Vela Andapita and Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – What happened in Indonesia over the past 365 days? As we move to greet another new year, The Jakarta Post has wrapped up some of the most important events that defined the country throughout 2019.
From the tumultuous presidential election season and the growing fight against sexual violence to trade tensions with the European Union (EU), here are the events in the past year you may want to revisit.
Jokowi versus Prabowo, again
The beginning of 2019 saw months of political polarization surrounding the presidential election, which again pitted Joko "Jokowi" Widodo against his archrival Prabowo Subianto in a rerun of the previous 2014 race – arguably the most divisive one in the country's history to date.
Wrapping up the seven-month campaign season, election day on April 17 saw Jokowi leading in early vote counts. Prabowo, however, was quick to claim victory after voting day concluded, repeating a similar declaration he had made in 2014, which he lost.
What followed after that was months of intense spats over the election results, occurring between the rival camps' supporters and through a legal battle lodged at the Constitutional Court, with Prabowo's side claiming that there had been "systematic, structural and massive" election-rigging that inflated Jokowi's tally.
The court, however, rejected all claims filed by the losing candidate, thereby upholding Jokowi's successful reelection bid into his second and final term in office.
Postelection riots haunt the capital
The end of May saw riots breaking out in Jakarta after thousands of Prabowo supporters took to the streets to challenge the official result of the election. Unrest gripped the capital as at least nine civilians were killed in the trouble – all of whom the police claimed were rioters. Four of them died from gunshot wounds, the police said, denying any involvement in the deaths.
More than 170 alleged rioters arrested on May 21 to 23 have since been tried at the Central Jakarta District Court.
Four state officials were reportedly targeted for assassination during the riots. They were then coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister Wiranto, then coordinating maritime affairs minister Luhut Pandjaitan, State Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Budi Gunawan and then National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian.
Capital relocation plan starts taking shape
Jokowi made global headlines in April after reviving a decades-old plan to move Indonesia's capital city from Jakarta, citing issues such as overcrowding in Java, environmental concerns and perennial traffic congestion in the metropolis.
The State Palace announced in August that East Kalimantan would host the country's new capital. Starting with land preparation in 2020, the government has set a four-year target until 2024 to conclude the detailed engineering design, groundbreaking for the new capital city development and capital city expansion plan.
The National Development Planning Ministry said the soon-to-be-built city – which will sit on a 256,000-hectare site straddling the regencies of North Penajam Paser and Kutai Kertanegara – is set to be a new province.
The new capital city project is estimated is to cost up to Rp 466 trillion (US$32.7 billion).
The rise of Indonesia's #MeToo movement
About a year ago, Gadjah Mada University's (UGM) student magazine published an investigative report about sexual assault experienced by Agni, the pseudonym of a UGM student who was allegedly sexually assaulted by a fellow student during a community service program in 2017.
The issue ignited the rise of the #MeToo movement across the country, only here it was dubbed #KitaAgni (We are Agni). It went viral as people tried to pressure university leaders to immediately take action against Agni's alleged assailant and end the culture of victim blaming.
Inspired by Agni's story, The Jakarta Post along with Tirto.id and Vice Indonesia engaged in a collaborative project titled #NamaBaikKampus (Campus Reputation). Together, the three conducted an online survey and received 207 statements, 174 of which were about cases of alleged sexual harassment – most of which were not reported to authorities.
Since the case came to light, some universities, including UGM have been working on regulations to address the issue.
Efforts to eradicate sexual violence, however, continued to face challenges this year, mainly after the deliberation of the sexual violence eradication bill still stalled at the House of Representatives. Lawmakers did not pass the bill as they ended their term on Sept. 30, with some raising objections to some of the articles, arguing that the bill would encourage casual sex and homosexuality.
Restive Papua rocked by turmoil, violence
In August, a string of protests broke out in Papua and West Papua condemning racism in the wake of a racial abuse case in which Papuan students in East Java's provincial capital of Surabaya were called "monkeys" and "pigs" over the alleged desecration of the national flag on the country's 74th Independence Day.
The demonstrations – some of which descended into riots and led the government to impose an internet blackout in the restive region for "security reasons" – also spread nationwide, with some cities seeing protesters carrying banned Morning Star flags, a symbol of the Papuan independence movement.
Clashes between security officers and protesters broke out during rallies in a number of areas in the country's easternmost provinces, including in Deiyai regency of Papua, where reports of civilian casualties emerged. Dozens were arrested after the protests, including in Jakarta, with a number of them charged for treason.
In September, deadly unrest broke out in Wamena in Jayawijaya regency, Papua, as a mob – reportedly consisting of native Papuans – set buildings on fire and attacked residents with weapons. At least 33 people were killed in the riots, prompting tens of thousands to flee the region and causing losses amounting to Rp 479.5 billion (US$33.8 million).
Hype over Jokowi's new Cabinet and his millennial aides
Shortly after taking his oath for the second term of his presidency, Jokowi announced the members of his Indonesia Onward Cabinet, which saw a combination of old and new faces, professionals and politicians – with some names raising eyebrows.
Among the surprising names was Prabowo – Jokowi's own longtime political nemesis and former opposition leader – who was chosen to lead the Defense Ministry. Others included Nadiem Makarim, founder and former CEO of the country's first decacorn Gojek, who became the education and culture minister; former Indonesian Military (TNI) deputy commander Fachrul Razi who took the helm of the Religious Affairs Ministry as well as retired military general Terawan Agus Putranto who was tapped as Health Minister despite previous sanctions against him for ethics violations.
The surprising announcements did not stop there with the President returning to make headlines nearly a month later as he introduced seven young faces as members of his new presidential expert staff, which has since been dubbed Jokowi's own millennial team of aides.
Indonesia drives toward digital economy and cashless society
The growth of digital payment platforms has helped boost financial inclusion in the country as more and more Indonesians gain access to financial services.
A 2019 Fintech Report found that 82.7 percent of Indonesians are aware of e-wallet platforms, 62.4 percent are aware of digital investment and 56.7 percent of pay-later services. The study was published by state-owned PT Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) and conducted by DS Research in November.
In August, to further promote financial inclusion and boost cashless transactions, Bank Indonesia decided to start implementing Quick Response Indonesian Standards (QRIS) in the beginning of 2020. Through QRIS, the central bank expects to integrate the existing QR payment system that includes GoPay, OVO, DANA and LinkAja.Transactions made using GoPay amounted to US$6.3 billion in February alone, nearly 70 percent of Gojek's total transactions.
Indonesia's digital economy is expected to reach $40 billion this year from last year's $27 billion, according to a Google, Temasek and Bain & Company study.
Young people take to the streets in the name of democracy
This year, Indonesia witnessed its largest student protests since those of 1998, making headlines in the national and international media as tens of thousands of young people staged large-scale demonstrations in cities across the country to reject what they described as attempts to roll back democracy and political reforms.
In the string of protests that mainly took place at the end of September, the students conveyed seven demands for the House of Representatives and the government, including rejection of the revised Criminal Code, passing the sexual violence eradication bill and an end to militarism in Papua.
The protests were supported by an online movement under the hashtag #ReformasiDikorupsi (Reform Corrupted), which had become the "thread" connecting the movements of students, workers, farmers, fishermen, schoolchildren and other groups in various cities.
The rallies, however, were marred by reports of police using excessive force while handling the protests in some cities, which saw clashes between students and security force personnel. Hundreds of students were injured, while two university students died after joining a protest in Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi, one of whom was shot dead.
Antigraft body under attack?
The year 2019 may be remembered as the year the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and antigraft activists fought a losing battle.
It was the revision of the KPK Law – which was hastily passed by the House in September – that many deemed as part of the effort to undermine the country's fight against corruption.
The revision mandated the formation of a supervisory council to oversee the KPK – which was officially established and inaugurated by Jokowi on Dec. 20 – and to issue warrants for raids, wiretapping and evidence seizure.
The inauguration of Comr. Gen. Firli Bahuri as the chairman of the antigraft body for the term 2019-2023 also came under scrutiny, as previous KPK leaders and antigraft activists claimed the three-star general was suspected of "gross ethical violations".
Jakarta's air pollution is so bad it drives residents to sue government
Residents of Greater Jakarta are used to not seeing clear blue skies as the city has been blanketed by thin – sometimes thick – smog for years, but 2019 saw more eyes scrutinizing the poor air quality in Indonesia's capital, which is mainly polluted by emissions from millions of motorized vehicles, coal-fired power plants and industrial gas waste.
The air contains, among many other pollutants, high amounts of PM2.5 and PM10. These are particulate matter measuring, respectively, 2.5 and 10 microns – so small that they penetrate the lungs' surface, enter the blood system and pose health threats.
Some Greater Jakarta residents filed a landmark civil lawsuit at the Central Jakarta District Court to demand the government do something about the air pollution. The hearing of the historic lawsuit commenced in August.
Also in August, Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan issued Gubernatorial Instruction No. 66/2019 on air quality control in a bid to curb air pollution in the capital.
Trade spats with the EU: Palm oil and nickel export brouhaha
The year 2019 saw escalating tension between Indonesia and the EU over palm oil, especially after the European Commission – the EU's executive arm – laid out plans to phase out its use in biofuels by 2030 and categorizing palm oil as an unsustainable product.
Earlier this month, the world's top palm oil producer announced that the country had filed a lawsuit with the World Trade Organization (WTO) against the EU's palm oil policy, which Indonesia alleged to be "discriminatory" toward the nation's palm oil.
Indonesia's lawsuit came shortly after the bloc filed a complaint with the WTO over Indonesia's nickel export ban and alleged illegal subsidies in November, saying that the ban "goes against WTO rules."
The government previously announced in September that it would ban nickel ore exports starting January 2020 – two years earlier than previously planned. As the world's largest nickel producer, Indonesia's decision has shocked foreign manufacturers including those in China, Europe and Japan.
Indonesia's SEA Games team returns in glory
Indonesia's Southeast Asia (SEA) Games medalists returned home with a stunning medal haul despite falling short of Jokowi's own request to finish in the top-two in the medal table.
The country's contingent achieved the Youth and Sports Ministry's goal by finishing fourth at the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines, securing 72 gold, 84 silver and 111 bronze medals, behind overall champion and host the Philippines (149 gold, 117 silver and 121 bronze), second-placed Vietnam (98 gold, 85 silver and 105 bronze) and third-placed Thailand (92 gold, 103 silver and 123 bronze).
The competition saw the emergence of several new stars. Dea Salsabila Putri, who competed in the modern pentathlon, won three gold medals – the highest tally of any Indonesian athlete at the Games.
The Indonesian men's water polo team also created history by winning its first-ever gold medal, breaking Singapore's dominance in the sport since it was first featured at the SEA Games in 1965.