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Indonesia News Digest 30 – August 9-15, 2018

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West Papua

Papuans hold simulations rallies in Java and Bali protesting 'illegal'

Suara Papua - August 15, 2018

Bastian Tebai, Semarang – The Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) and the Indonesian People's Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) have called on all Papuan students through their city committees in Java and Bali to declare that the 1962 New York Agreement was illegal.

The AMP and FRI-WP said that the agreement, which was signed on August 15, 1962 and used as the basis for the 1968 "Act of Free Choice" (Pepera), was illegal because it did not involve a single representative from the Papuan people.

On Wednesday August 15, the AMP and FRI-WP commemorated the agreement in their respective cities.

Demonstrations were held by AMP committees in Makassar (South Sulawesi), Malang (East Java), Yogyakarta (Central Java), Jakarta and the satellite city of Tangerang, Semarang (Central Java), Surabaya (East Java) and Bandung (West Java). In Bali, Solo (Central Java) and Bogor (West Java), the AMP commemorated the agreement with public discussions.

The peaceful AMP demonstration in Yogyakarta however was blocked by police and reactionary mass organisations (ormas). Likewise during a peaceful demonstration in Surabaya the front gates to the Papuan Kamasan Dormitory was vandalised by an ormas and Surabaya police.

During the simulations protests today, the AMP called on the regime of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla, the Dutch government, the United States and the United Nations to, first, give the right of self-determination to the nation of Papua as a democratic solution that must be implemented.

Second, acknowledge and affirm that the New York Agreement was legally and morally invalid because it did not involve a single representative of the Papuan people.

Third, they called for the withdrawal of all organic and non-organic TNI (Indonesian military) and Polri (Indonesian police) from the land of Papua.

Forth, they demanded the closure of the Freeport gold-and-copper mine, the LNG Tangguh gas field operated by BP, the MNC Group LNG plant, the Merauke Integrated Food and Energy Estate (MIFEE) in Merauke and other multi-national company projects in West Papua which continue to be the masterminds behind humanitarian crimes in the land of Papua.

Fifth, that the UN take responsibility for and be actively involved in a manner that is just and democratic, in a process of self-determination, the straightening out of history and resolving the human rights violations against the Papuan nation.


Following the launch of the Trikora military operation which was aimed at harassing and forcing the Dutch out of Netherlands New Guinea in 1961-62 and under the threat that Indonesia would move from armed infiltrations to a large-scale military attack, US sponsored negotiations led to the signing of the New York Agreement on August 15, 1962 in which the Netherlands agreed to hand over administration of Western New Guinea to Indonesia pending a UN administered plebiscite. Seven years later under the newly installed Suharto dictatorship, the treaty led to the so-call "Act of Free Choice" in 1969 in which 1025 hand-picked Papuans "voted" at gun-point for the territory remain part of Indonesia.

[Abridged translation by James Balowski. The second part of the article contained an explanation of the New York Agreement and "Act of Free Choice". The original title of the article was "15 Agustus: AMP dan FRI WP Sebut New York Agreement Ilegal".]

Source: https://suarapapua.com/2018/08/15/15-agustus-amp-sebut-new-york-agreement-ilegal/

Papuan dormitory in Surabaya attacked and vandalised, 49 arrested by

Suara Papua - August 15, 2018

Bastian Tebai, Surabaya – As many as 49 Papuan students who reside at the Kamasan Papuan Dormitory in the East Java provincial capital of Surabaya were arrested by police this evening and are being held at the Surabaya district police headquarters (Polrestabes).

There were two reasons for this according to information gathered by Suara Papua.

First, opposition by mass organisations (ormas) to planned peaceful demonstrations rejecting the 1962 New York Agreement which were held earlier this morning, in which the Papuan student dormitory was the gathering point for protesters.

Second, the residents of the dormitory refused to put up the national flag in front of the dormitory as part of the upcoming August 17 national celebrations of Indonesian independence because they said they did not feel part of the Indonesian state. Local residents, the ormas and police ended up forcing the Papuan student to fly the red-and-white flag.

Earlier this afternoon, Papuan students were involved in a clash with a combined group of police and ormas who vandalised and then demolished the front gate of the Papuan dormitory.

A number of ormas joined with police in the incident including the groups Patriot Garuda, the Pancasila Youth (Pemuda Pancasila) and the Bastions of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (Benteng NKRI).

According to information gathered by the Surabaya Legal Aid Foundation (LBH), these reactionary groups earlier attacked the Papuan students who were refusing to put up the national flag.

The Papuan students living at the dormitory attempted to defend themselves and according to several media reports, one ormas member was injured by a sharp instrument.

Since then, the dormitory has been surrounded by police and reactionary ormas. Later in the evening, police arrived and tried to arrest several Papuan students resulting in an argument that continued until 11pm.

In the end, all of the Papuan students, totalling 49 people, were taken away and held at the Surabaya district police office.

Papuan Student Alliance (AMP) secretary general Albert Mungguar told Suara Papua that the incident that occurred in Surabaya is the same as that which is carried out by the Indonesian military against the people of Papua.

"Nationalism is not something that can be forced. Nationalism is related to ideology, it is born out of the people's consciousness. If today the Papuan people and Papuan student don't want to fly the red-and-white flag, what should be done by the state and its citizens is to ask, why don't Papuan students have a sense of Indonesian nationalism, not to pressure them, force them, like they were possessed by the Devil, enforcing their view though acts of violence", said Mungguar on Wednesday evening.

With regard to the 49 Papuan students, who are still being held at the Surabaya district police office, the AMP is demanding their unconditional release in the name of upholding human rights and the principles of democracy.

"We condemn the repressive actions by police, in this case the Surabaya Polrestabes and reactionary ormas. And we call for the immediate release of our 49 comrades who were arrested for no rational reason", asserted Mungguar.

Earlier this morning, simulations actions were held in several cities in Java and Bali coordinated by the AMP rejecting the New York Agreement which was signed on August 15, 1962.


Following the launch of the Trikora military operation which was aimed at harassing and forcing the Dutch out of Netherlands New Guinea in 1961-62 and under the threat that Indonesia would move from armed infiltrations to a large-scale military attack, US sponsored negotiations led to the signing of the New York Agreement on August 15, 1962 in which the Netherlands agreed to hand over administration of Western New Guinea to Indonesia pending a UN administered plebiscite. Seven years later under the newly installed Suharto dictatorship, the treaty led to the so-call "Act of Free Choice" in 1969 in which 1025 hand-picked Papuans "voted" at gun-point for the territory remain part of Indonesia.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "Asrama Papua di Surabaya Dikepung, 49 Penghuni Diangkut ke Polrestabes".]

Source: https://suarapapua.com/2018/08/15/asrama-papua-di-surabaya-dikepung-49-penghuni-diangkut-ke-poltabes/

Police in Ternate violently break up protest commemorating New York

Suara Papua - August 15, 2018

Arnold Belau, Jayapura – A peaceful action that was to be held by the Indonesian People's Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) in Ternate, North Maluku, was forcibly broken up by local police on August 15.

Action coordinator Rudhy Pravda told Suara Papua that the action by 22 protesters was to be held to commemorate 56 years since signing of the New York Agreement on August 15, 1962.

Rudhy explained that the FRI-WP had followed the legal guidelines by submitting a notification with Ternate district police (Polres) three days prior to the action. Police responded however with a written rejection on the grounds that the action conflicted with the sovereignty of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI).

"We said that we would still hold the action no matter what the consequences. Given the situation we held the action but with the position that we would bear the risk from Ternate Polres. Prior to the action being broken up we held negotiations with police, there were several FRI-PW members who had were interrogated by four plain-clothed intelligence officers while they were waiting for protesters to arrive. They tried to intimidate them saying that they were not allowed to hold action and if they insisted on protesting they must be prepared to accept the risk including saying 'if you want to die please go ahead'", Rudhy explained.

Rudhy said that the information on plans to block and break up the rally was obtained from protesters attending an earlier rally at the same location. He said that that they wanted to negotiate with police but were instead threatened and intimidated.

Then before they had even unpacked campaign materials for the action, they were surrounded by plain-clothed intelligence officers and uniformed police who prohibited them from holding the protest no matter what, without being willing to negotiate their legal rights.

"I was pushed and shoved including a female demonstrator who was also pushed and shoved and they tried to use violence. The female action coordinator she was pulled and grabbed by intelligence officers. Although we were determined to continue with the action they out-numbered us so in the end we weren't able to hold the action", said Rudhy.

Field coordinator Gamaria Mansur meanwhile said that in addition to breaking up the action, police also confiscated and tore up protest materials such as banners, placards and propaganda.

She added that earlier there had been an argument between protesters and police. "Police intimidated protesters with threats, [saying] 'do you want to die', and calling us traitors and the like. I was also pulled and grabbed, then after I shouted I was finally let go", she explained.

When sought for confirmation on the incident, FRI-WP chairperson Surya Anta said that he strongly condemns the violent actions by police in Ternate.

"We strongly condemn it. The police's actions in prohibiting and breaking up the action violate Indonesia's own laws and regulations on freedom of expression", he asserted.

As of submitting this report for publication, Ternate police chief Assistance Superintendent Azhari Juanda, who was contacted by Suara Papua through his official Facebook account, has yet to responded.


Following the launch of the Trikora military operation which was aimed at harassing and forcing the Dutch out of Netherlands New Guinea in 1961-62 and under the threat that Indonesia would move from armed infiltrations to a large-scale military attack, US sponsored negotiations led to the signing of the New York Agreement on August 15, 1962 in which the Netherlands agreed to hand over administration of Western New Guinea to Indonesia pending a UN administered plebiscite. Seven years later under the newly installed Suharto dictatorship, the treaty led to the so-call "Act of Free Choice" in 1969 in which 1025 hand-picked Papuans "voted" at gun-point for the territory remain part of Indonesia.

[Abridged translation by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "Polisi Bubarkan Aksi FRI-West Papua di Ternate".]

Source: https://suarapapua.com/2018/08/15/polisi-bubarkan-aksi-fri-west-papua-di-ternate/

Vanuatu presents draft UN resolution for West Papua to Pacific Islands

Vanuatu Daily Post - August 13, 2018

Vanuatu presented its draft UN Resolution for West Papua at the recent Pacific Islands Forum Officials Committee (FOC) Meeting and the Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting held at the Taumeasina Resort in Apia, Samoa from 7 to 10th August 2018.

This intervention to the Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting this week was made by Vanuatu's Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade – Ralph Regenvanu after Forum Officials Committee earlier at the FOC meeting considered the draft UN resolution and noted Vanuatu's intention to submit the resolution at the United Nations General Assembly in 2019.

The Foreign Ministers Meeting noted the draft resolution to the United Nations General Assembly 'Realisation of the right of the Papuan people to self-determination in the former colony of the Netherlands New Guinea (West New Guinea)'.

Recalling the Pacific Islands Leaders' current position regarding Papua (West Papua), Vanuatu was able to receive support from member countries while Australia, Papua New Guinea and Fiji reportedly expressed their reservations for the draft resolution.

However, members of the PIF noted Vanuatu's intention to take the resolution forward to the UNGA in 2019.

With the inclusion and support by Foreign Ministers for Vanuatu's UN Resolution for West Papua in the outcomes from the Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting, Vanuatu Prime Minister Charlot Salwai will now take the draft resolution to the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Summit to be held next month in Nauru.

Newly appointed Special Envoy for the Decolonisation of West Papua for Pacific Islands States, Lora Lini confirmed that at the recent PIFS meeting in Samoa, Leaders from some member countries have indicated to Vanuatu that they will raise this issue at the Leaders Summit in Nauru.

Source: http://dailypost.vu/news/vanuatu-presents-draft-un-resolution-for-west-papua-to-pacific/article_f57f6701-d92b-5d82-b271-1d18fab80bb3.html

Gold mine in Korowai closed following protests

Jakarta Post - August 12, 2018

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura – Papuan authorities have closed a gold mine in Korowai in the southern part of Papua, following uproar among residents who protested the hiring of newcomers over local tribe members.

The mine was closed on Friday by Papua Governor Soedarmo, Papua Police chief Insp. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar and Cendrawasih Military Commander Maj. Gen. George E. Supit by sealing two helicopters at Tanah Merah airport in Boven Digoel regency.

The helicopters were said to be used to transport workers to the mining site, which is located close to where the Korowai tribe lives. Some 3,000 miners reportedly work at the mine.

"We closed the mining site by closing access to the location. Two helicopters at Tanah Merah airport are sealed, as well as a helicopter at Nop Goliat Dekai in Yahukimo regency. Those helicopters were being used to transport miners and equipment to the mining site," Papua Energy and Mineral Resources Agency (ESDM) acting head Fredi Boray said on Sunday.

He added that authorities would also close access to the mine's waterway.

Separately, Papua Councillor John Jose Gobay said the mine should be managed by the local residents of Korowai, as stipulated in the 2014 law on local administrations.

He urged the Papua governor to propose to the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry to hand over the mining site to the local tribe. (vny)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/12/gold-mine-in-korowai-closed-following-protests.html

Papuan Film Festival pictures the voiceless

Tabloid JUBI - August 12, 2018

Hengky Yeimo, Jayapura, Jubi – Jayapura City, Tuesday, 7 August 2018, visitors crowded in Lokabudaya Expo Museum Waena, Heram sub-district to attend the Papua Film Festival held by a film community Papuan Voice for three days from 7 to 9 August 2018.

A festival participant Mecky Yeimo said the films screened in the festival provide a lot of information about the land disputes between native landowners and investors.

"I am happy because as Papuans we can get a lot of information about the deprivation of the rights of indigenous people in Papua," he said.

Further, he said Papuans are commonly known for their culture of oral tradition, and the information in the films becomes an interesting issue to discuss in the future.

Meanwhile, the chairman of Pusaka Foundation Frangky Samperante, who met Jubi at the same place, said FFP is a forum where people can find out the facts that occurred in many areas in Papua.

"Films can be the basis for people to make a judgment based on the information they see and hear," said Samperante. Furthermore, he considered this film community could become an agent for Papuans to voice their aspirations and to express their expressions.

Source: http://tabloidjubi.com/eng/papuan-film-festival-pictures-the-voiceless/

Vanuatu seeks Forum support for West Papua, but kept off outcomes list

Asia Pacific Report - August 11, 2018

Alexander Rheeney, Apia – Vanuatu has asked Pacific Islands Forum member states to support its resolution to the United Nations General Assembly next year to grant West Papuans self-determination.

The plight of the indigenous population in Indonesia's two restive provinces – Papua and West Papua – continues to be highlighted on the international stage by the Vanuatu government, despite the Melanesian Spearhead Group secretariat Director-General Amena Yauvoli declaring recently that the issue could not be raised at the Port Vila-based subregional grouping.

The issue of West Papua was put forward by Vanuatu as part of its agenda, which went before the Forum Officials Committee in its Pre-Forum Session in Apia, Samoa, this week.

According to the committee, Vanuatu had asked for the support of member states for the resolution to the UN General Assembly in 2019.

Listed under "other matters" of agenda 9(b), the committee stated that it: "Considered Vanuatu's request for support from Members on a draft resolution to the UN General Assembly ('Realisation of the right of the Papuan peoples self-determination in the former colony of the Netherlands New Guinea (West New Guinea)').

"Recalling the Leaders' current position regarding Papua (West Papua), the Committee noted Vanuatu's intention to take the resolution forward at the UNGA in 2019."

The outcomes from the two-day forum officials conference were put to the Forum Foreign Ministers conference in Apia yesterday, which then used it to determine the agenda for next month's Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Summit in Nauru.

No reference to West Papua

There was no reference to West Papua in the outcomes document that was distributed to the media, following a press conference that was convened after the conference.

However, the joint statement released by the Forum Foreign Ministers conference late yesterday does make reference to the Biketawa Plus Declaration, wherein the foreign ministers meeting in Apia agreed to a draft recommendation to address "emerging security issues" which will be put to leaders in Nauru.

The region continues to be divided on the West Papua issue, with the Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato, last month reportedly assuring the Indonesian government in a meeting in Jakarta that PNG supports Indonesian control of West Papua.

[Alexander Rheeney is co-editor of the Samoa Observer and was formerly editor-in-chief of the PNG Post-Courier.]

Source: https://asiapacificreport.nz/2018/08/11/vanuatu-seeks-forum-support-for-west-papua-but-kept-off-outcomes-list/

Vanuatu appoints special West Papua envoy

Radio New Zealand International - August 9, 2018

The Vanuatu government has appointed Laura Lini as special envoy for West Papua. Ms Lini is the daughter of Walter Lini, who is known as the founding father of the Pacific nation.

The United Liberation Movement of West Papua has welcomed the move with spokesperson Jacob Rumbiak saying they are pleased and impressed and thank Vanuatu Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu for the appointment.

"Melanesian sovereignty runs deep in the veins of all ni-Vanuatu, and especially in Laura's family," Mr Rumbiak said.

"In the 1970s both West Papua and Vanuatu were struggling for their independence. Vanuatu got there first and it was Laura's father, as Prime Minister, who pledged not to abandon West Papua or the Kanak of New Caledonia," he said.

Mr Rumbiak said there was now just one more river to cross before West Papua rejoins the international community of nations, and that is to be listed on the UN Decolonisation Agenda.

Source: https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/363761/vanuatu-appoints-special-west-papua-envoy

Human rights & justice

Indonesian political prisoners moved close to home

Human Rights Watch Dispatches - August 14, 2018

Andreas Harsono – Indonesian authorities have moved six Moluccan political prisoners from a remote high-security prison island to an ordinary prison close to home, in Ambon, the provincial capital of the Moluccan Islands.

Semuel Waileruny, the prisoners' lawyer, said the six are those serving very long prison terms: Ruben Saija (20 years), Yohanis Saija (20 years), Jordan Saija (17 years), John Markus (17 years), Romanus Batseran (17 years), and Johan Teterisa (15 years). Two other prisoners, Jonathan Riri and Pieter Johannes, remained jailed in Porong and Pamekasan prisons in East Java province.

The six are among more than 60 activists arrested and imprisoned since June 2007 after 28 of them staged a protest dance in front of then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Ambon stadium.

In 2009, they were transferred to Nusa Kambangan in Central Java, 3,000 kilometers from Ambon, which severely handicapped the Moluccan prisoners' ability to stay in touch with friends and relatives. The prisoners have endured more than a decade of torture and ill-treatment. In January 2016, some activists visited them in Nusa Kambangan. Former political prisoner Filep Karma from Papua raised money to have their families visit them for the first time in May 2016.

Human Rights Watch, along with other human rights groups including Amnesty International and Kontras, have long pressed the Indonesian government to release the prisoners, who are being imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their political beliefs.

The men are part of a long-simmering independence movement that has existed in the southern Moluccas Islands since 1950, when a group of Moluccan nationalists proclaimed the creation of the Republic of Southern Moluccas in defiance of the Indonesian government's claim to the region. Ever since, Moluccan activists who advocate pro-independence views have risked arrest, prolonged detention, and torture by Indonesian security forces.

In April 2016, a Human Rights Watch delegation met with Minister of Law and Human Rights Yasonna Laoly in Jakarta, during which he promised to transfer these prisoners back to Ambon. Laoly has no authority to release them. He had offered they ask for a presidential pardon from President Joko Widodo, but they refused, saying they were not guilty of any crime.

Laoly has kept his promise, moving these prisoners closer to their families in Ambon.

Source: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/08/14/indonesian-political-prisoners-moved-close-home

Freedom of information & the press

Indonesia permanently bans porn images on Google

The Nation - August 11, 2018

Jakarta – Last week, the Communications and Information Ministry announced its plan to filter pornographic content by utilizing the SafeSearch feature in search engine Google.

Semuel A. Pangerapan, the ministry's director general of applications and information, said the policy would come into effect starting Friday. The SafeSearch feature will be permanently activated in the search engine when it is accessed from Indonesia.

"The method will filter any pornographic content in the image category, including if a user inputs keywords," Semuel told kompas.com on Thursday.

The permanent factor means that Indonesian users cannot deactivate the feature. In addition to Google, Semuel also said the government planned to collaborate with other search engines, such as Microsoft's Bing to apply a similar filtering feature.

He said the ministry already blocked pornographic sites, but this was ineffective as the content was easily available through image searches.

"That's what we're trying to eradicate. Concerned mothers have reported that their children search for images by using pornographic words. We are using the SafeSearch method based on our year-long research," he added.

SafeSearch is a feature in Google to filter out negative content, such as pornography. According to Google as quoted from its features page, "SafeSearch is not 100 percent accurate, but it can help you filter inappropriate content."

Semuel said internet service providers should enact their own policies regarding filtering based on SafeSearch. In the last few days, there have been rumors that the filter has affected YouTube as well, with users' status changed to "restricted" mode.

Semuel said the feature should only be applied to Google, and that providers should not broaden it to YouTube

– The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/asean-plus/30351949

Netizens complain about Youtube's restricted mode in latest gov't

Coconuts Jakarta - August 9, 2018

This week, the Indonesian government intensified their efforts to censor "negative" content on the internet by forcing ISPs (internet service providers) to enable content filters on search engines by default, which can't be switched off.

The new policy has seemingly been extended to Youtube as well, with many netizens now complaining that the video streaming site's restricted mode feature has been irreversibly switched on, limiting what they can watch.

Based on numerous social media posts, the Youtube restriction applies to users of certain ISPs, both on mobile internet and home internet. If your ISP has done so, then the settings menu on your Youtube account should show "restricted mode" switched on by the network administrator while the feature is greyed out so you can't switch it off.

Youtube already had strict regulations against overtly pornographic content, so the site's restricted mode seems to be especially overzealous, with netizens reporting that even Taylor Swift and K-Pop music videos are being filtered out.

While the government did not say anything about Youtube being included in their recent censorship push, some ISPs like Indosat Ooredoo have been replying to complaints from customers about the Youtube restriction, placing the blame on the government.

Telkomsel, whose customers have also complained about their Youtube being restricted, say that they can still switch it off by clearing the Youtube cache on their device and then logging in to the video streaming site/app.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/indonesian-netizens-complain-youtubes-restricted-mode-forced-latest-govt-censorship-push/

Political parties & elections

Sandiaga wealthiest candidate, Jokowi worth Rp 50b

Jakarta Post - August 15, 2018

Kharishar Kahfi, Jakarta – Vice-presidential hopeful Sandiaga Salahuddin Uno is the richest candidate in the 2019 two-horse presidential race with his reported wealth totaling Rp 5.1 trillion (US$349 million).

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's running mate Ma'ruf Amin, who departed for the haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday morning, has yet to submit his wealth report.

According to wealth reports disclosed by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), most of Sandiaga's fortune is derived from securities worth Rp 4.7 trillion. The report, however, does not disclose the name of the companies involved.

Upon accompanying Sandiaga in reporting his wealth to the antigraft body on Tuesday, Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga campaign team member Sudirman Said confirmed that Sandiaga owned a 30 percent stake in investment company PT Saratoga Investama Sedaya.

Meanwhile, Prabowo ranked second with his wealth totaling Rp 1.9 trillion – around 90 percent of which also came from securities. While Sandiaga reported his wealth to the KPK on Tuesday, Prabowo did it much earlier on July 26.

Meanwhile, Jokowi's wealth is only a tiny fraction of that his rivals, with a total of Rp 50 billion. Jokowi's wealth is largely derived from several plots of land and properties, mostly in Central Java, worth Rp 43 billion. His report was verified by the antigraft body on Wednesday morning.

The KPK has set a deadline for candidate wealth report submissions on Aug. 21. (swd)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/15/sandiaga-wealthiest-candidate-jokowi-worth-rp-50b.html

Ma'ruf 'orchestrated' Jokowi's VP choice, says Mahfud

Jakarta Post - August 15, 2018

Karina M. Tehusijarana, Jakarta – Former Constitutional Court chief justice Mahfud MD has said that vice presidential candidate Ma'ruf Amin was behind the statement from Islamic mass organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) that "threatened" to withdraw its support for President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo if the incumbent picked Mahfud as his running mate.

In a tell-all appearance on popular talk show Indonesia Lawyer's Club, Mahfud provided details on the circumstances surrounding the surprise announcement of Ma'ruf as Jokowi's running mate.

"[NU executive] Robikin delivered the statement and Kiai Ma'ruf Amin was the one who ordered it," he said. "How do I know it was Kiai Ma'ruf Amin? Muhaimin told me," he said, referring to National Awakening Party (PKB) chairman Muhaimin Iskandar.

The day before Jokowi's choice of Ma'ruf was announced, NU executive Robikin Emhas stated that the NU leadership wanted Jokowi to pick an NU member for running mate.

"If the vice presidential candidate is not from among the NU's ranks, then the Nahdliyin [NU followers] will feel no moral responsibility to help [Jokowi] win," he told reporters, adding that the NU did not consider Mahfud to be a member.

Mahfud said that Muhaimin told him it was Ma'ruf who dictated the statement to Robikin with instructions to give it to the press.

Mahfud was considered a near certainty as Jokowi's vice president in the days leading up to the close of the presidential candidate registration, but Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman and NU Rais Aam (supreme leader) Ma'ruf was given the nod instead.

"On August 1 at 11 pm, I was invited by State Secretary Pratikno [to his house]," Mahfud said. "I was told, 'Pak Mahfud, now the [running mate] choice has narrowed down to you, please get ready.'"

He added that he had heard from Jokowi himself that the change had been made at the last minute to appease the parties in Jokowi's coalition. Mahfud implied that the PKB, the NU's unofficial political arm, was one of the parties that had pressured Jokowi into making the switch.

Mahfud is closely affiliated with the NU, having been educated at an NU-run pesantren (Islamic boarding school) and for his long involvement in NU-related organizations such as GP Ansor, the NU's youth wing, and the Wahid Institute.

However, in the weeks before the VP announcement, NU executives seemed to play down Mahfud's involvement in the organization, and things came to a head with Robikin's statement.

NU and PKB representatives did not immediately respond to The Jakarta Post's requests for a comment. (swd)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/15/maruf-orchestrated-jokowis-vp-choice-says-mahfud.html

PAN to lose Cabinet seat for backing Prabowo

Jakarta Post - August 14, 2018

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Minister Asman Abnur, a National Mandate Party (PAN) politician, may have to resign or get fired in the near future following his party's decision to challenge President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's relection bid in 2019.

State Secretary Pratikno signaled on Tuesday that Asman, who is the only PAN representative in the Cabinet, could be shown the door in an upcoming reshuffle

"There is a possibility [of a reshuffle] as part of the consequences of dynamics in politics and presidential candidacy," Pratikno said. "It's also about who is inside and who is outside the coalition."

PAN has decided to join the opposition Gerindra-party led coalition for next year's election, backing presidential candidate pair Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno. The coalition comprises Gerindra, PAN, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the Democratic Party.

Pratikno, however, maintained that the President was satisfied with Asman's performance as a minister, particularly since the PAN politician was able to reform bureaucracy in state institutions to focus on serving the public.

"The [reshuffle] will be decided very quickly, we just need to wait for the President's decision," Pratikno said. (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/14/pan-to-lose-cabinet-seat-for-backing-prabowo.html

Prabowo's past haunts his electoral future

Asia Times - August 14, 2018

John McBeth, Jakarta – Now that he is again the sole electoral rival to President Joko Widodo, the checkered past of retired special forces general Prabowo Subianto will likely come under another searching examination as Indonesia's 2019 presidential election campaign clicks into high gear.

This may well be the 66-year-old Prabowo's last shot at the political heavyweight title, which has eluded him since the damaging fallout from the Asian financial crisis forced his long-ruling father-in-law, president Suharto, from office in May 1998.

Drummed out of the military three months later for insubordination and human rights violations, Prabowo has spent the past decade building the opposition Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) into a launch pad for the presidential ambitions he has harbored since he was a boy.

Then locked in a power struggle with armed forces commander Gen Wiranto, Prabowo has always denied claims that he sought to use his position as head of the Army Strategic Reserve (Kostrad) to seize power during the chaotic events that followed Suharto's resignation.

But newly declassified US National Security Archive cables, some of them heavily redacted, show that the ambitious three-star general saw the writing on the wall for his related authoritarian ruler long before most people at the time.

In a November 6, 1997, conversation with US Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth, Prabowo said, from his perspective, it would be better for Suharto to step down in March 1998 so the country could move peacefully through an orderly transition of power.

It is not clear why he settled on a four-month time frame for the eventual collapse of the New Order regime, but he told Roth that whether the president's resignation happened in March or took a few more years, "the Suharto era will soon end."

Without mentioning names, he then went on to say there were already "intrigues" going on beneath the surface by people who are not strong enough to challenge the president directly. These political maneuvers, he said, were dangerous because they increased the volatility of society.

Prabowo described the political transformation as "inevitable," and said that while the military would be an obvious factor in the transition, his generation of officers wanted to follow the democratic examples of South Korea and Taiwan. "I hate politics," he said, "I want the military out of politics."

Prabowo expressed concern about whether Indonesia would go the same way as Yugoslavia "where a strong leader left and the country descended into anarchy." Indeed, at the time of Suharto's eventual fall many Indonesians were openly fearful of so-called Balkanization.

The references to Yugoslavia were particularly resonant because Indonesia under founding president Sukarno enjoyed a cozy relationship with Yugoslavia and its leader, Josip Broz Tito, as part of their shared membership of the Non-Aligned Movement and their perceived common experience of throwing off external occupation – German and Dutch respectively.

The comparison was probably overdrawn, but it makes Indonesia's survival and cohesion in the wake of Suharto's fall all the more remarkable, given the different forces at play. As it turned, nothing significant happened outside of Jakarta as events unfolded.

Military analysts agree that neither Prabowo nor Wiranto were in a position to step into any leadership vacuum, even though Suharto was furious that his vice president and short-lived successor, B J Habibie, did not resign along with him.

Prabowo may have been able to call on the loyalty of the special forces, where he had spent most of his career, but it was probably a different story with Kostrad, the two-division regular force whose officer corps was far less enamored with a newly promoted general who often ignored the chain of command.

Although Prabowo took command responsibility for the abduction and torture of nine activists at a special forces facility in south Jakarta, he denies giving the orders to do so.

He also denies persistent speculation that he orchestrated the shooting deaths of four student protestors at Trisakti University on May 12, 1998, which triggered riots and looting across the capital that eventuated in Suharto's downfall.

"Anyone who believes the denouement of Suharto was all scripted is a fool or ignorant of the facts," says a retired Western officer familiar with the period. "I knew the day would come when, as in a real earthquake, the political ground would become plastic and what was thought to be fixed in place would move and what was thought to be flexible would not be.

"The generals were playing it by ear and using what tools they had in the cupboard to deal with the developments and hoping it would all work out, which fortunately it did" – even if 1,500 people did die in the riots that hastened Suharto's demise.

"Prabowo was part of a broad group of Indonesian colonels, many of whom hated each other, who saw that reform was essential and that the Indonesian military, corrupted by money and power, had grown soft and unprofessional," he says.

"Loyalty was more important than any other virtue – integrity, honesty or professionalism," the same officer says. "They knew the country was headed for a dramatic change, but were not sure how it would happen." After 32 years of Suharto's New Order rule, neither was anyone else.

In the end, the military did not seize power, as it did with the overthrow of founding president Sukarno in 1965, and the transition to greater democracy passed more peacefully than expected, even if the New Order structure remained largely in place as a trade-off.

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/prabowos-past-haunts-his-electoral-future/

Indonesian civil society groups concerned by VP picks

Voice of America - August 14, 2018

Max Walden, Jakarta – Indonesian civil society groups are expressing concern President Joko Widodo's choice of an influential Islamic cleric as his vice-presidential running mate, seen by many observers as a smart political move, could lead to the further erosion of minority rights amid rising religious conservatism in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation.

Last week, the president, widely known by his nickname Jokowi, confirmed the selection of Ma'ruf Amin, the supreme leader of Indonesia's largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and the chairman of the conservative quasi-governmental Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI), the latter of which is responsible for Halal certification in the archipelago.

Despite some political experience in serving on the Presidential Advisory Council under Jokowi's predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, during which time he was instrumental in the introduction of controversial so-called 'religious harmony laws', the 75-year-old Ma'ruf is a somewhat unconventional choice.

"Maybe there are questions from the people all over Indonesia why Professor Dr. Ma'ruf Amin was chosen. Because he is a wise religious figure," said the president last week as quoted by Reuters. "I think we complete each other, nationalist and religious."

The incumbent's major opponent, meanwhile, will be former military general Prabowo Subianto, who also ran against Jokowi in the 2014 presidential race. He will be joined by wealthy businessman and Jakarta's current vice governor, Sandiaga Uno. In a bitterly fought 2014 campaign, Prabowo's side frequently sought to depict Jokowi as inadequately sympathetic to Islamic interests.

While Jokowi's popularity remains high – a survey from Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting in December 2017 putting his approval rating at 76 percent – his Islamic credentials have remained a point on which he is attacked by opponents.

Evan Laksmana, an analyst at the Jakarta-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, tweeted that Ma'ruf's selection had solidified "the religious-nationalist axis" within the ruling coalition, which features a wide range of moderate nationalist and Islamic parties. Laksmana said it would successfully boost Jokowi's religious credentials "to the point of almost taking out religious mobilization away for Prabowo's camp."

Ma'ruf last year played a key role in toppling Jokowi's former ally Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, the ethnically Chinese Christian former governor of Jakarta who became the target of a campaign by hardline groups to oust him from office after he was accused of insulting the Quran. He also served as an "expert witness" for the successful blasphemy prosecution against Ahok, for which the once-widely popular politician is now serving a two-year prison sentence.

According to Professor Edward Aspinall from the Australian National University, "Jokowi saw this massive Islamist mobilization against that Christian Chinese governor as a sign of how his own political career could come to an end, and since that time he's been trying to shore up his position politically on the Islamic right and in particular by appealing to leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama" and the MUI. Ma'ruf has been a "lynchpin" of this strategy, Aspinall told VOA.

An ally of Jokowi told local media this week that Ahok was "a thousand percent" not angry about the president's choice of deputy.

But Ma'ruf's candidacy was deemed "extreme pragmatism" by an editorial in the Jakarta Post, which asked "What if, for short-term political gain, Jokowi sacrificed the long-term prospect of democracy and diversity?"

Human Rights Watch's Indonesia researcher, Andreas Harsono, said Ma'ruf's role in "singlehandedly" drafting the religious harmony law in 2006, which "replaced the principle of religious freedom where citizens have equal rights" and made it significantly more difficult for minorities to build places of worship, means that his candidacy does not bode well for the rights of non-Muslim Indonesians, women or the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Indonesia's news agency Antara in 2016 quoted Ma'ruf as saying "we want a stern prohibition of LGBT activities and other deviant sexual activities and legislation that categorizes them as crime[s]." According to Harsono, "Ma'ruf Amin also issued fatwa[s] discriminating against women ranging from female genital mutilation is a must, to child marriage, to many other issues regarding Muslim women."

On the opposition side, Prabowo will mobilize a "nationalist, populist authoritarian appeal to strong leadership," said Aspinall. His running mate Uno, who was also instrumental in the campaign to topple Ahok, was chosen after he pledged IDR500 billion ($342,700) to both the Islamic PAN and PKS parties.

Sandi, as Uno is known, hails from Gorontalo on the island of Sulawesi and will be the only candidate on the presidential ballot who is not from Java. In a diverse country of thousands of islands and hundreds of languages, which has nevertheless been long dominated by the ethnic Javanese majority, this could prove an important factor in attracting the votes of ethnic minorities – particularly those in Sulawesi.

But neither of the coalitions is expected to prioritize minority rights in the election campaign. "Minorities Ahmadiyyah to Christian, from women to LGBT individuals, are increasingly being sandwiched between these two political camps," added Harsono. "It is not good news at all for their future, but also for the future of Indonesia."

Source: https://www.voanews.com/a/Indonesia-elections/4527616.html

Ahok supports Jokowi's pick of MUI leader, wants to join campaign:

Coconuts Jakarta - August 13, 2018

On Thursday, when President Joko Widodo announced that he had chosen Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) leader Ma'ruf Amin) as his running mate in next year's election, the surprise pick disappointed many of the president's more progressive supporters.

Although it's generally agreed that Ma'ruf will greatly help Jokowi mobilize Muslim voters and neutralize attempts by the opposition to attack him on religious issues, liberals were quick to note that Ma'ruf has helped enact numerous policies that discriminate against religious minorities.

Perhaps most unforgivably for some, Ma'ruf also signed the blasphemy fatwa against former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama that led to the massive "212" protest movement against the Chinese Christian politician, his eventual election loss and his current imprisonment in a cell at the Mako Brimob detention center.

But one person who says he does not hold a grudge against Ma'ruf is Ahok himself. That's according to Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, who says that he received a letter from Ahok on Saturday expressing his continuing support for Jokowi (whom Ahok served as vice governor of Jakarta before Jokowi ascended to the presidency).

"So there are those who say that Pak Ahok is angry (at Jokowi for choosing Ma'ruf)? Yesterday, Ahok wrote a letter to me, in it he said that he was happy (with the decision) and that when he gets out of jail he would like to join their campaign team," Luhut said at an event at Hotel Borobudur on Sunday as quoted by Merdeka.

Luhut also said that some Ahok supporters had met with the former governor over the weekend and confirmed that he supports Ma'ruf as Jokowi's VP pick, adding that he hoped the clarification would help unify the country so that it can move on and move forward.

The chances of Ahok reentering the world of politics after his imprisonment have seemed pretty unlikely. Although he has mentioned to visitors the possibility of going back into politics before, the unfortunate reality is that his blasphemy conviction will almost certainly remain an opening for aggressive attacks from Islamist protesters for years to come – against both Ahok and any party that supports him.

But if Ma'ruf were to publicly forgive Ahok, tell the public he had atoned for his blasphemy and moved on... well, that might actually be one of the few scenarios in which we could see Ahok being able to return to public office. It would certainly make it more difficult for hardliners to keep attacking him on that front.

Allowing Ahok to join his campaign would be a huge risk for Jokowi, but with Ma'ruf as his running mate his already strong poll numbers against his only rival candidate, Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto, will likely rise even further. So much so that he could potentially afford to take Ahok on.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/ahok-supports-jokowis-pick-mui-leader-signed-blasphemy-fatwa-wants-join-campaign-minister/

Indonesia's presidential race takes shape, in shadow of hard-line Islam

New York Times - August 11, 2018

Joe Cochrane, Jakarta – Indonesia's presidential election next year will be a rematch of the contentious 2014 contest, and analysts fear it will see a return of the smear campaigns and appeals to sectarian intolerance that marred that vote.

On Friday, President Joko Widodo and his 2014 opponent, the former army general Prabowo Subianto, both filed paperwork declaring their intent to run in the election next April. Friday was the deadline for candidates to register, and no others did.

It will be Indonesia's fourth direct presidential election since the country's democratic era began in 1998, after the fall of Suharto, the authoritarian president who ruled for decades.

Analysts of Indonesian politics said they feared the election would be blighted by social media campaigns of the kind seen in 2014, which falsely asserted that Mr. Joko was an ethnic Chinese Christian. (He is a Muslim of Javanese descent.) The small but influential ethnic Chinese community is resented by many Indonesians, and it has suffered persecution and state-sponsored discrimination in the past.

A prominent Christian ally of Mr. Joko, the former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is of Chinese descent, was imprisoned for blasphemy last year after hard-line Islamic groups mounted a protest campaign against him. Those groups – some of which are allied with Mr. Prabowo's opposition Gerindra party – are likely to turn their sights on the president as the election approaches, some analysts said.

"They will be looking around for sure to pick up on some religious-based scandal," said Stephen Sherlock, a professor of politics at the University of New South Wales who studies Indonesia.

Mr. Joko, 57, who was born in a slum in Central Java Province and sold furniture before becoming a popular Jakarta governor, won the presidency in 2014 with 53 percent of the vote, campaigning as a political outsider. Reputable opinion polls during the past year have consistently put his approval rating above 50 percent, sometimes as high as 70 percent, and he is largely seen as having lived up to his promises to fight corruption and improve the country's infrastructure, starting large toll road, airport and seaport projects.

"What we have been doing is four years of proof – and proof is not fiction," Mr. Joko said Friday at the office of the General Elections Commission in Jakarta after submitting the paperwork declaring his intent to run. "This is the foundation that has been built, that still needs to be connected, that still needs to be continued."

Recent surveys have put the president far ahead of Mr. Prabowo, by margins of 15 to 20 percentage points. But Mr. Basuki, the president's now-jailed ally, also had a double-digit poll lead in his campaign for re-election as Jakarta's governor before Islamic groups began campaigning against him in earnest.

The Islamic organizations seized on a lighthearted reference to a Quran verse that Mr. Basuki made during a speech, as part of an argument that it was acceptable for Muslims to vote for a non-Muslim candidate. The Islamic groups staged large street demonstrations in Jakarta against the governor, including one in November 2016 that became violent.

Mr. Basuki was charged with blasphemy and lost the April 2017 runoff election to Anies Baswedan, a member of Mr. Prabowo's party. Weeks later, Mr. Basuki was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison.

Mr. Prabowo and his political ally Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former president, were widely suspected of orchestrating the protests against Mr. Basuki to embarrass and weaken Mr. Joko, allegations that both men denied. (Mr. Yudhoyono's son, Agus Yudhoyono, had also been a candidate in the Jakarta governor election.)

Some analysts saw the campaign against Mr. Basuki as a "dress rehearsal" for the presidential contest.

"I am very worried," said Benedict Rogers, the East Asia team leader for Christian Solidarity Worldwide, a rights organization based in Britain. "Will religion be used as a card and be dangerous over time? I definitely think so."

Mr. Joko selected Ma'ruf Amin, a prominent conservative Islamic scholar and cleric, as his running mate, seemingly in hopes of warding off attacks from hard-line activists. Mr. Ma'ruf, 75, is the chairman of the Indonesia Ulema Council, the country's largest body of clerics, which supported the prosecution of Mr. Basuki.

Mr. Prabowo, 66, is a former son-in-law of Suharto, the late dictator. He ran against Mr. Joko in 2014 on a platform of strong leadership, law and order, and economic nationalism.

"We fight for all Indonesians regardless of their ethnicity, ethnic group, religious group, whatever their race," Mr. Prabowo said Friday after filing his campaign paperwork. "All Indonesians, our people, we will defend, we will fight for their rights."

Mr. Prabowo has been accused of committing human rights abuses during his military career, including extrajudicial killings and the disappearances of pro-democracy activists in 1997 and 1998. He has denied the allegations and has never been charged with a crime in connection with them.

During the 2014 campaign, Mr. Joko was accused of being a member of the Indonesian Communist Party, which was banned in 1965 after an attempted coup. Hundreds of thousands of people accused of being communist sympathizers were killed by the military and armed vigilante groups in the years that followed.

Some analysts expect the election to hinge less on religious sentiments than on the economy, which has been growing at an annual rate of about 5 percent – a disappointing figure, for Indonesia – amid shrinking foreign and domestic investment.

Economic inequality has also deepened since Mr. Joko's first term, said Didik J. Rachbini, a prominent economist who founded the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance in Jakarta.

"It's consumers who are contributing to the 4.9 percent or 5 percent growth," he said. "It's not from the budget and not from investment. Economic growth otherwise the past three years has been almost nothing."

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/11/world/asia/indonesia-presidential-election.html

What Widodo's pick for veep says about Indonesian politics

South China Morning Post - August 11, 2018

David G Rose – As a practising Muslim from a traditional Javanese heartland, President Joko Widodo's Islamic credentials should be beyond question.

But after years of battling sectarian politics and repeated attacks on the strength of his religious beliefs, Indonesia's leader has joined forces with an Islamic cleric and figurehead of the world's largest Muslim organisation in an effort to win re-election.

The man, universally known as "Jokowi", ended months of speculation on Thursday by picking 75-year-old Islamic scholar Ma'ruf Amin as his running mate for next year's presidential election. Their challenger is controversial former Army General Prabowo Subianto, who raised eyebrows by confirming deputy governor of Jakarta, Sandiaga Uno, as his own running mate just hours before the Friday deadline.

The contest is a repeat of the 2014 presidential election, when Widodo, 57, from Surakarta, Central Java – perceived as a fresh challenger to vested political interests – defeated Prabowo, 66, a charismatic firebrand with deep ties to Indonesia's business and military elite.

But the eleventh-hour choices for vice-president demonstrate the long shadows cast by Jakarta's divisive gubernatorial election last year, which saw Widodo's political ally, the ethnic Chinese Christian Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (inset), known as "Ahok", accused of blasphemy.

The president's new running mate Amin played a decisive role in the 2017 polls when, amid heated protests by Muslim groups in the streets and online, he publicly condemned Purnama for insulting the Koran, despite contested evidence. As head of the Indonesian Ulama Council, he testified against Purnama at the resulting trial, which saw the former Jakarta governor sentenced to two years in prison much to the dismay of human rights and secular activists.

Prabowo's candidate, Anies Baswedan, won the 2017 campaign alongside Uno, 49, a former businessman and investor who will now stand for vice-president. After last year's victory, Uno said it was regrettable that race and religion had dominated the Jakarta campaign.

But Widodo's decision to align himself with Amin – formerly a presidential adviser who also leads the traditionalist Muslim association Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), which has an estimated 40 million members – may help shield the president from religious attacks that have long hounded him.

"Jokowi has learned from the fall of Ahok [Purnama]", said Arya Fernandes, researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

"After the demonstrations by the Islamic community to influence the Jakarta governor election, Jokowi has had massive concerns about the expression of Muslim opinion in politics. The choice of [Amin] is to appeal to the traditional Muslim voters, who are represented by NU, and in general, Muslim voters in Indonesia are moderate."

Amid the rise of hardline Islamist groups in the world's third-largest democracy and most populous Muslim-majority country, President Widodo has faced repeated criticisms for not being Muslim enough.

Richard Van der Scharr, managing director of the business consultancy Indonesia Investments, said Widodo's choice was to silence those criticisms.

"Jokowi is courting the Muslim vote and this started because of Ahok's experience in Jakarta, there were a lot of demonstrations and a rise in religious tensions and Jokowi himself came under attack because he was an ally of Ahok," he said.

Van der Scharr said it was likely that the cleric – who issued a fatwa in 2005 condemning secularism liberalism and pluralism as "deviant" – may not have been the president's first choice. "It seems that Mahfud MD was actually his first choice but a couple of political parties in Jokowi's coalition could not agree with that. We saw a similar story with Prabowo's appointment."

The political power broking around the nominations escalated in recent weeks as a legal petition was made unsuccessfully to see if Widodo's current deputy, Vice-President Yusuf Kalla, could stand for an unprecedented third term. Former judge and minister, Mahfud MD, was among candidates considered more likely to stand on the president's ticket.

But rather than attempting to secure the Muslim vote, Douglas Ramage, managing director of Bower Group Asia, said Amin's appointment was likely driven by party political interests which currently support Widodo but may already be looking towards positioning their own candidates for the 2024 election.

"The president's choice for vice-president was [former judge and minister] Mafud MD, who would make a very good VP, but Jokowi's coalition partners blocked this, as this would have put [Mahfud] in a very strong position to go on to become president in 2024.

"This specific choice is about parties wanting to protect their own political futures for 2024, more than about securing the Muslim vote."

Prabowo, meanwhile, has also struggled to convince his political allies to back his choice of Uno. These included former president Susbilo Bambang Yudyono whose son Agus Harimurti Yudyono was touted as a potential running mate for the former general, but is now also setting his sights on 2024.

"This is not an easy process. This process is tiring. I have tried to build a big coalition," Prabowo said at his residence in South Jakarta on Thursday. "Sandiaga is the best choice there is. He has made a sacrifice. He is willing to resign from his position as deputy governor so that he can serve the nation and the state."

Although previous polls suggested Widodo would be favourite to defeat Prabowo at next April's polls, this week's declarations will change the narrative of the pre-election campaign, making the vote harder to predict.

Van der Scharr said Prabowo and Uno would be wise not to hinge their campaign on attacking Widodo's negatives, and should shift the debate to the economy.

"We have already seen them start talking about stagnant growth in the economy, of rising inequality between rich and poor – which is somewhat ironic because Sandiaga Uno is a very rich man. They will probably do their best to present him as an orthodox, humble Muslim in the campaign ahead."

Fernandez said: "Prabowo has a chance to move on and campaign on economic issues and the cost of living, which may play to his strengths and resonate with voters because of rising prices and inequality. With his choice of Amin, [Widodo] may lose support from millennials and female voters, and Prabowo could benefit from that."

Source: https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/2159251/what-widodos-pick-veep-says-about-indonesian-politics

Will 'millennial' Ma'ruf and 'santri' Sandiaga change Prabowo vs Jokowi

Jakarta Post - August 10, 2018

Jakarta – The official announcement of the presidential candidates shows that the election in 2019 will be more or less a repeat of that in 2014, with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo facing rival Prabowo Subianto again.

However, the vice-presidential candidates and all their surprising elements will perhaps change the showdown between Jokowi and the Gerindra Party's chairman Prabowo eight months from now.

Jokowi, during his speech while announcing his running mate on Thursday evening, said that his vice-presidential candidate, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma'ruf Amin, was a leading religious figure and had great political and government experience.

The decision to pick Ma'ruf has been seen as an attempt to ease sectarian tensions that had been simmering since the 2014 presidential election and the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election.

However, at 76 years old, Ma'ruf is perceived as not being attractive to young people, something a top politician in Jokowi's coalition tried to rectify.

Soon after Jokowi's announcement, Oesman Sapta Oedang of the Hanura Party said that Ma'ruf could be called a millennial.

"Millennial is not just about age. It is about actions and attitude," he said, adding that the decision made for a complementary nationalist-religious ticket.

Hours later, Prabowo announced his candidacy, naming former Jakarta Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno as his running mate. At 49 and known as an avid marathon runner, a popular pastime among young Indonesians, he is likely to be more attractive to millennials.

But his non-Arabic name and his history of formal education are regarded as not being advantageous for Prabowo, also known as being more secular than religious, in wooing conservative Muslims.

Sandiaga, a Muslim, was educated in private Christian institutions, PSKD and Pangudi Luhur, and later in Wichita State University and George Washington University in the United States.

Sohibul Iman of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) said his formal education track record aside, Sandiaga was "a post-Islamist santri". Santri refers to students of Islamic boarding schools or pesantren.

"I guess he [Sandi] is living a modern life but he has experienced spirituality and Islam. I can say, brother Sandi is a santri figure in a post-Islamist era," he said.

A political observer from pollster Kedai Kopi, Hendri Satrio, told The Jakarta Post on Friday that it was still too early to see what kind of "political branding" each pair would use.

Any attempt to dismiss Ma'ruf's venerable age as a liability and Sandiaga's non-Muslim formal education would be "normal" in political campaigns, Hendri went on. "Later, the 'packaging' will be removed," he said.

It is too early to say which vice-presidential candidate will give the presidential candidate an advantage. "I have to say the situation is still 50:50 so far because the game is just on. We'll see how it goes," Hendri said.

However, he said Jokowi's reach to millennials would make up for Ma'ruf's age while Sandiaga's track record as a businessman would likely make a good impression in the field of the economy. Sandiaga's promise to stabilize food prices would be appealing, especially to women, colloquially called emak-emak or mothers. (sau/evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/10/will-millennial-maruf-and-santri-sandiaga-change-prabowo-vs-jokowi-game.html

Bawaslu to investigate claims Sandiaga paid Rp 1 trillion to be

Coconuts Jakarta - August 10, 2018

Yesterday's announcement that Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto had named Jakarta Vice Governor Sandiaga Uno as his running mate in the 2019 presidential election was already surprising, but it was downright shocking given that Sandiaga had been accused of paying two political parties IDR500 billion (US$35 million) each to receive the #2 spot on Prabowo's ticket.

Democratic Party deputy secretary general Andi Arief set off a political firestorm on Wednesday night by publicly accusing Sandiaga of making the payments to long time Gerindra supporters PAN and PKS. Officials from both parties fiercely denied the accusation but did say they agreed to support Sandiaga as Prabowo's running mate when Prabowo made the announcement last night.

Despite the denials, Andi did not back down from his accusation and even claimed to have data to support it. However, it's unclear whether Andi will continue to press the matter given that the Democrats were forced to declare their support for Prabowo's ticket today (due to a legal requirement forcing all parties to choose a presidential candidate to support).

But now that the accusation is out there, it's unlikely to simply disappear. And if indeed there is hard evidence that Sandiaga paid the enormous sums to PAN and PKS in order to secure his nomination, then that would mean he, as well as the political parties that allegedly accepted his money, would be in violation of the country's election law and at risk of facing some seriously negative repercussions.

The practice of cadres having to pay their parties enormous "dowries" in order to receive nominations and cover the costs of their campaign is extremely pervasive in the world of Indonesian politics. On top of their basic corruption of the democratic process, in many cases candidates end up of having to finance the dowries by making crooked money-making deals once they're in office.

Despite their ubiquity, such payments are officially illegal under Indonesian election law. For that reason, a representative of the Elections Advisory Agency (Bawaslu) said they were ready to investigate the claims about Sandiaga's alleged IDR 1 trillion dowry.

"Yes (we will investigate), because according to Article 228 of Election Law No. 7 of 2017, candidate pairs are prohibited from giving money or rewards to political parties in order to become presidential candidates," Bawaslu member Fritz Edward Siregar said yesterday at the offices of the General Election Commission (KPU) in Jakarta as quoted by Detik.

Fritz said that a candidate who had been proven to give such a payment could face serious sanctions, the biggest one being KPU canceling the candidate's entire ticket. On top of that, parties found to have engaged in the practice could also face severe sanctions, the worst being that they would be barred from fielding a candidate in the following election.

However, Fritz said that any such cancellation would ultimately only take place after a thorough investigation as well as a court decision ordering the candidacy to be canceled (something which has never happened to a presidential or vice presidential candidate previously).

Many are skeptical that Bawaslu or any other government agency will seriously look investigate the allegation, given how powerful players at the center of it. But Bawaslu had also previously promised to seriously crack down on the practice of political dowries, particularly earlier this year before the regional elections. If they want to show they are truly serious about fighting the culture of corrupt money politics in Indonesia, then they have to take the accusation against Sandiaga seriously.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/elections-agency-says-itll-investigate-accusation-sandiaga-paid-idr1-trillion-prabowos-running-mate/

Indonesian president highlights nationalism, religiosity amid VP pick

Reuters - August 10, 2018

Tom Allard, Maikel Jefriando, Jakarta – Indonesia's president, Joko Widodo, brandished his nationalist and religious credentials on Friday amid reports he had come under pressure from Islamic party allies to accept a conservative cleric as running mate in next year's election.

In a last-minute decision, Widodo announced on Thursday Ma'ruf Amin, who heads the board of advisers of the country's biggest mass Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), would be his vice presidential candidate for April's poll.

The duo will be challenged by the former general Prabowo Subianto and the private equity tycoon and Jakarta deputy governor Sandiaga Uno.

Wearing a crisp white shirt emblazoned with the slogan "Clean. With the people. Real work.", Widodo told supporters on Friday he would "safeguard national resources".

He cited as evidence recent policy decisions to nationalize oil and gas assets and seize majority ownership of the huge Grasberg gold and copper mine from the U.S. based Freeport-McMoran. "It is proof that we are sovereign," he said.

Amin later led the crowd in prayer, asking God to "give us the capability and spirit to safeguard us against forces that try to destroy, to weaken us and our country."

The pair left the stage as Islamic singing, rendered in Arabic, played. The cleric then delivered a sermon at Friday prayers at Jakarta's biggest mosque.

Prabowo and Uno were to have gone to the mosque before formally registering as candidates at the election commission but changed their plans and prayed at a nearby mosque instead.

'Staunch conservative'

Amin also heads the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), an influential group for clerics that has issued fatwas hostile to minorities, including the Islamic sect Ahmadiyah and the gay community.

He also issued a statement accusing former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama of blasphemy for insulting the Koran, an edict that led hundreds of thousands of protesters to swarm the streets of the Indonesian capital demanding his ouster last year.

Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, lost the election as he divided his time between campaigning and defending himself against blasphemy charges in court. He was later jailed for two years.

Kevin O'Rourke, a political analyst, said Amin was a "staunch conservative" and "adroit manipulator". "As VP, he can bolster Islamic groups and perhaps give some other religious conservative a chance to succeed Widodo," he wrote.

Indonesia politics analyst Marcus Mietzner said Amin's appointment could neuter attacks on Widodo's alleged lack of religious conviction and elevate nationalist themes in the election campaign.

"(The opposition) are probably going to shift their focus onto ultra-nationalist themes: sell-out to China, invasion of foreign workers, evil imports, predatory investors," he told Reuters in emailed comments.

"These are classic Prabowo themes anyway, but they will become even more pronounced this time."

Widodo and Prabowo contested the last presidential election in 2014. Widodo won but his popularity slumped mid-campaign after false reports were spread online that he was a Christian and an ethnic Chinese descendent.

After Friday prayers, Prabowo declared himself the candidate for the poor, touching on another central theme of his campaign: inequality. "Our job as leaders is to eliminate people's suffering so that nobody is hungry, naked or suffering... no matter what their religion is."

"Our friends here are sometimes considered radicals, but believe me, there is no radical Islam in Indonesia," added Prabowo, who has forged close ties with hardline Islamists.


According to party officials from the president's coalition, Widodo had favored an alternative to Amin, former constitutional court chief justice Mahfud MD.

In a television interview, Mahfud said he was asked "in some detail" to prepare to be the running mate and was on standby to be anointed on Thursday. Mahfud said it was Widodo's decision to overlook him.

But, as quoted by the news portal Detik.com, NU board member Robikin Emhas said NU leaders, including Amin, told Widodo that they could not support Mahfud. Mietzner said Widodo had initially discounted NU's opposition to Mahfud.

"The implications are that four years into his presidency, Jokowi is still much more dependent on his supporting parties than he cares to admit. (It's) a demonstration of his continued weakness," he said, referring to Widodo by his nickname.

A presidential spokesman was not immediately available for comment.

A leader of NU-aligned National Awakening Party (PKB), Muhaimin Iskander, told reporters on Thursday it was a surprise Amin was selected and that Mahfud was Widodo's initial preference. "I thought Mahfud was chosen. But it turned out to be Ma'ruf Amin," he said.

[Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe, Kanupriya Kapoor, Gayatri Suroyo and Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Robert Birsel.]

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-politics/indonesian-president-highlights-nationalism-religiosity-amid-vp-pick-concerns-idUSKBN1KV0EV

Indonesian President Widodo chooses conservative Muslim cleric for

ABC News - August 10, 2018

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has chosen a conservative Muslim cleric who has railed against homosexuality and once issued a fatwa against secularism as his running mate for next year's election.

Razor wire, along with dozens of police and secret service officers, held back jubilant crowds, as President "Jokowi" officially registered as a candidate for re-election.

"Democracy is not war, democracy is not hostility, but is a contest of ideas, track record and achievements," Jokowi said.

His pick for Vice-President, Ma'ruf Amin, is chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the nation's top Muslim clerical body.

In 2005, Mr Amin was the key figure behind a fatwa, or religious order, that declared liberalism, pluralism and secularism as against the rule of Islam.

"That had a really major impact on progressive Muslims who were trying to bring about a more tolerant and pluralistic form of Islam," said Associate Professor Greg Fealey from the Australian National University.

Associate Professor Fealey said Mr Amin would provide a "political shield" to Jokowi, who is sometimes accused of not being religious enough.

"Wherever there have been socially conservative campaigns run within the Islamic community in Indonesia, Ma'ruf Amin has often been right at the centre of those campaigns," he said.

The most prominent of those campaigns was mass protests against Jakarta's popular governor Basuki "Ahok" Purnama in 2016, over questionable accusations he committed blasphemy, which is illegal in Indonesia.

"[Amin] issued an opinion to say that that Ahok had been guilty of blasphemy and the government should take action against him," Associate Professor Fealey said.

"The moment that opinion was released, that really saw huge mobilisation within the conservative Islamic community against the governor."

Next year's election will be a re-run of the 2014 presidential poll, with former military strongman Prabowo Subianto declaring his candidacy once again.

Mr Prabowo, who was discharged from the military over allegations of torture by his men, has chosen Jakarta's wealthy Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno as his vice-presidential running mate.

"We will fight for all Indonesian people, whatever their religion, whatever the tribe, whatever the ethnicity, whatever the race," Mr Prabowo said after officially registering his ticket.

This is Prabowo's fourth run at the presidency and is widely expected to be his last chance.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-10/indonesian-election-jokowi-chooses-running-mate-amin/10107964

PA 212 unmoved to support Jokowi after Maruf Amin VP candidacy

Tempo - August 10, 2018

M Rosseno Aji, Jakarta – The Alumni 212 Brotherhood or PA 212 spokesman Novel Bamukmin said his organization would not support Jokowi despite his decision to pick Muslim cleric, Maruf Amin, as his vice presidential candidate.

"It is firm that we will never support Jokowi whoever his pair is," Novel said on Thursday, August 9.

The incumbent Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo officially announced the Chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Maruf Amin as his vice presidential candidate in the 2019 Presidential Election.

Novel admitted that PA 212 and Maruf Amin had shared history when they tried to make the former Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama to be convicted in a blasphemy case.

The MUI that was chaired by Maruf issued the fatwa (edict) that Ahok's statements about the Quranic verse of Al-Maida had insulted Islam.

However, according to Novel, PA 212 and Maruf Amin are no longer on the same line. "Previously, we were still sympathetic because of the strict fatwa, but not anymore since he [Maruf] became one of those standing in the Palace," he said.

Source: http://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/08/10/055920697/PA-212-Unmoved-to-Support-Jokowi-after-Maruf-Amin-VP-Candidacy

Prabowo, Sandiaga officially register for presidential race

Jakarta Post - August 10, 2018

Karina M. Tehusijarana, Jakarta – After months of uncertainty, Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto and former Jakarta deputy governor Sandiaga Uno officially registered as presidential and vice presidential candidates at the General Elections Commission (KPU) in Central Jakarta on Friday.

Prabowo and Sandiaga were accompanied by representatives from the five parties in their coalition: Gerindra, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the National Mandate Party (PAN), the Democratic Party, and newcomer the Berkarya Party.

"We will accept and respect whatever the people decide, we only want to rule with the permission of the people. We want to serve so that there are no poor people in Indonesia, no hungry people in Indonesia and no injustice in Indonesia," Prabowo said in a speech after the registration.

Sandiaga doubled down on Prabowo's economic message. "In the next few months, we will fight together with the people to bring about economic growth and renewal so we can create more jobs," he said. "We want affordable prices, we want stable food prices and we want faster development with a clean government."

Gerindra spokesman Andre Rosiade confirmed that, in addition to resigning from his position as deputy governor, Sandiaga had also resigned his Gerindra membership. "Bang Sandi belongs to all parties, he is independent now," Andre said. (swd)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/10/prabowo-sandiaga-officially-register-for-presidential-race.html

'Jenderal Kardus' no more? Democrats back Prabowo after all

Jakarta Post - August 10, 2018

Karina M. Tehusijarana, Jakarta – The Democratic Party has decided to back Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Uno's presidential bid, despite a dramatic falling out between the Democrats and Prabowo's Gerindra Party in the last two days.

"The High Council of the Democratic Party decided in its meeting this morning to endorse the candidate pair of Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Uno," High Council deputy chairman E.E. Mangindaan said on Friday.

Democrat executives had previously said the party did not support Sandiaga as Prabowo's running mate, citing his low electability ratings in recent polls.

Democrat politician Andi Arief went so far as to accuse Sandiaga of paying off the other two parties in Gerindra's coalition, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the National Mandate Party (PAN).

The Dems have been pushing Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, son of chairman Susilo Bambang, for the VP slot. In a series of angry tweets he posted on Wednesday, Andi called Prabowo a jenderal kardus (cardboard general).

As of Thursday night, the party still voiced its opposition to Sandiaga's nomination. "We want someone with a bigger chance [of winning]," Democrat deputy secretary-general Ferdinand Hutahean said late Thursday night.

But the party made an about-face on Friday with Democrat secretary-general Hinca Panjaitan saying, "About who the vice presidential candidate is, well now it's Pak Sandi and that is the prerogative of the presidential candidate, so we have accepted it." (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/10/jenderal-kardus-no-more-democrats-back-prabowo-after-all.html

After seemingly walking away, Democrats now officially backing Prabowo

Coconuts Jakarta - August 10, 2018

The sky did fall on the Democratic Party, metaphorically speaking, following a whirlwind of political drama yesterday. But, despite their disappointments, the party still decided to back Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto and his running mate pick, Sandiaga Uno after the pair officially announced their candidacy for April's presidential election last night.

The Democrats, who only recently joined the coalition of opposition parties headed by Gerindra, caused much chaos over the past few days after their deputy secretary general, Andi Arief, accused Sandiaga (who had been the vice governor of Jakarta but has now officially stepped down after announcing his VP candidacy) of paying IDR500 billion (US$35 million) each to fellow opposition parties PAN and PKS to secure his nomination.

Though PAN and PKS denied the explosive allegations, they did end up supporting the Prabowo-Sandiaga ticket when it was officially announced last night. The Democrats, led by former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), were quite understandably not part of last night's announcement. At the time, they only said they could reconsider their support for Prabowo's candidacy.

Unlike in 2014, the Democrats can't remain neutral in the presidential election as a 2017 election law requires all parties to declare support for one presidential candidate or face penalties. This morning, the party's leaders held a meeting in South Jakarta to determine their course of action.

Neither of their two options could have been particularly appealing. If they were to back Prabowo-Sandiaga, they risked the embarrassment of having to crawl back to their allies after making their explosive allegations.

If they were to back the pairing of President Joko Widodo and Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) Chairman Ma'ruf Amin (whose nomination came as an extreme shock to many last night), they risked further strengthening the ruling PDI-P party. And the antagonism between PDI-P chairwoman and former President Megawati Soekarnoputri and SBY is well known.

After the meeting, the Democrats agreed that there was only one viable option for them all along: supporting the Prabowo-Sandiaga ticket.

"This process that's full of pushing and pulling and critiques is just part of the political dynamic. We are still of the principle that, even if the sky falls, we will support the (opposition) coalition," Andi Arief told Detik today.

Andi said the Democrats will not go back on their promise to back the opposition, even though they are disappointed that Prabowo did not go through with his promise to pick SBY's son, Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, as his running mate.

Despite the reports of infighting in the coalition, Prabowo said he is welcoming SBY's Democrats with open arms.

"He is supporting our coalition, supporting mine and Sandiaga Uno's candidacies and this is a great step forward," Prabowo told reporters this morning, as quoted by Detik.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/even-sky-falls-seemingly-walking-away-democrats-now-officially-backing-prabowo-sandiaga/

In surprise move, Jokowi picks MUI leader Ma'ruf Amin as running mate

Coconuts Jakarta - August 9, 2018

President Joko Widodo has now played his part in making this one of the most surprising days in modern Indonesian politics by choosing a running mate for next year's election that very few predicted he would, even in the minutes leading up to his announcement.

At a press conference this evening at a restaurant in Menteng, Jokowi announced that his running mate would be Ma'ruf Amin, the current head of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country's highest Islamic clerical body.

"I have decided to run again as a presidential candidate for the 2019-2024 period. This decision is a big responsibility, closely related to the aspirations and dreams of Indonesia to maintain its advancement in development and justice for all," Jokowi said at the press conference.

"Taking into account the input from various elements of the community, I have decided and received the approval of Koalisi Indonesia Kerja (the new name for Jokowi's political coalition) that the person who will accompany me as vice president from 2019-2024 is Professor Ma'ruf Amin," Jokowi said at the meeting.

Ma'ruf Amin is one of the most respected Islamic scholars in Indonesia and currently serves as the head of MUI as well as the chairman of the advisory council of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the world's largest Islamic organization.

In recent discussions about potential running mates for Joko Widodo, Ma'ruf was rarely considered a real possibility. What makes the announcement especially shocking is that almost every other news story from today prior to Jokowi's announcement indicated that he would be picking a totally different running mate – former constitutional court judge Mahfud MD.

In fact, Mahfud MD even told the media today that Jokowi had asked him just this morning to be his vice president. He said he had been asked to be on standby since last night and was asked by the president personally today. He also submitted the documents necessary to complete the formal registration process with the Sleman District Court and even said he had gotten a new white shirt tailored for the occasion.

So what gives? Did Jokowi really ask Mahfud MD to be his running mate just this morning only to suddenly have a change of heart? At this moment it's unclear, but another possibility (one that is purely our own speculation at this point) is that this was some sort of ruse designed to fool Jokowi's most likely challenger in the 2019 election, Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto, into making a bad decision regarding his own running mate and coalition.

If that was in fact the plan, then it may have worked very well indeed. Prabowo and his coalition were thrown into utter chaos yesterday night after a senior Democratic Party official accused Jakarta Vice Governor Sandiaga Uno had paid two parties close to Gerindra, PAN and PKS, IDR 500 billion (US$35 million) each to be made Prabowo's running mate.

The explosive allegation led to rancorous infighting among Prabowo's potential coalition partners, with PAN and PKS fiercely denying the dowry allegation. However, Gerindra officials have indeed indicated that Sandiaga is all but certain to be named Prabowo's running mate. An official announcement is still expected to be made tonight. The deadline for presidential candidates competing in next year's election to register is tomorrow.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/breaking-surprise-move-president-jokowi-picks-indonesian-ulema-council-leader-maruf-amin-running-mate/

Who is Ma'ruf Amin, Jokowi's running mate?

Jakarta Post - August 9, 2018

Sita W. Dewi, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo announced his running mate on Thursday evening, eventually picking nonpolitical party figure Ma'ruf Amin as his vice presidential candidate.

"Prof. Ma'ruf, who was born in Tangerang, is a completely religious figure, who is wise [...] He has been a lawmaker, councillor, MPR [People's Consultative Assembly] member, presidential advisory council member, supreme leader of the PBNU [Nahdlatul Ulama central board] and chairman of the MUI [Indonesian Ulema Council]. He is also a board member of [Pancasila body] BPIP," Jokowi told a press conference in Menteng, Central Jakarta, on Thursday evening.

The two are set to register their candidacy with the General Elections Commission (KPU) in Central Jakarta on Friday morning.

Ma'ruf, who was born in Banten on March 11, 1943, is currently one of the most powerful and influential Muslim figures in the predominantly Muslim nation. He currently chairs the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the country's top Muslim clerical body comprising all registered Muslim organizations, including Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muhammadiyah and the Islamic Union (Persis). The council is a central authority that issues fatwas and it gives recommendations on issuing halal certificates.

Ma'ruf is also the rais aam (supreme leader) of NU, the country's largest Muslim organization that is also affiliated to the National Awakening Party (PKB), a member of Jokowi's coalition. In 2017, he received an honorary degree as a professor in sharia economy from Maulana Malik Ibrahim Islamic State University of Malang in East Java.

He is not new to politics and governance. Ma'ruf was a key member of the Presidential Advisory Council (Wantimpres) during the Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono administration.

As MUI chairman, he supported controversial regulations, including the Pornography Law and the joint ministerial decree banning the activities of minority group Ahmadiyah, saying in 2013 that such regulations were "very much expected".

In 2017, Ma'ruf was a key expert witness in a highly publicized blasphemy trial that sent then Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to prison for two years. As the chairman of the MUI, Ma'ruf signed a document recommending that the statement Ahok made in Thousand Islands regency in September 2016, which suggested that a Quranic verse had been exploited by certain people, be considered "blasphemous" for insulting Islam.

Ma'ruf Amin is also a board member of the Sharia Cooperative 212, along with Arifin Ilham and Abdullah Gymnastiar. The cooperative runs several convenience stores that are expected to create a strong Muslim economy.

In December 2017, Ma'ruf said he regretted the Constitutional Court's decision that rejected a petition from the Family Love Alliance (AILA) to criminalize gay sex. "We want a stern prohibition of LGBT activities and other deviant sexual activities and legislation that categorizes them as crime," MUI chairman Maruf Amin said in 2016. (evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/09/who-is-maruf-amin-jokowis-running-mate.html

Democratic Party politician calls Prabowo 'cardboard general'

Jakarta Post - August 9, 2018

Margareth S. Aritonang and Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – The political alliance between the Gerindra Party and the Democratic Party is under serious threat after a Democratic Party politician on Wednesday night posted a series of tweets lashing out at Gerindra leader Prabowo Subianto.

The politician, Andi Arief, called Prabowo a "cardboard general" for allegedly picking Deputy Jakarta Governor Sandiaga Uno as his running mate despite weeks of negotiation with Democratic Party leaders who have proposed Agus Harimurti (AHY), the oldest son of Democratic Party chairman and former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, as the vice presidential candidate.

Andi claimed that Prabowo had picked Sandiaga, who was never mentioned as a potential vice presidential candidate until only a few days ago, because the deputy Jakarta governor had money to buy the support of the other two coalition partners: the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

"Prabowo turns out to be a cardboard general. Tonight we reject his visit to Kuningan. His intention to explain [the issue] through a letter is no longer needed. Prabowo valued money more than struggle. Cardboard general."

Gerindra secretary-general Ahmad Muzani denied Andi's claim that Prabowo had decided to pick Sandiaga and made sure that political communication with Democratic Party leader Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was still on.

"As of [Wednesday] afternoon, we have two names of [vice presidential candidates], AHY and Sandiaga Uno. We are still negotiating with the other parties," he said.

Prabowo has struggled to determine his running mate for fear of losing the support of his coalition partners, who have proposed their own members as Prabowo's running mates. Sandiaga, who also serves as Gerindra's deputy chief patron, is said to have been seen as a figure that could break the deadlock. (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/09/democratic-party-politician-calls-prabowo-cardboard-general.html

Sandiaga offered VP candidacy after I declined: Anies

Jakarta Post - August 9, 2018

Jakarta – Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan says Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno has been approached to run for vice president in the 2019 presidential election in a pairing with Gerindra Party leader Prabowo Subianto.

Anies said the slot had been offered to him first, but he had turned it down. "After I said no, [the slot was offered] to Pak Sandiaga Uno," Anies said on Thursday, as quoted by tempo.co.

Anies went on to say that Sandiaga had talked to him about his potential candidacy.

Should Sandiaga stand in the election, his position would be filled by a person proposed by the political parties that backed Anies and Sandiaga in the Jakarta gubernatorial election. The pair was backed by the Gerindra Party and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) in the election last year.

The name of Jakarta Council deputy speaker M. Taufik from Gerindra has emerged as Sandiaga's potential successor.

Taufik said on Thursday he had yet to be informed about a replacement for Sandiaga. "I still don't know about it, because the political parties have yet to propose names. Just pray for it," Taufik said.

Earlier this month, the Jakarta General Elections Commission (KPU Jakarta) issued a letter to the Gerindra Party's Jakarta executive board asking it to replace councilor Taufik on its list of legislative candidates running in the 2019 election because of Taufik's background as a former corruption convict. (cal)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/09/sandiaga-offered-vp-candidacy-after-i-declined-anies.html

PAN, PKS deny getting Rp 500b to let Sandiaga become VP candidate

Jakarta Post - August 9, 2018

Jakarta – Top officials at the National Mandate Party (PAN) and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) denied an accusation that the parties had received Rp 500 billion (US$34.6 million) from Jakarta Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno to let Sandiaga become a vice presidential candidate in their coalition to contest in 2019 election.

"As of this morning, Sandiaga Uno has yet to meet PAN's executive board. How could he talk about a fantastic value of political dowry?" Drajad Wibowo, PAN's vice chairman of the honorary council, said Thursday. Drajad said his party insisted on proposing PAN chairman Zulkifli Hasan for the VP slot.

Democratic Party deputy secretary-general Andi Arief said on Wednesday evening that Gerindra Party's chairman Prabowo Subianto let Sandiaga's money come between the Democratic Party and Gerindra. The Democratic Party has been eyeing the vice presidential candidate slot for Agus Harimurti Yudhoyono, the son of the party's chairman, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The PKS' director for presidential elections, Suhud Aliyudin, also denied the accusation, saying Andi should prove the accusation. "Yes, it is a hoax. How could we carry Rp 500 billion [in cash]?" Suhud said.

Suhud, however, confirmed that Sandiaga's name as Prabowo's running mate was proposed by Prabowo in a meeting with the PKS. The PKS has been insisting on their own member, Salim Segaf Al Jufri, as the running mate.

Andi called Prabowo a "cardboard general" in his Twitter account on Thursday morning.

Prabowo visited Yudhoyono's house in Kuningan in South Jakarta on Thursday at 9:55 a.m. to have a closed door meeting. The meeting went on for 45 minutes and Prabowo left the house without making any statement to the press. (sau/evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/09/pan-pks-deny-getting-rp-500b-to-let-sandiaga-become-vp-candidate.html

PKS to sue Democrat politician over political payment 'slander'

Jakarta Post - August 9, 2018

Jakarta – The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) is angry at the Democratic Party and threatened to sue Democratic Party politician Andi Arief over his allegation of Rp 500 billion (US$34.6 million) in political payment for the PKS.

PKS executive board chairwoman Ledia Hanifa said the PKS was ready to sue the Democrat politician.

She said Andi's accusation was highly serious, considering that political bribery accepted by a party during the presidential nomination process is a criminal act.

"The accusation from Andi Arief is cruel slander. It has legal consequences for the person concerned," she said on Thursday in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post.

Ledia said a top politician, particularly from a large party like the Democratic Party, must not commit slander openly in public, referring to Andi's post on his Twitter account on Thursday morning.

"I see there has yet to be an official clarification from his party, thus we conclude this also represents the stance of Andi Arief's party," she said.

Andi called the presumptive presidential candidate and Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto a "cardboard general" on his Twitter account on Thursday morning.

He also accused the PKS and the National Mandate Party (PAN) of accepting Rp 500 billion from Jakarta Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno to let Sandiaga become a vice presidential candidate for Prabowo in their coalition to contest in 2019 election. Both the PKS and PAN have denied the accusation. (sau)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/09/pks-to-sue-democrat-politicianover-political-payment-slander.html

Blasphemy & hate speech

Banten sect Jellyfish Kingdom ruffles MUI's feathers

Jakarta Post - August 14, 2018

Ivany Atina Arbi, Jakarta – The Serang Police and the local chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) in Banten are investigating a religious cult called the Jellyfish Kingdom, which locals believe to be "heretical" for their beliefs that Prophet Muhammad was a woman.

Along with Serang's MUI and local neighborhood leaders, the police visited a house reported to have been hosting the Jellyfish Kingdom's activities in Kampung Sayabulu, Serang subdistrict in Serang, Banten, on Monday.

"We're following up on reports from residents who were upset with the group's activities in the past two months," Serang Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Komarudin said Tuesday as quoted by tempo.co.

"We have confiscated several documents relating to the activities of this group, as well as people who claim to be the leaders of the Jellyfish Kingdom," said Komarudin.

Indonesia only recognizes six mainstream religions – Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism – and does not criminalize the other less mainstream religions.

Law enforcement, however, has taken action against cult leaders claiming to be new prophets – such as Lia Eden and Ahmad Musadeq – based on edicts issued by the MUI. Most of them have been convicted of blasphemy.

The police got documents on the structure of the group, which hosted activities every Thursday night. Their activities would last from night to morning.

Police have questioned the leaders of the Jellyfish Kingdom, identified as Nurhalim and couple Rudi and Aisyah. However, they have yet to charge these people with anything, said Komarudin.

"We're just taking preventive measures so the residents will not do anything we don't want," he said. "Whether this group is heretical or not, we will let the MUI, as the authority, handle the matter," he said.

The secretary of the MUI in Serang, Amas Tajudin, told local media bantennews.co.id that after meeting with the group's leaders for "mediation" he found several things that led him to conclude the group was heretical.

"We concluded they are not Islam. They have spread [teachings], in the name of the Quran, and this upset society and I can say Islam is tainted [by them]," Amas said as quoted by the local media on Monday.

He said Aisyah told him she was Ratu Kidul, a mythical figure who is the queen of the Southern Sea, who was the believer of the Sunda Wiwitan faith. Aisyah also recognized the Quran as the holy book and Allah as God.

"During the mediation, Aisyah said God had a tomb. She believes Muhammad was a woman. And the funniest thing is that [she believes] we kiss Hajar Aswad [the Black Stone] because Hajar Aswad looks like female genitalia, and the Kaaba is not the kiblat [the direction of prayers] but a place of worship."

MUI secretary-general Anwar Abbas called on the MUI Banten to convince Jellyfish Kingdom followers to abandon their beliefs or face legal action. "If they refuse to change, we will report them to law enforcement," he told The Jakarta Post.

Neighborhood unit head Surya Mihardha told the local media that he received reports from some residents about the sect's activities. The sect's leaders, Rudi and Aisyah, had lived in the house for two years, along with their followers.

"Most of the followers come from outside Serang, like from Central and East Java," Surya said. (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/14/banten-sect-jellyfish-kingdom-ruffles-muis-feathers.html

Prosecutors demand 1.5 years for Buddhist woman on 'azan' blasphemy

Jakarta Post - August 14, 2018

Apriadi Gunawan, Medan – A Chinese-Indonesian woman of the Buddhist faith in Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, faces a possible 1.5-year prison sentence after she was charged with blasphemy for saying that the azan (the Islamic call to prayer) that was blasted from a speaker of a mosque near her house was "too loud" and "hurt" her ear.

Her remark, made in 2016, is believed to have triggered one of the worst incidences of sectarian violence in the regency, with Muslims who claimed to have been offended by her words burning several Buddhist temples.

The 44-year-old woman, Meiliana, cried when prosecutors demanded that she be found guilty of blasphemy under Article 156 of the Criminal Code and sentenced to 1.5 years in prison.

"We ask the judicial panel trying this case to hand down a prison sentence of 1.5 years to the defendant, Meliana," prosecutor Anggia Y Kusuma told the Medan District Court on Monday.

The prosecutors based their demand on a fatwa the North Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued, which affirmed that Meliana's statement was blasphemous.

The prosecutors argued further that her statement had set off an anti-Chinese riot in Tanjung Balai that led to the destruction of several temples and allegedly forced a number of Chinese families to flee to neighboring countries.

The police arrested 19 people for their roles in the riot. Eight were charged with looting, nine with malicious destruction of property and two with inciting violence. All were given 1- to 4-month prison sentences.

Meliana is the latest to be charged under the nation's Blasphemy Law, which human rights activists have widely criticized as "draconian".

The most prominent public figure convicted of blasphemy is former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for a statement he made in reference to a Koranic verse. His conviction was supported by an MUI fatwa. (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/14/prosecutors-demand-1-5-years-for-buddhist-woman-on-azan-blasphemy-charge.html

Fake news & black campaigns

'Buzzers' paid to spread propaganda as political elite wage war ahead of

ABC News - August 13, 2018

David Lipson – Dozens of "buzzers" are getting paid to spread propaganda to armies of followers as the political elite wage war in cyberspace in an attempt to maintain power.

No, this is not the plot of the latest dystopian sci-fi out of Hollywood. It is Indonesian politics in 2018.

In a funky open-plan office in central Jakarta, the leaders of the PSI political party are holding a strategy meeting.

They sprawl out on orange beanbags, or sit on bleacher-like benches with laptops at the ready. They are surrounded by notice boards adorned with coloured Post-it Notes.

They could be tech-wizards from a start-up company in Silicon Valley. But their brand of sorcery is online politics.

Despite operating on a shoestring budget, the party is already the second biggest in Indonesia, in terms of social media presence, according to PSI director Michael Sianapar.

He is helping the PSI party convert the "noise" online, into action in the streets, just as occurred during the Arab Spring.

"I think that's why we started the party in the first place" he said. "Social media is a tool [the political elite] have now mastered... to the detriment of the society. We just have to master it back again."

He cites the example of popular former Jakarta governor, Basuki Purnama, aka Ahok, who was ousted and ultimately jailed for blasphemy after an edited segment of a speech he made went viral online.

Mr Sianapar saw the whole thing unfold at close quarters. He was Ahok's personal assistant at the time. Since then, he said, political manipulation of the masses had only worsened, with dirty tricks online now a commercial operation.

"We have this term... 'buzzers'. They [are people who] have become celebrities in the social media world and if they support someone or oppose something, then they get paid," he said.

Buzzers offered money for social media shares

No-one knows the exact numbers, but there are believed to be dozens of buzzers working for and against the Government, trying to sway opinions by sharing propaganda with their armies of followers.

The ABC is aware of political parties offering buzzers $500 for sharing a single post.

Mr Siregar has 625,000 followers on Facebook and more than 560,000 followers on Twitter. As such, he is seen as a valuable commodity for politicians. But he insists he has never accepted cash for comment online.

"The word buzzer is an insult," Mr Siregar said. "It's basically saying your opinion is for hire. No-one would ever admit that."

Mr Siregar believes buzzers spreading misinformation online is dangerous for Indonesian democracy.

"I closely watched what happened in Syria 2011/2012, when the war broke out," he said. "I see the same pattern that's being built here in Indonesia. That's why I call this war. Their propaganda against my propaganda."

A golden opportunity for political tricksters

Indonesian is now the third biggest Facebook using nation on Earth, with 130 million accounts. But the most dangerous platform for and against politicians is the encrypted messaging service WhatsApp.

Unlike Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, messages sent via WhatsApp are hidden. The encryption software means even WhatsApp's own engineers cannot view them.

Most users set up dozens of closed groups that can contain up to 256 members. Popular posts are often copied from one group and shared throughout the others, spreading like silent, invisible wildfire.

According to social media analyst Ismail Fahmi, that presents a golden opportunity for political tricksters. "Fake news and propaganda are so much easier to create and distribute via WhatsApp groups because they're closed groups," he said.

"An issue often starts on Twitter, because news travels fast there. Then [it migrates to] Facebook, where memes and videos are created. In turn, they are put out on Instagram and WhatsApp groups."

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has already felt the sting of the wrong end of a social media campaign.

In April, the campaign #2019gantipresiden (#2019ChangePresident) went viral and continues to dent his re-election chances for next year's presidential poll.

Jokowi, as he is commonly known, remains the strongest contender, topping popularity polls with an approval rating of more than 50 per cent.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-13/indonesian-buzzers-paid-to-spread-propaganda-ahead-of-election/9928870

Jokowi-Ma'ruf supporters create teams to counter hoax

Tempo - August 11, 2018

Pribadi Wicaksono, Jakarta – The supporters of the incumbent candidate Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo have started to create teams in a bid to succeed the Jokowi-Ma'ruf Amin pair in the 2019 Presidential Election.

In Yogyakarta, the Jokowi team would be established from the grassroots level of RT/RW (neighborhood association).

"First, we will immediately establish the structure board for the Jokowi Defenders Team or Tim Pembela Jokowi (TPJ) up to the level of RT/RW within this two weeks," said the head of Jokowi Secretariat National (Seknas) presidium, Fachim Fahmi, in Yogyakarta, Friday, August 10.

The team would monitor the opposition party that spreading hoax news or conducting a black campaign against Jokowi-Ma'ruf pair. "We will actively monitor which party harasses and insults Jokowi-Ma'rauf Amin," he added.

However, Jokowi Seknas perceived that campaigns related to SARA issue in the election next year would not as massive as previous elections considering the incumbent candidate chose Ma'ruf Amin who represented the ulemas.

Fachim Fahmi said the Jokowi team in Yogyakarta would fully support the success of Jokowi-Ma'ruf Amin pair. "We will disseminate the success of Jokowi to all communities," he added.

Source: http://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/08/11/055920725/Jokowi-Maruf-Supporters-Create-Teams-to-Counter-Hoax

Internet & social media

Indonesia polls: Jokowi's social media presence overwhelms Prabowo's by

Asian Correspondent - August 15, 2018

Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's presence on social media far outweighs that of his sole opponent, Prabowo Subianto, barely a month before the republic's election campaign season goes into full swing.

Jokowi is dominating on Twitter with 10.2 million followers while Subianto has only a third of the figure at 3.17 million followers, Bloomberg reported.

On Instagram, Jokowi's 10.8 million followers outnumber Prabowo eight-to-one, but the incumbent president is behind Prabowo on Facebook with one million fewer followers.

With more than half a million followers on YouTube, Jokowi regularly updates his channel with vlogs but Subianto does not appear to have a dedicated channel.

With over 100 million smartphone users in the country, social media is expected to be a key battleground for the two politicians who are wooing an estimated 70 million first-time voters. And until polling day in April next year, the candidates are expected to be using technology like never before.

On Thursday, Jokowi announced the selection of 75-year-old Islamist cleric and nonpolitical party figure Ma'ruf Amin as his vice-presidential candidate as he looks to boost his Islamic credentials.

Ma'ruf's selection comes at a time when the Muslim-majority country is experiencing the decline of its pluralistic brand of Islam and the rise of religious fundamentalism promulgated by influential far-right groups.

Prabowo had picked the deputy governor of Jakarta, Sandiaga Uno to be his running mate. The two Jokowi opponents are nationalists with deep ties to the business and military elite, as well as popular ultraconservative religious groups like the Islamic Defenders Front (IDF).

An observer said although the president has consolidated his Islamic image with Ma'ruf by his side, Jokowi faces another challenge in the form of youth voters interested in his running mate's opponent, Sandiaga, who is a younger candidate.

Sandiaga has 1.5 million followers on Instagram and nearly a million followers each on Facebook and Twitter, while Ma'ruf has only 105,000 Instagram followers and no verified Twitter account. Ma'ruf's last Facebook post was in Feb 2016.

However, Jokowi, who is regularly seen sporting T-shirts and jeans and who has a love for superbikes and heavy metal music, might be more popular among the millennials than 66-year-old Subianto, a former armed forces general.

"The number of millennials could be about 40 to 50 per cent of total voters," said Usep Ahyar, a director at Populi Center, a Jakarta-based pollster, told Bloomberg. "Candidates who can secure the millennials have a bigger chance to win the election."

Source: https://asiancorrespondent.com/2018/08/indonesia-polls-jokowis-social-media-presence-overwhelms-prabowo-by-far/

Environment & natural disasters

Thousands affected by drought in Central Java without permanent solution

Jakarta Post - August 15, 2018

Ganug Nugroho Adi, Wonogiri, Central Java – At least 50,000 residents living in 31 villages across seven districts in Wonogiri, Central Java, have been affected by drought since July, according to local authorities, which predict that the water shortage will last until October.

Wonogiri regent Joko "Jekek" Sutopo said that residents had tried to survive the drought by buying water for up to Rp 200,000 (US$13.60) per water tank, or around 6,000 liters.

Jekek further said a limited budget had hampered the administration's plans to solve the water crisis once and for all. The regency required at least Rp 165 billion to build a better system, including pumping water from 180 existing groundwater sources to distributing it to residents' houses.

Wonogiri regency allocated only Rp 2 billion this year to meet the residents' water needs.

Water crisis is a recurring theme in the region, especially during the prolonged dry season. "The water crisis should be addressed permanently to prevent it from recurring," Jekek said.

Wonogiri Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) head Bambang Haryanto echoed Jekek's statement, saying at least 488 tanks of clean water – worth Rp 81 million – were needed daily to meet the needs of 50,000 residents. (vny/swd)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/15/thousands-affected-by-drought-in-central-java-without-permanent-solution.html

Indonesia steps up forest, land fire prevention to ensure haze-free

Straits Times - August 15, 2018

Jakarta – The government is determined to carry out all necessary measures to prevent forest and land fires from spreading on the island of Sumatra, as the Asian Games are set to kick off on Saturday (Aug 18) in Jakarta and Palembang, South Sumatra, at the peak of the dry season.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto held a meeting on Tuesday (Aug 14) with relevant officials, discussing anticipatory measures to address the potential increase in hot spots.

"Learning from our experience... and with solid coordination (among stakeholders) as well as proper procedures in both prevention and mitigation, all regions are prepared to mitigate potential forest fires," General Wiranto said on Tuesday.

"We need to work hard to ensure that South Sumatra will be haze-free. Weather forecasts say that the peak of the dry season will happen during the Asian Games," he added.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) detected 169 hot spots in Sumatra Island on Tuesday, with 47 hot spots in South Sumatra alone. Riau recorded an increase in hot spots to 90 from 65 on the previous day, while there were 11 hot spots in Jambi and 55 hot spots in Bangka Belitung province.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry's director-general of climate change Ruandha Agung Sugadirman said a coordinated team, including police and Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel, routinely carried out patrols in areas prone to forest fires.

Sixteen helicopters have been on standby across South Sumatra and can be deployed for water bombing at any time when forest fires are detected. Another 10 helicopters are also on standby in Riau, director-general Ruandha said.

The government has also used 51 tonnes of salt to intensify cloud-seeding operations to help stimulate rainfall since May, he said, adding that rain had fallen in the province from Monday evening to Tuesday morning. "As long as the land and peatlands are wet, fires will not occur," he added.

– The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/indonesia-promises-haze-free-asian-games-stepping-up-on-forest-and-land-fires

Indonesia promises haze-free Asian Games

Jakarta Post - August 14, 2018

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – The government is determined to carry out all necessary measures to prevent forest and land fires from spreading on the island of Sumatra, as the Asia Games are set to kick off on Aug. 18 in Jakarta and Palembang, South Sumatra, at the peak of the dry season.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto held a meeting on Tuesday with relevant officials, discussing anticipatory measures to address the potential increase in hot spots.

"Learning from our experience [...] and with solid coordination [among stakeholders] as well as proper procedures in both prevention and mitigation, all regions are prepared to mitigate potential forest fires," Wiranto said on Tuesday.

"We need to work hard to ensure that South Sumatra will be haze-free. Weather forecasts say that the peak of the dry season will happen during the Asian Games," he added.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) detected 169 hot spots in Sumatra Island on Tuesday with 47 hot spots in South Sumatra alone. Riau recorded an increase in hot spots to 90 from 65 in the previous day while there were 11 hot spots in Jambi and 55 hot spots in Bangka Belitung province.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry's director general of climate change, Ruandha Agung Sugadirman, said a coordinated team comprising relevant officials, including police and Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel, routinely carried out patrols in areas prone to forest fires.

Sixteen helicopters have been on standby across South Sumatra and can be deployed for water bombing at any time when forest fires are detected. Another 10 helicopters are also on standby in Riau, Ruandha said.

The government has also used 51 tons of salt to intensify cloud-seeding operations to help stimulate rainfall since May, he said, adding that rain had fallen in the province from Monday evening to Tuesday morning.

"As long as the land and peatlands are wet, fires will not occur," Ruandha said. (rin)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/14/indonesia-to-ensure-haze-free-asian-games.html

Death toll, in the hundreds, rises from earthquake that hit Indonesia

Australian Associated Press - August 12, 2018

Jakarta – The death toll from a powerful earthquake that hit the Indonesian island of Lombok a week ago has risen to 392, an official says.

The number was likely to rise further still as teams continue to search for victims beneath the rubble and ruins of buildings, national disaster management agency spokesman Sutopo Nugroho said.

Search efforts have been complicated by a string of aftershocks, including a 6.2 magnitude quake on Thursday.

At least 1353 people were injured, most of them in hard-hit North Lombok district, which was near the epicentre of the 7.0-magnitude quake that hit on August 5. Nearly 390,000 people are displaced and living in camps, Nugroho said.

Aid and volunteers continue to arrive on the island to help the displaced, but efforts have been stymied by the limited number of vehicles available for transport duties, he said.

Tens of thousands of buildings are damaged, including at least 67,000 houses, 606 schools, three hospitals, 65 mosques and six bridges.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/death-toll-in-the-hundreds-rises-from-earthquake-that-hit-indonesia-20180812-p4zx31.html

Hot spots increase in Riau ahead of Asian Games

Jakarta Post - August 12, 2018

Rizal Harahap, Pekanbaru, Riau – A spell of unusual heat in Riau has seen the number of hot spots rise from zero to 55 in only two days, according to official data.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said on Sunday that the hot spots were spread out across eight municipalities of the province.

The regency of Rokan Hilir recorded the highest number with 33 hot spots, while Bengkalis, Siak and Pelalawan recorded eight, six and three hot spots, respectively. Rokan Hulu, Dumai, the Meranti Islands and Kuantan Singingi each had one hot spot.

"Thirty-two of the 55 hot spots have a level of certainty above 70 percent, meaning there are ongoing fires in the forests there," Pekanbaru BMKG head Sukisno said, adding that the hot spots began to emerge on Saturday afternoon.

Hot spots across the entire island of Sumatra have increased from just two on Saturday morning to 120 by Sunday morning, including in Aceh, North Sumatra, West Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, Lampung and Bangka Belitung–with Riau recording the most hot spots.

Separately, National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) secretary-general Dody Ruswandi said the agency had deployed six helicopters to fight fires in Riau through water bombing. Ten more helicopters were used to eliminate fires in other provinces of Sumatra, including Jambi and South Sumatra.

Authorities across Sumatra are working hard to prevent hot spots from escalating into conflagrations that could disrupt the Asian Games, the opening ceremony of which will be held on Aug. 18 in Jakarta and Palembang, South Sumatra. (vny)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/12/hot-spots-increase-in-riau-ahead-of-asian-games.html

Lombok earthquake: new quake hits as death toll from earlier tremor tops

The Guardian - August 9, 2018

Kate Lamb in Jakarta and agencies – An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.2 has hit Indonesia's Lombok island, less than a week after a 6.9-magnitude tremor that is believed to have killed more than 300 people.

Thursday's earthquake struck just after midday, sending panicked residents into the streets. According to information from Indonesia's meteorology agency the epicentre of the quake was 6km north-west of the island with a depth of 12km.

Residents in the city of Mataram and north Lombok, the areas hardest hit this past week, panicked after Thursday's strong tremor, pouring out of their homes and evacuation posts. "There was one person who fell from the stairs because the tremor shook the stairs when they tried to get out of the building," Rangga, one local resident in central Lombok, told CNN Indonesia.

Thursday's was the biggest of 355 aftershocks since the 6.9-magnitude quake last Sunday, which displaced more than 154,000 people, many of whom have been sleeping in makeshift tents by the roadside and in their fields.

A short video posted by Indonesia's national disaster agency spokesperson, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, on his Twitter account showed that Thursday's quake has caused additional damage, with some buildings and power lines collapsed.

The full extent of the accumulative damage caused by the Thursday quake was not immediately known.

Indonesia's disaster and rescue agencies, as well as local officials and the military, which are coordinating on relief efforts, are still trying to work out the exact death toll caused by Sunday's powerful earthquake. Rescuers are continuing to retrieve bodies and attempting to get basic supplies such as food and water to the worst-hit areas.

Data from the national army has indicated that as many as 381 have died, while the governor of West Nusa Tenggara put the figure at 226, a number echoed by those from the search and rescue agency. The national disaster agency has reported 131 deaths so far.

The disaster agency spokesperson said it was not uncommon for confusion about exact deaths tolls to arise during emergency and crisis situations, as has occurred in previous natural disasters such as an earthquake in Padang in 2009 and the eruption of Mount Merapi in 2010.

Straddling an area of high volcanic activity known as the "Ring of Fire", Indonesia is highly prone to earthquakes.

This is the third large earthquake to strike Lombok in the past month. On 29 July, a 6.4-magnitude quake killed 17 people and briefly stranded hundreds of trekkers on the slopes of the volcano, Mount Rinjani.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/09/indonesia-earthquake-death-toll-nearly-triples

Health & education

Indonesia tops destination for international schools in Southeast Asia:

Jakarta Post - August 15, 2018

Jakarta – Indonesia remains a leading destination for international schools in Southeast Asia, according to ISC Research data announced on Tuesday.

The data, which was released ahead of the GESS Indonesia education exhibition and conference slated for Sept. 26-28 at the Jakarta Convention Center, shows Indonesia leading the region with 198, followed by Thailand with 192, Malaysia with 187, Singapore with 119 and Vietnam with 118.

"The growth of the international schools' sector in Indonesia is a testament to the far-reaching education reforms being undertaken by the government, with significant inputs from the private sector. We intend to support this development by gathering some of the world's leading experts to share their insights on the latest education trends," said the project director of GESS Indonesia organizer Tarsus F&E, Matt Thompson in a statement.

Additionally, the report reveals that student enrollment in Indonesia's international schools has also grown from 53,000 in 2013 to 61,000 in 2018.

"Mid-price range international schools are increasingly in demand, particularly by local families and Asian expatriates and this is where there is most growth in the market," said ISC Research's head of Southeast Asia research Sam Fraser.

As the world's fourth most populous country and the largest in Southeast Asia, Indonesia is considered a hotbed of opportunities for education-related UK companies, according to the British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA).

"Sixty percent of global growth is expected to come from Asia by 2025. Indonesia is part of ASEAN which has a free trade zone. It is also strategically placed to do business with China, Japan and Australia," said William Prieto-Parra, the head of events – UK & International at BESA.

GESS Indonesia is said to feature educational talks and workshops, including the latest technological advances as supporting tools for educators. It will also host discussions on bullying, creativity in classrooms, and adopting technical/vocation literacy in the early years.

Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/asean-plus/30352190

LGBT & same-sex marriage

Indonesian president's running mate called for LGBTI activities to be

Gay Star News - August 13, 2018

Calum Stuart – Human Rights Watch (HRW) expressed concern about the Indonesian president's running mate, who has a history of clamping down on LGBTI people.

Last week President Joko Widodo selected Ma'ruf Amin as his running mate for the 2019 presidential election. Amin is an influential figure in Islamic community.

In the past he has said that 'LGBTI people should be criminalized because of their "deviant behavior",' and has issued numerous fatwas against LGBTI activities.

'[Amin has] played a pivotal role in fuelling worsening discrimination against the country's religious and gender minorities,' the HRW said in a statement.

HRW said that Widodo's choice of a running mate raises serious questions about the president's commitment to human rights.

Clampdowns on LGBTI activities in Indonesia

Amin, a senior Islamic leader, has been the chairman of Indonesia's Ulama Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia, or MUI) since 2007.

In recent years, the MUI have launched various clampdowns on LGBTI activities in Indonesia, often calling for fatwas (religious edicts) against LGBTI groups.

In 2015, the MUI issued a fatwa calling for 'same-sex acts to be subject to punishments ranging from caning to the death penalty.' The fatwa also equated homosexuality with a 'curable disease,' and stated that same-sex sexual activities 'must be heavily punished'.

The group issued another fatwa in 2016, calling for the criminalization of LGBT activities. Amin said the fatwa was justified on the basis that 'homosexuality, whether lesbian or gay, and sodomy is legally haram and a form of crime.'

'That fatwa has helped fuel dangerous levels of anti-LGBT discrimination and led to arbitrary and unlawful raids by police and militant Islamists on private LGBT gatherings. These abuses have effectively derailed public health outreach efforts to populations vulnerable to HIV infection,' HRW said in their report.

Widodo's decision to pick Amin as his running mate can be read as a reaction to criticism leveled by his opponents.

Widodo has been accused of being too liberal, of not being 'not pious enough' and has been called a secret Christian by his opponents. The president's hope is that, through siding with the more hardline Amin, he can counter these criticisms.

'Whipping up an anti-LGBTI fury'

Indonesia's LGBTI rights record has been in a sharp decline over the last two years.

The Islamic nation has seen politicians and government officials 'whipping up the public into an anti-LGBTI fury', such as one minister saying 'the LGBT movement was more dangerous than a nuclear bomb', which has deeply affected the public's perception of LGBTI people and communities.

There has been an increase in clampdowns on LGBTI activities. Last month an alleged gay couple were publicly flogged in the conservative province of Aceh. The men were flogged 80 times in front of a cheering crowd.

The authorities have carried out numerous high-profile raids on LGBTI clubs. Police have also started claiming that carrying a condom is evidence of homosexuality, which has risked the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among Indonesia's LGBTI communities.

Human Rights Watch statement: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/08/10/indonesia-vice-presidential-candidate-has-anti-rights-record

Source: https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/indonesian-presidents-running-mate-called-for-lgbti-activities-to-be-criminalized/

Corruption & abuse of power

Minister Tjahjo finds thousands of corruption cases in his office

Tempo - August 15, 2018

M Rosseno Aji, Jakarta – The Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said the number of alleged corruption cases in his office rose during 2016-2017. It amounted to 1,924 cases, such as fictive reports, bribery, and gratification.

"The number of corruption cases handled by Home Affairs Ministry internally doesn't decline; yet increases," said Tjahjo at the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) building, Wednesday, August 15.

Tjahjo mentioned the cases were fund embezzlements (514 cases), authority abuses (514 cases), inflated budgets (399 cases), fake projects (61 cases), and budget misuses (229 cases) as well as 68 cases of bribery and gratification.

Tjahjo said the alleged corruption was committed by the ministry officials echelon I up to IV. The sanction had been imposed on the proved perpetrators. The lightest penalty is a mutation, while the heaviest is termination. "As many as 100 employees are sanctioned," he said.

The minister lamented such poor condition. He, in fact, along with the KPK's Prevention Deputy traveled throughout Indonesia to held the anti-graft counseling.

Tjahjo Kumolo further admitted the internal supervision in the Home Affairs Ministry and the regulation were not synchronized yet. "Especially on the sector related to the license or permit," he added.

Source: http://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/08/15/055920857/Minister-Tjahjo-Finds-Thousands-of-Corruption-Cases-in-His-Office

Jakarta & urban life

Jakarta generates up to 2,400 tons of plastic waste daily

Jakarta Post - August 10, 2018

Jakarta – Jakarta is pumping out between 1,900 and 2,400 tons of plastic trash every day, according to the city's environment agency.

"Jakarta produces 7,000 tons of garbage every day, with some 1,900 to 2,400 tons of it being plastic trash," agency head Isnawa Adji said during a plastic cleaning operation on Pramuka Island, Thousand Islands regency, on Friday as reported by kompas.com.

Given the situation, Isnawa said, Jakarta was now the second-largest producer of plastic waste in Indonesia. "And residents use plastic products in their daily lives," he added.

Isnawa stressed that plastics, being non-biodegradable, were particularly dangerous for marine life, which could accidentally consume or be entangled in waste products.

Such plastic waste can end up in humans, as demonstrated by a recent study by Ecological Observation and Wetlands Conservation, which found that around 80 percent of the fish they captured in the Brantas River in East Java had ingested plastic parts from disposable diapers. (nor)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/10/jakarta-generates-up-to-2400-tons-of-plastic-waste-daily.html

City's poor could be left without suitable housing after rusunawa budget

Jakarta Post - August 9, 2018

Jakarta – The Jakarta Housing and Settlement Agency has scrapped a budget of Rp 712 billion (US$4.9 million) for the development of three low-cost apartments (rusunawa), potentially leaving 14,000 low-income residents without proper housing.

The 14,000 residents had registered with the agency, the agency's acting head Meli Budiastuti said. However, some of the residents would be able to live 9,800 apartment units designated for low-income residents that were constructed in 2017, she added.

"As long as we don't have to accommodate residents who have been relocated [because of the administration's programs], the residents can live in those 9,800 units," Meli said on Thursday, as quoted by kompas.com.

The agency would ensure that only low-income residents lived in the apartments, she said.

Previously, the administration planned to develop apartments in Ujung Menteng and Pulogadung, East Jakarta, and renovate an apartment in Karang Anyar, Central Jakarta. However, the plan could not be executed because of the limited time frame for finishing the project.

Meli said that according to prevailing regulations, low-cost apartments could only be constructed through multi-year project schemes.

"We could not propose any multi-year projects because of the change of governor [last year]. The development of low-cost apartments must be conducted through a [multi-year] scheme via the issuance of a gubernatorial decree," Meli said.

The city administration's failure to build the low-cost housing has been met with criticism.

City councilor Bestari Barus lambasted the housing agency for failing to properly plan the construction. "We agreed to allocate a large budget for the project, but the agency failed to execute the plan." (cal)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/09/citys-poor-could-be-left-without-suitable-housing-after-rusunawa-budget-scrapped.html

Sport & recreation

Indonesia deploys 100,000-strong force to secure Asian Games, image

Associated Press - August 14, 2018

Stephen Wright, Jakarta – Indonesia is deploying 100,000 police and soldiers to provide security for the 2018 Asian Games, the biggest event ever held in its terror attack prone capital Jakarta, parts of which have been dramatically spruced up as the city readies to welcome tens of thousands of athletes and visitors.

The 18th Asian Games, which run until September 2, are being held in Jakarta, Palembang on the island of Sumatra, and in West Java. About 12,000 athletes, support staff and officials and 5000 journalists are expected.

It's the second time Indonesia has hosted the games. The first in 1962 was under the country's founding president Sukarno, who wanted to showcase Indonesia and himself as a leader of nations who would thrown off colonial Western rule.

This time, Indonesia, projected to be among the world's 10 biggest economies by 2030, wants to shift perceptions that it's in the too-hard basket and pave the way for an eventual tilt at even bigger sports hosting baubles.

All venues are finished and tested with only beautification work being carried out just days before Saturday's opening ceremony, said organising committee member and Sports Ministry Secretary Gatot Dewa Broto, who pronounced the facilities "extremely wonderful."

An opening ceremony involving 5000 performers is planned with a mythological theme, flying people and, indispensably in a country of dozens of active volcanoes, a mountain that erupts, albeit a "very small eruption," Dewa Broto said.

The official website says the games will be "inaugurated through a colossal ceremony as a way to show the world that Indonesia is a big nation that is capable of hosting an international event."

The games are being held at what is domestically a trying time for Indonesia. An earthquake on the island of Lombok last week killed more than 430 people and the country is beginning what's expected to be eight months of presidential election campaigning that trades on religious and ethnic divides. Any significant problems or successes at the Asian Games will reflect on the incumbent, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.

And despite a massive counter-terrorism crackdown since the 2002 Bali bombings, the past several years have seen increased activity by militants who've been reinvigorated by the extremism of the Islamic State group.

Local militants have carried out unsophisticated but still deadly attacks across Indonesia, including in Jakarta. Their ideological leader was sentenced to death in June and police have arrested more than 280 suspected militants and killed 21 following suicide bombings in the second-largest city Surabaya in May in which radicalise families used their young children as weapons.

The dispersion of venues is a particular challenge for security, requiring a huge number of personnel to manage everything from traffic to VIP security and terror threats, said Deputy National Police Chief Muhammad Syafruddin.

Some 100,000 police and soldiers are being deployed another 100,000 are on standby, said Syafruddin, who is also chef de mission of the Indonesian team.

"About three months ago we foiled a plot by a radical group who planned an attack during the games, but we were able to detect it and prevent it. We can say that our success in detecting possible attacks is quite significant," he said.

Indonesia had less than the usual amount of time to prepare after the original host country, Vietnam, withdrew because of financial problems. Known for some of the world's most congested traffic and creaking infrastructure, Jakarta initially seemed unprepared for the challenge of hosting a major sports event. But officials are confident everything is ready.

The country of more than 260 million people has spent $US2 billion ($2.7 billion) to upgrade its main stadium and connected venues, which were used for the 1962 Asian Games, and build a velodrome and equestrian centre in eastern Jakarta.

One of central Jakarta's two main thoroughfares has in the past few weeks become an almost unrecognisable boulevard of level footpaths and wide lanes after several years of subway construction – a city improvement being done independently of the games – was cleared away and its obstacle course-like footpaths repaved.

Many athletes and visitors will arrive through the international airport's gleaming new terminal three, another infrastructure improvement that was in the works before the games were awarded to Indonesia.

Tests of travel time between the athlete village and the main stadium show it's almost achieving the targeted 30 minutes, possibly helped by expansion of a policy that alternates the days vehicles can use certain roads based on having an odd or even number plate.

But not every problem can be solved to perfection. Just a few hundred meters from the revamped thoroughfare that passes the main stadium, long stretches of another significant artery are bounded by open drains and warped footpaths and divided by construction work for an elevated rail line.

A black and foul smelling river next to the athlete village eluded a permanent solution so it has been covered in special netting to hide the eyesore and diminish the odour.

Air quality has noticeably deteriorated in Jakarta this month, a thick haze hanging over the city most days. Organisers promise an improvement. Schools along the routes for athlete convoys will be closed to further reduce traffic and factories have been asked to go slow.

Organisers must also work hard to avoid scratching any of the sore diplomatic points between the 45 countries and territories competing.

Referring to the controversy over Indonesia's flag being printed upside down in publications for the Southeast Asian Games in Malaysia last year, Dewa Broto said Indonesia will be at pains to not be the country causing any offence.

"We don't have any intention to make any refunds for that one," he said. "We want to be a very good host country. We don't want to get any negative image during the games."

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/indonesia-deploys-100-000-strong-force-to-secure-asian-games-image-20180814-p4zxf3.html

Online 'ojek' drivers to stage rally despite fare increase

Jakarta Post - August 14, 2018

Jakarta – Ride-hailing app Go-Jek has increased its per kilometer fare for ojek (motorcycle taxi) drivers in Greater Jakarta, says a company representative.

Its chief of public policy and government relations, Shinto Nugroho, said the fares have been raised from around Rp 2,200 (15 US cents) to Rp 3,300 per kilometer, from Rp 1,600/km for short trips.

"The new fares apply outside rush hours," Shinto said as reported by kompas.com on Tuesday. Go-Jek is also giving drivers, who operate at night, an extra bonus.

Despite the increase, Two-Wheel Action Movement (Garda) leader Igun Wicaksono said the drivers still would not accept it. According to him, the drivers demanded that the company raise the fares from Rp 3,000 to Rp 4,000/km.

With the current fares, Igun added, the drivers often found it difficult to cover their operational expenses with their earnings, such as gas and maintenance. "We will not stop [protesting for higher fares] until they accept our request," Igun said on Tuesday.

"We are still waiting on the company's goodwill gesture for the Asian Games," he added, saying the drivers planned to stage a rally on the same day as the Games' opening ceremony, which will be held on Saturday.

Go-Jek's competitor, Grab, is one of the Games' sponsors. (vla)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/14/online-ojek-drivers-to-stage-rally-despite-fare-increase.html

Public minibuses banned from business hub during Asian Games

Jakarta Post - August 11, 2018

Jakarta – The Jakarta Transportation Agency has banned minibuses from Jl. Sudirman and Jl. MH Thamrin in Central Jakarta, the city's busiest business hub, throughout the Asian Games.

The transportation agency tweeted through its twitter handle on Thursday that Kopaja P19, Metromini P15 and Metromini S640 minibuses would be rerouted to South Jakarta roads that run parallel to Central Jakarta from Aug. 10 to Sept. 10.

The policy is the latest in the city's quick fixes to beautify Jakarta ahead of the prestigious Games next week. The green-and-white Kopaja buses and orange-and-blue Metromini are generally dilapidated, highly pollutive public modes of transportation with notoriously reckless drivers.

"We will enforce this ban every day [for the Asian Games] to ensure proper traffic conditions," commented Jakarta Transportation Agency deputy head Sigit Wijatmoko on Monday as reported by kompas.com. (nor)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/10/public-minibuses-banned-from-business-hub-during-asian-games.html

Online ojeks say Asian Games opening strike still on despite Grab tariff

Coconuts Jakarta - August 9, 2018

Regional ride-sharing giant Grab is an official partner of the Asian Games, which opens next week on August 18. However, there is a chance that a significant portion of Grab's motorcycle taxi fleet will be spending that day demonstrating rather than taking passengers over the drivers' unmet demands for a tariff increase.

Partner drivers for both Grab and home-born ride-sharing unicorn Go-Jek have held numerous protests over the last few months to demand a wage of IDR3,000 (US$0.25) per kilometer wage rather than the IDR1,600 per kilometer they average now. A meeting on Friday between members of the Two-Wheel Action Movement Presidium (Garda), a union representing motorcycle taxi drivers, met with representatives of the two companies for negotiations but, without any firm promises of a rate hike from either Grab or Go-Jek, Garda reps said the strike would still happen.

However, this week Grab announced that they would raise the minimum charge for each GrabBike trip from IDR5,000 to IDR7,000 which they claimed would raise the per kilometer rate for short-haul trips from IDR1,600 to IDR2,300 (however the company claimed the rate hike was not related to the Asian Games opening strike but rather a result of their normal algorithmically determined rate adjustments).

Garda representative Igun Wicaksono said that Grab's increase was not as much as they claimed and that it was not enough to prevent them from striking.

"[Grab officials] say the tariff went up based on Grab's own algorithm. However, the facts are on the ground and the basic tariff is still in the range of IDR1,200-IDR1,800 per kilometer," Igun told Kompas today, adding that they would not settle for less than IDR3,000.

Igun said that Garda was still awaiting word from Go-Jek, which said they would consider a tariff hike following last Friday's meeting. If they increased their fare significantly, Igun said they would consider discouraging their drivers from demonstrating.

During a major demonstration in front of the Presidential Palace in April involving thousands of drivers, President Joko Widodo himself met with representatives from the driver's side and instructed his transportation and IT ministers to meet with representatives of Go-Jek and Grab to find a solution. The companies made tentative promises to increase their tariffs upon review, but have yet to make any major rate hikes, claiming that increases in fares would lead to lower demand and lower overall salaries for drivers.

Both Go-Jek and Grab have raised billions of dollars in investments to fuel their competition for market share in Indonesia and throughout the region, with Go-Jek raising over USD1 billion this year alone from numerous investors including Google.

Criminal justice & legal system

E. Java village chief allegedly stood by as mob burned thief alive

Coconuts Jakarta - August 14, 2018

Cases of horrific mob violence are not that rare in Indonesia, and stories of alleged thieves being beaten to death and even burned alive have made many headlines in the past (though rarely have they led to arrests or serious punishments for the vigilantes).

But a recent case of an alleged motorcycle thief who was set on fire by a mob in Probolinggo, East Java, has proven particularly disturbing due to accusations that the head of the village in which it took place allowed and even encouraged the brutal murder.

The head of Tlogosari Village, a man named Saton, finally came to the Probolinggo Police Station on Saturday night at around midnight, accompanied by his relatives, after police had been trying to summon him for five days.

Saton was summoned in relation to the death of a 40-year-old man named Samhadi, who was brutally beaten and then set on fire in Tlogosari Village on July 9. Police arrested seven people in connection with Samhadi's death and during the course of their investigation several people said that Saton had explicitly allowed it to take place and even took part to a degree.

"So, based on the information we got from our investigation, the Tiogosari Village Chief was among the citizens (involved in Samhadi's death). He even armed himself with an air rifle, in anticipation of the perpetrator running away," said Probolinggo Police Chief Fadly Samad on Friday as quoted by Detik.

Police said that one suspect, identified by his initial A, admitted to killing Samhadi along with several others after he was caught trying to steal a motorcycle. A said that the village head gave them his permission, with Saton even saying that he would take responsibility for everything that happened.

After turning himself in, Saton was immediately interrogated by investigators. Police said he had been named a suspect in the case but have not yet announced further steps against the village head while the investigation is still ongoing.

While cases of mob justice often go unpunished in Indonesia, things seems to be getting better in recent years. One example relevant to this case involved a young couple in Depok that were accused by self-proclaimed moral vigilantes of having premarital sex (they weren't, not that it matters) on November 11.

The two were then beaten, stripped naked and paraded through their neighborhood, video of which went viral online. The couple's neighborhood chief (RT) was among the perpetrators of the awful crime and he eventually received a 5-year sentence for his actions.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/e-java-village-chief-allegedly-stood-mob-burned-thief-alive-carried-air-rifle-case-ran-away/

Jokowi picks Enny Nurbaningsih as new MK justice

Jakarta Post - August 13, 2018

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has appointed Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University (UGM) legal expert Enny Nurbaningsih as a Constitutional Court justice to replace the court's first and only female justice, Maria Farida Indrati.

Enny was sworn in at the State Palace on Monday. She is set to take the bench after Maria ends her second and final term on Aug. 13.

Enny was formerly the head of the Law and Human Rights Ministry's National Law Development Agency (BPHN). Enny led the government's team in the deliberation of the recently passed 2018 Terrorism Law.

Enny also headed the government team tasked with formulating the revision of the country's 70-year-old Criminal Code.

Jokowi picked Enny out of two other female candidates proposed by the selection team, including Ni'matul Huda, a law professor at Yogyakarta's Indonesian Islamic University, and Susi Dwi Harijanti, a senior lecturer at Padjadjaran University in Bandung. (rin)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/13/jokowi-picks-enny-nurbaningsih-as-new-mk-justice.html

Foreign affairs & trade

Indonesia considers reducing imports of 500 consumer goods

Jakarta Post - August 15, 2018

Marchio Irfan Gorbiano, Jakarta – Finance Minister Sri Mulyani said on Tuesday the Finance Ministry, together with the Industry Ministry and Trade Ministry, would team up to identify more than 500 imported consumer goods that could be replaced by local substitutes.

The Finance Ministry's fiscal policy head Suahasil Nazara said the import reduction measures for consumer goods were under discussion and that the ministry would issue a regulation on the matter.

"We are signaling that imported consumer goods that have locally-produced substitutes would be identified for an additional import income tax or duty," he said.

Indonesia imported consumer goods worth US$8.18 billion during the first half, up 21.64 percent compared to $6.73 billion over the same period last year, data from the Central Statistics Agency show.

Despite the increase, consumer goods represented a relatively small share of the country's total imports at 9.19 percent, compared to the share of raw materials and capital goods at 74.67 percent and 16.14 percent respectively.

The rupiah appreciated slightly by 0.16 percent to Rp 14,584 per United States dollar on Tuesday from Rp 14,615 a day earlier. After depreciating in the past few months, the rupiah is facing new pressures from global concerns that Turkey, also an emerging market, is heading toward a serious crisis.

Meanwhile, the current account deficit widened to $8 billion in the second quarter from $5.7 billion a quarter earlier. The latest figure was equal to 3 percent of the country's GDP.

The deficit in the current account means the country imported more goods and services compared to those it exported, adding to currency vulnerabilities as it needs foreign capital to fulfill demand in the domestic foreign exchange market. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/15/indonesia-considers-reducing-imports-of-500-consumer-goods.html

Trade deficit swells to US$2.03b in July

Jakarta Post - August 15, 2018

Rachmadea Aisyah, Jakarta – High imports of oil and gas, consumer goods and raw materials dragged the trade deficit to US$2.03 billion in July; the largest deficit recorded this year, according to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).

Indonesia recorded a trade surplus of US$1.74 billion in June. The BPS said on Wednesday that an increase in exports had not been able to balance soaring imports.

Imports increased 62.17 percent from June to $18.27 billion, which was also 31.56 percent growth year-on-year (yoy).

Imports of consumer goods rose even higher than overall imports to $1.72 billion, up 70.50 percent month-to-month (mtm), followed by raw and auxiliary material imports to $13.67 billion, a 59.28 percent increase mtm, said BPS head Suhariyanto.

"That is hopefully an indication that [imports] will be able to boost investment and economic growth," Suhariyanto said Wednesday in Jakarta.

Meanwhile, exports in July increased 25.19 percent from June and 19.33 percent yoy at $16.24 billion, helped by non-oil and gas exports, which had increased by 31.18 percent to $14.81 billion.

Indonesia's trade balance has been suffering this year, having only recorded a trade surplus in March and June, owing to high global oil prices and strengthening of the United States dollar. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/15/trade-deficit-swells-to-us2-3b-in-july.html

Mining & energy

Energy investment less than half of target

Jakarta Post - August 13, 2018

Stefanno Reinard Sulaiman, Jakarta – In the first half of this year, Indonesia booked US$9.48 billion in investment in the energy and mineral resources sector, only 25 percent of the full-year target of $37.2 billion.

The oil and gas sector contributed the most to the total investment at $5.11 billion, followed by electricity at $2.83 billion.

Meanwhile, the mining and renewable energy sectors recorded a respective $790 million and $750 million in the first half.

Responding to the results, the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry said in a presentation made available to The Jakarta Post that global energy prices had become one of the main challenges in the past three years.

"The focus ahead is to continue with efforts that simplify regulations, strengthen investment facilities and speed up the process of making strategic decisions," the ministry said in the presentation.

Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry spokesman Agung Pribadi told the press last Friday that investment in oil and gas would jump significantly in the second half, as was typical.

"The pattern of oil and gas investments can't be seen in a period of months. We should wait for progress until year-end, during which we expect to reach the target," he said.

Meanwhile, Upstream Oil and Gas Regulatory Special Task Force (SKKMigas) spokesperson Wisnu Prabawa Taher said that many activities at oil and gas blocks were still in progress and the result of investments would be seen by the end of the year.

"Investment realization will increase in the fourth quarter and the results will be seen with payment realization," he said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/13/energy-investment-less-than-half-of-target.html

Economy & investment

FDI declines in Q2, investors wary of weakening rupiah, trade war

Jakarta Globe - August 15, 2018

Adinda Normala, Jakarta – Foreign direct investment in Indonesia declined by 12.9 percent to Rp 95.7 trillion ($6.66 billion) in the second quarter, compared with the same period last year, the Investment Coordinating Board, or BKPM, said on Tuesday (14/08).

The board cited the weakening rupiah and a possible negative impact of the trade war between China and the United States as investors take a wait-and-see approach.

Azhar Lubis, deputy chairman for investment control and implementation at BKPM, said this was the first quarterly contraction since 2013. In the first quarter last year, FDI realization stood at Rp 109.9 trillion.

Combined with the first quarter FDI realization, which stood at at Rp 108.9 trillion, investment realization in January-June was Rp 204.6 trillion.

"Amid uncertainties, investment usually slows down. Investors are now in wait-and-see mode," BKPM chairman Thomas Lembong told reporters on Tuesday.

BKPM's data excludes investment in the banking and oil and gas sectors.

The rupiah declined to its lowest since October 2015, standing at 14,625 a dollar on Monday morning, and weakened further to 14,630 a dollar by 12:42 p.m., according to Reuters' spot exchange rate.

Full-year target at risk?

Singapore remains the biggest source of investment, with $2.4 billion, followed by Japan, China and Hong Kong. Sectors that received the biggest investment were mining, industry, estate, utilities, metallurgy and transportation.

Meanwhile, domestic direct investment (DDI) grew 32.1 percent to Rp 80.6 trillion, compared with the same period last year. Most of the DDI was in transportation, mining, the food industry, utilities and plantations.

With weak FDI in the second quarter and careful investors, the board said the FDI target of Rp 477.4 trillion this year may be hard to reach.

"Unless we can stabilize or convince the market and investors that the rupiah has achieved stability, investors will tend to wait and see or delay [their investment]. Rupiah stability is important for investment sentiment," Thomas said.

The government's plans to reduce imports of raw materials and capital goods to help narrow the current account deficit gap and prop up rupiah value by delaying some infrastructure projects, also pose threats to investment.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/fdi-declines-in-q2-investors-wary-of-weakening-rupiah-trade-war/

Investment growth recorded at 3.1 percent in second quarter

Jakarta Post - August 14, 2018

Rachmadea Aisyah, Jakarta – The Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) announced on Tuesday that investment growth was recorded at 3.1 percent year-on-year (yoy) in the second quarter, compared to 12 percent yoy in the corresponding period, last year.

Second quarter investment reached Rp 176.3 trillion (US$12.05 billion), 4.9 percent lower than investment in the previous quarter, which stood at Rp 185.3 trillion.

With the latest figure, total investment from January to June reached Rp 361.6 trillion, less than half the total annual target of Rp 765 trillion.

Speaking during a press conference, BKPM head Thomas Lembong said the slowdown would likely continue amid the rupiah volatility, current-account deficit and trade deficit, putting investors in wait-and-see mode. However, he said, his office would not change the investment target for the next six months.

"With the ongoing slowdown, of course the attempts to achieve the 2018 target will become harder. However, I believe the government will never stop introducing breakthrough measures to counter the negative effects of currency and emerging nations' stock market instability," he added (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/14/investment-growth-recorded-at-3-1-percent-in-second-quarter.html

Business expects stability ahead of 2019 election after candidates pick

Jakarta Globe - August 10, 2018

Sarah Yuniarni, Adinda Normala & Amal Ganesha, Jakarta – The business sector expects calm and stability to prevail in the period leading up to next year's presidential and legislative elections, following announcements by the two main candidates of their running mates on Thursday (09/08).

Incumbent President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has shown an eagerness to lean towards conservative Islam with his pick of Islamic scholar Ma'ruf Amin, the head of Indonesia Ulama Council (MUI).

Jokowi will have a rematch with his rival, Prabowo Subianto, who has picked Jakarta Deputy Governor Sandiaga Uno as his running mate. The private-equity tycoon ran a successful campaign in a religiously charged gubernatorial election in the capital last year against the incumbent, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama – a Christian of Chinese descent.

"This is the president's choice and we need to support him. The choice will be positive for the upcoming term, as Ma'aruf will be able to ensure that the country's political climate remains peaceful. He can calm the ummah. As a cleric, that is his obligation," said Benny Soetrisno, trade chief at the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo).

The business sector has lauded Jokowi's efforts to remove structural barriers, such as poor infrastructure and notorious red tape, which have long hampered economic progress in the country. But the president, who is widely expected to win a second term next year, has been struggling to accelerate Indonesia's economic growth amid threats of a global trade war and a monetary tightening cycle in the United States, which has seen the rupiah weaken against the dollar.

"From our discussions with corporations and policy makers, it is clear that the currency is seen as a key determinant of 'on-the-ground' confidence and a willingness to invest," Sean Gardiner and Aarti Shah, analysts at multinational investment banking Morgan Stanley, wrote in a report published on Wednesday.

"During periods of currency weakness, monies are left offshore or held in US dollars onshore, which tends to lead to a pause in the investment cycle and vice versa. Furthermore, businesses are broadly reliant on imports for their sales, which affects profitability," they said.

Any signs of political instability would hurt foreign sentiment and encourage investors to flee. And since they hold the lion's share of blue-chip stocks and bonds, that would cause further pressure on the rupiah.

"Market players expect sustainability in the business environment and stability in the financial market to be maintained, given that global investors tend to have a positive perception of the current government," said Josua Pardede, an economist at Bank Permata.

"The choice of Ma'ruf as Jokowi's running mate... indicates that significant changes in economic policies are less likely," Joshua added.

Ma'ruf, 75, is highly respected among traditional Muslims in Indonesia. He is a descendant of Abu Abdul Mu'ti Muhammad Nawawi, a prominent Islamic priest from Banten, who was an imam at the Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca. Ma'ruf graduated from Tebuireng Islamic Boarding School, one of the largest and most respected in the country.

He served as a United Development Party (PPP) lawmaker between 1971 and 1982 and represented the National Awakening Party (PKB) in the national legislature between 1997 and 2004.

However, Human Rights Watch researcher Andreas Harsono told Reuters that Ma'ruf, as head of the MUI, had overseen a rise in religious intolerance across Indonesia, a pluralist country with significant minority communities.

"He issued fatwas condemning religious and gender minorities like the Ahmadiyya and LGBT individuals at a time they were subject to violent assaults," he said.

"The creation of so-called religious harmony forums across the country; these forums replaced the principle of religious freedom, stoked division and favored the majority Sunni Muslim community."

Ma'ruf also gave key testimony during Ahok's blasphemy trial last year.

Still, Theo L Sambuaga, deputy chairman of Golkar Party's advisory board, said during his time as a lawmaker, Ma'ruf displayed a strong spirit of nationalism and patriotism and showed a willingness to maintain good relations with various religious leaders and communities.

"Pak Kiai Ma'ruf is always nurturing. Far from the type that consciously exploit religious and ethnic tensions," Theo said.

The local stock market reacted positively to the announcement of vice-presidential candidates. The Jakarta Composite Index gained 0.6 percent on Friday morning, in contrast to other indices in the region, such as Japan's Nikkei, which was down 0.5 percent and Singapore's Strait Times, which dropped by 1.1 percent.

The rupiah also strengthened to its highest level so far this month, trading at 14,422 against the dollar, according to Bank Indonesia data.

"With the presence of Ma'ruf Amin, who is highly respected by the ulema and political figures, Jokowi will find it easier to deal with problems inside and outside the legislature, allowing him to focus on his economic programs during his second term, when many infrastructure projects will start to have an impact on the economy.

This will allow the Indonesian economy to show more promise over the next five years and I'm sure investors can see this," said Piter Abdullah, a Jakarta-based economist at the Center of Reforms on Economics (CORE).

– Additional reporting by Reuters

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/business-expects-stability-ahead-of-2019-election-after-candidates-pick-running-mates/

Banking & finance

Bank Indonesia raises key rate by 25 bps to 5.5 percent

Jakarta Post - August 15, 2018

Marchio Irfan Gorbiano, Jakarta – Bank Indonesia (BI) raised its key rate on Wednesday in a move to maintain the competitiveness of the domestic financial market and to rein in swelling deficit in the current account.

Following a two-day board of governors meeting, the central bank raised its seven-day reverse repo rate by 25 basis points (bps) to 5.5 percent. The deposit and lending facilities have also been raised by 25 bps to 4.75 and 6.25 percent, respectively.

"The decision was consistent with efforts to maintain the attractiveness of the domestic financial market and to control the current account deficit at a safe level," BI Governor Perry Warjiyo told the press.

Perry added that the central bank had maintained its hawkish stance, while saying the central bank continued to monitor prospects in the global and domestic economy to strengthen its policy mix response to maintain the stability of financial systems.

BI also noted increasing volatility in the global market with increasing risks that the economic turmoil in Turkey could spread, Perry said, adding that the United States Federal Reserve was also set to continue with its tightening stance.

"BI continues to watch the external risks, including the possibility of spreading the effect from Turkey – although Indonesia's economic resiliency is believed to be strong, supported by healthy fundamental indicators and strong policy commitments," he said. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/15/bank-indonesia-raises-key-rate-by-25-bps-to-5-25-percent.html

Government debt reaches Rp 4.25 quadrillion in July

Jakarta Post - August 15, 2018

Jakarta – The Finance Ministry recorded Rp 4.25 quadrillion (US$290.33 billion) of government debt in July, slightly higher than the figure in the previous month, said Finance Ministry financing and risk director general Luky Alfirman on Tuesday.

He said the figure was equal to 29.74 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), lower than 29.79 percent in the previous month.

The realization of debt financing in July reached Rp 205.6 trillion, or 51.5 percent of the target in the state budget, which was set at Rp 399.2 trillion, he said.

Up to July, the government's debt paper (SBN) issuance had reached 61.3 percent of the target in the state budget, with a total value of Rp 221.9 trillion, Luky added.

"It is still on the track up to the end of the year," he said, as quoted by kompas.com, adding that SBN issuance had tended to decrease since 2016.

The government collected Rp 312.5 trillion from SBN issuance in 2016 and Rp 307.6 trillion in 2017, he said, adding that this was in line with the government's program to reduce government debt, manage cash-flow and control financial market volatility. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/15/government-debt-reaches-rp-4-25-quadrillion-in-july.html

Indonesian shares plunge amid rout in emerging market currencies, stocks

Jakarta Globe - August 13, 2018

Karthika Suresh Namboothiri, Jakarta – Indonesian shares plummeted on Monday (13/08) in their worst drop in nearly two years as emerging market currencies faced a deep selloff, causing a market rout across Southeast Asia.

The Turkish lira and the Indian rupee plunged to all-time lows on Monday, while the rupiah slid to a near three-year low.

"Emerging markets have very weak current-account balance, which would have very negative impact," said Taye Shim, head of research at Jakarta-based Mirae Asset Sekuritas.

"That is prompting investors to reassess their investment thesis on emerging markets as we really don't know how it is going to play out."

The lira has lost about 45 percent of its value against the dollar this year, largely over worries about President Tayyip Erdogan's influence over the economy, his repeated calls for lower interest rates in the face of high inflation and deteriorating ties with the United States.

The lira's drop unnerved global investors, with MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan shedding as much as 1.6 percent on Monday. Indonesian shares slumped more than 3 percent, marking their steepest intraday percentage drop since November 2016.

The rupiah also plunged 0.9 percent on Monday to its weakest since October 2015, after data showed on Friday that the country's current-account deficit, a major concern for global emerging market investors, swelled to the largest in nearly four years in the second quarter.

Bank Indonesia is intervening to defend the rupiah, a senior official said on Monday. Financials led the losses in the stocks, with Bank Central Asia and Bank Mandiri sliding as much as 3.5 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively.

The index of the country's 45 most liquid stocks dropped nearly 4 percent. The Philippines also plunged by 2 percent, marking its worst drop since June 22. SM investments Corp dropped over 2.7 percent, while real estate developer Ayala Land fell 3.6 percent.

Singapore shares dropped 1.4 percent to their lowest in nearly four weeks, dragged down largely by financials. Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp fell as much as 2.3 percent while DBS Group Holdings hit a five-week low.

Singapore's economy grew slower than initial estimates in the April-June period on a quarter-on-quarter basis, revised data showed on Monday, as the government flagged a likely moderation in growth in the second half. Thailand was closed for a holiday.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/indonesian-shares-plunge-amid-rout-in-emerging-market-currencies-stocks/

Indonesia's Widodo defends falling currency in unconventional ways

Nikkei Asian Review - August 11, 2018

Shotaro Tani, Jakarta – Indonesian President Joko Widodo is deploying series of defensive tactics – some rather unconventional ones – to prevent the sell-off of the country's currency, the rupiah, in financial markets.

He has already ordered one measure to boost the consumption of locally produced palm-oil biodiesel fuels to push out imported fuels and is reportedly considering cutting back on his signature infrastructure projects to suppress imports of construction materials.

The Indonesian rupiah has been one of the worst-performing currencies in Southeast Asia in 2018, as the U.S. Federal Reserve continues with a series of interest rate hikes. A falling rupiah could translate into higher inflation, something that Widodo does not want as he aims for re-election next year.

"The country needs dollars," the president stressed to cabinet ministers at a special meeting in late July, dubbed the "Strategy of Policy to Increase Foreign Exchange Reserve." This is reported to be the sixth time that cabinet ministers have met since the beginning of July to discuss the situation of the declining rupiah.

"Imports must be evaluated. Imports for nonstrategic goods should be stopped or reduced," Widodo said at the meeting.

Widodo on Thursday officially announced he would seek a second term as president, and picked an Islamic scholar as his running mate. His main rival, Prabowo Subianto, also declared his candidacy to set the stage for the general election in April.

One plan Widodo wants to "immediately implement" is expanding the so-called B20 biodiesel program. The government plans to extend this program, which demands subsidized diesel engine vehicles or public service vehicles like railways to use 20% biodiesel blended into regular diesel to boost the consumption of locally produced palm-oil-based biodiesel.

The measure would result in curbing the imports of other kinds of fuel. According to the Cabinet Secretariat, it "can save foreign exchange from fuel imports amounting to $21 million per day."

With Indonesia the world's top producer of palm oil, such a policy brings the added bonus of supporting the more than 17 million employees in the sector – a potential vote booster come election time.

"The government has mentioned that the use of biodiesel could save up to $4 billion in oil imports, which is around 0.4% of [gross domestic product]. At the margin, this would help the rupiah, all else [being] equal," said Nupur Gupta, an economist at Goldman Sachs based in Singapore.

Indonesia has seen its currency fall as much as 7% against the U.S. dollar this year, as investors have taken funds out of emerging markets and moved them back to the U.S. amid rising interest rates in the world's largest economy. Bank Indonesia, the country's central bank, has had to raise its key interest rate three times since the start of May to tackle the outflow of funds, as well as intervene regularly in the currency market.

But after a 100 basis points rate rise and a 9% depletion in foreign reserves over the first half of this year, the rupiah is still trading near its lowest level in three years against the dollar, at around 14,500 rupiah.

As things stand, further rate hikes by the central bank have the potential to damage the economy, as banks have started talking about the need to increase their lending rates to adjust for the central bank rate increases. Noticing the limitations of conventional measures, Widodo is getting creative.

Indonesia runs a persistent current-account deficit – the central bank estimates it will widen by $8 billion this year to $25 billion – which has constantly weighed on the rupiah. Widodo believes that by skewing the country's trade balance more to the surplus, he can change the country's economic fundamentals and support the rupiah.

Another plan being touted is the increase in the use of local capital goods in infrastructure projects. That Indonesia's current-account deficit has widened is partly attributable to the increase in imports of infrastructure project related capital goods, and the Indonesian government wants to substitute that with locally manufactured goods. "Keep supporting the growth of import substitution industry," the president has told cabinet ministers.

There have even been reports that he is contemplating cutting back on infrastructure projects to curb imports of goods produced overseas. While there has been no confirmation of such a shift, a recently released list of infrastructure projects that the government is prioritizing included 227 projects, down from 248 a year earlier.

But, to Rohit Garg, Emerging Asia FI/FX strategist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in Singapore, these measures are "not the most important thing" for Indonesia. "The Indonesian rupiah is currently facing deprecation pressures mainly due to the external environment which is higher U.S. dollar rates, strong U.S. dollar and a weaker Chinese yuan," he said. "There are definitely attempts by the Indonesian policymakers to keep a lid on its current-account deficit... At the moment, the evolution of such external factors is more important."

Source: https://asia.nikkei.com/Economy/Indonesia-s-Widodo-defends-falling-currency-in-unconventional-ways

Analysis & opinion

Eye on re-election, Widodo plays the Islam card

Asia Times - August 14, 2018

John McBeth, Jakarta – In a country with the world's largest Muslim population of over 228 million adherents, it might seem odd that Indonesian President Joko Widodo is worried about the Islamic vote at next April's simultaneous presidential and legislative elections.

But his controversial choice of aging conservative cleric Ma'ruf Amin as his 2019 running mate is a clear sign it has weighed heavily on him in the 16 months since primordial forces brought down his political ally, ethnic Chinese and Christian Jakarta governor Basuki Purnama, on blasphemy charges.

While there is no doubting that Indonesia will not be ready for a non-Muslim president for decades to come, most opinion polls show that once past that underlying consideration Indonesian voters regard devout religiosity as a minor factor in their choice of a candidate.

Recent local election results and other anecdotal evidence suggest opposition efforts to make the president appear un-Islamic have been largely ineffective. But by choosing the 75-year-old Amin over Mohammad Mahfud Mahmodin, 61, a former chief justice of the Constitutional Court, Widodo is not taking any chances.

His selection of a doctrinaire religious figure to serve as his potential deputy in the executive branch sets a precedent which secularists fear may become a blueprint for future elections.

While Amin may be an expert in Islamic banking and economics, he has none of the worldliness and business savvy of incumbent Jusuf Kalla in an age when the vice president is expected to do more than pour the tea.

As chairman of the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI), the nation's top Muslim clerical body and supreme leader of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia's largest mass Muslim organization, Amin has far superior religious credentials to Mahfud.

It's a point that was impressed upon Widodo at a last-hour meeting of his coalition partners, six of whom hold parliamentary seats. Among them, the United Development (PPP) and National Awakening (PKB) parties are both closely affiliated to the NU and its claimed 90 million-strong membership.

"It got to a point where the president thought his own spiritual credibility was on the line," says one veteran politician. "He lost his nerve and succumbed to the pressures."

Some of that pressure apparently came from Amin himself. The day before the nomination announcement on August 9 he was quoted as warning Widodo that if he persisted with Mahfud, then regarded as the front-runner, "then we (presumably referring to NU) will say wassalam, Arabic for "goodbye.'"

Sources in Widodo's circle could provide little insight into the thinking behind the decision and why the selection process had dragged on until the final hours. As one senior official put it resignedly: "That is the real Indonesian political landscape today."

With Amin on board, Widodo may well split the conservative Muslim vote and ward off efforts by hard-liners to attack his Muslim credentials and repeat unfounded but damning allegations that his parents belonged to the outlawed Indonesian Communist Party. But he also runs the risk of diminishing his standing among his own wide range of supporters who might now be tempted to abstain from voting.

Ironically, Widodo's dramatic change of horses came at the same time as the 11th hour collapse of a budding opposition alliance between Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) leader Prabowo Subianto and former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's Democrat Party.

Rejecting Yudhoyono's son, Agus Harimurti, as his vice presidential candidate, Prabowo instead plucked Jakarta vice governor and wealthy businessman Sandiaga Uno seemingly from nowhere in a puzzling effort to placate his two other allies, the Justice and Prosperity (PKS) and National Mandate (PAN) parties.

The Democrats will stay with Prabowo, following National Election Commission (KPU) rules that require parties to join one coalition or the other. But one Yudhoyono aide claimed they were totally blindsided by the move to ditch Harimurti, which was taken without any prior consultation.

"It came out of the blue. We don't know what happened," he said, denying claims that Yudhoyono had annoyed Prabowo and his coalition partners by actively pushing his son's candidacy. "That's the mystery. Up to two days ago everything was fine."

Sources close to Prabowo said the ex-president had refused an offer of eight Cabinet seats as a trade-off for leaving Harimurti off the ticket. But what puzzles those around him is that Prabowo had not once previously mentioned Uno as a possible candidate, saying at one point he did not have the temperament for top-level politics.

The former vice governor has already reportedly committed one trillion rupiah (US$69 million) to the campaign, a sizeable chunk of his personal wealth, and will no doubt have to spend a lot more now that Yudhoyono is unlikely to loosen his own substantial purse strings.

Widodo sought to put a brave face on his choice of Amin, describing him as a wise religious leader with vast experience as a former PPP and PKB lawmaker going back to the birth of president Suharto's New Order era in the early 1970s.

Muhammad Romahurmuzly, chairman of the Sharia-based PPP, said the new team represented what he called a nationalist-religious ticket. "We, party leaders, were looking for figures that represented religiosity who can reduce hatred in social media."

But that has only added to the wave of disappointment among educated voters and ethnic minorities, who recall Amin's role as Yudhoyono's adviser when MUI issued a religious edict in 2005 against secularism, pluralism and liberalism that called into question Indonesia's reputation for tolerance.

Amin also added his voice to a highly inflammatory 2008 fatwa banning the propagation of teachings by the ostracized Muslim sect Ahmadiyah, which served as justification for a series of bloody mob attacks against its small minority of followers, where police played the role of onlookers.

Established in 1975, MUI is a quasi-government agency that issues fatwas and helps shape government policy in Islamic matters. It has hundreds of offices across Indonesia and its board comprises representatives of all of the country's Sunni Muslim organizations.

In early 2005, Yudhoyono made it clear he had placed MUI in a central role in matters of Islamic faith "so that it becomes clear what the difference is between areas that are the preserve of the state and areas where the government or state should heed the fatwa from the MUI and ulema."

That handed control of religion and its impacts on public life to a conservative lobby that went on to strike further blows at the trappings of secular Indonesia, issuing edicts against Valentine's Day and even seeking to forbid Muslims – including the president – from attending Christmas Day celebrations.

The move was then roundly criticized by Azyumardi Azra, the respected head of the National Islamic University's graduate school, who had previously served as Vice President Kalla's religious and social affairs adviser: "The MUI is not a state institution and its fatwas should not be regarded as laws."

It wasn't just fatwas. Human Rights Watch documents the cases of at least 120 people who have been convicted of blasphemy over the past 14 years. Although the so-called blasphemy law has been on the statute books since 1965, and is part of the Criminal Code, it was rarely used until Yudhoyono took power.

Amin's declaration in October 2016 that Purnama had committed blasphemy by trying to re-interpret a verse in the Koran set in train events that led to the creation of the 212 Movement, the right-wing coalition that destroyed his high-flying career and left Widodo deeply worried that his ally's demise would cast a shadow over his own political future.

The influential cleric was also an expert prosecution witness at the outgoing governor's heavily criticized blasphemy trial that sent Purnama to jail for two years – a term that will end only days after next April's presidential and parliamentary elections.

One of the earlier candidates on Widodo's short list was Golkar Party chairman and Industry Minister Airlangga Hartarto, who will remain a key ally when the president is still widely expected to win a second term.

But Hartarto was dropped as a vice president candidate after a ruling coalition meeting in Bogor several weeks ago, where the president decided on a non-party candidate to avoid ruffling political feathers. That appeared to leave Mahfud and two-term West Nusa Tenggara governor Zainul Majdi, 46, a progressive Egyptian-educated Islamic scholar, as his two remaining choices.

Amin only appeared to arrive on the scene in late July when Koran Tempo published a front-page story quoting him as saying that he was willing to stand beside Widodo. "We, the clerics," he said, "should be ready if the state calls on us."

It remains to be seen what influence he would have on a new government's policy, particularly the pending Halal Law, a draconian measure pushed by MUI and passed in the final days of the Yudhoyono administration which requires halal certification for everything from foodstuffs and cosmetics to pharmaceuticals, clothing and even car-seat covers.

The president refused to give his approval for the law, assigning Kalla and government legal experts to work on a revision to the potentially disastrous law. The Health Ministry and worried businessman alike say it isn't workable in practice and an invitation to rampant bribery.

While he may have slightly tempered his views since becoming NU's supreme leader in 2015, Amin has been hard to read, supporting the Pancasila state secular ideology and NU's pluralistic Islam Nusantara philosophy on one hand, but pushing Sharia law and a ban on gay community rights on the other.

But Indonesian pluralists fear the worst if he becomes the nation's next deputy leader.

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/eye-on-re-election-widodo-plays-the-islam-card/

What might Jokowi's vice presidential pick mean for religious freedom?

Indonesia at Melbourne - August 14, 2018

Budhy Munawar Rachman – A few days before President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo was scheduled to announce his running mate in the 2019 presidential election, a statement made by respected scholar of Islam and democracy Azyumardi Azra circulated widely on social media.

The professor, who is also a member of Jokowi's Presidential Advisory Board (Wantimpres), advised against selecting a religious leader as a vice presidential candidate. Religious leaders might have mastery of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh), he said, but such skills are irrelevant for the post of vice president, where they will be expected to assist the president in advancing Indonesian economic and social development.

Jokowi did not heed this warning. On 9 August, Jokowi and his opponent, Prabowo Subianto, announced their vice presidential picks. Both candidates' selections were unexpected and had hardly been mentioned in the days leading up to the nomination deadline. It appears that conflicts of interest and practical political considerations won out, and Jokowi selected Ma'ruf Amin, while Prabowo selected Jakarta Vice Governor Sandiaga Uno.

Ma'ruf Amin is an ulama who serves as the spiritual leader (Rais 'Aam) of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), one of two leadership positions in the nation's largest Islamic organisation. He is the head of the Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI), and previously served as the head of its fatwa division. Ma'ruf is also the great-grandson of Sheik Nawawi Al Bantani, an ulama from Banten who was once the imam of the Great Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia and an influential teacher of the founders of the two largest Islamic organisations in Indonesia, Hasyim Asy'ari (NU) and Ahmad Dahlan (Muhammadiyah).

Jokowi's selection of Ma'ruf was particularly surprising because so far it has been his opponent, Prabowo, who has typically been more willing to play the religion card. On 27 July, for example, Prabowo delivered a speech at a meeting of ulama from the National Movement to Safeguard the Fatwa of the Indonesian Council of Ulama (GNPF), which led the protests against former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama in late 2016 and early 2017.

The meeting of ulama declared its support for Prabowo's candidacy and suggested he select Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) politician Salim Segaf Al Jufri or religious leader Abdul Somad as his deputy. But Prabowo in the end went with wealthy businessman and Jakarta Vice Governor Sandiaga. GNPF figurehead Rizieq Shihab has since called for a second meeting of ulama. This is presumably to endorse Prabowo's choice and maintain an anti-Jokowi stance, despite Jokowi selecting a religious leader as his running mate.

Jokowi's selection of Ma'ruf also came as a surprise because respected former Constitutional Court Chief Justice Mahfud MD had been all but confirmed as his running mate, even speaking to the media in this capacity.

The selection of Ma'ruf Amin as vice presidential candidate has been warmly welcomed by members of NU, which claims to represent 43 per cent of the Muslim community in Indonesia, as well as by the MUI and NU-affiliated National Awakening Party (PKB). But there are also deep concerns about what Ma'ruf's selection as vice presidential running mate might mean for the protection of the rights of religious minorities.

Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's 10-year presidency was marked by a major deterioration in religious tolerance and weak protection of religious minorities. This growth in intolerance and exclusivism in the practice of Islam was legitimised by the MUI under Ma'ruf Amin, and in many ways, instigated by it. During the Yudhoyono years, Ma'ruf was a member of Yudhoyono's Wantimpres and was one of the most senior and influential figures in MUI.

Yudhoyono did not have a comprehensive vision of religious freedom or strategies for fostering an inclusive religious community in Indonesia. He relied on MUI for advice, and often deferred to MUI – and Ma'ruf specifically – when pressed to make decisions on matters of religious belief. Consequently, in the decade under Yudhoyono, MUI saw its power and influence over religious affairs grow considerably.

MUI had significant influence in promoting the dominance of Islam as the majority religion in Indonesia. A core tenet of democracy is "majority rules, minority rights" – an understanding that although the majority holds power in a democracy, minority rights must still be protected. MUI, on the other hand, has encouraged the government to ignore the rights of minorities, and actively promoted discrimination against them.

This approach is seen most clearly in the MUI's response to minority Islamic sects such as Ahmadiyah and Shi'a, blasphemy, and construction of houses of worship, in particular, churches. Ma'ruf has shaped MUI's perspective in these matters and has encouraged intolerant positions in all three cases.

In 2005, for example, when Ma'ruf led MUI's fatwa division, MUI re-issued a 1980 fatwa against the Ahmadiyah community, declaring it to be a deviant sect, and triggering an increase in violent attacks against the minority group. Ma'ruf reportedly used his proximity to Yudhoyono to argue for further restrictions on Ahmadiyah rights, leading to the passage of the 2008 Joint Ministerial Decree banning the Ahmadiyah community from publicly expressing their beliefs.

Also in 2005, MUI passed a fatwa declaring that secularism, liberalism and pluralism were haram, or against Islam. These are commonly debated concepts in the relationship between religion and democracy. But by passing this fatwa, MUI effectively silenced debate in the Indonesian Muslim community on the positive contributions of religion to democracy.

As a result, it has become more difficult to promote Pancasila as the "meeting point" between religion and the state, tolerance is now understood in an illiberal manner, that is, without respect, protection or fulfilment of the rights of minorities, and efforts to understand other faiths and effectively manage religious plurality have fallen by the wayside.

Although MUI fatwa are not binding on the Muslim community, many Indonesian Muslims follow MUI's lead – especially when its fatwa relate to matters of inter and intra-religious relations. Through fatwa and statements to the media, Ma'ruf and MUI have been responsible for growing exclusivism in the way Indonesians practice Islam.

In addition to statements declaring Ahmadiyah and Shi'a to be "deviant" sects, Ma'ruf has said that Muslims should not wish Christians "Happy Christmas", encouraged further restrictions on the construction of minority houses of worship and expressed support for criminalising same-sex relations. He has often spoken strongly in support of blasphemy legislation and testified against former Jakarta Governor Ahok at his blasphemy trial.

When Jokowi was elected, many hoped for a reversal of the intolerance that had been allowed to develop under his predecessor. There have been some limited improvements over the last four years, but the core concerns remain – religious minorities are still not able to fully enjoy the religious freedom they are guaranteed under the Constitution.

Shi'a and Ahmadiyah Muslims still face discrimination. Accusations of blasphemy are still used against minorities who demonstrate religious understandings or practices that differ from the majority. Minorities still face extreme difficulty building houses of worship.

If Jokowi is re-elected, the chances of this trend reversing are slim. Under Ma'ruf, MUI has been unwilling to accept arguments in support of minorities based on their constitutional right to religious freedom, instead relying on conservative religious interpretations that benefit the majority Muslim community. With Ma'ruf as vice president, things could well become a lot worse for minorities than they already are.

[Dr Budhy Munawar Rachman is a lecturer in Islamic studies at the Driyarkara School of Philosophy (STF) in Jakarta, a program officer at The Asia Foundation and a human rights and religious freedom activist.]

Source: http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/what-might-jokowis-vice-presidential-pick-mean-for-religious-freedom/

What drives Indonesia's Pacific Island Strategy?

The Diplomat - August 13, 2018

Grant Wyeth – Indonesia has recently been lifting its presence in the Pacific, courting a number of Pacific Island countries in an attempt to quell the region's sympathies for the independence movement in the Indonesian province of West Papua.

A particular recent focus has been on boosting relations with a number of Micronesian states as a way of gaining influence in the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). In July, the President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) visited Jakarta, holding talks with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. Indonesia also has instigated plans to open a consulate in the FSM.

Previously, Indonesian consular services in the region were run out of its Tokyo embassy. In February, an Indonesian cabinet minister was dispatched to Nauru for the tiny island's 50th anniversary of independence, bringing with him a Papuan band. Both Nauru and Tuvalu have recently expressed support for Jakarta's regional development programs in West Papua.

Beyond Micronesia, in April a delegation from the Melanesian state of Solomon Islands was invited to tour Indonesia's West Papua and Papua provinces, which seems to have led to a review of Solomon Islands policy toward West Papua.

Shifts in position toward the Indonesian province from Nauru, Tuvalu, and potentially Solomon Islands would be considered a significant victory for Jakarta, which previously accused these countries of "misusing" their platforms at the United Nations General Assembly to be critical of Indonesia's policies in West Papua.

This increased Indonesian outreach comes during the ongoing deliberation over the application of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua to become a full member of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), an issue that seems to have divided the organization. In late-July the Director-General of the MSG stated that discussions on the situation in West Papua don't belong in the forum. However, last week Vanuatu appointed a special envoy to the restive province.

Vanuautu remains the most staunch supporter of the West Papuan independence movement, and it is a sentiment held strongly by both political elites and civil society within the country. Former Vanuatu Prime Minister Sato Kilman, who was a driving force behind Indonesia gaining observer status to the MSG, was forced to resign from office in 2013 partly due to a public suspicion that he was too close to Indonesia. The then-incoming prime minister swiftly cancelled a defense agreement with Indonesia, which had Jakarta providing equipment and assistance to the Vanuatu police.

In 2013, with Fiji suspended from the Pacific Island Forum (PIF), Fiji's then-military dictator, Frank Bainimarama sought to set up the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) as a competitor to the PIF. At the following year's forum then-Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) paid a three day visit to Fiji and delivered a keynote address to the PIDF, pledging $20 million over five years to climate change and natural disaster-proofing initiatives.

Since then, Fiji's opposition Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) has claimed Indonesia has given military support to Fiji in exchange for support for West Papua, and for Indonesia's observer status in the MSG. The relationship between Fiji and Indonesia seems to be seen by Bainimarama has a potential bridge for Fiji into Asia, by-passing Australia, and for Indonesia, as a way to gain the support of one of the region's more powerful actors.

The issue continues to create complexity within the Pacific's Melanesian states. Recently Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Peter O'Neill, has advocated the issue of West Papuan independence be taken to the United Nations decolonization committee. However, the land border that PNG shares with Indonesia has constrained its ability to forcefully advocate for the West Papuan cause. And PNG's own secessionist movement in Bougainville also requires Port Moresby to tread carefully for fear of reciprocal interference in its own affairs.

For Indonesia the unity of its state remains non-negotiable. Yet sentiment within the Melanesian states (and throughout the wider Pacific) poses a threat to this unity. It also creates a unique contest to Indonesian sovereignty, emanating from outside Indonesia's immediate area and based on ethnic solidarity, and therefore marking it as a distinct challenge when compared to the ongoing disputes over the placement of borders with Malaysia. It is a challenge that cannot be addressed with traditional hard power tools.

Indonesia has what Hugh White – writing in the latest issue of Australian Foreign Affairs magazine – has describe as a "curiously elusive strategic personality," seemingly a desire to remain internationally aloof in order to avoid any entanglements. This makes it difficult to deduce just how Jakarta might proceed as its power develops.

The country is projected to become the world's fifth largest economy by 2040 (based on a continuation of current growth rates). Yet in the Lowy Institute's new data map on Pacific aid, Indonesia is conspicuously absent, with the country having no official aid program, usually a key marker of power projection. The assistance Jakarta does currently provide is more ad hoc, seemingly based on at-the-moment political calculations, rather than a coherent policy structure.

For most of its existence Indonesia has remained focused on its internal complexities, yet the challenge to it sovereignty from the Pacific remains a constant irritant. Current moves to forge a wider engagement strategy with Pacific Islands states could be seen as both an attempt to subdue this irritant, and also a testing ground for Jakarta's future power projection.

Source: https://thediplomat.com/2018/08/what-drives-indonesias-pacific-island-strategy/

'Conservative turn' will continue in Indonesian presidential election

The Conversation - August 13, 2018

Alexander R Arifianto – The recent announcement of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's running mate in his re-election bid suggests the continued strong influence of conservative groups over politics in the world's largest Muslim population.

A pluralist and nationalist figure, Jokowi picked Ma'ruf Amin, a conservative Muslim cleric, as his vice-presidential candidate.

By chosing Ma'ruf, Jokowi aims to appeal to a growing Islamist constituency that has dominated the national political landscape. His decision may further accommodate the rise of conservative groups in Indonesia's Muslim politics.

The political background

Compared to previous Indonesian general elections, religion, especially Islam, has increasingly played a major role in national politics. We have witnessed how political actors used the Islam card to win votes in the Jakarta gubernatorial election in 2017.

Politicians formed a movement to defend Islam and called it the "212 Movement" – from the date of the rally, December 2. They demanded the Chinese and Christian Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama be ousted from the Jakarta governorship and be imprisoned for blasphemy.

The movement's strategy to use ethnic and religious sentiments to turn Jakarta voters against Ahok was very effective.

Because of this, its organisers, the National Movement to Guard Ulama's Religious Edicts (GNPF Ulama) and the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), have become a force to be reckoned with in the 2019 presidential election.


Immediately after their success in ousting Ahok, 212 Movement alumni made it clear they were opposed to Jokowi.

The groups have been attacking Jokowi for his "anti-Islamic" policies. This includes prosecuting ulemas and developing infrastructure projects that do not help poor Muslims.

These Islamist activists have been promoting a social media campaign, organised by opposition parties Gerindra and the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), calling for a new president in 2019. The campaign goes with the hashtag #2019GantiPresiden (#2019ChangePresident) campaign.

Another key player in the 212 Movement is FPI. FPI was a hardline Islamic organisation, backed by the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI), that carried out acts of thuggery against groups and establishments deemed "un-Islamic", such as bars and nightclubs and religious minorities.

But it has changed into an Islamist organisation with a political agenda. FPI wants to change the Indonesian state into an Islamic state enshrined with Islamic principles.

FPI has long demanded that an ideal presidential ticket should consist of an Islamic leader and a secular nationalist politician, preferably from the TNI.

By having this combination, the conservative group hopes to gain support from the nationalists and TNI to create a more Islamic Indonesian society. This would exclude non-Muslims from elected offices and the public sector in general.

As FPI involves itself more in politics and less in criminal and violent activities, more Indonesian Muslims find its activities acceptable.

A recent study found that during one of the anti-Ahok rallies in November 2016, 22.6% of Indonesian Muslims had a favourable view of FPI, compared to just 16.6% in July 2011.

An Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) study found support among Indonesian Muslims for changing Indonesia into an Islamic state increased from 4.6% in 2005 to 13.2% this year.

Besides FPI's growing popularity, Jokowi is also troubled by the fact that his opponents – backed by conservative Muslim groups – scored several victories during last June's regional elections.

For instance, they won the North Sumatra governorship by deploying the same ethno-religious sentiments to attack another candidate, Djarot Saiful Hidayat. Djarot is a former Jakarta deputy governor to Ahok.

The conservative group almost won the gubernatorial election in West Java, one of the most crucial areas in the national election.

The eventual winner, Ridwan Kamil, was initially known as a pluralist and moderate politician. But, to secure his victory, he had to make overtures towards conservative Islamists.

Jokowi and his advisers clearly had these troubling political trends in mind when preparing for his re-election campaign. That's why he picked a running mate who is acceptable among conservative Islamic groups to draw their support for his re-election bid.

Jokowi and his Islam card

Jokowi won the 2014 presidential election with an image of a pluralist and moderate Islamic figure. For his next presidential campaign, however, Jokowi has no choice but to bolster his own Islamic credentials.

The Jokowi campaign team has clearly calculated that Islamist groups from the "212 Movement" are the primary stumbling block for his re-election.

Hence, it came as no surprise that Jokowi chose Ma'ruf Amin, the chairman of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), as his vice-presidential nominee.

By nominating Ma'ruf, Jokowi hopes to split the Islamist opposition, especially from GNPF Ulama and other 212 Movement alumni.

These groups deeply respect Ma'ruf, as he gave religious legitimacy to the 212 Movement. Under his watch, MUI issued a religious opinion (fatwa) declaring Ahok a blasphemer.

Ma'ruf was also a key player behind two controversial MUI fatwa (edicts) in 2005. One fatwa targets liberal and secular influences within Islam, including the Liberal Islam Network (JIL).

Another fatwa targets the Ahmadi minorities. Following the fatwa, violent attacks and persecution against the Ahmadi group increased.

So far, Jokowi's strategy to split the support of conservative Islamist groups seems to be working. The GNPF ulama has welcomed Ma'ruf's nomination. The group calls it a "very smart decision".

With Ma'ruf as his running mate, Jokowi now claims that "he is a leader who respect the ulama's demands". He is showing he is a true Islamic leader.

Jokowi's coalition also claims that many 212 Movement alumni can now support his re-election bid, since he now has as his running mate an ulama that supports the movement.

The rise of conservative turn

Ma'ruf's selection also means that to win votes Indonesian politicians continue to accommodate Islamist groups that are pushing for a "conservative turn".

Jokowi's move to be closer to Islamic groups has alienated some former supporters. Disappointed by Jokowi's selection of Ma'ruf, some Jokowi supporters who come from a non-Muslim Chinese Indonesian background have threatened to "be absent from voting or even vote for Prabowo" to express their displeasure.

In the long run, the conservatives' continued prominence in the country's politics might endanger Indonesia's long-term status as a secular and democratic country. As enshrined in the national ideology Pancasila and the 1945 Indonesian Constitution, Indonesia must guarantee equality for all citizens irrespective of their ethnic or religious backgrounds.

[Alexander R Arifianto is a research fellow at the Indonesia Programme, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University.]

Source: http://theconversation.com/conservative-turn-will-continue-in-indonesian-presidential-election-next-year-101032

How Bill Clinton hastened Suharto's demise

Asia Times - August 11, 2018

John McBeth, Jakarta – The iconic photograph of International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Michel Camdessus standing over then-President Suharto with his arms folded like a disapproving schoolteacher came to symbolize the eventual downfall of the long-serving Indonesian leader.

It was Jan. 15, 1998, deep into the calamitous Asian financial crisis, and the IMF had finally arm-twisted Suharto into signing a US$43 billion bailout agreement which effectively precipitated the collapse four months later of his 32-year New Order regime.

Perhaps less well-known was the role of then US President Bill Clinton in convincing Suharto to accept the IMF's package of austerity measures, including the death knell of the Timor national car project and clove monopoly, both controlled by his youngest son, Tommy Suharto.

While Clinton's intervention wasn't a secret, the transcript of three recently declassified phone conversations shows just how persuasive the US leader was in convincing Suharto he had to bite the bullet as the rupiah fell from 2,500 to more than 16,000 to the US dollar.

In the end, the reforms only worsened the crisis, with acerbic Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating – who had formed close ties with the Indonesian leader – claiming the US Treasury "quite deliberately used the economic collapse as a means of bringing about the ouster of Suharto."

Former US Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger had a similar assessment after Suharto's dramatic resignation on May 21, 1998: "We were fairly clever in that we supported the IMF as it overthrew [Suharto]. Whether that is a wise way to proceed is another matter."

Even the unapologetic Camdessus, whose schoolmaster-manner at the signing ceremony left a lasting impression among many embarrassed Indonesians, said at the time of his retirement: "We created the conditions that obliged Suharto to leave his job."

The release of the transcripts and other US documents from that era comes just two months before more than 15,000 delegates gather for the annual IMF-World Bank Group conference in Bali, the fourth time the summit has been held in Southeast Asia.

Worryingly for current President Joko Widodo in the build-up to the 2019 elections, the rupiah is now at 14,490 to the dollar, the highest level since the 1997-98 crash, despite the central bank's spending of $12 billion in recent months to prop up the currency.

That's especially worrying considering the government's high levels of US-dollar denominated debt. While nobody is saying that history is ready to repeat itself, a shaky economy and falling currency could have political ramifications for Widodo if not contained ahead of next April's presidential and parliamentary polls.

Clinton first called Suharto on Jan. 8, 1998, to urge him to support economic reforms and to keep interest rates high until the rupiah began to stabilize. He also volunteered the services of Treasury Deputy Secretary Larry Summers as a consultant to help in the reform process.

The following day, the leaked documents show, Indonesian trade and industry minister Tunky Ariwibowo told US ambassador to Jakarta Stapleton Roy that Suharto was impressed with Clinton and his insights on how the international community viewed the Indonesian situation.

Another call followed on Jan. 15, with Suharto outlining detailed plans for implementing the IMF agreement and reforming the central and private banking systems, then in turmoil after the closure of 16 privately-owned banks triggered a run on the rest of the country's financial institutions.

The US president telephoned Suharto for a third time from Camp David on Feb. 13, this time to oppose the establishment of a currency board, then being actively promoted by American economist Steve Hanke, which Clinton said the US and other G7 countries all believed would risk "everything that you have achieved."

"If markets go after the board, it would create a run that seriously depletes Indonesia's reserves and complicates the efforts of the IMF and the international community to provide support," he warned. "It would drive up interest rates, lead to the collapse of the banks and the banking system and make it easier for speculators to move against the rupiah."

Clinton said although currency boards had worked in some countries, it would not in Indonesia. A better course of action, he suggested, would be to strengthen the banking system, resolve private sector debt and continue to implement the IMF's reforms.

Turning to what he called the "political component" of restoring money market confidence, he said: "As you and I have discussed many times before, it is important to maintain openness and broad public participation in the political system to maintain growth and your impressive record of accomplishments."

In response, Suharto complained that nothing seemed to be working and the situation was getting worse, despite the government spending $10 billion of its already badly-depleted foreign exchange reserves to shore up the rupiah. "If we continue to intervene, we will exhaust our reserves," he said.

The Indonesian president said that while a currency board was under consideration, he shared Clinton's concern about the "great risk" involved. But he added in obvious frustration: "If the currency board is not introduced, what is the alternative? How do we stop the rupiah's fall?

"We need to make a decision soon as the people are demanding that their president do something to fix the situation and save the country," he went on, urging Clinton to get the G7 to pay more attention to the crisis. "The Indonesian people see the IMF as a savior too late."

In the end, Suharto dropped the currency board idea, but over the next three months political events finally overtook him, culminating in the targeted shooting of four protestors at Jakarta's Trisakti University, which in turn triggered riots and looting across the Indonesian capital.

One newly-released document tells of a meeting between US officials and opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri on April 4, 1998, in which there was general agreement that the IMF plan would benefit Suharto in the short term, but would challenge his power in the long term. It was another example of how far off the mark most assessments were at the time.

In hindsight, as long as the economy stayed on track, Suharto was secure. Even internal intelligence assessments saw him retaining power in 2009, at which point he would have been 88 years old. No-one quite foresaw, however, how quickly it could all unravel – at the same bewildering pace as the tumbling rupiah.

Source: http://www.atimes.com/article/how-bill-clinton-hastened-suhartos-demise/

Indonesia: speaking for rights

The Interpreter - August 9, 2018

Max Walden – Last month, Amnesty International held a major press conference for the release of its first research report on Indonesia since opening a dedicated office in Jakarta.

Representatives of all major local and international media outlets, including newswires, Al Jazeera, the ABC, and The Australian, were in attendance for the unveiling of a harrowing report entitled "Don't bother, just let him die": Killing with impunity in Papua.

A wider trend in Indonesia has seen human rights issues marginalised across the archipelago under the current administration.

Unlike press conferences held by other local rights organisations, this one was conducted in both Indonesian and English in the ballroom of a 4-star hotel. Amnesty International Indonesia's charismatic executive director Usman Hamid appeared onstage amid lit-up banners, as if on a television talk show.

The report documents extrajudicial killings in the troubled provinces of Papua and West Papua, where a combination of huge mineral wealth, poverty, and a long-standing separatist movement have catalysed allegedly widespread abuses against the local population.

The report claims at least 95 people have been killed unlawfully by security forces since 2010. Usman told the assembled media that most cases are not related to political activities, in contradiction to government claims that the violence is to "eradicate the separatist movement", and he went on to say not a single perpetrator had been brought to a civilian court: "Accountability is very rare in West Papua compared to many, many other provinces."

When President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo was elected in 2014 with the backing of many civil society organisations, there was great optimism that past human rights abuses, including the massacres of more than a million leftists in 1965 – 66, would be addressed.

Usman acknowledged early progress under Jokowi's government, and that he is the only president to make regular visits to West Papua – where he travels at least twice a year. Moreover, the release of several political prisoners and ostensible lifting of media restrictions in Papua were also applauded.

But Usman also noted that mass arrests have occurred in Papua during Jokowi's term, and that to date "the overall state of accountability remains to be unchanged".

In practice, media freedom in Papua hasn't improved either. Earlier this year, the Australian chief of the BBC's Indonesia bureau, Rebecca Henschke, was arrested and expelled from the province for "hurting the feelings" of the military. A wider trend in Indonesia has seen human rights issues marginalised across the archipelago under the current administration.

Activists have observed rising religious intolerance, anti-LGBT crackdowns, and, more recently, extrajudicial killings, for which perpetrators have enjoyed almost total impunity. Ahead of Jakarta hosting the Asian Games this month, police shot dead 11 suspected criminals in only 10 days.

The government's ban last year on Hizbut ut-Tahrir – an ultraconservative Islamist organisation whose members mobilised in a number of mass demonstrations to bring down Jokowi's former ally, then-governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama – has spurred accusations from the religious right-wing that Jokowi is an authoritarian.

Many human rights activists are also disappointed and concerned with growing repression. A number of people have been jailed for insulting the president, and parliament recently made it illegal to "disrespect parliament or its members".

In this environment, Amnesty International can potentially play a vital role. When the BBC reported the sentencing of an 18-year-old for supposedly posting memes insulting to Jokowi on Facebook, for example, Amnesty International was the only rights organisation quoted.

Amnesty International opened a central Jakarta office in December 2017, pledging to campaign against the death penalty and other causes, and hired dozens of internet-savvy young professionals. By contrast, Human Rights Watch works with a local team of one: the well-known journalist Andreas Harsono, whose work to date has been vital for international coverage of human rights in Indonesia.

Despite the Jokowi administration's longstanding preoccupation with domestic affairs, Indonesia is still deeply concerned about its international image. Next year it will take up a two-year term on the UN Security Council and wants to be seen as a regional leader within ASEAN, and as a moderate, Muslim-majority democracy that protects the rights of minorities.

Jakarta's vocal offers of support to help Myanmar progress to become a successful pluralistic democracy is testament to this ambition. As was the Jokowi administration's facilitation of peace talks between Islamic scholars from Afghanistan and Pakistan in May.

Heading to the 2019 Indonesian presidential election, human rights are unlikely to be a priority for Jokowi or his rivals. Jokowi will likely point to his heavy investment in regional infrastructure, a recently touted decline in the poverty rate to single-digit figures, and the introduction of a basic form of universal healthcare – all noble achievements.

In late July, Jokowi's cabinet announced a "team" supposedly given the job to address past human rights abuses, consisting of the Attorney General's Office, the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM), the National Police, and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. It will be headed by the security minister Wiranto, a former general who was indicted by a Dili-based UN court in 2003 for crimes against humanity during East Timor's independence vote in 1999.

The true intentions of such an initiative are questionable. It may simply be a tokenistic gesture to once again garner civil society's backing for Jokowi in 2019. Yet Amnesty International, able to advocate on both the local and international level, could be an important new voice in holding those in power in Jakarta more accountable.

Source: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/indonesia-speaking-rights

Book & film reviews

A crime of anticommunism

Jacob Magazine - August 9, 2018

Max Lane – Jess Melvin's new book, The Army and the Indonesian Genocide, has been rightly hailed as a breakthrough. Uncovering the actors behind the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Indonesian leftists (as well as the country's Chinese racial minority), Melvin punctures a hole in the prevailing story about the 1965-66 genocide.

The Indonesian state has always claimed that any killing of communists or leftists was both limited and the result of spontaneous anticommunist anger among ordinary people. It was not, officials have insisted, systematic or carried out by the Army.

Most existing academic scholarship, although more varied and nuanced than the official state version, has lent credence to that account. In this telling, President Sukarno, an autocratic left reformer, was attempting to balance the massive Communist Party of Indonesia (which he was partial toward) and the army (which was hostile to the Communist Party). Then things became unbalanced, and spiraled out of control. The mass killings might have been regrettable, but they were the result of Sukarno's inability to walk this perilous tightrope.

Melvin methodically lays waste to that mythology. Marshaling internal Indonesian Army documents, she shows that the killings were in fact organized by the army – and that orders came from the very top.

Melvin isn't the first to grasp the underlying dynamics of the genocide. Ironically, it's the Right that has often been more clear-eyed. Right-wing commentators in the 1960s, such as scholar Justus van de Kroef and anticommunist journalist Arnold Brackman, understood that there was a real battle for power between the ideological outlook represented by the army and that of the Communist Party, other left groups, and Sukarno.

In the academic world, recent scholarship from John Roosa (author of the 2006 book Pretext for Mass Murder) and Geoffrey Robinson (author of the 2018 book The Killing Season) has also shown that the explosion of violence was premeditated and ideologically informed.

But Melvin, a scholar at Yale University, builds on this work and delivers the coup de grace – decisively rebutting apologias for the Indonesian military.

The genocide

The Army and the Indonesian Genocide is a breakthrough in at least two ways.

First, using internal army documents – which she discovered while conducting archival research in the Indonesian province of Aceh – Melvin is able to show, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that it was the Army High Command, seized by the anticommunist General Suharto, that initiated and supervised the mass murder, arrests, purges, and tortures of 1965-66. She provides internal documents, both from the national level (such as telegrams from army headquarters in Jakarta) and the local level (army and civilian government material) that reveal the careful, deliberate brutality of the killings. Perhaps the biggest smoking gun: documents indicating that orders to annihilate the Communist Party (PKI) came from Suharto himself.

The mass killings proceeded through four organized stages: an initiation phase, a public violence phase, a phase of systematic mass killings, and a final consolidation phase, which also included purges. The bloodshed erupted following a botched conspiracy by elements in the PKI, who were seeking to replace the Army High Command with friendlier figures. It was badly organized, premature – and carried out unbeknownst to their comrades and mass supporters. The military used it as a pretext to launch a devastating counter-attack.

Before the massacres were over as many as one million people laid dead, with most of the casualties occurring in late 1965 and 1966. After an initial wave of public executions, most executions were carried out at night, in secret. Combat units of the army moved from area to area, honeycombing the country with mass slaughter. Anticommunist civilian militias joined in on the killing spree. Even those who escaped with their lives didn't get off scot free. Tens of thousands of people were thrown into ad hoc prison houses. Ultimately at least fifteen thousand were imprisoned for as many as fourteen years.

The genocidal mission was a success. The PKI was cut out of the political landscape, Suharto took power, and the Indonesian left to this day is largely nonexistent.

It is impossible to believe, one should add, that the United States, United Kingdom, and Australian governments were not aware of the anti-communist forces' long-term preparations. All three governments had supplied concrete backing to right-wing army units and political groups as early as the 1950s. And all three governments hailed the violent smashing of Indonesia's organized left in 1965-66.

A second important part of Melvin's analysis is her detailing of the infrastructure used to eradicate the PKI and seize government power. Melvin shows how military command structures previously wielded to implement martial law and military campaigns (first to oust the Dutch from colonized West Papua and then to disrupt the formation of Malaysia), combined with the territorial structure of the Indonesian Armed Forces, were appropriated to carry out killings, purges, and systematic repression.

By framing the events of 1965 as the climax of a "struggle for the Indonesian state," Melvin rebuts the old propositions of spontaneous mass anger or uncontrolled political processes. In doing so, she highlights other key events in the lead-up to the genocide.

Crucially, her detailed focus on the range of forces arrayed against each other in the province of Aceh brings alive the dynamics on the ground of an ongoing political struggle – a struggle that had been evolving over a long period and was rooted in society as a whole.

In Aceh, the PKI's strength increased all through the 1950s and early 1960s. The result was extreme polarization. A chasm opened up between the PKI and the coalition of civilian elite, including Islamist figures and the Army. By 1965, the PKI and its affiliated organizations boasted close to 20 million members nationwide. Most were village peasants in what was still an overwhelmingly rural country, but plantation and urban workers also joined the party. And in 1965, membership shot further upwards. At same time, the Indonesian National Party (PNI) had also developed a left-wing program that won the allegiance of millions of members.

For anticommunist civilian and military elites, this was simply too much. "The struggle for the Indonesian state" was thus a struggle in defense of their incumbency against a rising political insurgency – unarmed, legal, and open, but also outside the elite. They developed an infrastructure of counter-revolution and implemented it with unsparing brutality. In addition to the slaughter of PKI members, many of the PNI's leading activists were killed. Artists and intellectuals associated with the PKI and PNI were imprisoned. Smaller left-wing parties, such as the Indonesia Party (Partindo) and Angkatan Komunis Muda (Acoma) also had members killed or arrested.

The future

Over the last few years, both inside and outside Indonesia, there have been several initiatives involving academics, artists, and democracy activists whose aim is to end the silence around the Indonesian genocide.

Young people in Indonesia – university students in particular – are freer to read books and articles on the subject as well as access the internet. Indonesian intellectuals and activists have braved threats from right-wing groups and refused to give in to the current government's half-heartedness in pursuing justice on the question.

Melvin's book, especially when available in Indonesian, will be a great boost to these efforts.

The struggle for the Indonesian state grew out of the competing forces in Indonesian society. 1965 represented the more or less total victory of one side, consolidated through nationally and centrally organized genocide, terror, purges, and repression. The increasing attempts to expose this truth, however modest, may be part of the opening shots of a revived left. And perhaps even the spark for broader social struggles.

[Max Lane has been a socialist activist in Australia for fifty years and is the author of "Unfinished Nation: Indonesia Before and After Suharto" and "Catastrophe in Indonesia" as well as the translator of the Buru Quartet novels of Pramoedya Ananta Toer.]

Source: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2018/08/army-indonesian-genocide-review-jess-melvin

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