regulation stipulates that a teachers union must have 25 percent of teachers in each regency and mayoralty as members and representatives in 75 percent of provinces, regencies and mayoralties nationwide.

Critics argue that the regulation makes it practically impossible for teachers to exercise their right to form a union.

In a meeting at the commission's office, Forum of Indonesian Teachers Unions (FSGI) secretary-general Retno Listiyati said the regulation would inevitably lead to a human rights violation. She said she was disappointed by Nuh's absence.

The commission will again ask the minister to attend on Feb. 18 or 19. "We are thinking positive. He may have yet to receive the summons," Komnas HAM commissioner Natalius Pigai said.

Government concedes Indonesia's school system not making the grade

Jakarta Globe - February 4, 2013

Rizky Amelia – Give a Singaporean school student a three-tier test on any subject, and 95 times out of 100 they will be able to answer the intermediate and advanced questions, says Musliar Kasim, Indonesia's deputy minister of education.

But give the same test to an Indonesian student, and they won't be able to go beyond the basic questions. That, says Musliar, sums up the quality of the national school curricula for primary and secondary education, and how far it lags behind international standards.

"The curricula that we have now for primary, junior high and senior high school are very different from what is tested on at the international level, which leaves us far behind the likes of Singapore and Taiwan," he said on Saturday.

While students abroad are getting a head start on mathematics and science learning, he went on, Indonesian students were stuck studying subjects of dubious importance.

He cited the case of the curriculum for fourth-graders, which includes a civics class that requires students to memorize the organizational structure of village and ward offices, as well as the names of government institutions.

"That's why the Education Ministry has drawn up new school curricula for 2013 that will replace the curricula that we've been using for years," Musliar said.

He added that the new curricula, which took several months to compile, was aligned more closely to international education standards. "With the new curricula, we hope to boost the competency that our students have lost," he said.

Indonesian students' low standing on the global scale has been widely noted in a range of assessments. In December, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study gave Indonesia a failing grade for the math and science aptitude of its eighth-grade students.

This key international assessment showed that Indonesian students in this age group scored an average 406 points for science and 386 points for math, against a world baseline score of 500. The scores put Indonesia in 38th place out of 42 countries for math, and 40th out of 42 for science.

That left the country trailing not just neighbors Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, but also falling behind Palestine and Iran in both streams, as well as Syria in the science stream. It also pointed to Indonesia's steadily declining scores since the 2003 TIMSS.

The new curricula designed to address this will go into force at the start of the new school year this July. A key change is that the curriculum for each grade will be the same across all public schools nationwide, whereas the current one varies by region.

Musliar said the reason for the variation was because not all schools had access to the latest textbooks prescribed in the curriculum, and hence were left using textbooks that were several years old.

The new curricula, particularly for primary schools, were widely panned by educators and experts when it was first unveiled in December.

Critics contended that the idea of dropping science and social studies from the curricula and integrating the two subjects into Indonesian language classes made no sense, and argued that they should have been merged with similar subjects.

The Indonesian Teachers Union Federation (FSGI) criticized the elimination of information technology and communications (TIK), a subject that was recently created by the government, pointing out that hundreds of candidate teachers who had undergone TIK training had effectively wasted their time.

The Education Ministry has argued that the current primary school curriculum is putting too much strain on students, and that it is looking to limit subjects taught in elementary schools to just six, eliminating science, social studies and English. The new curriculum would contain religion, nationalism, Indonesian language, math, arts and sports.

But despite its argument that the new curriculum would be less of a burden on students, the ministry decided to increase school hours to 38 per week from 32.

Education Minister Mohammad Nuh revealed on Thursday that the cost for drawing up and implementing the new curricula amounted to Rp 2.49 trillion ($257 million), and would include training programs for teachers, printing of new textbooks and a monitoring program to see how the new system was working out. The teacher training will begin next month, ahead of the implementation of the new curricula in July.

However, while all junior and senior high schools will have to use the new curricula later this year, only 30 percent of primary schools is expected to adopt it. The government says this is because of the difficulty in getting all primary schools, which outnumber other types of schools, ready to comply with the new standards.

Nuh said the biggest chunk of the budget, or around Rp 1.2 trillion, would go toward new textbooks, while the next biggest cost, Rp 1.09 trillion, would be for the teacher training program.

Musliar said that ultimately, the new curricula were designed to get students motivated about learning. He added that under the current school system, students had an apathy or dislike for doing homework and for school in general, and were always looking forward to the holidays.

"There's this expression that goes 'I hate Mondays,' because the students feel overburdened by their classes," he said. "It's completely different to the situation in Singapore, where the students are always enthusiastic to get back to school after their holidays."

Government told to curb widespread 'thesis writing' workshops

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2013

Bambang Muryanto, Yogyakarta – An expert urges the Yogyakarta administration to take necessary steps to stop "thesis writing" workshops and their degradation of the education system in the student city of Yogyakarta.

"The Yogyakarta administration should be able to control such illegal practices. However, no institution can take action against this problem," Yogyakarta Education Council chairman Wuryadi told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

According to Wuryadi, "thesis writing" workshops that offered to write their students' thesis or dissertations have been around for a long time. In the absence of an effort to stop the unethical practice, the quality of higher education graduates in the city would continue to worsen, he said.

"We [the council] don't have the authority to take measures against people or institutions who are involved in the illegal practices. What we can do is just to keep conducting various kinds of public advocacy, such as speaking in seminars on the urgent need to tackle this issue," Wuryadi said.

To deal with the problem, Wuryadi, who is also a professor at the Yogyakarta State University (UNY), said lecturers had to be more cautious in giving their students assistance on writing their thesis or dissertations.

"The controlling institution [of the thesis writing process] is the faculty. Lecturers who supervise thesis or dissertations have to be more intensive in following the process of the thesis their students are working on," he said. (ebf)

Graft & corruption

Activist demands KPK check first family's tax returns

Jakarta Post - February 7, 2013

Jakarta – Activist Ratna Sarumpaet has asked the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to check the tax returns of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his children so as to avoid further negative public perception following a report on the issue by The Jakarta Post.

"The KPK must check the tax returns to find out whether SBY and his children are innocent in this [matter]," Ratna said on Thursday as quoted by kompas.com.

She denied allegations that she had anything to do with leaking information in the first family's tax returns to the media.

Previously, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said in a press conference during a state visit to Saudi Arabia that he suspected Ratna, activist Adhi Massardi and former finance minister Fuad Bawazier were responsible for leaking information about the first family's tax returns.

The controversy surrounding the family's tax returns began after the Post ran an article entitled "First family tax returns raises flags" on Jan. 30. The story revealed discrepancies between the salaries and assets of Yudhoyono's two sons, among other things.

IPW urge KPK to investigate the men in control of police spending

Jakarta Post - February 7, 2013

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – Indonesia Police Watch (IPW) has urged the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to commence investigations into five men it alleges are now controlling major Indonesian Police procurement projects.

IPW chairman Neta S. Pane said on Wednesday that the five individuals, identified only by their initials TS, R, S, MA and M, controlled some 80 percent of the police's 2013 spending plan, totaling Rp 1.8 trillion (US$185.4 million).

"TS controls the communication and IT device procurement projects worth Rp 250 billion, while R controls the vehicle procurement arm worth Rp 258 billion," he said.

Neta added that S controlled the equipment procurement for the criminal unit worth Rp 600 billion; M controlled the Rp 312 billion intelligence unit and animals procurement projects; and MA controlled the procurement of ships and detection devices.

The police had actually put the names of the five individuals on the blacklist due to their incompetence, he said.

"TS handled the communication and IT device procurement projects, which received bad-press due to project markups. M was blacklisted due to problems at the police's traffic unit and the National Narcotics Agency [BNN]," Neta said.

The men were able to claw their way back and regain control as they had three lawmakers from two political parties at the House of the Representatives (DPR) supporting them, he said, without disclosing the names of the parties. The men also enjoyed close relationships with some high-ranking police officials.

The police officials who placed their names on the blacklist had retired and so, according to Neta, the police are powerless to prevent the men from controlling the police's procurement projects, despite corruption causing the 2013 police spending plan to fly through the roof.

According to the watchdog, the police allocate in their spending plan Rp 468 million for horses, Rp 150 million for dogs, Rp 28 million for laptops, Rp 7 million for external hard disks, Rp 16 million for personal computers, Rp 8 million for pocket cameras, Rp 65 million for DSLR cameras, Rp 2.2 billion for audio video equipment and Rp 29 million for handy-cams.

Indonesian Police spokesmen Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar and Insp. Gen. Suhardi Alius were not available and did not return calls from The Jakarta Post to comment on the IPW's latest allegations.

The police defended their plan to spend the astronomical amount of money, claiming that the prices are reasonable. The National Police's general planning and development assistant Ins. Gen. Sulistyo Ishak recently said that the prices of listed items – such as horses, dogs, cars and laptops – were based on market value.

Neta said that the police had to be open about the specification of those facilities, citing external hard disks as an example – highest quality of which only costs Rp 3 million each.

Unsatisfied by the explanation, the IPW has urged the KPK to start the investigation into the troubled procurement projects as soon as possible.

However, the KPK declined to do so, arguing that they needed to obtain evidence of misappropriation before launching an investigation, although they welcomed the watchdog to submit its data and report the case to the anti-graft body.

"If the IPW submits the data to us, then we could validate the data [before launching an investigation]," KPK spokesperson Johan Budi told the Post on Wednesday.

After Luthfi's arrest, lawmakers lash out at KPK

Jakarta Post - February 7, 2013

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Some lawmakers are criticizing Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) for cherry-picking its battles following the arrest of lawmaker Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq last week in the government import beef bribe scandal.

In the first hearing of House Commission III overseeing legal affairs held with the KPK's leaders following Luthfi's arrest and subsequent resignation from the House and as Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chairman, the party's lawmakers came out swinging.

PKS lawmaker Indra accused the KPK of targeting politicians at the expense of investigating high-ranking state officials for cases such as the contentious Bank Century bailout.

"It's been two months since you named BM and SCF as suspects in the case, but they are still walking free out there," Indra said. "Isn't clear to you that [Vice President] Boediono is also responsible? Is it possible for both deputy governors to make the [bailout] decision without approval from the governor?"

Indra was referring to former deputy Bank Indonesia (BI) governors Budi Mulia and Siti Chalimah Fadjrijah and Vice President Boediono, who was then BI governor.

While the hearing was convened to evaluate the commission's performance in 2012, PKS lawmakers were quick to say that the KPK had unfairly charged and detained their former leader.

Another PKS lawmaker, Aboebakar Al Habsy, said that Luthfi's arrest had sent a wave of fear through the nation's politicians. "Leaders of political parties are now pondering if tomorrow will be their turn."

Luthfi has been accused of using his influence at the Agriculture Ministry, which is led by PKS politician Suswono, to help a company acquire a slot in a ministry project to procure imported beef.

Leaders of the Islamic party, which has previously touted its reputation as a clean and corruption-free institution, have said there was a conspiracy behind Luthfi's arrest. Other lawmakers at the hearing soon followed suit, launching into their own diatribes against the commission.

Nudirman Munir of the Golkar Party, for example, accused the KPK of harassing lawmakers. "It seems that you have intentionally postponed an announcement of a case in order to stir reaction from us. You have overreacted to us lawmakers. We, for example, don't understand why it's so difficult to visit our colleagues that you've arrested. Please, with all due respect, stop it."

Other lawmakers called on the commission to focus on other cases they deemed more urgent or that involved more state funds, such as the Bank Indonesia Liquidity Assistance (BLBI) scandal in 2002. Indra said that in comparison the current beef graft scandal was small potatoes.

Addressing the lawmakers, KPK chairman Abraham Samad said that the commission would thoroughly carry out its investigations.

Abraham declined demands from lawmakers to arrest the vice president, saying that the KPK would make no arrests before securing all relevant evidence and witness testimony.

"We cannot make assumptions about his [Boediono's] role. It all will be clear later after we finish questioning all the witnesses," Abraham said.

"Be patient and keep monitoring us to ensure that we're on track. It's different from the scandal involving the PKS' former chairman because the suspects were caught red-handed. We understand that members of the PKS feel that they have been discriminated against."

KPK deputy chief Busyro Muqoddas said the commission had a formal road map to determine the course of its many graft investigations.

"The road map centers on the handling of huge corruption cases as well as those that involve the national interest. Additionally, we will also implement a fraud control system that aims to detect and prevent small case from developing," Busyro said.

President 'yet to explain tax discrepancies'

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2013

Bagus BT Saragih and Ina Parlina, Jakarta – President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono should do more than just make claims in responding to reports of alleged discrepancies in his family's tax returns, former finance minister and director general of taxation Fuad Bawazier said on Tuesday.

In a press conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Monday, the President responded to a report published by The Jakarta Post that highlighted alleged irregularities in his family's tax documents.

"I was told that what was published in The Jakarta Post was not exactly the same as the data in the taxation directorate," he stated on his personal website, presidensby.info. "But, that is not my point; I want to tell the people that I and my sons have fulfilled our obligations honestly in paying taxes."

According to Yudhoyono, their tax reports had been verified by the tax office, which did not find any irregularities or errors. "The process was accountable. After I had completed the process, I asked them to check if there was anything amiss," he said.

In his defense, the President said that, as the leader of this country, his assets were far from excessive and yet he still paid his taxes. It was no secret that many of those with trillions of rupiah worth of assets had not paid tax, the president said, adding that people should not be so quick to point fingers.

Documents obtained by the Post revealed numerous inconsistencies between the first family's wealth and their annual earnings, based on the tax returns of Yudhoyono and his two sons, Maj. Agus Harimurti and Edhie "Ibas" Baskoro.

Agus declared on his 2011 tax return an annual income of Rp 70.2 million (US$7,300) as an officer with the Army Strategic Reserves Command (Kostrad) in Jakarta.

The tax documents, however, revealed that Agus opened four different bank accounts and deposited more than Rp 1.6 billion in that same year. There was no information in the documents as to how the additional income was earned; the section to detail extra income – including that of his wife, fashion model Annisa Pohan – was left blank.

Ibas' 2010 tax return also raised questions. He earned Rp 183 million as a Democratic Party lawmaker. He also had an investment worth Rp 900 million with PT Yastra Capital, cash deposits amounting to Rp 1.59 billion and cash equivalents of Rp 1.57 billion. Ibas did not declare any extra income, such as dividend payments, donations, stocks or investment proceeds. He had total assets of Rp 6 billion as reported on his 2010 tax return, including an Audi Q5 SUV worth Rp 1.16 billion.

Fuad said the President should address the issue clearly for the public. "The taxpayers need to explain them [the tax reports]. Whether there was a mistake in filling out the papers or whatever, as we don't know, they must make it clear," he told the Post over the phone on Tuesday.

Yudhoyono said he was aware of Fuad's move to report him to the KPK but said he doubted his credibility. The President said he had planned to appoint Fuad as a minister, but decided to call it off.

Yudhoyono's press conference in Jeddah was made prior to his departure to Cairo, Egypt, the last leg of his eight-day foreign trip.

The President will attend the 12th Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Summit, which is scheduled to take place on Feb. 5-6, amid unrest that has resulted in states of emergency being declared in at least three Egyptian cities. Yudhoyono is scheduled to depart Egypt to return to Indonesia on Wednesday.

Hartati's political fall now official

Jakarta Post - February 5, 2013

Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – Siti Hartati Tjakra Murdaya, once one of Indonesia's richest women, cried on Monday, as the Jakarta Corruption Court sentenced her to 32 months' imprisonment for bribing the regent of Buol, Central Sulawesi.

The sentencing of Hartati marks a meteoric plunge in the tycoon's fortunes since her arrest by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in September.

Hartati, who once had strong political connections to five of the nation's presidents, was accompanied by only a small group of relatives and employees in the courtroom.

Her close relationship with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose campaigns she provided immense financial support, meant nothing during her trial. Yudhoyono and all her former political connection distanced themselves from her after her arrest.

Hartati, the chairperson of the Indonesian Buddhist Council (Walubi), cried as presiding judge Gusrizal Lubis read the verdict of the panel of judges hearing her case. "Siti Hartati is guilty of committing the crime of corruption [...] The defendant's actions have harmed the government's corruption eradication program, and that it is counterproductive to good governance."

However, the decision read by Lubis also praised Hartati. "She has contributed to the economic development of Buol, shown good behavior during the trial and she has never been convicted before."

The court found that Hartati, whose husband, Murdaya Poo, was ranked as the nation's 19th-richest man by Forbes Indonesia last year, had paid a Rp 3 billion (US$305,000) bribe to Buol Regent Amran Batalipu to expedite the issuance of a permit needed for her oil palm plantation company, PT Hartati Inti Plantation (HIP). The court also sentenced Hartati to pay a fine of Rp 150 million.

The sentence was less than the five years' imprisonment sought by prosecutors

Meanwhile, Amran is waiting for his verdict after prosecutors demanded that the court sentence him to 12 years' imprisonment in the case. The KPK has named two other suspects in the case: Hartati's aides, Gondo Sudjono and Yani Ansori.

According to prosecutors, Gondo, a general manager at HIP and Yani Ansori, an operations director, were ordered by Hartati to deliver a Rp 1 billion installment of a Rp 3 billion bribe to Amran at his home in Buol.

Gondo and Yani have each been sentenced to two-and-a-half-years' imprisonment and to pay Rp 50 million fines for their role in the scandal.

Speaking to reporters after her conviction, Hartati, a former member of the Democratic Party's patron board, said that she was innocent.

"I never made a plan, gave permission, or agreed to the bribery," she said after the verdict. "The regent asked for money, and we couldn't give it to him. But I was afraid to turn down his demand blatantly. That's why I used the term of 'kilos' to refer to the money," Hartati said.

Hartati has 14 days to file an appeal of her sentence.

PKS boss named suspect

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2013

Rabby Pramudatama and Raras Cahyafitri, Jakarta – The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named the chairman of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, a suspect on Wednesday in a bribery case centering on the government's procurement of imported meat.

The KPK's move against the PKS politician started on Tuesday morning with the arrest of four individuals at Le Meridien Hotel in Central Jakarta, where they were allegedly trying to deliver bribe money for Luthfi through an intermediary.

A KPK spokesman said that although Luthfi was not present at the meeting, investigators in the case had evidence that could link Luthfi to the bribe payers.

"In the next 24 four hours, we will slap a travel ban on LHI," Johan said in a press conference on Wednesday night, referring to the PKS chairman by his initials. Johan also said that the KPK prosecutors had charged Luthfi with Article 5, on bribery, of the 2001 Corruption Law.

In a statement late on Wednesday Luthfi said he preferred not to make a comment as he was still considering the matter.

The four people arrested in the sting operation that led up to the announcement were initially identified only as JE, AAE, AF and M.

Johan said that JE and AAE were directors of a meat importing company, since identified as PT Indoguna Utama, while AF was a private individual and M was a young woman who had accompanied AF. It has since emerged that JE is Juardi Efendi and AAE is Arya Abdi Effendi, both directors of Indoguna.

As evidence in the case, the KPK confiscated Rp 1 billion (US$103,000) in cash stashed in the back of a car belonging to AF. KPK investigators also seized several bank savings books.

Johan also gave details on how the bribery scheme was to work. "In our case expose, we learned that JE and AAE gave the money to AF. But we also found strong indications, supported by enough evidence, that AF intended to give the money to the politician identified as LHI," Johan said, once again referring to the PKS chairman.

The two individuals representing Indoguna intended to give the money to Luthfi so that the latter could help them secure a slot for the company in a government beef procurement project.

A lawyer representing PT Indoguna Utama, Panji Prasetyo, confirmed that two of the individuals arrested by the KPK were company executives. Panji also confirmed that KPK investigators had raided Indoguna's office on Jl. Taruna No. 8 in Pondok Bambu in East Jakarta. Several eyewitnesses said that a number of military personnel helped the KPK with its search of the office.

Panji said Indoguna would cooperate with the KPK. "Of course we support the KPK's effort to eradicate corruption, but we want the KPK to consider the future of our business operation since there are about 40 employees who work in the sealed office," he said.

Responding to the KPK's move, chairman of the PKS faction at the House of Representatives Hidayat Nur Wahid, who is also a former chairman of the party, said that he would confirm the status of Luthfi with the graft body.

Hidayat said he was shocked upon hearing the news. "Where did you get that information from? Is it official?" Hidayat asked.

Earlier on Wednesday, the central board of the PKS held a meeting which was believed to have been called to discuss the party's strategy to deal with the fallout from the KPK announcement.

PKS executives had previously said that they were braced for a stepped-up smear campaign against the party's politicians.

In 2011, founding member of the PKS Jusuf Supendi filed a report with the KPK accusing Luthfi and party secretary Anis Matta of embezzling Rp 10 billion in campaign funds, which he believed came from unnamed Middle East sources.

Tip-off leads to black day for PKS

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2013

The high-profile graft scandal that shook the nation's largest Islamic party was first picked up by the media in 2011, when Tempo magazine ran a cover story on irregularities surrounding the business of imported meat in the country.

It has taken more than two years for the case to get into the hands of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) investigators, who believed that the graft allegations against elite members of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), widely seen as a clean political party, were built on strong evidence.

On Jan. 28, the antigraft commission was informed that there would be a hand-over of bribes in connection to the government's procurement of imported meat under the Agriculture Ministry.

The next day, a team of KPK investigators departed from their headquarters in Kuningan, South Jakarta, to stakeout the potential perpetrators.

The team followed Ahmad Fathanah, said to be a close aide to PKS chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, who was driving a Land Cruiser to the office of beef importing firm PT Indoguna Utama at Jl. Taruna No. 8 in Pondok Bambu, East Jakarta. Investigators believed the bribery would take place at Indoguna's office.

Later in the afternoon, KPK investigators said they saw Indoguna's directors, Juard Effendi and Aria Abdi Effendi, give a Rp 1 billion (US$103,000) bribe to Fathanah. The latter then hurried to the Le Meridien Hotel in Central Jakarta where he was thought to be meeting with Luthfi.

At 8:20 p.m., the KPK raided Fathanah's hotel room and found that he was accompanied by a young woman named Maharani. The investigators immediately arrested the pair and confiscated the money. A few hours later, Juard and Aria were nabbed at the latter's house in Cakung, East Jakarta. The four suspects were then questioned for a prolonged period.

On Jan. 29, the KPK raided and sealed PT Indoguna Utama's office and seized a computer as evidence. That day, social media outlets were abuzz with speculation that the KPK would arrest a member of the House of Representatives. Some insinuated that the lawmaker in question was a PKS politician.

The party was quick to deny allegations it was linked to the four people arrested by the KPK on bribery charges. Senior PKS politician Hidayat Nurwahid said that he had asked the party's representatives at the House and stressed that none of them knew the alleged bribers.

On Jan. 30, the KPK held a press conference to announce the arrest of Juard, Aria, and Fathana and, to the surprise of many, an allegation that a man identified as LHI, the initials of Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, had been implicated. The latter was arrested late on Wednesday during the party's internal meeting at PKS' headquarters at Jl. TB. Simatupang in South Jakarta.

According to the KPK, Juard and Aria wanted to give the bribe to Luthfi to secure a slot for the company in a government beef procurement project. It is said that the bribe payers were supposed to give Rp 40 billion to the PKS politician.

The involvement of the PKS in the seedy business of imported meat procurement was reported by Tempo in March 2011, when it published a story on Suripto, one of the founders of PKS and the party's current head of strategic analysis.

Suripto, also the former secretary-general at the Forestry Ministry, was reportedly responsible for allowing meat importer Basuki Hariman to pressure Prabowo Respatiyo Caturroso, the Agriculture Ministry's director general for animal husbandry at that time, to grant meat import licenses to Basuki's companies, CV Sumber Laut Perkasa and PT Impexindo Pratama. According to the report, Suripto acknowledged that he was an acquaintance of Basuki, but denied his involvement in the meat import business.

Arrest of naked college student gives new angle to probe

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2013

Those jaded by the incessant string of politicians arrested by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) may take heart in the latest scandal, involving Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq.

A 20-year-old woman, a college student identified as Maharani, was also arrested by the KPK on Wednesday, leading people to wonder what the woman had in common with the politicians and executives also netted in the arrests.

As details of the incident emerged, it was clear that sex played a role in the bribery scheme.

Ahmad Fathanah, an aide to Luthfi, was arrested by the KPK inside a hotel room – moments after he allegedly accepted a Rp 1 billion (US$103,000) bribe from two directors of PT Indoguna Utama.

After their knocks on the hotel room went unanswered, KPK investigators entered using a spare key, tempo.co reported. Inside they found Fathanah and the 20-year-old woman, naked.

Investigators named Fathanah and Luthfi, as well as the two Indoguna directors, Juard Effendi and Arya Abdi Effendi, as suspects in the case and detained them at KPK headquarters. Maharani was released by the commission on Thursday afternoon.

As Maharani stepped out of the lobby of the KPK headquarters in Kuningan, South Jakarta, photojournalists immediately went to work, snapping shot after shot of the woman, clad in a denim miniskirt and skin-tight black shirt.

Maharani was released after the KPK said there was no connection between her and the bribery scandal, although reports circulated that Fathanah had paid her for sex using part of the alleged bribe.

Soon after Maharani was released, her college, apparently concerned that the woman was a prostitute, expelled her. KPK deputy chairman Bambang Widjojanto declined to comment on Maharani's role in the case.

"We just saw the suspect was with a woman in the room. We then found the money. Then, we knew what to do," he said. Bambang also declined to comment when asked if Maharani was paid to have sex with Fathanah as part of the bribery scandal.

Sex, of course, has continued to play a role in Indonesian politics, with lawmakers at the House of Representatives rocked by a series of licentious scandals over the last few years.

In April 2011, PKS lawmaker Arifinto was caught on camera by a journalist watching a pornographic video on his tablet computer during a plenary session at the House of Representatives.

A year later, the legislative body was shocked by the circulation of blurry videos of a couple said to be politicians of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) having sex. No investigation was launched to prove if the two individuals in the video were indeed the PDI-P politicians.

Although the PKS denied that Fathanah was a party member, his ties with Luthfi might taint the party, which has touted itself as a virtuous Muslim party that has been free of corruption. Analysts said the possible role of sex in a graft scandal involving a PKS politician would hurt the party.

"The political impact on the PKS will be huge. The party's performance in the 2014 elections will suffer significantly," Arman Salam, a political analyst from the Indonesian Survey Circle, said.

Freedom of religion & worship

FPI member gets 3.5-month prison sentence for vandalizing Ahmadiyah mosque

Jakarta Globe - February 5, 2013

A member of the Islamic Defenders Front has received a three-and-a-half- month prison sentence for vandalizing a mosque run by Ahmadiyah devotees in Bandung, on the eve of Idul Adha last year.

The Bandung District Court found Muhammad Asep Abdurahman, a member of the organization known as FPI, guilty on Tuesday of vandalizing a mosque on the eve of Idul Adha on Oct. 25, 2012.

"[After] reading the indictment, listening to witnesses and defendant, prosecutor demand and lawyer's defense, we, the judges, declare that the defendant has been convincingly proven that he committed vandalism," presiding judge Sinung Hermawan said as quoted by Detik.

om. "Handing down three months and 15 days in jail and ordering defendant to keep staying in jail." The sentence was slightly less than the four months asked by prosecutors.

Muhammad, who is known as Utep, joined dozens of FPI members to attack the mosque in Bandung after the Ahmadiyah devotees refused to stop preparing for the Islamic holiday Idul Adha.

The FPI members destroyed lamps, windows and a fence, causing around Rp 3 million ($309) in damages. There were 10 Ahmadiyah devotees inside the mosque at the time of the attack.

Utep, who was charged with destruction of private property, had previously said that the FPI objected to their activities because such actions were prohibited by the West Java government.

West Nusa Tenggara Ahmadis in limbo for seven years

Jakarta Post - February 5, 2013

Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – The Ahmadiyah Indonesia Congregation (JAI) is calling on the government to restore the rights of its members, who have been living in a shelter for the past seven years, following their eviction by the majority Sunni community in Ketapang, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB).

Seven years ago, a mob claiming to be members of the Sunni majority attacked and burned houses belonging to the Ahmadis in Ketapang. The Ahmadis were accused of blasphemy and forced to live in rows of purpose- built shacks measuring 2 by 3 meters.

Members of the Ahmadiyah community suffered further after the government bowed to an Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) edict, which declared Ahmadiyah a deviant sect, and issued a joint ministerial decree in 2008 banning followers of the sect from publicly performing their faith.

Today, around 120 displaced people are still living in dire conditions, barely able to meet their basic needs.

They are effectively banned from registering for identity cards or birth certificates for their children, which further limits their access to education, health care and other public services.

"It's been seven years since the attack. We've been calling on the government to help our brothers and sisters there since then, but to no avail. Where else should we go for help if the government does not care about us?" JAI spokesman Zafrullah Ahmad Pontoh said on Monday.

Zafrullah also urged the government to prevent the MUI from setting the country's religious tone and direction.

"We must remember that the MUI is nothing but a mass organization. It's weird if the government rules the state based on the decisions of a mass organization. So, we hope the government will take back the power from the MUI and uphold the Constitution," he added.

One of the displaced Ahmadis, Firdaus, said that children suffered most in the camp. For children who could no longer cope with the situation, Firdaus said members of the community had devised a scheme that would allow them to continue their education elsewhere. "There is no hope for them if they return to school here in West Nusa Tenggara," he said.

Others who decided to stay consider themselves lucky if they can meet their basic needs. "Some families don't even bother to send their kids to school or get free health services from the nearby health center. They only hope for one thing: To be free from more attacks," Firdaus added.

The NTB Ahmadis are not the only minority group suffering discrimination. In Sampang, Madura, dozens of Shia followers are living in a shelter following an attack by members of the Sunni majority in August last year.

"We are afraid that these Shiites will face a similar fate as the NTB Ahmadis. The President must do something or these people will suffer even more," Ismail Hasani of the human rights watchdog, the Setara Institute, said.

Ismail said that discrimination against religious minorities was on the rise in Indonesia, despite claims made by state officials that the country no longer tolerated such discrimination.

Meanwhile, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that members of Christian congregations had also been subjected to discrimination, primarily in the form of being denied permits for their churches.

HRW reports that Reverend Bernard Maukar of the Pentecostal Church in Indonesia (GPDI) in Sumedang, West Java, had been imprisoned after a local court found him guilty of violating local building regulations.

[Bagus BT Saragih contributed reporting.]

Government negligence blamed for religious intolerance

Jakarta Post - February 5, 2013

Arya Dipa, Bandung – Cases of religious and ethnic intolerance across West Java are due to a lack of religious awareness, with such cases intensifying due to negligence on the part of the government, activists say.

The activists were speaking as part of a discussion, themed "Revealing the Image of Diversity in West Java", which was organized by the Merah Putih Forum at the Indonesia Menggugat building in Bandung on Monday.

Among the speakers attending the event were Imparsial Institute researcher Junaidi Simun, Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) advocacy team member Jayadi Damanik, Wahid Institute monitoring and advocacy head M. Subhi Azhari, cultural observer Acep Zamzam Noor and Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) School of Arts rector Asep Ridwan Saidi.

West Java, the most populous province in Indonesia, is known for its deep roots of Islamic culture. Subhi said West Java was a province with the highest level of religious intolerance violations in Indonesia.

According to him, there were some factors that characterized the issue of religious freedom in West Java. The first was the criminalization of faiths, including 23 cases in 2012, 15 cases in 2011 and then 10 in 2010.

The second factor was violations relating to the construction of houses of worship and religious activities. In 2010, the number of cases stood at 22, while the number increased in 2011 to 47 cases and dropped to 30 cases in 2012.

Other issues that showed a rise in the number of cases included discriminatory actions or policies on behalf of religion. The number of cases had further increased from four in 2010 to 21 cases in 2012.

Issues related to the spread of hatred through religious activities were also taking place in West Java.

Overall, however, Subhi said various cases of violence and intolerance in the name of religion had dropped. In 2010, the number of cases stood at 57, in 2011, 128 cases were recorded and in 2012, 102 cases surfaced.

The decline, however, did not indicate that the government had been successful in dealing with religious intolerance.

"The cases have taken place due to disregard from the government. An indirect form is policy making, which restricts citizens from practicing their religious activities, as experienced by the Ahmadiyah, GKI Church congregation and the HKBP [Huria Kristen Batak Protestant] Filadelfia church," he said.

ITB arts school rector Asep claimed that widespread cases of violence in the name of religion were attributed to superficial religious understanding.

Subhi cited the issuance of Gubernatorial Ordinance No. 12/2011 on the ban against Ahmadiyah activities as a violation of religious freedom protected by the state.

The Wahid Institute also recorded a case of marriage license annulment in November 2012, at the Salawu Religious Affairs Office in Tasikmalaya, because officials learned that the married couple were Ahmadis. A blood donation event organized by the Bandung chapter of the Indonesian Red Cross and Ahmadiyah was also cancelled.

The head of the central Bandung chapter of the Indonesia Ahmadiyah Congregation Mansur Kartadireja said members of his congregation faced difficulties in performing their religious duties due to the presence of the gubernatorial ordinance.

The congregations of some churches in the province have faced difficulties in the past year. Members of the Banua Niho Keriso Protestan (BNKP) church in Bandung, for instance, were recently unable to conduct a Sunday service due to local residents forbidding the use of a house on Jl. Cibuntu in Bandung Kidul district for any religious activities.

The GKI church in Bogor and the HKBP church in Bekasi have also faced similar situations.

Indonesia still struggling with violence, religious intolerance

Jakarta Globe - February 3, 2013

Daniella White & Eileen McInnes – The year 2012 was a turbulent time for minority rights in Indonesia. Incidents of violence, sometimes resulting in death, were frequent and countless communities are still being denied the opportunity to practice their religion, despite laws guaranteeing their inherent rights.

An annual report by Human Rights Watch released this week suggested that very little effort was being made to protect religious minorities' rights in Indonesia. The watchdog organization says that radical decentralization as well as discriminatory and ineffective legal infrastructure are major obstacles to achieving equality.

The report focused on Indonesia's religious violence, discriminatory local bylaws and the imprisonment of Papuan and Moluccan activists as inhibiting Indonesia's path to becoming a "rights-respecting democracy." The group will issue a separate report on religious freedom in Indonesia at the end of the month.

Joseph Saunders, the New York-based deputy program director at HRW, said on Thursday that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's lack of leadership on the issue was damaging. He said that Yudhoyono, not considering the issue a "political winner," avoids confronting it in any meaningful manner.

"This isn't something that is going away quickly," Saunders said. "This is something that has grown over time. It's something [that has] roots a generation or two ago, and the manifestation is now.

"And the question is, do you want it to be better in 10 years, 20 years, or do you want it to be worse? Our fear is that it's being allowed to fester, and it's growing worse. It could get a lot worse."

Figures from the Setara Institute, an Indonesian human rights watchdog, show that cases of religious intolerance have been steadily increasing over the past five years. The group recorded 264 incidents of intolerance last year, almost double from 135 cases in 2007.

Setara is not optimistic for the coming year, especially taking into account the upcoming elections, according to its Report on Freedom of Religion and Belief in 2012, released in December.

Yudhoyono has not been silent on the issue. In January, in a lecture organized by the Indonesian National Youth Committee (KNPI), he urged the country to respect minority beliefs and cultures.

"The views and aspirations of the majority indeed have to be accepted, but we should not ignore the voice of minorities, of the different groups in this country," the president said. "Every community should build a culture of resolving conflicts in a peaceful manner that avoids the use of force."

Saunders says that Yudhoyono's words on the issue are mostly "empty rhetoric." The president "needs to take decisive action against acts of violence," he said. "That hasn't happened at all... often it is the victim that ends up behind bars... it's disturbing."

According to HRW, one of the primary barriers to minority rights and freedom of religion is "radical decentralization," the shift of power away from a central government in favor of local administrations, since the fall of authoritarian leader Suharto.

The power of the Supreme Court is often limited or unable to be enforced in local disputes.

A 2012 report by the International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization that advises governments and intergovernmental bodies on conflict resolution, found that local institutions are allowing conflicts to simmer after being empowered by decentralization. They ignore the country's highest courts with "impunity."

"If the regions become overconfident in their new powers and the central state continues to respond weakly, this lack of commitment to rule of law could encourage more conflict as the national political temperature rises ahead of the 2014 presidential election," the report said.

That sentiment is echoed by HRW. "Local officials refuse to implement laws," Saunders said. He said that there needed to be a provision in the contempt of court act that "expressly gives ability to dismiss someone who doesn't implement a ruling."

However, the existing constitution can at times be considered discriminatory in itself, recognizing only six official faiths. "If you don't fit into the category you are much more vulnerable," Saunders said.

Yudhoyono's most recent attempts to quell various conflicts have been his Presidential Instructions on security. As a result, governors, mayors and district heads will have greater powers in dealing with communal conflicts. He said they were intended to increase the ability of administrations to "swiftly" solve conflicts.

"There should be no more delays in addressing [conflicts] and no one is allowed to stop something preventable from being prevented. Something that could be solved should also not be left unsolved. Don't keep a time bomb," he said on Monday in a meeting with government officials in Jakarta.

However, the move has been criticized by some rights groups. Rights lawyer Asfinawati Ajub said the newest security measures from the president will only result in further weakening of the rights of minorities, as local governments gain more power to take decisive action in conflicts. Local governments, she explained, are usually representative of the majority.

"The local governments should not arrange security. It should be the Indonesian government that has the power, not the local government," she said.

In two well-known cases, the Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP Filadelfia) in Bekasi and the Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI Yasmin) in Bogor have been closed since 2007 and 2006 respectively, denied permits to operate by local authorities.

Even after a ruling in its favor was handed down by the Supreme Court, GKI Yasmin has still not been granted permission by the Bogor administration to reopen.

Every two weeks, the churches come together and hold a service outside the State Palace in Central Jakarta to remind Yudhoyono of their constitutional right to worship, and his obligation to uphold it.

In some Christian-majority areas, similar problems exist for Muslim citizens. In Kupang, the predominantly Christian capital of East Nusa Tenggara, construction of a mosque was halted in 2011 as a result of public protests.

National Police play down report on religious violence

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2013

Yuliasri Perdani, Jakarta – The National Police have downplayed a report claiming them to be complicit in attacks against religious minorities in the country, adding that they have taken action against those who have broken the law.

On Thursday, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report slamming Indonesian authorities, especially the police, for allowing hard-liners to persecute religious minorities such as the Shia and Ahmadiyah.

The authorities' reluctance to take action against hard-liners has led to a mounting number of attacks against minorities to 264 last year, a significant jump from 144 cases in 2011, according to data from Indonesia's Setara Institute.

"If there is any law violation, the police will enforce the law. There is no omission," National Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Agus Rianto told The Jakarta Post on Friday

However, Agus implied that, under specific circumstances, the police could not solely protect minorities from assaults. "If, at the time, the police officers were outnumbered by a mob, an omission could happen," he said at National Police headquarters in South Jakarta.

The HRW report showed that the police and other government authorities had bowed to the power of large, angry mobs.

"Violence and discrimination against religious minorities, particularly Ahmadiyah, Bahai, Christians, and Shia, deepened," the report said. Parishioners of the Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) in Bekasi and the Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) in Bogor faced intimidation when trying to worship during Christmas 2012.

Some members of the congregations claimed that the police personnel, who were present at that time, did nothing when hard-line local residents attacked and showered them with sewage and rotten eggs. "Incidents of violence against religious minorities were frequent and occasionally deadly. Islamist militants mobilized mobs to attack religious minorities with impunity," the report reads.

Responding to the criticism, Agus called on all elements of society to maintain peace and religious tolerance. "We expect the public to understand that they should not take the law into their own hands. Please respect each other. Violence will not solve our problems," he said.

National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo said that the police would make their focus on dealing with communal conflicts, including those that were triggered by religious intolerance, more thorough and careful.

"We've determined three priorities this year; corruption, terrorism and social conflicts," he said after a police annual meeting on Thursday.

Agus said that during the meeting, which involved all chiefs of police (Kapolda), they mapped more than 16,000 conflict hot spots across the archipelago.

"When the chiefs get back to their regions, they should discuss this with the regional administrations and Indonesian Military [TNI] personnel in the region," Timur explained.

Indonesia fails to defend minorities: HRW

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2013

Jakarta – In the latest damning assessment of religious freedom in Indonesia, the New York-based group Human Rights Watch (HRW) highlighted the government's failure to protect religious minorities throughout 2012 in its global annual report.

The group's World Report 2013 assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including Indonesia. In the 665-page report, the group said the Indonesian authorities took inadequate action against Islamist militants who mobilized mobs to attack religious minorities.

"Indonesia's growing regional prominence is being held back by the government's failure to confront intolerance of the country's diverse political and religious views," Phelim Kine, the deputy Asia director at HRW, said in a statement released on Thursday.

Citing the Setara Institute, a local NGO that monitors religious freedom, attacks against religious minorities rose from 144 cases in 2011 to 264 cases in 2012, the report said.

"Islamist militants mobilized mobs to attack religious minorities with impunity. Light prison terms imposed on those prosecuted sent a message of official tolerance for such mob violence. Dozens of regulations, including ministerial decrees on building houses of worship, continue to foster discrimination and intolerance," the report said.

In a visit to The Jakarta Post on Thursday, HRW deputy program director Joseph Saunders, said the legislation was in place to protect religious minorities, including the Ahmadiyah and Shiite groups, but it was not being enforced.

"[President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] is not taking decisive action. He has weapons at his disposal that he is not using," he said, citing the plight of the Christian congregations in Bogor and Bekasi in West Java that are still barred from attending their own churches, despite court rulings in their favor.

"Violence against religious minorities will only get worse as long as the Indonesian government encourages or ignores attacks by Islamist militants," Kine said. "Indonesia's leaders need to demonstrate real leadership and denounce the violence, revise discriminatory laws and ensure those responsible for abuses are punished."

HRW hailed the credible and fair election in Jakarta and other provinces that it said underscored Indonesia's ongoing transition from decades of authoritarian rule.

Indonesia, HRW said, had been seen as a role model for new democracies in the Arab world, but it was still beset by serious human rights problems.

The police, it said, were complicit in many acts of violence against minorities. It noted that on Aug. 26 last year, police officers stood by while hundreds of Sunni militants burned down 50 homes in a Shia village on Madura Island, killing one man.

"Indonesian authorities also failed to adequately protect artists, writers and media companies targeted by militant Islamist groups, who disrupted the May book tour of Muslim-Canadian writer Irshad Manji in Jakarta and Yogyakarta and caused the cancellation of a Lady Gaga concert in Jakarta in June," the group said.

HRW also called on the government to release political activists in Papua who expressed their political views through peaceful means.

"The Indonesian government continued to prosecute peaceful political activists in Papua and the Moluccas Islands, conflating freedom of expression and association with armed separatism," it said.

Presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha did not return calls for comment on Thursday.

Agriculture & food security

Competition commission urges beef, cattle cartel crackdown

Jakarta Post - February 7, 2013

Linda Yulisman, Jakarta – The Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) says it will soon launch a probe to determine the reasons behind a prolonged spike in beef and cattle prices in the nation.

The KPPU's chairman, Nawir Messi, said that the commission had found indications of unfair competition in the food commodities business that he said might have resulted from cartel-like or oligopolistic business practices.

"We will submit our initial recommendations to the government to review the nature of the market, stock prices, the characteristics of local production and other factors, so that it will not come to any misleading conclusions," Nawir said after a public hearing on beef supply-chain management in Jakarta on Wednesday.

The hearing was convened by the commission following a report that was issued last week by the National Economic Committee (KEN) that alleged that prices had been fixed for several key food commodities, including beef.

The committee's comments received additional attention following the emergence of the nation's latest high-profile bribery scandal, which this time has touched on government contracts for imported meat.

The scandal led to the resignation of Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) chairman Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq from his party post and from the House of Representatives (DPR) after the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named him a suspect in the case.

Two executives from one of the nation's largest meat importing companies, Indoguna Utama, have been arrested in the case for allegedly bribing Luthfi to help them secure a slot to import beef under a government procurement project. Beef imports are under the authority of Agriculture Minister Suswono, who is also a senior PKS politician.

Contacted separately, Widhanardi, a researcher for one of Indonesia's largest slaughterhouses, Darma Jaya in Cakung, East Jakarta, said that a shortage of live cattle from feedlots since August had led Darma Jaya to reduce operations.

"The facility normally can slaughter 200 live cattle per day, but due to shrinking supply, at present, it only slaughters 50 cattle on a daily basis," he said after the public hearing.

Widhanardi said that prices had soared after the government curbed import licenses, leading to intense competition between slaughterhouses. Despite insufficient local production, the government has cut cattle imports for 2013 to around 80,000 tons of beef, down about 13 percent from 92,000 tons last year.

A representative of the Indonesian Retailers Association (Aprindo) expressed similar concerns at the hearing, saying that Aprindo's members had reported difficulties in finding beef starting from the start of the Idul Fitri holiday, the nation's peak consumption season, last year, while prices soared.

"The normal pattern is for beef prices to decline after the holiday is over, but in fact, the prices have remained very high," Aprindo deputy secretary-general Satria Hamid said. "This is an irregularity that we've not seen before."

Local retailers needed around 12,700 tons of beef to supply supermarkets and hypermarkets in 2012 This year, demand is expected to jump by 30 percent to 17,160 tons along with expansion of the retail chains.

Land & agrarian conflicts

Thousands sign online petition to free Walhi activist

Jakarta Globe - February 2, 2013

More than 7,000 people have signed an online petition demanding the National Police Chief and South Sumatra Police release an activist arrested during a protest rally held by farmers and environmentalists on Tuesday.

Arief Aziz, the communication director for the online petition website change.org, said in a statement on Friday that more than 7,000 people had demanded the release of Anwar Sadat, the director of the South Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment, which is also known as Walhi.

The arrest came after Anwar, along with several farmers from the village of Betung in the Ogan Ilir district, were rallying in front of the police headquarters. The protesters were demonstrating against the state-owned plantation firm PTPN VII Cinta Manis over a land dispute.

Anwar and 24 other people were initially arrested before 22 of the protestors were released. Three people, including Anwar, were declared suspects.

Walhi has claimed that the police have used torture and excessive force in handling the protestors. A picture of Anwar with his head bleeding spread quickly over social media, prompting Walhi to start the petition at www.change.org/FreeAnwar.

Walhi added that Anwar was currently being treated for his injuries at the Bhayangkara Hospital in South Sumatra.

One person who signed the petition, Nidya Pramiella Gayatri, expressed her frustration over the excessive use of force by police. "It is their [police] job to protect and serve the people, and for them to commit such an act of violence is unjustifiable," she said.

Usman Hamid, a human rights activist from the Public Virtue Institute, welcomed the move by the South Sumatra Police to release most of the arrested protestors.

The activist said he had received a positive response from the South Sumatra Police chief after discussing the possibility of delaying the detention of Anwar and the other suspects.

Jakarta & urban life

Jakarta hit with heavy rains, widespread flooding again

Jakarta Globe - February 6, 2013

Jakarta saw another bout of heavy rains and attendant flooding on Wednesday afternoon, with reports of multiple main thoroughfares rendered impassable, downed trees and the capital's Hotel Indonesia traffic circle again inundated by floodwaters.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said the torrential rains had caused some areas in Jakarta to be inundated, but assured residents that the capital's rivers remained at safe levels.

Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho confirmed that the heavy rains had brought standing water to neighborhoods including Pluit in North Jakarta, and Central Jakarta's Sarinah-Thamrin and Sabang areas, as well as the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle.

"The inundation happened because 90 percent of the water stayed on the surface. Because Jakarta doesn't have enough water catchment areas, the water did not go directly to the drainage pipes because we don't have a proper drainage system," he said.

City Hall was flooded by up to 30 centimeters of water, as was the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) headquarters, according to Detik. com. Both were also inundated during the last major flooding to hit Jakarta on Jan. 17.

Jalan Sudirman in Central Jakarta saw up to 40 centimeters of water in front of Atma Jaya University at about 5:00 p.m., according to @TMCPoldaMetro, the official Twitter account of the Jakarta Police's traffic management unit. It reported that Pancoran, Jalan TB Simatupang, Jalan Gerbang Pemuda and Jalan Dr. Soepomo in South Jakarta were also inundated at the time.

The traffic management unit said that by about 6:30 p.m., waters had receded along Jalan Gatot Subroto and at Jalan Casablanca underpass in South Jakarta, about the same time it reported that the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta was also down to 10 to 15 centimeters of standing water. Both roads and the roundabout were previously reported impassable for a time.

But waters remained up to 50 centimeters high in front of Mall Ciputra in West Jakarta, the traffic unit tweeted at 6:39 p.m.

Floodwaters in Tebet, East Jakarta, and Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, disrupted train services heading to Jatinegara Station in East Jakarta from Tanah Abang Station, Detik.com reported. Traffic congestion remains heavy along the Jalan Sudirman thoroughfare from Senayan to Semanggi, according to @TMCPoldaMetro.

Fallen trees caused by the rain and strong winds were reported by the police's traffic unit across a TransJakarta busway lane in Kuningan, South Jakarta, in the Kebayoran Lama and Karet neighborhoods of South Jakarta, and in Kebon Jeruk, West Jakarta, disrupting traffic in the areas. Felled trees were also seen near the capital's Al-Azhar and Istiqlial mosques, according to @TMCPoldaMetro.

Jakarta hit with heavy rains, widespread flooding again

Jakarta Globe - February 6, 2013

Jakarta saw another bout of heavy rains and attendant flooding on Wednesday afternoon, with reports of multiple main thoroughfares rendered impassable, downed trees and the capital's Hotel Indonesia traffic circle again inundated by floodwaters.

The National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said the torrential rains had caused some areas in Jakarta to be inundated, but assured residents that the capital's rivers remained at safe levels.

Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho confirmed that the heavy rains had brought standing water to neighborhoods including Pluit in North Jakarta, and Central Jakarta's Sarinah-Thamrin and Sabang areas, as well as the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle.

"The inundation happened because 90 percent of the water stayed on the surface. Because Jakarta doesn't have enough water catchment areas, the water did not go directly to the drainage pipes because we don't have a proper drainage system," he said.

City Hall was flooded by up to 30 centimeters of water, as was the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) headquarters, according to Detik. com. Both were also inundated during the last major flooding to hit Jakarta on Jan. 17.

Jalan Sudirman in Central Jakarta saw up to 40 centimeters of water in front of Atma Jaya University at about 5:00 p.m., according to @TMCPoldaMetro, the official Twitter account of the Jakarta Police's traffic management unit.

It reported that Pancoran, Jalan TB Simatupang, Jalan Gerbang Pemuda and Jalan Dr. Soepomo in South Jakarta were also inundated at the time.

The traffic management unit said that by about 6:30 p.m., waters had receded along Jalan Gatot Subroto and at Jalan Casablanca underpass in South Jakarta, about the same time it reported that the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta was also down to 10 to 15 centimeters of standing water. Both roads and the roundabout were previously reported impassable for a time.

But waters remained up to 50 centimeters high in front of Mall Ciputra in West Jakarta, the traffic unit tweeted at 6:39 p.m.

Floodwaters in Tebet, East Jakarta, and Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, disrupted train services heading to Jatinegara Station in East Jakarta from Tanah Abang Station, Detik.com reported. Traffic congestion remains heavy along the Jalan Sudirman thoroughfare from Senayan to Semanggi, according to @TMCPoldaMetro.

Fallen trees caused by the rain and strong winds were reported by the police's traffic unit across a TransJakarta busway lane in Kuningan, South Jakarta, in the Kebayoran Lama and Karet neighborhoods of South Jakarta, and in Kebon Jeruk, West Jakarta, disrupting traffic in the areas. Felled trees were also seen near the capital's Al-Azhar and Istiqlial mosques, according to @TMCPoldaMetro.

Total losses for Jakarta flooding hit Rp32 trillion

Jakarta Globe - February 1, 2013

Wahyu Sudoyo – The recent floods in Jakarta and surrounding areas are estimated to have caused Rp 32 trillion ($3.3 billion) in losses.

"The figure for the losses incurred by the floods is Rp 32 trillion. This includes potential losses in the Greater Jakarta areas [Jabodetabek] of about Rp 7 trillion to Rp 8 trillion, while the economic recovery [cost] for those areas is predicted to reach 3-4 times, or around Rp 21 trillion to Rp 32 trillion," Yani Miryam, head of the women's wing of the People's Conscience Party (Hanura), said on Wednesday.

Yani regretted the huge loss, saying that Rp 32 trillion could be used to build infrastructure. She urged the government to solve the persistent flooding problem.

"Until now, several roads in Jakarta still could not be crossed because they were inundated," she said.

Yani recommended several anticipatory measures for the government to take in addressing the flood problem comprehensively such as the need to build infrastructure, funding and political will.

Anticipatory measures are to accelerate the development of the Rp 1.43 trillion Jakarta Emergency Dredging Initiative project, which would help increase the capacity of the West Flood Canal, as well as the building of a Rp 700 billion, 2.1-kilometer canal project from the Ciliwung River to the East Flood Canal. "We're also suggesting to accelerate [the] making [of] 10,000 infiltration wells, developing the multifunction deep tunnel [project] which is expected to require around Rp 16 trillion in investment, and to accelerate the development of the Ciawi dam."

She continued, "to improve the land condition in the upstream and downstream areas by increasing green areas so that they can absorb more water."

Yani added that financial support to accelerate the infrastructure development for the flood control programs could be obtained from the government, public and private sectors.

She added that the development of the Rp 16 trillion multifunction deep tunnel project should be funded jointly between the Jakarta city administration, the central government and investors.

Funding for the flood control program could also be raised from the private sector by asking companies to allocate their corporate social responsibility program budgets to support the flood control projects.

"We encourage the corporate [sector] to allocate their CSR budget to support flood control programs so that the flood problem can be solved jointly by the public, government and corporate [sector]," Yani said.

Her organization also encourages all political parties to give concrete support to the central government and city administration to solve t he flood problem.

Yani added that the stability of a country is reflected in its ability to provide sufficient infrastructure, including how it handles the flood problem.

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo has vowed to audit documents relating to the design of buildings in the capital immediately after the city finishes with flood-relief efforts.

The governor alleged that many buildings were built on lands that were supposed to be used as water catchment and green areas, disrupting the city's drainage system and causing flooding.

Intelligence & state security

New security regulation called illegal, unnecessary

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2013

Yuliasri Perdani and Margareth S. Aritonang, Jakarta – Members of the House of Representatives have criticized President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's new security regulation that outlines the cooperation between the Indonesian Military (TNI) and the National Police in dealing with communal conflicts, calling it unnecessary, and quite possibly illegal.

Helmy Fauzi, a lawmaker from House Commission I overseeing defense and information, said on Tuesday that Presidential Instruction No. 2/2013 on the handling of internal security threats contained provisions that overlapped with the 2002 National Police Law and the 2004 TNI Law. The regulation and its related agreement were illegal, he said.

"The government never asked our opinion about the presidential instruction or the memorandum of understanding [MoU] [...] We view the regulation as being illegal and it must be revoked because it contradicts other laws," he said during a panel discussion in Jakarta.

Helmy was referring to a provision in the instruction that would allow, based on consent by the National Police, the deployment of TNI personnel to areas deemed high-risk for potential conflict.

Gufron Mabruri from human rights watchdog Imparsial said that the MoU, which was signed by the National Police and the TNI a day after Yudhoyono issued the instruction, provided loopholes that could allow members of the security apparatus to intimidate protesters or activists.

According to a copy of the MoU obtained by Imparsial, the Army can be deployed under certain situations, including during rallies, workers' strikes, riots, social conflicts or attacks from armed criminals.

"The MoU does not specify the minimal level of conflict that would be addressed by the military. This could allow the police and the TNI to handle a minor rally or strike that is not a threat to national security," Gufron said during the discussion.

Gufron and Helmy urged the President to annul the regulation and the MoU. Helmy said that lawmakers needed to deliberate a new law that would provide specifics on military deployment, including how long they would team up with the police to manage a given conflict.

Meanwhile at the House complex, Commission I deputy chairman Tubagus Hasanuddin from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said the presidential instruction and the joint agreement were meaningless because a law on social conflict required a presidential regulation rather than an instruction.

"The presidential instruction might be disadvantageous to the TNI because it fails to clearly regulate how and when the police would manage any assistance provided by the TNI. The TNI may be left behind if a situation worsened," Hasanuddin said during a hearing with TNI commander Adm. Agus Suhartono.

Agus rejected the criticism, claiming that the presidential instruction would provide a good base for regional leaders dealing with regional conflict.

"Regional leaders have mostly been absent during conflicts between members of their local communities, leaving local police to explain the incidents to the public. This presidential instruction will now grant the primary role to regional leaders while we, as well as the police, will provide help anytime they need it," Agus said.

He added that the joint agreement was essential as it would act as a standard operating procedure (SOP) for both institutions so as to avoid confusion.

"The TNI has its own procedures and so do the police. That is why we need a joint procedure that can be followed by members of both institutions so that they have clear guidelines on how to act in conflict situations in the future," he said.

State secrets bill a 'threat to free press'

Jakarta Post - February 1, 2013

Jakarta – The Press Council is calling for a rethink of the draft state secrets bill that has been given priority on the House of Representatives' legislative agenda for 2013.

If enacted into law, the current bill would jeopardize press freedom, which is one of the pillars of democracy, the council said.

The bill, drafted by the Defense Ministry, stipulates that state information about security, foreign relations, law enforcement, intelligence and encryption should not be made available to the public, Press Council member Agus Sudibyo said.

"The TNI [Indonesian Military], for example, is a public institution funded by a state budget, and thus has to be transparent," Agus said during a recent discussion at the Indonesia Institute of Sciences (LIPI) in Jakarta.

"It will be dangerous if this bill is approved." LIPI defense expert Jaleswari Pramodhawardani echoed Agus, saying that the bill would limit press freedom, since things such as the defense budget would remain top secret.

"I understand that things related to state security, such as defense strategy, should be kept secret. The defense budget, on the other hand, should be made available to the public," Jaleswari said.

Agus said that the bill would be at cross purposes with the 2008 Freedom of Information Law, which came into force in April 2010. According to the law, all information, including that held by the TNI, should be made available to the public, as long as its revelation does not pose a threat to state security.

"Unlike the state secrets bill, the 2008 law regulates the type of the information that is confidential, instead of the institution," Agus said.

He criticized the bill for stating that whoever revealed a "state secret", as broadly defined by the bill, could be given hefty punishments, such as a maximum sentence of life imprisonment or required to pay a maximum fine of Rp 1 billion (US$103,231).

"This is so unfair. The punishments should be imposed on the officials and institutions who fail to protect the state secrets," Agus said. "Instead, the bill gives severe punishment to the public, including the media, who may not even realize that they have leaked classified information."

The council has repeatedly urged the government to revise the bill in accordance with the principle of freedom of information. Government officials and lawmakers failed to complete deliberations on the first version of the bill sent to the House in 2008, citing an unclear definition of what comprised a state secret.

The chairman of House Commission I overseeing defense, foreign affairs and information, Mahfudz Siddiq, said that the Freedom of Information Law mandated the enactment of a state secrets law.

He said that the House would focus on clarifying the concept of state secrecy before making a list of information that should be kept secret from the public. (han)

Foreign affairs & trade

Marzuki supports a haram edict on imported meats, fruits and vegetables

Suara Pembaruan - February 2, 2013

House of Representatives Speaker Marzuki Alie has said that he supports a recommendation for the Indonesian Ulema Council to issue a haram edict, forbidden in Islam, to ban meat, fruit and vegetable imports to help protect local farmers.

"It should be considered haram because it abuses the local farmers," Marzuki said on Friday. "The MUI [Indonesian Ulema Council] or Nahdlatul Ulama [one of the biggest Islamic organizations in Indonesia] should consider issuing a haram fatwa [edict] against imported fruits. We have so many kinds of local fruits which could bring prosperity to our farmers."

A lawmaker from the United Development Party (PPP), Syaifullah Tamliha, previously said that as long as local production was sufficient, importing meat, fruits and vegetables should be considered haram because it could ruin the markets for local farmers.

The lawmaker also demanded the government improve farming management by providing proper training for the farmers to help ensure local production met international standards.

Syaifullah also criticized the current meat import system, adding that the market was inundated with imported meat because local farmers only sold their cattle during special occasions including Idul Adha.

Ichwan Syam, the secretary-general of the MUI, said that the council did not have any plans to issue a haram edict against importing meat, fruits, and vegetables in the near future.

"There are too many different opinions about the issue, and the MUI has never made the analysis to find out whether or not the local production of meat, fruits and vegetables has been sufficient for the domestic needs, and we have never discussed if importing the items would bring us any good," he said on Saturday.

Ichwan said the MUI would undertake a comprehensive analysis by consulting with farming experts and the Ministry of Agriculture officials first.

He added that the MUI did not have the proper knowledge about Indonesia's farming production and would therefore need assistance and guidance from experts before making a decision on whether an edict should be issued.

"We issue a fatwa with a comprehensive consideration and not based on one person's recommendation, we have to listen to all stakeholders, if the haram fatwa is extremely needed of course we would issue it immediately," he said. Ichwan said that even without the haram edict, the public should always prioritize eating local products over imported goods.

Indonesia suffers first-ever annual trade deficit

Jakarta Post - February 2, 2013

Linda Yulisman, Jakarta – Indonesia suffered its first ever annual trade deficit in 2012 as shipments to most of the country's major trading partners fell during the year amid the slowdown in the global economy.

According to the latest data issued by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) on Friday, the country's trade deficit reached US$1.65 billion last year, the first such deficit in Indonesia's history.

Exports dropped to $190.04 billion, down 6.61 percent from a year earlier, deeper than the forecasts by most economists, who had expected to see a decline ranging between 5 percent and 6.5 percent.

Exports to almost all major trading partners declined. Exports of non-oil and gas products to China and Japan, for example, dropped by 3.39 percent and 6.4 percent to $20.86 billion and $17.23 billion respectively.

Imports, on the other hand, surged by 8.2 percent to $191.67 billion, driven by imports of intermediary goods for local production (73.10 percent), followed by capital goods (19.90 percent) and consumer goods (7 percent).

Deputy Trade Minister Bayu Krisnamurthi said after the announcement that the unfavorable external situation in the global economy severely affected Indonesia's exports.

"We will maintain the target for exports at a similar level to last year, which we consider realistic. However, hopefully, ongoing developments in China and Japan will improve the outlook," he told a press briefing in Jakarta.

Earlier, Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan said that Indonesia's exports could remain stagnant this year as major trading partners such as the United States and Japan and European countries might keep cutting demand.

Analysts also believe that export prospects will remain gloomy this year although there are signs of recovery in the country's leading trading partners, such as China and the US.

However, they estimate exports will increase only slightly and the rise may be still too small to bring the country's trade balance back into positive territory.

Latif Adam, an economist at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said that Indonesia's exports would expand, albeit at a lower rate, thanks to economic recovery in Indonesia's major trading partners

In its latest forecast, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts the global economy will grow by 3.5 percent in 2013 with fewer risks of policy mistakes and lower levels of financial stress.

"This will slightly push up demand for our commodities. In addition to this, we project that the government's move to extend exports to non-traditional markets will begin to generate outcome," Latif said.

He estimated exports would increase by 9.22 percent this year, but the trade deficit would continue as imports would leap by 9.24 percent during the year. Latif predicted that the trade balance would remain in the red.

Indonesia, one of the world's biggest producers of key commodities, relies heavily on such raw materials to boost exports. Exports of palm oil, rubber, coal and other mineral commodities dropped significantly last year due to a global plunge in commodity prices.

Anton Hendranata, Bank Danamon's chief economist, sees a positive outlook for Indonesia's trade this year, saying that exports might surge by 6.4 percent, with imports rising by 7.5 percent.

"Exports will benefit from recovery in China, which has seen its economy start to pick up by 8 percent, and that will help raise commodity prices as well as volumes," he said.

The brighter prospect for exports will partly be supported by the depreciation of the rupiah, which will make Indonesia's goods more competitive in foreign markets.

On the other hand, imports of capital goods, such as heavy equipment, may decline due to slowing production activities.

The rupiah, which was the worst-performing currency in Asia last year, fell as low as Rp 9,778 per dollar before closing 0.3 percent higher on Friday at Rp 9,713, according to bank prices compiled by Bloomberg.

Analysis & opinion

The national security bill and human rights

Jakarta Post - February 6, 2013

Mimin Dwi Hartono, Jakarta – Draft national security bills have been deliberated by the House of Representatives for a long time. However, they have continued to be rejected by lawmakers, principally on fears that the bills might trigger human rights violations if enacted.

Meanwhile, according to the government, a bill is needed to establish a comprehensive and integrated national security system that supports the nation's development agenda.

One of the most recent drafts of the bill calls for the central government to establish a National Security Council (NSC), to be chaired by the President and with a ministerial-level official as its chief executive. The NSC would have the authority to determine strategy and national security policy, which would overlap the current remit of the National Police, the Indonesian Military (TNI), and the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) and violate the independence of the judicial system.

The draft also calls for the national security system to be decentralized to governors, regents and mayors. Regional head would be given the opportunity to respond to various threats to national security. A liberal interpretation of what constitutes a threat will lead to biased interpretations that might favor certain social, economical and political groups in the region. Moreover, in the era of regional autonomy, almost all local heads come from political parties that pursue their own economic and political interests. Further, too many local leaders have been convicted of corruption.

The bill defines a threat to national security, in part, as things threatening sustainable national development. The definition and elaboration of sustainable national development provided in the bill is broad, subject to multiple interpretations and prone to exploitation by biased people. If enacted, it could be used by the central and regional governments to repress civil society groups and political parties for the sake of national development.

National development is a vague term. The problem is that policy at national and local levels remains politically motivated and lacks transparency and community participation. As a result, national development very often conflicts with the interests of society.

One national development program that has been aggressively promoted by the government is the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia's Economic Development (MP3EI), which aims to make the nation an advanced country and propel it into the ranks among the 10 largest economies in the world by 2025. Many projects under the MP3EI in fact collide with the interests of society and might adversely impact environmental sustainability, such as the Trans Papua highway.

As of November, the government has realized 84 MP3EI projects with a total investment of Rp 536.3 trillion (US$55.86 billion). These projects comrpised 38 private projects valued at Rp 301.6 trillion, 20 projects run by state-owned enterprises worth Rp 90.3 trillion, 15 projects run by the government worth Rp 66.2 trillion and 11 projects jointly funded projects run by various agencies worth Rp 78.2 trillion. MP3EI projects are spread across multiple "corridors" under the plan in Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Bali-Nusa Tenggara and Papua-Maluku Islands, with adjustments made for the potential and needs of each region.

Furthermore, the law grants the regional governments of Aceh wide authority to mobilize local resources to increase their revenues to self-finance their development programs. Exploitation of natural resources has since proceeded without controls and without considering the sustainability of social, economic, cultural, environmental and human rights. Thousands of investment permits in the mining, plantation and forestry sectors have been issued by regents and mayors all over the country, without any control and accountability from the central of provincial governments or from the community (downward accountability).

As a result, agrarian conflicts have arisen everywhere, causing violations of social, economic, cultural rights and even human lives, as occurred in Lampung and South Sumatra. If the central and local authorities are free to determine what constitutes threats to national security, then any form of opposition and any action considered deleterious to the local investment climate, especially in the extractive industries, plantations, and infrastructure, could be criminalized due to disturbing the national development agenda.

Therefore, opposition to the national security bill is justified for various reasons. The bill will legitimize involvement of security forces in order to sustain national development by violating the civil and political liberties of the people.

Before the current draft national security bill is endorsed, the government should guarantee the right of participation and the public's access to information through public consultation at the central and local levels. In addition, the government must ensure accountability of the state security system based on human rights with reference to the Constitution, national laws and international laws that protect human rights. Thus, instead of violating the enjoyment of human rights, the national security bill would reflect the state's obligation to respect and protect human rights.

[The writer is an investigator at the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights. The views expressed are his own.]

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