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Indonesia News Digest 31 – August 16-23, 2018

West Papua Human rights & justice Sexual & domestic violence Labour & migrant workers Political parties & elections Blasphemy & hate speech Surveys & opinion polls Environment & natural disasters Health & education Corruption & abuse of power Terrorism & religious extremism Freedom of religion & worship Religion & identity politics National holidays & celebrations Poverty & social inequity Farming & agriculture Land & agrarian conflicts Jakarta & urban life Sport & recreation Police & law enforcement Foreign affairs & trade Mining & energy Fishing & maritime affairs Infrastructure & development Banking & finance

West Papua

Indonesia to deploy 450 military personnel to PNG border

Radio New Zealand International - August 23, 2018

Indonesia is deploying 450 military personnel to Papua in a bid to crackdown on drug smuggling on the Papua New Guinea border.

Antara news agency reported the forces would travel to Merauke province on Sunday, before deploying across 16 border posts.

The beef-up is the latest move from Indonesia to improve policing on the more than 800-kilometre porous border it shares with Papua New Guinea.

On Tuesday, two Papua New Guinean suspects carrying two kilograms of marijuana were arrested by Indonesian border security in Papua.

The smugglers said they were planning to sell the drug in Jayapura.

Source: https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/364763/indonesia-to-deploy-450-military-personnel-to-png-border

Papua military command beef up security after two soldiers killed

Jakarta Post - August 20, 2018

Nethy Dharma Somba, Jayapura – The Cendrawasih Military Command (Kodam) in Papua beefed up security following an encounter between armed civilians and military personnel in Puncak Jaya regency, Papua, on Sunday which resulted in the deaths of two military personnel.

"I order all levels of personnel of Cenderawasih Kodam to increase their caution in every post," Cendrawasih Kodam 17 commander Maj. Gen. George E Supit said Monday.

"And to chase the armed separatist criminal group [the Papua National Liberation Army], which is based in the forests of inland Papua," he added.

George, however, ensured that the situation in Papua remained "under control" because the scene was relatively far from the center of public activities.

Lt. Inf. Arman Blegur, the head of military task force for safeguarding vulnerable areas in Tingginambut, and First Officer Fredi, a member of the task force, were shot by armed civilians on Sunday afternoon.

The incident occurred when the armed civilians encountered the victims at the Tingginambut bridge. At that time, the soldiers were heading to a village after receiving a call from Teranus Enumbi, a member of the armed group who requested food in exchange for firearms that they had, according to the military command. The two soldiers rode a motorcycle to the village at around 1:30 p.m., but half an hour later residents reported that the two had been shot.

When found, the victims had suffered gunshot wounds and a bow shot. The bodies were then transferred to Mulia Hospital in Papua before being flown to Jakarta to their families on Monday morning. (sau/swd)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/20/papua-military-command-beef-up-security-after-two-soldiers-killed.html

Separatist group members killed 2 military officers in Papua

Tempo - August 20, 2018

Jayapura (Antara) – Two officers of the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI) were killed by armed separatist group members in Tigginambut, Papua Province. The assailants equipped with guns and arrows.

The two officers were identified by their names as second lieutenant Amran Blegur and first private Fredi. They respectively served as commander and staff of the Tingginambut post.

According to deputy commander of the Cenderawasih XVII Military Command Lt Col Dax Sianturi on Monday, the victims were about to distribute food to Papua children. They were attacked by separatist in a bridge.

The report about the separatist ambush was received by Tingginambut military office from local people. The military officers were found dead with arrow and gunshot wound and their bodies were rushed to Mulia Public Hospital.

Their remains were expected to be taken to Jayapura and later to Jakarta on Monday.

Source: http://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/08/20/055920944/Separatist-Group-Members-Killed-2-Military-Officers-in-Papua

Papuans feel differently about Indonesia's Independence Day

Jakarta Post - August 20, 2018

Ivany Atina Arbi and Nethy Dharma Somba, Jakarta/Jayapura – The 73rd celebration of Indonesia's Independence Day was tinged with reports on actions from some Papuans outside and inside the provinces, which upset authorities over their perceived refusal to celebrate Indonesia's independence from the Dutch.

On Aug. 15, a clash occurred between Papuan students and mass organization members on Jl. Kalasan in Surabaya, East Java, as the students reportedly refused to raise the country's red-and-white flag in front of their dormitory.

The men demanded the Papuan students comply with a regulation mandating the raising of the Indonesian flag every Aug. 17.

A release signed by Azizul Amri of the National Students Front and Nies Tabuni of the Papuan Students Association in Surabaya said the students actually did not object to raising the flag. They accused people from the mass organizations of attacking their dormitory before the dialogue between them had concluded.

According to the students, about 30 people from mass organizations asked them to raise the Indonesian flag. The students claimed they did not object to it but they needed time to "coordinate" with the dormitory's caretaker, who was out of Surabaya at that time.

A clash ensued, in which a man was injured. Basuki, one of the mass organization members, said as quoted by kompas.com that one of his men had been attacked by a dormitory resident wielding a sharp weapon. The students said in their release that three members of the organizations had beat one student. The student later ran to the kitchen to retrieve a machete. He brandished the weapon and the men ran away in a panic. "One of them collided with another and he hurt himself from a fall," the release stated.

Surabaya Police officers then visited the scene and took dozens of students living in the dormitory to police headquarters for questioning. But by Thursday, the students had returned to the dorm, and none of them were taken into custody.

"As many as 48 students have been returned to the dorm," said Surabaya Police criminal unit chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Sudamiran. He said the police would first gather evidence on the injured man.

After the clash, local residents of Jl. Kalasan eventually raised the country's flag in front of the dormitory, named Kemasan III.

Separately, during the orientation event for freshmen at Cendrawasih University in Jayapura, Papua, on Aug. 14 and 15, senior students required the freshmen to chant free Papua slogans and bring Morning Star attributes to the campus. Morning Star refers to a flag used by the Papuan independence movement.

During the opening ceremony of the event, the seniors reportedly prohibited the freshmen from singing the national anthem, "Indonesia Raya".

The university's rector, Apolo Safanpo, confirmed the incident, accusing some people of imposing their political motives on the orientation event.

"The intruders required the freshmen to bring Morning Star attributes and chant slogans contrary to Indonesia's ideology," Apolo said, adding that the orientation events had been halted.

Meanwhile, Jayapura Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Gustav Urbinas said the use of Morning Star attributes could be linked to treason, and therefore he had called Cendrawasih University student executive body chairman Ferry Kombo and the chairman of orientation events Agus Helembo to the police headquarters.

"We asked for some explanations about the use of Morning Star attributes and the chanting of free Papua slogans," Agus said. Both of the students had signed a statement citing that they would not let the same incident happen again at their university, or else they would be prosecuted for treason.

A prominent youth figure in Papua, Samuel Tabuni, who is also the director of the Papua Language Institute, said what happened at Cendrawasih University was the students' "spontaneous action to show their intention to create a future that is free from all threats".

According to a 2018 Amnesty International report titled "'Don't bother, just let him die': Killing with impunity in Papua", unlawful killings by security forces remains high in Papua even after the 1998 reform began.

Amnesty International has recorded 69 cases of alleged unlawful killings between January 2010 and February, with 95 victims. Eighty-five of them were native Papuans, the report said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/20/papuans-feel-differently-about-indonesias-independence-day.html

Vanuatu could be alone on West Papua bid at UN

Radio New Zealand International - August 20, 2018

Vanuatu's government could be alone among regional administrations in its bid to have West Papua inscribed on the United Nations de-colonisation list.

The Charlot Salwai-led government plans to submit a draft resolution to the Pacific Islands Forum, calling for Indonesian-ruled Papua to be inscribed on the list at next year's UN General Assembly.

The intention was conveyed at this month's meeting of Pacific Forum foreign ministers in Apia.

Despite claims in Vanuatu, however, that other Pacific governments had indicated they would back the draft, no other countries committed support in Apia.

Vanuatu's announcement of its intention to table the draft was met with demur by Papua New Guinea, Australia and Fiji, while other countries did not make a comment.

Mr Salwai said he would take the draft resolution to Nauru where Pacific Forum leaders hold their annual summit next month.

Source: https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/364490/vanuatu-could-be-alone-on-west-papua-bid-at-un

49 West Papuan students released after police questioning

Radio New Zealand International - August 17, 2018

All 49 West Papuan university students taken in for police questioning in the Indonesian city of Surabaya have been released, according to a legal aid group.

The incident on Wednesday night came on the anniversary of the transfer of administration over West Papua to Indonesia.

Before being taken in by police, the students had reportedly planned an event to discuss the anniversary of 1962's New York Agreement between the Netherlands and Indonesia regarding the administration of West New Guinea.

The plans were disrupted when the Papuans clashed with a group from Indonesia's nationalist Pancasila movement. The group converged on the Papuans' dormitory and demanded the Indonesian flag be raised ahead of the country's independence day today.

Abdul Wachid, the director of the Surabaya Legal Aid Foundation, says police interrogated the students for 10 hours, before releasing them the next morning.

The water supply at the Papuan students' dormitory was cut off yesterday afternoon, said Indonesian human rights lawyer Veronica Koman.

The Indonesian government claimed they had not paid the water bill, said Ms Korman, but the dormitary is state-owned and the government normally pays its water bills.

Source: https://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/364321/49-west-papuan-students-released-after-police-questioning

'PNG will not back Vanuatu push for West Papua'

Currier Post - August 16, 2018

Gorethy Kenneth – Papua New Guinea will not and does not support the issue of West Papua now being pushed by Vanuatu at the United Nations.

This is because according to Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Rimbink Pato, West Papua is still an integral part of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea under its foreign policy will not interfere with that and the international law on the matter.

Pato was asked about PNG's stand on West Papua, given the fact that Vanuatu is now pushing for West Papua at the UN. He said: "We object to it, so Papua New Guinea will not and doesn't support any action taken by Vanuatu, so we object to it."

"Any action to support will be a breach of the international law, you know West Papua or Papua is still part and parcel, an integral part of the Republic of Indonesia and we have a bilateral relationship with the Republic of Indonesia, so we will not support that," he said.

Papua New Guinea is a bigger player in the Melanesian Spearhead Group and the Pacific Island Forum, let alone the Pacific. There has been lobbying from MSG countries and Pacific to support the West Papua in their quest for independence.

Vanuatu this week has announced that they would be pushing for West Papua at the United Nations meeting this month.

Mr Pato said PNG's stand is that the government will not support Vanuatu in its push for West Papua at the UN level.

Source: https://postcourier.com.pg/png-will-not-back-vanuatu-push-wpapua/

Human rights & justice

Past human rights cases get little attention in Jokowi's speech

Jakarta Post - August 16, 2018

Margareth S. Aritonang – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has claimed his administration will keep its commitment to settle unsolved past human rights abuses without any elaboration on how to realize it.

"The government aims to resolve cases of past rights abuses and to improve protection of human rights to prevent similar cases from taking place in the future," Jokowi said in his state of the nation address during a plenary session before lawmakers at the House of Representatives on Thursday.

He cited that the government would work based on a 2018 regulation stipulating the implementation of the national human rights action plan. However, he stopped short on how his administration would settle the prolonged unsolved cases as he will reach the end of his term next year.

Jokowi had included the settlement of past abuses cases in his top priority agenda during his presidential campaign and after he officially took office in 2014.

There are six major human rights violations, namely the 1965 communist purge, the 1989 Talangsari incident in Central Lampung, the 2001 and 2003 Wamena and Wasior incidents in Papua, various kidnappings and unresolved shootings in the 1980s, the May 1998 riots and the disappearances of activists that remain unresolved.

Activists have lambasted Jokowi and his administration's slow progress to settle the abuses and take the perpetrators to court nearing the end of his term in office.


Sexual & domestic violence

Jailed for abortion: the 15-year-old girl failed by Indonesia

The Guardian - August 16, 2018

Kate Lamb, Jambi – Fika* gave birth alone in her room at night. The baby came out alive.

According to her testimony, the 15-year-old from Sumatra cut the umbilical cord with a razor and then the baby went limp and died. She held it up, but it didn't cry.

After that she wrapped the tiny body in a tablecloth and hid it under her bed, she told her lawyer. At dawn she buried it in a shallow grave next to a palm tree by her house.

The discovery of the dead child, who was found by a farmer in late May, prompted the arrest of Fika and has become something of a village horror story. But even worse were the details that followed.

In the same wooden house in the village of Pulau, an isolated community in the Indonesian province of Jambi, Fika's grandmother wails. "I want to kill him. I want to kill him," is all she can say, over and over, as she pounds the floor crying.

When the dead baby was found hidden in the foliage, the neighbours suspected it might be Fika's, but no one guessed she had become pregnant after being repeatedly raped by her brother.

The grisly details of the case have shocked Indonesia, which came to light in July after Fika was jailed for six months for having an illegal abortion.

Her 17-year-old brother was sentenced to two years in prison for sexually assaulting a minor. Their mother, a single parent and rubber farmer, is being detained on suspicion of assisting her daughter with the abortion.

Abortion is illegal in Indonesia except in exceptional circumstances, such as when a woman is raped, and only then if it is carried out within the first 40 days. Forensic testing revealed Fika was seven months pregnant when she gave birth.

In a rare move, the court suspended Fika's prison sentence earlier this month in response to the outcry, and she has been moved from prison into the care of a child protection agency as the Jambi high court hears her appeal.

Her lawyer, Damai Idianto, expects the court to make a decision later this month.

Idianto says he hopes the teenager will soon be released. As more details are revealed, the case has exposed some uncomfortable truths and shone a light on the systemic prejudice against rape victims in Indonesia – from the level of the village to the judiciary.

In the village the case was initially perceived as "incest" and some residents argued the siblings should be banned from returning based on adat, or customary law.

Even after her brother told police he had raped his sister nine times since last September, and that he would beat her until she complied, the police failed to see the girl as a victim.

Instead, prosecutors focused their efforts on building a case against her for having an illegal abortion. "They think, 'if she didn't report it then she must not be a victim'," says Helvi Rachmawati, from the consortium of women's NGOs in Jambi.

Some in the village are willing to go further, suggesting Fika was not raped.

"Maybe in the beginning she was forced into it," says Fika's ethics teacher, who preferred not to give her name. "But maybe she felt pleasure from it afterwards." If she didn't enjoy it, the teacher asked, why didn't she say anything?

Mirna Novita Amir, a women's activist and lawyer in Jambi, said a local judge – one not sitting on this case – voiced the same opinion in a private conversation.

Women's activists in Jambi say the reactions and handling of the case reveal a disturbing lack of awareness about rape victims.

Fika's family home, a wooden house on stilts, is a three-hour drive from the city down a long bumpy road, past ambling goats, oil palm and rubber plantations, and then a 10-minute boat ride across a mud-coloured river to the village of Pulau. Its population: 1,800.

In Pulau the news has become a source of intense shame and guilt. "We have to make sure this does not happen again, to watch our children," says district chief Asri Yonalsah, who was visiting the village for a measles vaccination drive.

However, it appears Fika's case might not be an isolated incident. According to women's activists in Jambi there have been five cases of "incest" reported in the province this year.

Some have also pointed a finger at shortfalls in the education system. Sex education is not a mandatory part of the Indonesia's national school curriculum and while about 40% of schools in Jambi city have some form of sex education, elsewhere in the province it is virtually non-existent.

It was at his Islamic boarding school that Fika's brother would watch pornographic videos with his friends on their mobile phones. He later told police the videos had prompted him to rape his sister.

"They can watch this stuff freely but then they don't have any education about it," says Ida Zubaidah, from the NGO Beranda Perempuan.

When Zubaidah met the 17-year-old in prison in July, he claimed he had not fully understood the repercussions of his actions. "He was crying and he said he didn't know that he could get his sister pregnant. He told me he thought that could only happen if he had sex with a girlfriend," said Zubaidah.

Back at the school, Fika's teacher says they had no idea she was pregnant. Fika wore a long headscarf that covered her torso and they thought she was just putting on weight.

A quiet and introverted student, Fika did not appear unhappy, they say. At the end of term event in May she had been dancing.

After the news of the case reached the school, teachers conducted raids, confiscating mobile phones and erasing pornographic videos they discovered. Smartphones have now been banned in class.

Teachers say the case has been devastating but they have no plans to introduce sex education. They prefer to refer to Islam, the dominant religion in the country, for guidance.

"For us who live in the village," says Fika's teacher, "it's still hard for us to talk about."

[*The name of the girl involved in this story has been changed to protect her identity.]

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/aug/16/15-year-old-girl-failed-indonesia-rape-brother-jailed-abortion

Labour & migrant workers

Fired Freeport workers seek Papuan legislators' help

UCA News - August 22, 2018

Benny Mawel, Jayapura – Dozens of Indonesian former workers of U.S.-based PT Freeport-McMoRan, parent company of PT Freeport Indonesia, staged a rally on Aug. 21 to seek legislators' intervention in their case.

They represented more than 8,000 contractors and workers who were laid off by the giant gold and copper company more than 14 months ago following a strike.

"The company fired us unilaterally. We only received the news by text messages. Until now we don't know the reason why we were fired," Yosepus Talakua, who coordinated the protest, told ucanews.com on the sidelines of the rally in front of the legislative building in Jayapura, capital of Papua province.

He claimed the company only paid workers' last salaries and did not provide severance pay.

Talakua said many former Freeport workers had to work as motorcycle taxi drivers and laborers to meet their daily needs. "But we still cannot afford our children's school tuition," he said.

Another protester, Ningsih Wanggai, said she has been jobless since being laid off. "I have just stayed at home," said the former heavy equipment operator.

A similar rally was held by dozens of fired Freeport workers in front of the presidential palace in Jakarta.

Responding to the protesters' demand, legislator Laurenzus Kadepa said the provincial legislative body will form a special committee to review the case. "We will fight for you," he told protesters.

Freeport spokesman Riza Pratama said the lay-offs were the result of a contractual dispute between the Indonesian government and the company.

He said the dispute had reduced operations at the company by about 60 percent and stemmed from Indonesia seeking to change mining industry regulations over ore processing and foreign ownership.

The Indonesian government wanted to cap copper concentrate exports to boost its domestic smelting industry. However, the company said the regulations breached its current contract with the Indonesian government.

"We offer former workers an opportunity to work again for the company through contractors or an industrial relations court instead of a political path," Pratama said.

PT Freeport-McMoRan obtained its first contract to operate in the region in April 1967, two years before Papua was annexed by Indonesia following a controversial 1969 referendum. A second contract was given in December 1991. In 2014, the company obtained its third contract, which will expire in 2021.

The Indonesian government has owned a 51 percent share of the company since July after tough negotiations. The company previously owned 90.64 percent of PT Freeport Indonesia's shares.

Source: https://www.ucanews.com/news/fired-freeport-workers-seek-papuan-legislators-help/83141

Political parties & elections

Gerindra: Prabowo won't change image to attract millennials

Tempo - August 23, 2018

Budiarti Utami Putri, Jakarta – Member of the Gerindra central board (DPP) Habiburokhman said that presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto will not change his image by undergoing a makeover to gain millennials' vote.

"We will not make Prabowo dress like a younger person," said Habiburokhman on Wednesday, August 22.

Gerindra Chairman Prabowo Subianto is set to partner with Sandiaga Uno in the 2019 presidential election. The pair will be facing the incumbent candidate Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo who will be accompanied by Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI) Chairman Ma'ruf Amin.

Pollster Lingkaran Survei Indonesia (LSI) Denny JA previously mentioned that Prabowo-Sandiaga's electability is still behind the Jokowi-Ma'ruf's, as based on a poll conducted on August 12-19 that saw the pair score 31.8 percent compared to the incumbent's 50.8 percent.

However, Habiburokhman is optimistic that Prabowo-Sandiaga will be able to grab millennial's votes since he thinks that his team does not only issue rhetoric to gain support.

"Winning the support [of millenials] is not just by wearing sneaker shoes, jackets and jeans, or ride a big bike. That is not it," said Habiburokhman.

He said that the current government has failed to overcome the issue of employment among the young generation and that Prabowo-Sandiaga offers solutions on such issues.

Ahokers officially declare their support for Jokowi-Ma'ruf

Tempo - August 21, 2018

Dewi Nurita, Jakarta – The pro Jokowi students and youth alliance and a group proclaiming to be 'Ahokers', a known term to describe avid supporters of former Jakarta Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama, officially declared their support for presidential and vice presidential candidates Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo-Ma'aruf Amin at the Ibis Hotel in Cikini, Central Jakarta today, August 21.

Jack Lapian from a pro-Ahok group, BTP Network, was also seen present in the event together with religious public figure Gus Sholeh Mz and other hardcore Ahok supporters. There were roughly 100 Ahok volunteers present in the declaration.

"We, students and youths, are determined and driven to support Jokowi-Ma'aruf in the 2019 presidential election," said one of the alliance's member in the declaration on Tuesday, August 21.

Serving as a symbol of support, PDIP politician Ruhut Sitompul placed an Indonesian traditional 'peci' on the head of Gus Sholeh.

Ruhut claims that votes from Ahokers will contribute significant votes for the pair of candidates in the upcoming election. "We can't deny that Ahok has many supporters, not just in Jakarta but from across Indonesia," he said.

Source: http://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/08/21/055921012/Ahokers-Officially-Declare-Their-Support-for-Jokowi-Maruf

Widodo's ruling party seeking support from hardline FPI leader

CNN Indonesia - August 21, 2018

Bimo Wiwoho, Jakarta – Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) central leadership board (DPP) chairperson Andreas Hugo Pereira has admitted that vice presidential candidate Ma'ruf Amin is attempting to win the support of Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab in the 2019 presidential election.

Ma'ruf is considered to be able build a bridge between those camps which have, up until now, opposed the administration of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo. Earlier, Ma'ruf conceded that he was open to the possibility of meeting with Shihab in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, during his Haj pilgrimage.

"Ma'ruf can bridge the gap between groups which up until now have been closed to Pak [Mr] Jokowi. This is the mediation and diplomacy that Ma'ruf is doing", said Pereira at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) offices in Jakarta on Monday August 20.

According to Pereira, in politics any and all support can be accommodated if it does indeed exist. When again pushed on whether or not Widodo and Ma'ruf are hoping for support from Shihab, Pereira did not deny this. "Yes, if possible why not", he said.

Earlier Ma'ruf did not rule out the possibility of meeting with Shihab while he is in Mecca, although he did not deny nor confirm this.

"We'll see later", he said laughingly as quoted by the Antara news agency following the 17th International Nahdlatul Ulama Goodwill Meeting in Jarwal, Mecca, on Saturday August 18.

Ma'ruf's arrival in the Holy Land was to fulfill and invitation from one of the Special Haj Pilgrimage Providers (PIHK) to give a sermon to Haj pilgrims gathering for wukuf or the Day of Arafah and the 17th International Nahdlatul Ulama Goodwill Meeting.

Shihab himself is still in Saudi Arabia and is yet to return to Indonesia despite police having dropped the pornography case against him and Firza Husein.

Ma'ruf and Shihab are known to have been of one voice in demanding that former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama be charged and jailed for blasphemy in protests last year driven by the 212 Alumni movement (pmg)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "PDIP Akui Cari Dukungan Rizieq Shihab Lewat Ma'ruf Amin".]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20180820173407-32-323698/pdip-akui-cari-dukungan-rizieq-shihab-lewat-maruf-amin

Sri Mulyani declines position on Jokowi's campaign team

Jakarta Post - August 21, 2018

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's coalition has revealed the lineup of its campaign team for the 2019 election, which to date includes several high-ranking government officials, many of whom are on the steering committee and advisory board.

According to a document submitted by the coalition to the General Elections Commission (KPU) on Monday, one of the ministers listed as a steering committee member was Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati.

On Tuesday, however, Sri Mulyani clarified that she would not be a part of the steering committee because the President preferred her to focus solely on her ministerial position for the sake of the economy.

"The current situation needs more attention [...] my focus is on managing the state budget in accordance with [the instruction of] the President," Sri Mulyani told reporters on Tuesday.

Sri Mulyani stopped short of saying whether the campaign team had consulted her before including her as a steering committee member.

Other ministers on the steering committee include Cabinet Minister Pramono Anung and Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Puan Maharani, both of whom are ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politicians.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla has also been appointed as a member of the steering committee, while Industry Minister and Golkar Party chairman Airlangga Hartarto is named a member of the team's advisory board, the document reveals.

Presidential Chief of Staff Gen. (Ret.) Moeldoko is one of eight deputies of the national campaign team, the chairman of which has yet to be named as it depends on Jokowi, Pramono said on Monday.

When asked about the risks of the officials having their ministerial duties disrupted by their tasks as part of the campaign team, Pramono assured that it would not be an issue as the ministers' tasks mostly involved directing technical details.

The campaign period for 2019 legislative and presidential elections starts Sept. 23. However, Pramono said that Jokowi would continued to prioritize his presidential duties during the remaining year of his administration.

The team's advisory board comprises nine political party leaders in the coalition backing Jokowi's reelection.

PDI-P secretary-general Hasto Kristiyanto, who was also the national campaign team's secretary, has said the list could be revised before Sept. 21. (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/21/sri-mulyani-declines-position-on-jokowis-campaign-team.html

Jokowi to splurge on social assistance, public servants as election

Jakarta Globe - August 17, 2018

Adinda Normala, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo plans to splurge on social assistance programs and public servants next year, ahead of a crucial election in which he seeks a second term.

The government has proposed a 38 percent increase to Rp 381 trillion ($26 billion) for social assistance programs, which include health insurance, conditional cash transfers, scholarships and food stamps.

The government is set to spend 287 trillion on social assistance this year, which is 5.2 percent more than last year, while the government only spent Rp 249 trillion on social aid in 2015, during Jokowi's first year in office.

Social assistance will be provided to 96.8 million beneficiaries under the National Health Insurance (JKN) program, while 10 million families will receive cash transfers under the Family Hope Program (PKH).

More than 20 million students will further receive educational aid under the Smart Indonesia program and 471,800 college students will receive scholarships under the Bidik Misi program. The government will also provide 15.6 million families with non-cash food aid.

"All these programs are aimed at ensuring that the poor and low-income earners are buffered against economic shocks," Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said during a press conference on Thursday (16/08).

Jokowi, who is set for a rematch with former Army general Prabowo Subianto in April's presidential election, has yet to fulfill his promise of 7 percent annual economic growth. The government has only set a growth target of 5.3 percent for next year, while opposition parties have indicated that they will contest Jokowi's presidential bid on the economic front.

"The religious issue is over," Fadli Zon, deputy chairman of Prabowo's Great Indonesia Party (Gerindra), was quoted as saying by Kompas.com earlier this week.

"Now the economy is the most important matter, which people experience every day. Prices are all going up, including fuel and taxes, eroding people's purchasing power," Fadli said.

The government is currently facing the grim reality of a weakening rupiah, which will soon translate into higher domestic prices as Indonesia remains the among the world's largest importers of fuel and commodities such as rice and soybeans.

"In the beginning of his term, the budget was more productive. But approaching the election year, his policies will become more populist with a focus on welfare, employment and inequality," Bhima Adhinegara, an economist at the Institute for Development of Economics and Finance (Indef), said on Friday.

Jokowi will likely replicate the strategy of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who increased the government's cash transfer budget by 20 percent when he ran for re-election in 2009.

"It is aimed at securing more votes. The important thing is to win first and once re-elected, the budget policy will return to what it was before," Bhima said.

Jokowi hopes his social assistance programs would help him achieve his target of reducing the poverty rate, or the number of people living on less than Rp 402,000 per month, to between 8.5 percent and 9.5 percent of the country's total population of 264 million by next year, after having managed to reduce the poverty level to a record-low 9.8 percent in March.

Income inequality in Indonesia, as expressed by the Gini ratio, also dropped to a six-year-low of 0.389 this year, due to the implementation of social assistance programs over the past four years.

Investment bank Morgan Stanley said in recent research note that social and infrastructure spending tend to increase in the runup to elections in Indonesia, bringing economic benefits through increased household consumption.

The government will also spend a sizable portion of the state budget on subsidies next year. It will make Rp 221 trillion available to subsidize fuel, electricity, public services, fertilizers and interest rates. And while this amount is 3.2 percent less than this year, it is still 35 percent higher than in 2017.

Jokowi was lauded for his decision in 2015 to cut subsidies and direct the funds to more productive sectors of the economy, such as infrastructure development, but rising global energy prices over the past two years have forced the president to face the stark reality that Indonesians' purchasing power has been eroded.

Pay rises

The government also plans to increase the salaries of Indonesia's more than 4.3 million public servants, who have not received pay rises since 2016. It hopes the additional money they receive in salaries will prop up consumption. Household spending growth, which accounts for half of the Indonesian economy, has remained flat at around 5 percent over the past few years.

"We also have to look at the long and medium term, as pensions are relatively small, so raising basic salaries will help public servants in their retirement," Askolani, director general of budgeting at the Ministry of Finance, told reporters.

The salaries of public servants increased every year between 2007 and 2015, but stopped in 2016 when the government allocated 13th checks and holiday bonuses as compensation. They will still receive these benefits next year, in addition to the pay rises.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/business/jokowi-to-splurge-on-social-assistance-public-servants-as-election-looms/

Blasphemy & hate speech

What Meiliana said similar to Kalla's statement, says rights group

Jakarta Post - August 23, 2018

Karina M. Tehusijarana, Jakarta – The Anti-Discrimination Struggle Movement (GANDI) is the latest rights group to condemn the blasphemy conviction of Meiliana, a Buddhist resident of Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, for complaining about the volume of the adzan (Muslim call to prayer).

The Medan District Court found Meiliana, 44, guilty of blasphemy under Articles 156 and 156a of the Criminal Code on Tuesday and sentenced her to 18 months in prison.

She reportedly said the adzan was too loud and hurt her ears in July 2016, triggering an anti-Chinese riot in which offended Muslims torched several Buddhist temples in Tanjung Balai.

GANDI secretary-general Ahmad Ari Masyhuri said Meiliana's statement was far from the definition of blasphemy in the criminal code, likening it to a statement made by Vice President Jusuf Kalla about the volume of mosques' loudspeakers.

Kalla, who is also head of the Indonesia Mosque Council, criticized the excessive volume of some mosques' speakers in 2015, saying that the noise disturbed both Muslims and non-Muslims.

"Looking at the statement that Meiliana is accused of making, in substance there is no difference in what the head of the Indonesian Mosque Council, Vice President Jusuf Kalla, once said," Ari said in a statement on Thursday. "So, which part is blasphemous?"

Ari called on the government and the House of Representatives to quickly revise the blasphemy laws, saying that they were too open to interpretation.

"It is too risky for such a diverse nation to be mired in blasphemy articles that can be interpreted in so many ways," he said.

Rights advocacy group the Setara Institute agreed, adding that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration had failed to act firmly against intolerance over the past four years.

"Instead of taking real action to guarantee the freedom of religion, Jokowi has only disbanded organizations like Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, more for political reasons rather than genuinely defending religious freedom," the institute's chairman, Hendardi, said in a statement. (swd)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/23/meilianas-statement-similar-to-kallas-on-mosques-loudspeakers-says-rights-group.html

The Meiliana Case: How a noise complaint resulted in an 18-month

Jakarta Post - August 23, 2018

Karina M. Tehusijarana and Apriadi Gunawan, Jakarta/Medan – The blasphemy conviction of Meiliana, a 44-year-old ethnic Chinese Buddhist resident of Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, for complaining about the volume of the adzan (call to prayer) has garnered worldwide attention and condemnation.

But how exactly did the case unfold from a simple noise complaint to an 18-month prison sentence?

The complaint

Meiliana's complaint was made on the morning of July 22, 2016 to her neighbor Kasini, who owned a stall near her house. Reports vary on what she actually said – her lawyers claim she merely remarked that the adzan broadcast from the nearby mosque was louder than it used to be, while the legal indictment says she asked Kasini, a Muslim, to tell the mosque caretakers to lower the volume as it hurt her ears.

All parties agree, however, that Meiliana's initial complaint was only to a single person. Over the next few days, however, her statement became distorted and rumors spread that a Chinese woman wanted to "ban the adzan".

On the evening of July 29, 2016, a small group of people, including a mosque staff member, went to Meiliana's house to confirm the truth of her complaint. According to the indictment, Meiliana said "Yes, lower the volume of the mosque. It's too loud and hurts my ears when I hear it."

The group took offense at her statement, which they considered rude, and returned to the mosque. Meiliana's husband Lian Tui went to the mosque to apologize but by then a mob had started to form.

The riot

After the group's confrontation with Meiliana, provocative messages spread like wildfire on social media and messaging applications, with some even claiming the woman had thrown rocks at the mosque and forcefully stopped prayers.

Later that night, an angry mob started to gather in front of the local subdistrict office and went to Meiliana's house to throw rocks at it. The violence then spread to nearby Buddhist temples.

Fourteen Buddhist temples in Tanjung Balai were burned and ransacked by mobs between the night of July 29 and the morning of July 30, 2016. No fatalities were reported in the incident but damage ran into the billions of rupiah.

Inequality and Buddha statue

Opinions differ on what caused a seemingly innocuous complaint to spiral into a violent riot. Ethnic Chinese business people said the social and economic gap between those of Chinese-descent and the non-Chinese people in Tanjung Balai was among the main reasons for the riot.

Leo Lopulisa, a local fisheries businessman, said Chinese Indonesians in Tanjung Balai accounted for about 10 percent of the city's population of over 180,900. Of that figure, some 3 percent are categorized as very rich, while the rest are also in a comfortable financial condition.

Muslim community leaders, on the other hand, blamed the riot on underlying tensions resulting from the construction of a six-meter-tall Buddha Amitabha statue on top of a Buddhist temple in the city.

"The presence of the Buddha statue in Tanjung Balai is like a ticking time bomb, it can trigger a riot at any time. That's why it has to be taken down soon," Tanjungbalai Interfaith Communication Forum (FKUB) chairman Haidir Siregar said a month after the incident.

Haidir said the majority of Muslims in Tanjung Balai could not accept the Buddha statue in their region because they considered the city to be Islamic. The statue was taken down in October 2016.

The legal consequences

The police arrested 19 people for their role in the riot. Eight were charged with looting, nine with malicious destruction of property and two with inciting violence. All were given one to four month jail sentences.

The police themselves built a case against Meiliana based on a report filed by their own officer, Brig. Kuntoro. "How can we prove Meliana insulted a religion when nobody reported her to the police? To solve this problem, Brig. Kuntoro reported her," North Sumatra Police spokesperson Sr. Comr. Rina Sari Ginting said in 2016.

Rina said Kuntoro had reason to report Meliana because he was at the scene when the mob argued with Meliana outside her house. Kuntoro came to the location at the request of the neighborhood head.

Kuntoro's report claimed that Meiliana's complaint constituted an insult to Islam, based on the argument he witnessed between Meiliana and the mob outside her house on July 29.

Police initially struggled to process the case against Meiliana, with expert witnesses saying that Meiliana's statement contained no expression of hate.

The fatwa

Soon after the riot on Aug. 9, 2016, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) chairman Ma'ruf Amin deplored the fact that local people chose to burn temples to express their anger against Meliana. He added that it was acceptable to lower the volume of loudspeakers if people in the neighborhood were bothered.

"Although [Meiliana] expressed her complaint angrily, such an act should not be replied to with anger. Both parties should sit together to discuss her concerns," Ma'ruf said.

However, in January 2017, the North Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council issued a fatwa declaring that Meiliana's complaint was "demeaning and insulting towards Islam" because the adzan was part of Islamic law.

Based on the fatwa, police charged Meiliana with blasphemy that same month, but she reportedly disappeared until she was finally arrested on May 30 this year.

The conviction

Meiliana's blasphemy trial started on June 26 this year and later on Aug. 13 the prosecutors demanded that she be found guilty as stipulated in articles 156 and 156a of the Criminal Code, and be sentenced to 1.5 years in prison.

Meiliana's lawyer, Ranto Sibarani, denied the prosecution's claims, saying that the blasphemy charges against his client were based on hearsay and that no one had directly heard her say all the words she was accused of saying.

The mother of four was nevertheless found guilty by the Medan District Court on Tuesday and sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. Her legal team has said that they would appeal the verdict.

The reaction

Meiliana's conviction has drawn widespread criticism from domestic and international rights groups and two of Indonesia's largest Islamic mass organizations.

Amnesty International called the verdict a "ludicrous decision" that constituted a "flagrant violation of freedom of expression."

The Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) said her case showed once again that the Criminal Code's blasphemy articles were used "to attack minority groups."

Executives from Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah also denounced the verdict, with NU legal division head Robikin Emhas saying that Meiliana's statement did not constitute blasphemy.

Muhammadiyah secretary Abdul Mu'ti agreed and said there should be an in-depth study to review the blasphemy-related articles and laws, arguing that the provisions were vague and open to subjective interpretation.

Anti Discrimination Movement (Gandi) said on Thursday that Meiliana's statement was similar to what Vice President Jusuf Kalla said in 2015. Kalla, also the chairman of the Indonesian Mosque Council (DMI), criticized the overuse of mosque loudspeakers during Ramadhan that year.

Therefore, the North Sumatra's MUI should review their fatwa, said Gandi's secretary general, Ahmad Ari Masyhuri, who is also the chairman of NU's Quran reciters association.

A petition asking President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to free Meiliana started on Change.org on Wednesday has since garnered over 30,000 signatures.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/23/the-meiliana-case-how-a-noise-complaint-resulted-in-an-18-month-jail-sentence.html

Religious official, lawmaker say complaining about azan volume not

Coconuts Jakarta - August 23, 2018

The Medan District Court on Tuesday sentenced a 44-year-old woman named Meiliana to 18 months in prison for insulting Islam in violation of Indonesia's controversial blasphemy law, in line with the case prosecutors' sentencing demand.

In July 2016, rioters in the city of Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, attacked and burned several Buddhist temples. The riot was allegedly triggered by a complaint by Meiliana, a Chinese-Indonesian, who said that the mosque speaker in front of her house was too loud.

Her sentence drew outrage from many in Indonesia, especially considering those responsible for the violent riots received far more lenient punishments, and religious officials and politicians alike have joined the chorus of criticisms against this particular application of the blasphemy law.

"I don't see that an opinion that a mosque speaker being too loud is a form of hate expression or hatred towards a particular religion or group," said Robikin Emhas, head of the Justice, Human Rights and Law department at the Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board (PBNU), the country's largest Muslim organization, as quoted by CNN Indonesia yesterday.

Robikin went on to say that Meiliana complaining about a mosque speaker being too loud should instead be seen as a form of constructive criticism to ensure religious harmony between people of different faiths.

Sodik Mudjahid, the head of Commission VIII at the House of Parliament (DPR), which overlooks religious issues in the country, also criticized the court's decision.

"The judge must see things clearly. A call to prayer being too loud is clearly a nuisance, just like music being played too loud. So it's about volume, not religious values," he told Detik yesterday.

According to the prosecutor's version of events, the case began about a week before the July 2016 riots when Meiliana went to some of her Muslim neighbors and asked them to ask the caretakers of the mosque in front of her house to reduce the volume of their speakers because it was noisy and painful.

Her request was relayed to the mosque's management, who visited her on the day before the riots. Meiliana repeated her request that they reduce the mosque's speakers volume which allegedly led to an argument. Meiliana's husband went to the mosque to apologize but word had already gotten out about what she said, which spread on social media, leading to calls for violence and the subsequent riots.

Meiliana was reported to the police for blasphemy and the North Sumatra branch of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued a fatwa declaring that she had indeed insulted Islam. After that, she was named a suspect by the police leading to her eventual imprisonment.

Shortly after the riots, President Joko Widodo demanded that firm action be taken against the rioters and police made numerous arrests. However, out of the eight people who were eventually convicted for their part in the violence and property damage, all but one received sentences of less than two months in jail (one received a sentence of 2 months and 18 days) at the conclusion of their trials in January 2017.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/religious-official-lawmaker-say-complaining-call-prayer-volume-not-blasphemy-woman-sentenced-18-months/

Meiliana verdict demonstrates blasphemy law's 'injustice toward

Jakarta Post - August 23, 2018

Apriadi Gunawan and Karina M. Tehusijarana, Jakarta – The blasphemy conviction of Meiliana, a Buddhist resident of Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, for complaining about the volume of adzan (call to prayer) revealed the law's unfairness toward minorities, residents and activists said.

The Medan District Court found Meiliana, 44, guilty of blasphemy under articles 156 and 156a of the Criminal Code on Tuesday and sentenced her to 18 months' imprisonment.

She reportedly said that the adzan was "too loud" and it "hurt" her ears in July 2016, triggering an anti-Chinese riot in which offended Muslims burnt several Buddhist temples in Tanjung Balai.

Tony, a fellow resident of the city, said Meiliana's sentence was overly harsh compared to those received by the rioters.

"Meiliana is punished with 18 months, while the vihara desecrators were only punished with two months, while some were even freed. This is unjust," he told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday. "The law is not on the side of us minorities."

Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR) executive director Anggara echoed Tony's sentiments and urged the government to revoke the blasphemy article.

"Once again the blasphemy articles [are used] to attack minority groups," Anggara said in a statement on Wednesday. "From ICJR's records, the blasphemy articles are always used in a context where the defendant is considered to insult the majority religion."

He added that the revision of the blasphemy articles in the draft Criminal Code bill currently being deliberated in the House of Representatives were even more vulnerable to abuse.

"Articles on blasphemy have to be formulated very carefully because they are closely tied to the subjective whims of the majority," he said. (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/22/meiliana-verdict-demonstrates-blasphemy-laws-injustice-toward-minorities.html

NU, Muhammadiyah criticize Meiliana blasphemy verdict

Jakarta Post - August 22, 2018

Karina M. Tehusijarana and Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – Executives from Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's largest Muslim organizations, have criticized the blasphemy conviction against Meliana, a resident of Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, for complaining about the volume of adzan (a call to prayer).

NU legal division head Robikin Emhas said that saying adzan was too loud did not constitute blasphemy as defined in articles 156 and 156a of the Criminal Code.

"I do not see how saying 'adzan is too loud' is an expression of hatred or hostility toward a particular group or religion," Robikin said in a statement on Tuesday.

He added that he hoped authorities would refrain from using the blasphemy article as "an instrument to suppress freedom of expression". "As Muslims, we should consider such opinions as constructive criticism in a plural society," he said.

Muhammadiyah secretary Abdul Mu'ti agreed, suggesting that an in-depth study should be conducted to review the blasphemy-related articles and laws. He further argued that the provisions were vague and open to interpretation.

Furthermore, one-and-a-half-year prison sentence handed down against Meiliana was "too heavy", he added.

"I assume that [Meiliana's] case is similar to that of [former Jakarta governor] Ahok [...] in which [the blasphemy conviction] is more of a result of pressure from the masses instead of the trial," Abdul said.

The groups' position is in contrast to that of the Indonesian Ulema Council's (MUI) North Sumatra chapter, which issued a fatwa in January 2017 declaring Meiliana's statement as blasphemous. (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/22/nu-muhammadiyah-criticize-meiliana-blasphemy-verdict.html

Meiliana's blasphemy conviction ludicrous: Amnesty International

Jakarta Post - August 22, 2018

Ivany Atina Arbi, Jakarta – The blasphemy conviction of Meliana, a resident of Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, for complaining about the volume of adzan (a call to prayer) was ludicrous and should be overturned, a human rights group has said.

Amnesty International Indonesia has demanded that the Chinese-Indonesian woman be immediately released from prison, saying that complaining about the volume of a loudspeaker was not a criminal offense.

"This ludicrous decision is a flagrant violation of freedom of expression," Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The Medan District Court ruled on Tuesday Meiliana guilty of blasphemy as stipulated under articles 156 and 156A of the Criminal Code.

Usman said the verdict was a stark illustration of the increasingly arbitrary and repressive application of the law on blasphemy in the country.

"The higher court in North Sumatra must reverse this injustice by quashing Meiliana's sentence and ensuring her immediate and unconditional release." (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/22/melianas-blasphemy-conviction-ludicrous-amnesty-international.html

Buddhist woman imprisoned after complaining mosque is too loud

ABC News - August 22, 2018

Tasha Wibawa, Iffah Nur Arifah, wires – An Indonesian Buddhist woman has been jailed for complaining that her neighbourhood mosque was too loud.

The ethnic Chinese woman known as Meiliana was sentenced to 18 months in prison after being found guilty of insulting Islam under Indonesia's blasphemy laws.

Prosecutors said the 44-year-old defendant violated the criminal code by committing blasphemy against the religion. Meiliana complained to a member of the public that the volume was too loud near her house in North Sumatra in 2016.

There are hundreds of thousands of mosques across the vast archipelago and most use loudspeakers to play the "azan" or call to prayer, which lasts a few minutes. But many also play lengthy versions of prayers or sermons lasting over 30 minutes, which has been deemed unnecessary by the Indonesian Mosque Council.

The Muslim call to prayer is repeated five times a day.

Following media reports of Meiliana's comments, mobs burned and ransacked at least fourteen Buddhist temples throughout the port town Medan in 2016.

"She said something that insulted religion – in this case Islam," Jamaluddin, a spokesman for the Medan district court, said. He added that the defendant had also showed remorse and apologised.

Political activists have warned the country's stringent blasphemy laws have been used to bully minorities and violate religious freedoms.

Bonar Tigor Naipospos, deputy chair of SETARA Institute, an Indonesian-based democracy organisation, said in the case of Meiliana she had been used as a scapegoat because of political pressure.

"What Meiliana did could not be categorised as blasphemy," he said. Widodo's hard-line running mateHe also said the Indonesian government needed to revise the laws, or there would be similar cases in the future.

"That's why we always insist the government to revise the article and set a clearer definition of what religious blasphemy really means."

Indonesia has the world's largest population of Muslims with a sizeable Buddhist and Christian minority.

Recent years have seen a rise in conservative and hard-line interpretations of Islam, prompting fears the secular nation's long-standing reputation for tolerance and diversity was being eroded.

Late last week, a kindergarten in Indonesia's East Java province came under fire for dressing children in niqabs and having them carry fake assault rifles for a local Independence Day parade. Over the weekend, a fatwa was issued declaring that the measles vaccine was haram.

Last year, the former ethnic Chinese governor of Jakarta, was tried and jailed for blasphemy

Several Muslim groups accused him of insulting Islam when he said his political rivals were using the Koran to deceive voters. The ruling was widely condemned and believed to be politically motivated.

Meiliana's lawyer, Ranto Sibarani, said her sentence would be appealed. The maximum sentence for blasphemy is five years.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-22/buddhist-woman-charged-under-indonesia-blasphemy-laws/10151702

Indonesia's controversial blasphemy law claims another victim

Asian Correspondent - August 22, 2018

Indonesia's controversial blasphemy law claimed another victim on Tuesday after a Chinese Buddhist woman was sentenced to 18 months in prison for complaining about the volume of a mosque's call to prayer.

Meiliana was found guilty of insulting Islam after asking her neighbourhood mosque to lower its sound system because it was too loud and "hurt" her ears.

Her conviction once again raises fears that Indonesia's tolerant, pluralistic tradition may be giving way to hardline Islamic conservative populism.

Rights group Amnesty International called the sentence a "ludicrous decision" and "a flagrant violation of freedom of expression."

"Sentencing someone to 18 months in prison for something so trivial is a stark illustration of the increasingly arbitrary and repressive application of the blasphemy law in the country," executive director Usman Hamid said in a statement.

Rights groups have long rallied against the blasphemy law, which is predominantly used against religious minorities in the Muslim-majority country.

The issue gained international attention in 2017 when then-Jakarta governor, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, was sentenced to two years for blasphemy after the Christian politician quoted a Quran verse about electing non-Muslim leaders.

Indonesia, which has the world's biggest Muslim population, is officially pluralist with six major religions recognised, including Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism. Freedom of expression is supposed to be guaranteed by law.

But the national conversation has been monopolised by a far-right Islamist groups, such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), who organised huge, racially charged rallies in Jakarta in the lead up to Ahok's trial.

A petition to revoke the law was filed by nine members of Indonesia's persecuted Ahmadiyah religious community, who sought the law's abolition on the basis that it fuels discrimination and abuse of religious minorities.

But Indonesia's Constitutional Court dismissed the petition in July, ruling that such abuses had nothing to do with the blasphemy law itself, but were rather linked to subsequent regulations derived from the law as well as "local regulations." The petition marked the third failed attempt to repeal the law since 2010.

United Nations human rights experts and groups like the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation have criticised the law's discriminatory use. Yet Indonesia's Ministry of Religious Affairs is seeking to reinforce and expand its scope through the so-called Religious Rights Protection Bill.

Human Rights Watch has claimed the government's continued support of the blasphemy law raises questions about its commitment to human rights for all Indonesians.

"Indonesia cannot claim to be a tolerant Muslim country while continuing religious discrimination and rights violations enabled by its blasphemy law," the group said in a statement.

President Joko Widodo's choice for running mate in next year's general election has done little to quiet concerns for religious freedom.

The 75-year-old Islamic scholar, Ma'ruf Amin, played a decisive role in the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election when he publicly condemned Ahok and, in his role as head of the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), he testified against the Chinese governor at the trial that ultimately saw him convicted.

The MUI was also instrumental in several controversial regulations including the country's anti-Pornography law, which has blocked out 70,000 "negative" websites, and the 2013 decree banning the Ahmadiyah Muslim religious sect.

His selection sends a clear message that Jokowi is trying to garner support with the hardline Muslim voters who have regularly criticised the president for not being Muslim enough.

In this political climate, it is unlikley the blasphemy law will be going anywhere any time soon.

Source: https://asiancorrespondent.com/2018/08/indonesias-controversial-blasphemy-law-claims-another-victim/

Buddhist woman imprisoned for complaining about mosque's speaker

Jakarta Post - August 21, 2018

Apriadi Gunawan, Jakarta – A Chinese-Indonesian woman of the Buddhist faith has been sentenced to 1.5 years in prison for complaining about the volume of the azan (Islamic call to prayer) that was blasted from a speaker of a mosque near her house.

Meiliana, 44, a resident of Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, was found guilty of blasphemy as stipulated under articles 156 and 156A of the Criminal Code on blasphemy, the Medan District Court said on Tuesday.

"[We] declare that the defendant is legally and compellingly proven guilty of [...] committing blasphemy against a certain religion that is professed in Indonesia," presiding judge Wahyu Prasetyo Wibowo said. "[We] sentenced the defendant to one and a half years in prison."

Meiliana is one of the first people to have been sentenced to prison for complaining about the volume of a mosque's speakers, despite a plea from the National Mosque Council, now led by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, for mosque staff to use loudspeakers wisely.

Meiliana reportedly said the azan was "too loud" and "hurt" her ears, and asked a neighbor to lower the speaker's volume.

Her remark, made in 2016, is believed to have triggered the worst anti-Chinese riot in the country since 1998, with Muslims who claimed to have been offended by her words burning several Buddhist temples.

During the riot, the angry mob destroyed prayer equipment, Buddha statues, tables, chairs, lamps and several cars and motorbikes, the police said.

The police arrested 19 people for their role in the riot. Eight were charged with looting, nine with malicious destruction of property and two with inciting violence. All were given one to four month jail sentences.

Meiliana's lawyer, Ranto Sibarani, said they would appeal the verdict. "We will appeal the verdict because the judges could not prove that our client has committed blasphemy," he told The Jakarta Post over the phone.

Human rights activists have criticized the law enforcers for prosecuting Meiliana, saying that the case should have been settled out of court.

"This is an old case that was brought up again," M. Isnur from the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI) told the Post recently, adding that public pressure was likely the main driver of her prosecution.

"In a blasphemy case like this, [law enforcement officials] often listen to the MUI's fatwas."

Meiliana is the latest individual prosecuted under the nation's controversial blasphemy laws, under which dozens of people have been sent to prison, including former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama. (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/21/breaking-buddhist-woman-imprisoned-for-complaining-about-mosques-speaker.html

Surveys & opinion polls

Jokowi still favorite for 2019 race: LSI survey

Jakarta Post - August 22, 2018

Karina M. Tehusijarana, Jakarta – The results of the first poll after the candidates for the 2019 presidential elections were officially registered are in, and President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo remains in the driving seat, while challenger Prabowo Subianto trails behind.

The survey, conducted by the Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI), polled 1,200 respondents from August 12 to 19 about who they would vote for in the election.

Around 52.2 percent of the respondents chose Jokowi and running mate Ma'ruf Amin, while 29.5 percent chose Prabowo and running mate Sandiaga Uno. The remaining 18.3 percent were undecided or preferred not to answer.

The poll also looked at six demographic segments to see how popular the candidate pairs were in each group, namely Muslims, non-Muslims, low-income earners, women, educated voters and millennials.

Prabowo was found to have a slight edge over Jokowi among voters who had a university education, with 44.5 percent against 40.4 percent, but trailed the incumbent in the five other categories.

The poll also examined the effect that the vice-presidential candidate choices had on the electability of the presidential contenders.

When asked who they would choose out of Jokowi and Prabowo, without their respective running mates, 53.6 percent of respondents chose Jokowi while 28.8 percent opted for Prabowo.

This indicated that Ma'ruf slightly reduced the amount of support for Jokowi while Sandiaga slightly increased the amount of support for Prabowo.

Ma'ruf's effect was particularly pronounced among non-Muslim and university-educated voters.

About 70.3 percent of non-Muslim respondents said they would vote for Jokowi, but the number went down to 51.5 percent when asked if they would vote for Jokowi and Ma'ruf.

Support from university-educated respondents also went down from 50.5 percent to 40.4 percent when Ma'ruf was included.

Sandiaga, on the other hand, proved popular among women, millennials and educated voters, slightly raising Prabowo's electability across all three groups. (swd)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/21/jokowi-still-favorite-for-2019-race-lsi-survey.html

Jokowi-Ma'ruf 52.2%, Prabowo-Sandiaga 29.5% in first survey post

Coconuts Jakarta - August 21, 2018

On August 9, the surprising announcements by both President Joko Widodo and Gerindra chairman Prabowo Subianto's regarding their choice of running mates in the 2019 presidential election dramatically changed the dynamics of the race from almost anything analysts had previously predicted.

Now, the results first major survey of potential voters polled after the running mate announcements were made have been revealed, and they indicate that while the incumbent still holds a major advantage over Prabowo (as in previous polls), the demographic shifts among their voters could herald major shifts in campaign strategies.

The Indonesian Survey Circle (LSI) today released the results of a voter survey held from August 12-19. Based on a head-to-head match, 52.2% of voters would pick President Jokowi and his running mate, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) leader Ma'ruf Amin, while 29.5% would pick Prabowo and his running mate, former Jakarta vice governor and businessman Sandiaga Uno.

About 18.3% of respondents said they were undecided or did not wish to state who they planned on voting for, indicating a large swing vote that could be wooed by either ticket before April.

LSI's poll data is based on face-to-face interviews with 1,200 participants chosen through multi-stage random sampling from August 12-19. LSI researcher Adjie Alfaraby said that the Jokowi-Ma'ruf ticket polling above 50% was a very good sign for the candidates.

"The Jokowi-Ma'ruf pair achieved the magic number, above 50%, almost the same as the percentage of votes that Jokowi acquired in the 2014 presidential election," Adjie said at a press conference today as quoted by Detik.

Jokowi and his current vice president, Jusuf Kalla, earned 53.15% of the vote in 2014.

In terms of demographics, LSI's survey data seems to bear out the theory that having MUI leader Ma'ruf Amin as his running mate would help Jokowi attract Muslim voters, with Adjie saying that Jokowi-Ma'ruf earned the support of 52.7% percent of Muslim voters compared to 27.9% for Prabowo-Sandiaga.

But when it came to non-Muslim voters, the difference was much smaller, with Jokowi-Ma'ruf earning 47.5% compared to Prabowo-Sandiaga with 43.6%

"The difference is small. This is quite important because a population of just 10% percent will decide who wins or loses. We learned that in the 2014 presidential election and Pak Jokowi won the minority vote by a landslide then," Adjie said.

Indeed, many have voiced concerns about Jokowi's choice of Ma'ruf Amin, who has a history of supporting policies that discriminate against the country's religious minorities. But the unfortunate reality is that a small percentage of non-Muslim voters lost pales in comparison to a small increase in the percentage of Muslim voters, given the country's demographics.

Will we see Jokowi make attempts to alleviate the concerns of minorities worried about his running mate, or even overtures made by Prabowo to pick up their votes? The latter would certainly be a reversal of what many political observers had predicted the Gerindra chairman's primary campaign strategy would be, but with Jokowi's PDI-P party now saying it is open to an endorsement by controversial Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab, we might actually see the government coalition become the more attractive choice for hardline Islamic conservatives (a possibility that was unthinkable until recently).

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/jokowi-maruf-52-2-prabowo-sandiaga-29-5-first-survey-post-running-mate-announcements/

Environment & natural disasters

Impacts of forest fires kill four in W. Kalimantan

Jakarta Post - August 23, 2018

Jakarta – The police have said four people had died in the past month because of forest fires in West Kalimantan.

West Kalimantan Police chief Insp. Gen. Didi Haryono said on Wednesday that four people from different regencies had died from different causes as a result of forest fires.

The two victims in Melawi regency named Vito, 7, and Rio, 11, experienced severe burns. Vito died on Aug. 12 near his house while Rio died on Aug. 16 after being transferred to Soedarso Hospital in Pontianak, the capital city of West Kalimantan.

A resident of Sambas regency, Jaidan, 56, also died from smoke inhalation on Aug. 16, while trying to put out a fire in his farm.

The latest reported victim was Ensungga, 69, a resident of Sintang regency. His charred body was found on Monday. A day before, he left the house saying he wanted to put out a fire in his farm.

Didi said the impacts of forest fire were extremely dangerous. "In terms of health, smoke inhalation can damage children's cerebral nerves and can cause disease," he said. Fire also disrupts the distribution of staple foods, he said.

Forest fires in the province are believed to be a result of slash-and-burn practices for land clearance. (sau/swd)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/23/impacts-of-forest-fires-kill-four-in-w-kalimantan.html

'Ape together strong': In Indonesia, battle to save great ape goes

Asian Correspondent - August 22, 2018

Hans Nicholas Jong – A battle to save the world's most endangered great ape has intensified as conservationists lodge a lawsuit and collect over a million signatures against a planned hydroelectric plant in Sumatra, Indonesia.

At the heart of the issue is the future of the Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis), a species that was only described last year but is already teetering on the brink of extinction. Its habitat in the Batang Toru ecosystem continues to be fragmented by infrastructure projects, including a planned US$1.6 billion dam and hydroelectric power plant underwritten by Chinese state loans.

In the latest salvo in the battle, the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) has filed a suit against the North Sumatra provincial government for approving the project. The lawsuit seeks to revoke the government-issued environmental permit for the project's developer, PT North Sumatra Hydro Energy (NSHE).

The lawsuit's underlying arguments are that the project carries a high environmental risk, and that NHSE made a series of administrative errors when acquiring the permit, according to Ronald Siahaan, Walhi's litigation manager.

On the first point, Ronald said, the site of the proposed dam is along a tectonic fault, which raises the risk of catastrophic damage from earthquakes – something that Walhi says was overlooked in the project's environmental impact assessment document.

Ronald cited the case of a village, Aek Batang Paya, next to the project site, where he said: "we can see that the asphalt road there keeps cracking."

"They've paved the road with asphalt over and over again, but the asphalt keeps cracking," he said. "It's a proof that the spot is at high risk from earthquakes."

In the environmental permit issued by the North Sumatra administration to NSHE, the province's governor said the dam would be constructed in such a way that would be able to withstand the impacts of any earthquake.

"Let's test their logic. Can you name me any construction [project] in Indonesia that can withstand an earthquake?" Ronald said.

"Let's compare that to Japan, which has better experience in earthquake-resistant construction. Even they couldn't prevent the nuclear plant in Fukushima from being damaged by an earthquake. So how could you say in the document that you will build an earthquake-resistant dam?"

The permit also appears to breach the 2007 National Zoning and Planning Act, which states that construction should be avoided in areas prone to earthquakes, Ronald said.

And the sheer scale of the project, touted to be the biggest power plant in Sumatra once completed as scheduled in 2022, exacerbates the risks, according to Walhi North Sumatra legal division manager Golfrid Siregar. He pointed to the recent collapse of a dam in Laos, in which 36 people were killed and nearly 100 remain missing and presumed dead.

But even before the dam goes into operation, the project will already wreak havoc on the local environment through the clearing of forest for roads and power lines, Ronald said. This will open up once-inaccessible forestland to farmers and hunters.

Ronald, who has twice visited the site of the proposed dam, described the Batang Toru forest as "thick and lush, filled with dense trees with only half-a-meter gaps between the trees."

A senior official at the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said that it was important for the project to proceed, as part of the government's wider plan to boost electricity generation.

"It's a strategic project, [with] very good impact on agriculture and electricity," said Wiratno, the ministry's director general for conservation.

He said he was confident that the project could go ahead with minimal damage to the orangutans' habitat. "If possible, they can coexist [with the dam]," he said. "The orangutans there are really tame. We can see that they have nests near the road."

Still, Wiratno said his office would discuss the matter with the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, which sanctions all power plant projects in Indonesia, to assess the impact on the orangutans.

"We will study the impact and everything else with orangutan experts and our research department," he said.

In addition to the environmental concerns, Walhi's lawsuit highlights what the group says are administrative violations in the issuance of the project's permit.

For starters, said Golfrid, there was no proper public consultation by the project managers with the affected communities, which is required by law.

"The local government invited village heads in 2017 [to talk about the project], but we don't consider that a proper consultation process because the government only talked about compensation and how the project would increase the welfare of the locals," Golfrid said.

Even then, the amount of compensation offered was too low, Ronald said, at IDR8,000 (US$0.55) per square meter of land. "Where can you find land for IDR8,000 per square meter in 2018?" he said. "The answer is Batang Toru. You can find it there."

Already the project has triggered conflicts with local communities who have refused to sell their land at the price being offered. Last year, a protest by residents from three villages against the development of the dam turned violent.

Golfrid said the locals had little choice in the matter. Even if they refuse to sell out, the government can exercise its powers of eminent domain through the courts, taking their land and force them to accept whatever compensation is offered.

NSHE has denied shirking its responsibilities with regard to the land acquisition process, saying it made an offer of at least four times what the land was worth according to tax-valuation purposes. NSHE also said it had set up a grievance mechanism to resolve any land conflicts.

Ronald said NSHE also failed to inform the locals that blasting operations would be carried out to build the dam. He said they only received notification letters about the blasting a few days before the operations were set to begin.

He also objected to the tone of the letters, which he said read more like threats than cautions, which phrases such as "this is a dangerous operation with high risk of injury and death," and "please do not let your curiosity put yourself or your loved ones in danger!"

"You can't threaten the locals with death," he said. "And the locals didn't even know that the project would involve the use of explosives. Why didn't they know about it?"

After finding out about the letters, Ronald rallied the villagers who objected to the use of explosives, and the blasting operations were postponed. "I can assure you that the locals were not OK with the blasting operations because the company used the word 'death,'" he said.

"How could you have a business that involves the word 'death' in it? What kind of business is that? An environmentally friendly one? One that puts the public interest first?"

In a response to Mongabay's questions, NSHE said the blasting operations would be conducted by experts in accordance with regulations, and under the monitoring of government officials.

"There's no bombing plan," NSHE said. "The blasting operations in question are the use of explosives to create tunnels. And the notification letters were sent in accordance with standard operating procedures before the blasting operations."

Besides filing the lawsuit, Walhi also staged a protest outside the offices of PT Pembangkit Jawa Bali (PJB) Investasi, a subsidiary of state-owned power utility PT PLN that serves as a project sponsor and shareholder in the Batang Toru power plant.

The protest, on Aug 20, a day after International Orangutan Day, demanded that PJB Investasi, which holds a 25 percent stake in NSHE, to withdraw from the project.

"PJB Investasi as the project sponsor and shareholder of NSHE has to stop the development of the Batang Toru power plant," Walhi North Sumatra chapter head Dana Tarigan said in a press release.

"Meeting the 23 percent renewable energy target in Indonesia's energy mix by 2025 doesn't mean destroying an ecosystem rich in biodiversity like Batang Toru."

Walhi's lawsuit comes on the heels of an open letter, signed by 25 of the world's leading environmental scientists, urging Indonesia's president to scrap the Batang Toru power plant project.

The scientists, writing as the Alliance of Leading Environmental Researchers & Thinkers (ALERT), said the project could be the death knell for the Tapanuli orangutan, a species whose population has plummeted by 83 percent over the course of just three generations, leaving fewer than 800 individuals surviving in a tiny tract of forest less than one-fifth the size of the metropolitan area that comprises Indonesia's capital, Jakarta.

The orangutan's habitat is already fragmented into three populations, with only one of them deemed viable in the long term as it houses between 500 and 600 individuals. And that's assuming no further disturbance or loss of habitat. The populations in the other two blocks are predicted to become extinct because there are simply too few individuals left.

Furthermore, the species breeds slowly, with females not having their first offspring until the age of 15 years, and a space of nine years between pregnancies.

Scientists estimate that an estimated 70 square kilometers (27 square miles) of land will be cleared to make way for the planned dam and reservoir, eating away at the orangutan's habitat.

Tito Prano, a senior communications adviser at NSHE, said that while the developers indeed had permits to clear that much land, they wouldn't clear all of it.

Instead, they would only clear less than 6 square kilometers, or about 2.3 square miles, he said, with the rest to be returned to the management of the local government.

Agus Djoko Ismanto, the senior environmental adviser at NSHE, said the company would also create wildlife corridors if the roads happened to cut off smaller populations of the orangutan. As many as 12 such corridors may have to be built in anticipation of the impact of the new roads.

"These will be built in stages," Agus said. "There are four [corridors] ready to be built."

Onrizal Onrizal, a forestry researcher at North Sumatra University, said the creation of wildlife corridors might backfire without proper monitoring, because they could be used by poachers to wait for the apes to cross.

"Judging from our culture, the corridors could be a place for poachers to wait," he told Mongabay. "And the construction of the dam might make it easier for people to cross the river [and access the ape's habitat]. Who's going to monitor them?"

Public pressure against the project is also mounting. An online petition calling on President Joko Widodo to stop the project has garnered more than 1.3 million signatures.

"President Widodo holds the fate of Indonesia's amazing Tapanuli Orangutan in his hands," Avaaz global campaigner Mike Baillie said.

"If he allows the dam, he will doom these amazing creatures. All over the world, people are calling on him to do the right thing, and save this global icon of Indonesia."

The ALERT scientists, meanwhile, have flagged NSHE's decision to use A+, a PR company, to approach them.

According to William F. Laurance, the director of ALERT, who led a major study of the Tapanuli orangutan, the PR company has been trying to set up meetings with the scientists who wrote the letter to the president.

"We tried to set up immediate interview with NSHE, but they didn't want to do it right away," Laurance, a tropical ecologist at James Cook University in Australia, said.

"So this is pretty much a smoke screen to try to make it [look] like the company is trying to engage with us. They want to appear that they're doing the right thing."

Laurance said the PR company was part of a broader effort by NSHE to pressure and cajole scientists. "There is a much longer history of them trying to buy influence with money around," he said.

"NSHE offered flights to any of us to Jakarta, all paid expense. But when we tried to push [for the meeting], immediately they said later. So the moment we were contacted by them, we realised what was going on. They tried to divide and conquer us but they didn't get any traction at all."

In response to the scientists' protests, A+ said NSHE was acting out of "goodwilll" when it tried to set up meetings with the scientists.

"The goodwill is represented by us sending letters to each one of the 25 scientists," A+ said. "There's no money being paid or pressure being given to buy influence to the 25 scientists. It's a shame that our client's goodwill is being misunderstood and is shared to the public."

The ALERT scientists said they believed NSHE was afraid that key funders, especially the Bank of China, would withdraw their support for the project following the protests.

Previously, the World Bank's International Finance Corporation and the Asian Development Bank had refused to support the hydro project, largely on environmental grounds. But the project received a lifeline when Chinese financiers and Sinohydro, China's national hydroelectric authority, decided to back it.

"In any other nation, and with any other financiers, it is difficult to imagine a project like this advancing," ALERT said in a press statement.

"But in Indonesia, with abundant Chinese money behind the scenes, who can tell? Prospective financiers such as the Bank of China should run away from this hydro-nightmare and from NSHE – or they will be equally guilty of ringing a death knell for one of our closest living relatives."

[This article first appeared on Mongabay.]

Source: https://asiancorrespondent.com/2018/08/indonesia-battle-save-great-ape-court/

Schools close as haze worsens in Pontianak in Indonesia's West

Straits Times - August 21, 2018

Pontianak – Authorities in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, have ordered temporary school closures, as thick haze from forest fires has worsened in the city.

"I have instructed PAUD (early childhood education centres), kindergarten and elementary schools to close and resume operations on Aug 27. As for junior high schools, students can go back to school on Friday," he wrote.

The closure applies to all schools that are under regional government supervision.

Meanwhile, the West Kalimantan Education and Culture Agency has issued a circular that calls on senior high schools to close from Monday to Thursday in Pontianak and Kubu Raya regency, which are affected by the haze. The agency stated that the closures might be extended depending on the haze.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said hotspots detected in West Kalimantan had decreased to 526 by 8.22am local time on Monday. On the morning of Aug 16, the BNPB had recorded 1,061 hotspots across the province.

Six helicopters have been deployed to combat the forest fires in the province, which resulted from employing slash-and-burn practices to clear agricultural land.

– The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/schools-close-as-haze-worsens-in-pontianak-in-indonesias-west-kalimantan

Pontianak urges school closure for smog

Jakarta Post - August 20, 2018

Severianus Endi, Pontianak – Pontianak authorities have ordered temporarily school closures, as thick smog from forest fires has worsened in the city. Pontianak Mayor Sutarmidji announced the school closure on Sunday via his Facebook account.

"I have instructed PAUD [early childhood education centers], kindergarten and elementary schools to close and resume operations on Aug 27. As for junior high schools, students can go back to school on Friday," he wrote. The closure applies to all schools that are under regional government supervision.

Meanwhile, the West Kalimantan Education and Culture Agency has issued a circular that calls on senior high schools to close from Monday to Thursday in Pontianak and Kubu Raya regency, which are affected by the smog. The agency stated that the closure might be extended, depending on the smog.

National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho said that hot spots detected in West Kalimantan had declined to 526 by 8:22 a.m. local time on Monday. On the morning of Aug. 16, the BNPB had recorded 1,061 hot spots across the province.

Six helicopters have been deployed to combat the forest fires in the province, which resulted from employing slash and burn to clear agricultural land. (sau/swd)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/20/pontianak-urges-school-closure-for-smog.html

Lombok: deadly quake hits island recovering from string of tremors

Associated Press - August 20, 2018

Ten people have died in a strong earthquake on Lombok that set off a series of mudslides, cut power across the Indonesian island and damaged more than 150 homes as the community tries to recover from quakes this month that killed more than 450 people.

The shallow magnitude-6.9 quake that hit just after 10pm local time on Sunday was one of multiple powerful earthquakes in the north-east of the island that also caused landslides. It was preceded by a 6.3-magnitude quake in the afternoon and then followed by strong aftershocks. Six of the dead were in the neighbouring island of Sumbawa. The area has suffered more than 100 aftershocks since Sunday night.

The quakes, in the Sembalun district in the north-east of the island, caused panic, but many people were already staying in tents following the deadly quake earlier this month.

The national disaster mitigation agency said power was cut across the island, hampering efforts to assess the situation. Some houses and other buildings in Sembalun had collapsed, it said.

"People panicked and scattered," said disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. "Some people are hysterical because they feel earthquake aftershocks that are harder than before. They heard a roar that probably came from landslides in the hills and Mount Rinjani."

Dwikorita Karnawatim, who heads Indonesia's meteorology and geophysics agency, said buildings that hadn't collapsed so far suffered repeated stress, and authorities have urged people to avoid both the mountain's slopes and weakened buildings.

The quake lasted five to 10 seconds and also was felt in Bali and as far away as East Java and Makassar in Sulawesi. Tourists and villagers in Bali ran out of buildings in panic.

The disaster agency said one person died from a heart attack during the biggest of the daytime quakes and nearly 100 houses near the epicenter were severely damaged.

A magnitude 7.0 quake that struck Lombok on 5 August killed 460 people, damaged tens of thousands of homes and displaced several hundred thousand people.

Mount Rinjani has been closed to visitors following a 29 July earthquake that killed 16 people, triggered landslides and stranded hundreds of tourists on the mountain.

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago that straddles the Pacific "Ring of Fire," is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/20/lombok-deadly-earthquake-hits-island-recovering-tremors-indonesia

Shoot-on-sight order issued in Riau as forest and peatland fires

Straits Times - August 17, 2018

Lee Seok Hwai – A commander tasked with preventing fires in Riau said he has issued a shoot-on-sight order across the Indonesian province against those found clearing land by burning, as growing forest and peatland fires shroud several areas in smog ahead of the Asian Games.

The order came as satellites detected 121 hot spots in Riau on Thursday morning (Aug 16) – a big jump from the 22 spots detected on Wednesday afternoon, according to the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG).

"Ninety-nine per cent of the land and forest fires in Riau Province are related to the intentional acts of irresponsible people," Brigadier-General Sonny Aprianto, Commander of the Riau Land and Forest Fire Task Force, was quoted by Antara news agency as saying on Thursday.

He said he had ordered army personnel to shoot "arsonists" across Riau. The Indonesian military has previously issued similar orders, as was the case in Jambi, central Sumatra, last year, to deter fire culprits.

Land-clearing fires have been seen as a serious threat to the 18th Asian Games, which will be held in Palembang, South Sumatra Province, from Aug 18 to Sept 2.

President Joko Widodo and other senior leaders have ordered efforts to combat land fires be stepped up to ensure that the quadrennial games would not be affected. Brig-Gen Sonny said on Thursday that he had discussed the shoot-on-sight policy with Riau Police Chief Inspector General Nandang, and soldiers would be deployed to every military district compound in Riau to enforce the order.

The authorities had asked locals not to clear land by burning but without much success, the one-star general noted, according to Antara. Indeed, he said the slash-and-burn method for clearing the land has become more widespread.

Several arsonists have been nabbed, he added, with at least three cases in Dumai city now ready for trial.

Meanwhile, the fires have blanketed several areas in Riau, including the provincial capital of Pekanbaru, in smog.

"At first I thought it was morning dew, but apparently the environment was dimmed by the haze," Pekanbaru resident Musfarin told the Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Similar conditions were also reported in Dumai city, where visibility dropped to 4km on Thursday morning on the back of the thick haze, the newspaper said.

The haze in Dumai originated from local forest and land fires as well as hot spots from the neighbouring area of Rokan Hilir regency, where the worst fires in Riau were burning.

The fires in Rokan Hilir have burned down hundreds of hectares of oil palm plantation and peatland as well as 20 houses and several vehicles in Tanjung Leban village in Kubu district, reported Jakarta Post.

The fires have also forced residents to evacuate, the report said, without giving a number.

"We have informed land owners not to clear their land for plantation during the dry season, but apparently they ignored it. We did not have the proper equipment to put out the fires and it was hard to find a water source so the fire spread quickly," Tanjung Leban village secretary Wandri was quoted as saying. He said thousands of residents needed surgical masks.

"Four villages near us are covered with smog from the land fires. All the villagers now breathe in haze. The government must take action to help the people."

Mr Edwar Sanger, deputy head of Riau forest and land fires task force who also heads the Riau Disaster Mitigation Agency, said his team had tried putting out fires in Rokan Hilir both from land and air.

"But the dry season has helped the fires spread. Strong winds have also complicated wildfire suppression efforts," he said. Residents should "pray for rain", he added.

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/shoot-on-sight-order-issued-in-riau-as-growing-forest-and-land-fires-cause-choking-haze

Indonesian smoke haze arrives

Bangkok Post - August 16, 2018

Assawin Pakkawan and online reporters – Smoke haze from this year's burning-off in Indonesia is starting to affect the health of people in Narathiwat, Satun, Songkhla and Yala provinces, the Pollution Control Department said on Thursday.

Particulate matter up to 2.5 microns in diameter had exceeded the safety ceiling of 50 microgrammes per cubic metre of air over the past 24 hours in the four southern provinces, the department reported.

Particulate matter up to 10 microns exceeded the safety threshold of 120 microgrammes in Betong district of Yala.

Officials said the haze was caused by people clearing forest on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo to turn the land into palm and rubber plantations. The smoke was being carried to Thailand by prevailing winds.

Regional Environmental Office 16 in Songkhla reported the haze was expected to lessen as the number of hotspots on Sumatra had dropped from 62 on Sunday to eight on Wednesday.

Source: https://www.bangkokpost.com/news/environment/1522430/

Health & education

Riau Islands MUI asks Muslims to reject MR vaccine

Jakarta Post - August 22, 2018

Fadli, Batam – The Riau Islands' chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) urged Muslims to refrain from using the measles-rubella (MR) vaccine, despite the central MUI's fatwa that the vaccine is mubah (permitted for Muslims).

"Now that it is clear that [the vaccine contains] elements that are forbidden for Muslims, the MUI asks Muslims in Riau Islands province to reject the vaccine," Riau Islands MUI secretary Ustadz Santoso told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

The central MUI had announced on Monday that although the MR vaccine utilized materials derived from pigs in its production process, its use was permitted because a halal vaccine had yet to be made, constituting a "sharia emergency".

However, Santoso, said the Riau Islands council did not consider current conditions to be an emergency.

"If the MR vaccine is really so important, then we call on the government to quickly make one that is halal and safe for Muslims," he said. "We would accept the excuse of an emergency if rubella was really widespread in this area, but we can see that there is no issue."

He added that the Riau Islands MUI would issue a letter firmly forbidding Muslims from using the vaccine.

After completing the first stage of a measles and rubella vaccination campaign in six provinces across Java last year, the government is now targeting around 32 million children outside Java who will receive the vaccination for free at schools and public health facilities.

School administrators and parents in Batam, however, expressed their reluctance to let their children be vaccinated.

Dharmansyah, the principal of Hidayatullah Islamic Junior High School in Batam, said he would let parents decide whether their children would be vaccinated. "We do not want to be seen as rejecting government policies, so we leave the decision up to the students' parents," he said.

Del Harahap, a parent of one of the school's students, asked the school to go a step further and refuse entry to the provincial health agency's medical team.

"I think the school should firmly reject the arrival of the vaccination team as it's clear that there is a haram component in the vaccine," she said. Riau Islands health agency head Tjeptjep Yudiana said the agency would continue with the program despite the MUI's objections. "Let that be the MUI's problem, we will still continue [the campaign]," he said. (kmt/ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/22/riau-islands-mui-asks-muslims-to-reject-mr-vaccine.html

Top Islamic body issues fatwa against measles vaccine, calling it

ABC News - August 21, 2018

Tasha Wibawa – Indonesia's peak Islamic body has issued a religious decree – or fatwa – declaring the Rubella-Measles vaccine to be "haram" or religiously forbidden.

The Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI) justified the ruling by claiming the vaccine contains traces of pork and human cells, which are banned in the Muslim religion.

The organisation is chaired by Ma'ruf Amin, who was recently controversially announced as Indonesian President Joko Widodo's running mate in next year's presidential election.

However, the fatwa also states that the use of the product will be allowed for the time being due to the lack of viable alternatives.

"We've found ourselves in a position where we have no choice... there has not been a vaccine found to be halal and sacred," an MUI official told CNN Indonesia.

He said the religious organisation understood the dangers associated with not getting children immunised. However, CNN Indonesia reported that a number of towns had already suspended the vaccine before the MUI even announced their decision.

Tim Lindsey, the director of the Centre for Indonesian Law in the University of Melbourne, told the ABC the fatwa would undoubtedly make accessing the vaccination more difficult in Indonesia.

Fatwas are not legally binding in Indonesia, however declarations from the MUI are highly influential. "If there's a MUI fatwa opposing it, that will be a real obstacle to public health efforts," Professor Lindsey said.

The MUI is a small non-government organisation which receives funding from the government of Indonesia. It oversees all Muslim organisations in the country, and has powers to issue halal certifications and regulate Islamic banking.

Mr Amin, President Jokowo Widodo's controversial new running mate, is the leader of the organisation and was previously the head of its fatwa committee.

One fatwa issued by Mr Amin was crucial in the trial of Jakarta's former minority Christian-Chinese governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly known as Ahok, who was subsequently jailed under blasphemy charges.

The fatwa sparked a mass movement which saw more than 150,000 Indonesians protests in the streets of Jakarta calling for Ahok's arrest.

"There's a pattern that's emerged in Indonesia. In minority groups and cases of blasphemy, fatwas are relied on in court as evidence," Professor Lindsey said. "It's almost always the case that if a MUI fatwa is issued against a person accused of blasphemy, they are convicted."

Under Mr Amin, the organisation's fatwa committee also declared fatwas against secularism, pluralism and liberalism. Those decrees claimed that Indonesia's liberal democratic order was un-Islamic and inappropriate.

Professor Lindsey said the MUI has high levels of government support, which legitimises them in the eyes of the public. "The Indonesian democratic system is under threat from this conservative Islamist position and MUI is one of the organisations that's leading that charge."

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-21/indonesia-vaccines-measles-fatwa-issued-by-mui/10147040

Corruption & abuse of power

KPK to probe PPP chairman Romy

Tempo - August 20, 2018

Taufiq Siddiq, Jakarta – The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) will probe the Chairman of the United Development Party (PPP) Romahurmuziy or Romy for the bribery case of the proposed regional balance funds in the 2018 Draft State Budget (RAPBN-P).

"Today the probe is scheduled for the PPP Chairman Romahurmuziy in the case of regional balance funds," said KPK spokesman Febri Diansyah, Monday, August 20.

Febri said Romy would be probed for the suspect Yaya Purnomo as a former official of the Ministry of Finance. In addition, KPK also scheduled a probe for the North Labuhan Batu Regent, Khaerudinsyah, for the same suspect.

In this case, KPK set four suspects, Yaya Purnomo and Amin Santono, former members of the House of Financial Commission. The two other suspects are from the contractor party, Ahmad Ghiast and Eka Kamaluddin as the gift givers.

The case was revealed from the sting operation held by KPK against Amin in the Halim Perdanakusuma Airport, East Jakarta, on May 4.

KPK seized Rp400 million and a transfer receipt of Rp100 million to Amin, as well as proposal documents from his car. KPK then arrested Yaya, as well as Ahmad and Eka at different locations.

KPK assessed that the total Rp500 million received by Amin was part of the 7 percent promised bribe in two projects in Sumedang District worth Rp25 billion.

Source: http://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/08/20/055920950/KPK-to-Probe-PPP-Chairman-Romy

Terrorism & religious extremism

Agency removes principal over 'jihadi' kindergarten parade

Jakarta Post - August 23, 2018

Jakarta – A controversial Independence Day parade at an Indonesian Military (TNI) kindergarten in Probolinggo, East Java, has resulted in its principal being removed and transferred to a different post.

Hartatik, formerly the principal of Kartika V-69 kindergarten that falls under the supervision of the 0820 Probolinggo Military Command (Kodim), took up her new position at the Probolinggo Education, Youth and Sports Agency (Disdikpora) on Thursday.

On Aug 17, students of Kartika V-69 marched in the parade clad in black robes and niqabs, carrying props resembling assault rifles in the school's Independence Day parade, themed "Fight with the Messenger of Allah to Increase Faith and Piety".

Photos and videos of the parade went viral on social media, which generated comments accusing the school of fomenting radicalism among its students.

Disdikpora head M. Kaskur said that Hartatik had admitted to neglecting her duties in connection with the parade, particularly in not consulting the agency or the 0820 Probolinggo Kodim on the "jihadi" costume parade.

"This is a strict administrative sanction. We [the agency] agreed to remove Hartatik [as principal], and she will assume the role of an agency staffer as of Thursday," Kaskur said on Wednesday, as quoted by kompas.com.

"The principal's position [has not been filled]. We will hold a coordination meeting to discuss the new principal," he added.

Hartatik has since apologized for the event, saying she had no intention of committing any misconduct, that the parade was solely for entertainment and that the kindergarten was just using the items it had in storage.

The military command's Army Wives Union (Persit) 35 head Yuliana Tungga Dewi also apologized to the public.

"We apologize for this [incident]. We will be more careful. We have no intention of instilling radicalism [in children]," Yuliana said. (sau/swd)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/23/agency-removes-principal-over-jihadi-kindergarten-parade.html

Indonesian officials defend parade of veiled kids with guns

Associated Press - August 21, 2018

Jakarta – Indonesian officials have defended a street parade that involved veiled kindergarteners carrying replica weapons, with police saying they will arrest the person who uploaded a video of the event to Facebook.

The video of children dressed head-to-toe in black marching with wooden guns has caused a sensation in Indonesia, which in May suffered one of its worst attacks in years when militants used their children as suicide bombers in the second-largest city, Surabaya.

The parade in East Java was one of thousands held across Indonesia last Friday to mark independence.

Probolinggo Police Chief Alfian Nurrizal told The Associated Press on Tuesday that police were investigating who uploaded the video. He said it may have been edited to convey the wrong impression.

"He or she did not upload the entire footage," Nurrizal said. "There are allegations of intentionally cutting the footage for a certain purpose." If the parade was "filmed completely since the beginning, there will be no misunderstanding," he said.

Local media reported that Education and Culture Minister Muhajir Effendy said the parade was misinterpreted and the staff of the school, located inside a local military command, had no intention to instill radicalism in children.

It contained many elements, he said, including symbols of Muslims who struggled for Indonesia's independence and the red and white of Indonesia's national flag.

"It was recorded when these veiled children carried only replica guns," he told reporters. "In fact, there were themes raised by these children, namely the struggle of Islam. Until finally this piece of video spread on social media and was very biased."

However, the principal of the school apologized. And the head of prevention at the National Counter-Terrorism Agency said public outrage over the incident was a positive sign.

"For us, people's reaction against such a parade was a sign of good awareness about radicalism," Brig. Gen. Hamli told AP.

"In the past, maybe people didn't care about these kinds of activities," he said, "but now at least people were concerned that it was inappropriate activities for these children and they responded immediately."

Nurrizal said the provincial police's cyber unit is helping to track down the video uploader.

After Jakarta's minority Christian governor was convicted of blasphemy last year and imprisoned, police also prosecuted the individual who helped trigger massive street protests against the governor by posting a video online of him making offending comments.

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-6081709/Indonesian-officials-defend-parade-veiled-kids-guns.html

'Jihadi' kindergarten parade raises questions about radicalism

Jakarta Post - August 21, 2018

Karina M. Tehusijarana, Jakarta – An Independence Day parade involving a kindergarten overseen by the Indonesian Military (TNI) in Probolinggo, East Java, has raised concerns about radicalism within the TNI's ranks.

Students of Kartika V-69 kindergarten, which is under the supervision of the 0820 Probolinggo Military Command (Kodim), marched in the parade clad in black robes and niqab (face veils) and wielding assault rifle replicas as part of the school's "Fight with the Messenger of Allah to Increase Faith and Piety" theme.

Photos and videos of the parade went viral on social media, leading to accusations that the parade showed that the school was instilling radicalism in its students.

Hartatik, the kindergarten's principal, has since apologized, saying that the school was just utilizing items in its warehouse. "We apologize for the inconvenience," she said on Saturday as quoted by kompas.com.

Kodim 0820 Commander Lt. Col. Depri Rio Saransi said the school would be given an administrative punishment. "We did not know about the costumes that would be worn," he said. "The kindergarten did not consult us."

On Monday, Education and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy called for a halt to the controversy. "This was just a spontaneous display," he said as quoted by tempo.co. "There was no intention to display radical symbols."

Observers and analysts were not satisfied by the explanations, however, calling for an inquiry into the incident.

Indonesian Muslim Crisis Center director Robi Sugara said that theme itself was not necessarily problematic, but the way that the school administrators chose to express it was worrying.

"There were no assault rifles in the time of the Prophet Muhammad," he told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday. "That type of attire together with the weapons is exactly what IS [Islamic State] extremists use."

He said the parade signaled the school's implicit recognition that IS was representative of Islam. "This is very troubling and I think that it shows that there is something wrong with the religious understanding within the TNI/Polri [National Police]," he said.

Military expert Mufti Makarim agreed, saying that the existence of such a parade at a TNI-run school meant one of two things.

"I think the parade shows that either there is a permissive attitude within the TNI toward such expressions of radicalism, or that this is an isolated case that the TNI failed to anticipate," he told the Post, adding that both possibilities had worrying implications.

"If it's the first, then it means that the TNI has a lax attitude toward ideologies that are contradictory to Pancasila and that support the establishment of a religious state," he said. "If it's the second, then it reflects poorly on the TNI's understanding of the symptoms of extremism, especially since it wants to play a larger role in combating terrorism." (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/21/jihadi-kindergarten-parade-raises-questions-about-radicalism-within-tni.html

Is it really a surprise that radicals might have infiltrated

Indonesia at Melbourne - August 20, 2018

This 17 August, Indonesia was shocked by an unusual – and deeply troubling – celebration of Indonesian Independence Day. A video circulated widely on Facebook showing kindergarten students from Probolinggo, East Java, participating in an Independence Day parade wearing black robes typically associated with conservative Islamist groups and carrying fake automatic weapons.

Especially shocking to many Indonesians was the fact that the children were from a Kartika Kindergarten, managed by the Army Wives Association (Persit) and supposedly under the supervision of the local district military command (Kodim) – which one would assume would be wary of any displays of radicalism.

In a press conference following the uproar, the kindergarten principal said the kindergarten had chosen to "highlight Muhammad's struggle" as a way to increase their student's "faith and devotion to God". The head of the local military command reportedly also gave permission for the costumes to be used, believing it would "promote Islamic values".

Rather than easing tensions, the responses of the head of the kindergarten and the military commander raised further questions. Many claimed their responses – interpreting jihad as involving fighting non-believers with weapons – were evidence of the infiltration of Salafi teachings into the school system and the military. Others suggested it was further evidence of the influence of funds from Saudi Arabia on local understandings of Islam. Some were more forgiving, dismissing the debacle as the actions of a naive teacher with little understanding of the political implications of such a display.

While the choice of costume was deeply disturbing, the fact that something like this could happen in an Indonesian kindergarten was not a surprise to me. I was more surprised that so few members of the public were aware of the poor supervision over the Indonesian early childhood education system.

In 2014, I conducted research on early childhood education in Aceh with Ary Hasriadi, a researcher from Ininnawa Makassar. We found that compared to other levels of education, early childhood education received the lowest level of supervision from the national government. Kindergartens were basically free to teach whatever they wanted, with limited direction or control by the Ministry of Education and Culture. In Aceh Timur District, for example, the local government issued a policy preventing girls from dancing, even at kindergarten level, apparently as a means of "implementing shari'a" and protecting girls from "bad behaviour". In a school in another district, female students were prevented from singing the national anthem, because the school principle believed it could "weaken their faith".

Under Indonesian law, early childhood education can be implemented both through the formal education system and through informal community-based organisations. Formal early childhood education institutions include kindergartens (Taman Kanak-Kanak, TK) and Islamic kindergartens (Raudatul Athfal, RA). Informal early childhood education includes playgroups and childcare centres, managed by the community. The law provides for government oversight of kindergartens and early childhood education but in practice, supervision is minimal, and focuses on the fulfilment of administrative requirements, such as suitable facilities, availability of teachers, play equipment and teacher-student ratios. The curriculum is subject to very little oversight.

According to data from the Ministry of Education and Culture, in 2016-2017, there were more than 88,000 kindergartens and more than 105,000 playgroups, childcare centres and other early childhood education institutions across Indonesia. In Jakarta alone, there were more than 2,400 kindergartens and more than 2,000 playgroups, childcare centres and other early childhood education institutions. In East Java, home of the Probolinggo kindergarten, there were more than 14,000 kindergartens and more than 19,000 playgroups, childcare centres and other early childhood education institutions.

Only a small number of these kindergartens are directly managed by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Some 96.4 per cent of kindergartens across Indonesia are managed by private community groups or religious organisations – including the Probolinggo kindergarten. Meanwhile, of the total 105,000 informal early childhood education centres, 95.4 per cent had yet to pass government accreditation.

Growth in early childhood education facilities in Indonesia has been driven in part by parents' desires to ensure their children have basic skills in reading, writing and arithmetic before they enter primary school. This has occurred because many primary schools are now using competency in reading, writing and arithmetic as selection criteria for new students, on the basis that schools are overcrowded.

As most Indonesians are Muslim, kindergartens and other early childhood education institutions are filled predominantly with students from Muslim communities. And as one would expect, early childhood education institutions also provide religious instruction, as many parents demand. Consequently, Indonesia has seen a blossoming of integrated Islamic kindergartens (Taman Kanak-Kanak Islam Terpadu, or TKIT), which aim to provide Islamic education at the kindergarten level and then channel students into the Islamic education system.

The quality of education in these TKIT can be highly variable. The growth in TKIT occurred at around the same time as the growth in the Tarbiyah movement, the conservative educational movement associated with the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). But TKIT are not only associated with the Tarbiyah movement. There are many "moderate" TKIT, just as there are several are affiliated with Salafi or extremist groups. I visited an Islamic school in Bogor, for example, which offered education from kindergarten to high school level and received its funding from Salafis from Kuwait.

Because so many kindergartens are run by private groups and religious organisations, it is difficult to find any that do not have a religious affiliation. Non-denominational kindergartens are usually only found in large cities, and are usually only those kindergartens that are bilingual or follow an internationally recognised curriculum, like Montessori schools.

In community or privately-run religious kindergartens, children are often pushed to memorise religious material. At a time when they should be developing and refining their fine motor skills through activities like drawing and painting, children are asked to sit still and recite religious texts. The focus on memorising religious texts is in many cases not just the result of school policy, many parents also demand it. It is a great source of pride for many mothers when their children are able to recite Islamic texts before entering primary school.

The lack of control over teaching in kindergartens is also influenced by the educators. In several kindergartens they require their teachers to hold qualifications to teach at the kindergarten level, however, in many places, teachers have no formal training in early childhood education, let alone a particular educational philosophy. But with salaries sometimes as low as Rp 200,000 (about A$20) per month, what quality can one expect from these teachers?

Given these vast challenges, is it really surprising that there was a kindergarten that thought it was appropriate to encourage its students to wear long robes and carry weapons as a form of following the example of the prophet Muhammad?

Of equal concern is that so many parents and the parade organisers allowed the kindergarten children to dress as violent jihadists and did not see anything worrying about it. If the children were wearing bikinis or revealing costumes would members of the school community or parade organisers have stopped them from marching?

Indonesians should not blame only the kindergartens, we must blame ourselves for allowing our kindergartens to become places where this kind of thing can happen.

Source: http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/is-it-really-a-surprise-that-radicals-might-have-infiltrated-indonesian-kindergartens/

Video of kids in face veils with prop guns on Independence Day

Coconuts Jakarta - August 20, 2018

Indonesia marked its 73rd Independence Day on August 17th and all over the country celebrations took place over the weekend to show off people's patriotic pride.

But video of the Independence Day in one East Java city has shocked the country by featuring a group of kindergarten students wearing black robes, niqab (face veils) and carrying prop guns, leading many to accuse the school of indoctrinating the young students with violent and terrorist ideologies.

The parade took place in the city of Probolinggo on Saturday morning and video of the girls walking down the parade route while carrying cardboard assault rifles quickly went viral, forcing the kindergarten in charge of the girls, TK Kartika V 69, to hold a press conference later that same day to try and explain the decision to dress their young students up like that.

The school's principal, 50-year-old Hartatik, told reporters that they had no intention to teach their students violence, let alone terrorism, and apologized for the mistake if it was perceived as such. However, this is the explanation she gave for the outfits they gave the girls:

"The children were marching while wearing veiled uniforms and carrying weapons with the theme 'Struggle for the Prophet to Increase Faith and Piety'. It was not meant to show terrorist things as many on the internet have said, I apologize if I am wrong," Hartatik told reporters as quoted by Detik on Sunday.

It turns out that TK Kartika V 69 was built by and located on Probolinggo's 0820 Military District Command (Kodim) base. The base's commander also apologized for the incident saying there was no intention to spread radicalism or terrorism. He also repeated another excuse used by school officials, which is that the outfits were used because the school already had them from a previous event and so they reused them because they did not want to burden parents with the cost of buying new parade outfits (we still haven't seen an explanation of what that previous event was).

The inconsistent explanations from school officials has clearly not alleviated concerns among higher authorities over what the kindergarten is teaching its students. The Probolinggo Police said they are investigating the matter to see if the school broke any laws, while Minister of Education and Culture Muhajir Effendy is set to fly to Probolinggo in the near future to seek a more complete explanation for the incident.

The decision to outfit a group of young girls in this way is especially astonishing in light of recent terrorist attacks in Indonesia. In May, multiple suicide bombings took place in the city of Surabaya, including one committed by a mother wearing a niqab who killed her two young daughters who were similarly attired.

There have been growing concerns about radical and terrorist ideologies being taught in Indonesian schools, with Indonesia's National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) claiming they had data that showed that 39 percent of Indonesian university students have been exposed to radical Islamic ideology (no such data exists for kindergarten students, but looks like they need to look into that too...)

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/video-kindergarten-girls-face-veils-prop-guns-marching-independence-day-parade-shocks-indonesia/

Freedom of religion & worship

Widodo's VP choice signals Indonesia's religious intolerance

Nikkei Asian Review - August 22, 2018

Toru Takahashi, Tokyo – Amid the Asian financial crisis 20 years ago, Ginandjar Kartasasmita, who was sitting in then-President Suharto's cabinet, not only fixed Indonesia's ailing economy but also helped force Suharto's resignation, ending the nation's 30 years of "development dictatorship."

The once-influential official visited Japan in July and predicted the outcome of Indonesia's April 2019 presidential election, saying "President Joko Widodo will be reelected. He is very strong like [Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe."

But then he had some unsettling words: "The question is, who will be the vice president, because the vice president in 2019 will be a good candidate for president in 2024," noting that the Indonesian presidency is limited to two terms.

On Aug. 9, Widodo chose hard-line Muslim cleric Ma'ruf Amin, 75, as his vice-presidential candidate.

Amin, who is 18 years Widodo's senior, chairs the Indonesia Ulema Council, the world's largest Muslim organization. The cleric wields enormous influence over Indonesia's mainly Muslim population of 260 million.

This has some worried. Human Rights Watch, an international nongovernmental organization, said Amin has played a key role in oppressing religious and sexual minorities, warning that human rights in Indonesia may be in jeopardy.

Referring to Amin as a nationalist and wise religious figure, Widodo explained that he picked the cleric as his running mate to complement his own style of governance.

In most countries, nationalists are usually regarded as right-wing. In Indonesia, however, they are seen as middle-of-the-road.

"Indonesia is the only Southeast Asian nation to have fought a war of independence, and its memory still lingers in the form of nationalism," said Ken Miichi, associate professor at Waseda University's Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies in Tokyo.

Conservative Muslims – from moderates to extremists – are considered right-wing in Indonesia.

Historically, the country has been ruled by the military or elites. Widodo, a former furniture maker, is its first grassroots leader. His current vice president, Jusuf Kalla, is a wealthy businessman.

Widodo picked the Muslim cleric as his running mate due to a controversy that rocked his ascent to power two years ago.

After stepping down as governor of Jakarta in 2014 to assume the presidency, Widodo handed over the reins to his old ally, Deputy Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese and Christian.

In September 2016, Basuki ignited a furor when, during a gubernatorial campaign speech, he said that Mulsim-hardliners opposing him on religious grounds were misleading other Muslims and their belief in the Quran.

The controversial speech provoked a national outcry among Muslims, 200,000 of whom took to the streets of Jakarta in protest.

Basuki was eventually defeated in the April 2017 gubernatorial election by a candidate backed by Muslim extremists, and was later found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to two years in prison, a tougher punishment than prosecutors had sought.

The downfall of Basuki dealt the somewhat secular Widodo a serious blow, with opposition parties noting that religion could become a lighting-rod issue in future polls.

Prabowo Subianto, who lost to Widodo in the 2014 presidential election, has been expected to use the president's perceived weak faith in Islam as a way to win votes.

Hence, Widodo's choice of the devout and powerful Amin, who the president is banking on to garner more support among Muslims.

Amin will serve as a "very strong shield" against religious attacks from the opposition camp, but the mixing of religion and politics will grow stronger in Indonesia, said Peter Mumford, an analyst with Eurasia Group, a U.S. research company.

Given his age, Amin is unlikely to run in any presidential election after the 2019 race, but his role as future kingmaker is not to be underestimated.

The Basuki scandal reveals the growing religious intolerance in the country. A 2017 survey conducted by Lingkaran Survei Indonesia, a private Indonesia research company, found that 49.1% of the respondents opposed non-Muslim leaders in government, up sharply from 32.4% in a similar 2010 survey.

Muslim extremists began to rise in prominence after Indonesia's democratization in 1998. Under the credo of "unity in diversity," the country does not recognize Islam as its national religion, unlike neighboring Malaysia. During Suharto's reign, Islamic organizations were tightly muzzled.

But as the country embraces freer expression, Islamic organizations have become increasingly active, including those considered militant. The trend has become more visible since the Basuki scandal and emergence of Widodo, who is perceived as being more worldly than many of his predecessors.

"Indonesia's identity politics now stands at a crossroads; between open-minded Islam in accord with modernization and narrow-minded, exclusive Islam," said Takashi Shiraishi, chancellor of the Prefectural University of Kumamoto and an expert on international relations.

While many Southeast Asian countries are becoming more authoritarian – notably Thailand, the Philippines and Cambodia – Indonesia has experienced steady democratization. But religious intolerance is beginning to rear its ugly head.

Radical Islam, which formerly remained excluded from politics, has taken advantage of Indonesia's growing freedoms to gradually undermine democracy, putting the country in an unenviable and ironic position.

Source: https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Comment/Widodo-s-VP-choice-signals-Indonesia-s-religious-intolerance

Most violations of religious freedom took place in Jakarta this

Coconuts Jakarta - August 21, 2018

Many have been concerned about rising religious intolerance throughout Indonesia over the past few years, and the Setara Institute has been carefully documenting specific incidents in which religious freedoms have been violated to highlight those areas of the archipelago that are the most problematic.

According to the Indonesia-based NGO, which conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights issues, there have been 136 incidences of religious freedom violations in 20 out of 26 of Indonesia's provinces so far this year.

And the capital city of Jakarta has the unenviable distinction of being the region with the highest number of violations thus far.

"Throughout the 11 years we have monitored religious freedom violations in Indonesia, this is the first time Jakarta has had a higher number than West Java," Halili said at the Setara Institute offices in Jakarta on Monday as quoted by Kompas.

The institute's data showed 23 reported incidences of religious freedom being violated in Jakarta thus far this year, compared to 19 in West Java.

Other provinces with significant numbers of reports were the Yogyakarta Special Administrative Region (DIY) with nine violations as well as seven events in West Nusa Tenggara (NTB).

Setara categorizes violations by whether they were committed by state institutions or non-state actors. Out of the 136 violations so far in 2018, 40 were by state actors, mostly police, local governments and education institutions.

Reported violations included instances of intolerance and government discrimination against religious minorities, blasphemy reports, terrorism, violence, and hate speech. Setara noted that the violations also included those against Muslims, such as the attempts by some universities to ban the use of the niqab face veil by female students.

Hallili said that the number of violations has increased significantly over previous years, and pointed to the increasing politicization of religion, the blasphemy law and social media (coupled with a lack of digital literacy) as the main causes.

Last year, the Setara Institute also ranked Jakarta as the least tolerant city in Indonesia, behind Banda Aceh, due in large part to the politicization of religious issues in 2017's fiercely contested Jakarta gubernatorial race.

Source: https://coconuts.co/jakarta/news/number-religious-freedom-violations-took-place-jakarta-far-year-setara-institute/

Indonesia president's belated call for tolerance

Human Rights Watch Dispatches - August 16, 2018

Phelim Kine – Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo did something extraordinary in his annual State of the Nation address on Thursday: He issued a plea for tolerance.

"I am sure if the Indonesian people want to remain united, tolerant, and care for their fellow children of the nation, then Indonesia is no longer just a name or picture of a chain of islands on a world map, but rather a force respected by other nations in the world," Jokowi said.

That reference, in a speech otherwise dominated by upbeat references to infrastructure spending commitments and economic growth projections, suggests a rare, if ambiguous, public recognition by Jokowi of the worsening harassment and discrimination targeting the country's religious and sexual minorities.

Religious minorities are particularly vulnerable, because of the country's dangerously ambiguous blasphemy law. The law's latest victim is a Buddhist woman facing a possible 18-month prison term for complaining about the loudspeaker volume of a neighborhood mosque.

The surge since 2016 of anti-LGBT rhetoric by government officials, as well as moves to criminalize same-sex relations are linked to a worsening of the country's HIV epidemic. Jokowi's tolerance plea is even more remarkable given that he has largely turned a blind eye to LGBT discrimination, and the role of government officials in fomenting it.

Jokowi also used his speech to reiterate a longstanding commitment to "resolve cases of past rights abuses and to improve protection of human rights to prevent similar cases from taking place in the future." However, he did not provide any details or timetable for their resolution.

Jokowi's first-time reference to tolerance in his annual national address might indicate some recognition that he has failed to translate his rhetorical support for human rights into meaningful policy initiatives.

He could also be responding to criticism from domestic human rights activists of his recent choice for his vice presidential running mate, Ma'ruf Amin, a conservative cleric who has played a major role in fueling discrimination against religious and gender minorities.

Jokowi's challenge now is to back his rhetoric of toleration with substantive policies that will protect vulnerable populations and bring rights abusers to justice.

Source: https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/08/16/indonesia-presidents-belated-call-tolerance

Religion & identity politics

PAN: No politics of identity in 2019 election

Tempo - August 22, 2018

Dewi Nurita, Jakarta – Secretary General of the National Mandate Party (PAN) Eddy Soeparno, said that his party will not exercise politics of identity in the 2019 Presidential Election.

"We as a party guaranteed not to promote any agenda related to politics of identity," Eddy said to Tempo on Wednesday, August 22, 2018.

Eddy said that even if PAN's presidential and vice presidential candidate was supported by certain religious groups, it does not mean that the coalition will adopt an agenda related to politics of identity.

"I think the public is fed up with the ongoing political fiasco, which does not present any solution. The public has also become smarter in voting," Eddy said.

Chief of PAN Honorary Council Amien Rais has been often spotted to be close with the leader of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) Rizieq Shihab. Together with Rizieq, Aamin was adamant in promoting the ummah coalition, which he claimed will be supported by waves of ummah.

The coalition, which founded by Amien Rais, had received the support from the Fatwa Guardian National Movement (GNPF) Ulema Discussion. However, the support was being re-evaluated after Prabowo Subianto, refused to select one of two names recommended by the GNPF.

Following the promise to stay away from the politics of identity, PAN will be adopting a new tagline: 'Defend the People, Defend Ummah'. "This is our political stance as a party that upholds the reformation agenda and to represent the nationalist-religious community," Eddy said.

Source: http://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/08/22/055921030/PAN-No-Politics-of-Identity-in-2019-Election

Prabowo's camp to set up Religious Task Force

Tempo - August 20, 2018

Rezki Alvionitasari, Jakarta – Djoko Santoso, the deputy chairman of the Gerindra Party's supervisory council, said a number of ulemas from the National Movement to Safeguard the Ulema Fatwa (GNPF) would be included in the Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno campaign team under the banner of a Religious Taskforce.

"There will be a Religious Task Force," said Djoko at the Gerindra headquarters in Ragunan on Monday, August 20. The planned existence of this task force was corroborated by Sandiaga Uno in a separate event.

However, Djoko stopped short of revealing the identities of the ulemas. "There is no announcement yet. It is inappropriate to reveal them now," he said. Djoko also balked at answering a question whether Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader Rizieq Shihab was among the clerics.

According to Djoko, the task force will comprise religious leaders from various religions other than Islam. He maintained that the religious task force was tasked to unite the public during the 2019 presidential election. "The general election must be peaceful," he said.

Source: http://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/08/20/055920972/Prabowos-Camp-to-Set-Up-Religious-Task-Force

Prabowo's party says it's natural to use identity politics, like

Kumparan News - August 20, 2018

The Deputy Chairperson of Prabowo Subianto's Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), Ferry Juliantono, says that it is natural to use identity politics in general elections because in several countries, identity politics are one of the considerations in choosing a leader.

"[The use of] issues of religion, ethnicity and race are natural in other countries, it's common to use SARA [ethnic, religion, race, inter-group inspired conflicts] in every country", said Juliantono during a discussion on the national political landscape post the official registration of presidential and vice presidential candidates for the 2019 elections which was held at the Pakarti Center on Jl. Tanah Abang in Central Jakarta on Monday August 20.

Juliantono gave America as an example of a country that often uses identity politics.

"The most relevant country in the use of identity politics is America, how Donald Trump uses the issue of immigration, ethnicity, religion, and inter-group [conflicts] and in the end makes the policies of regional heads", he said.

According to Juliantono, Indonesia has multi-coloured identities. He hopes therefore that Indonesian society can look at identity politics such as those in America where they are capable of evaluating them wisely.

"Our [recent] regional elections were ridden with identity politics but it wasn't a problem because over there (American) society also looks at identity politics wisely", said Juliantono.

Furthermore, according to Juliantono identity politics has again raised it head in Indonesia after former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama was jailed on blasphemy charges.

"The climax was Basuki as a regional head who ventured into the realm of other people's religion. There primordialism surfaced and became protests and demonstrations. I think that there, identity themes reemerged", said the Gerindra politician.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was "Gerindra: Di Semua Negara Isu SARA Lazim Digunakan".]

Source: https://kumparan.com/@kumparannews/gerindra-di-semua-negara-isu-sara-lazim-digunakan

Prabowo, Sandiaga visit NU

Tempo - August 16, 2018

Budiarti Utami Putri, Jakarta – Presidential and vice president candidate Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Uno visited the Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama Executive Board (PBNU) on Thursday, August 16, 2018.

Earlier, the pair had visited leaders of another Islamic organization Muhammadiyah on Monday, August 13, 2018. Sandiaga explained that the visit was intended to establish a good relationship with PBNU, and to seek for blessing.

"[Visit for] paying respects as usual because it is in our culture, visiting figures, asking for a blessing," said Prabowo at the PBNU office on Thursday, August 16, 2018.

Accompanying Prabowo were Gerindra Secretary-General Ahmad Muzani and Gerindra Deputy Chairman Ferry Juliantono. The entourage then went to the meeting room on the 3rd floor. They were welcomed by PBNU General Chairman Said Aqil Siraj and PBNU Chairman Robikin Emhas.

Prabowo and Sandiaga will run as presidential and vice presidential candidate in the 2019 Presidential Election. The pair is supported by a coalition consisting of Gerindra Party, the Prosperity and Justice Party (PKS), the National Mandate Party (PAN), and the Democratic Party.

Source: http://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/08/16/055920886/Prabowo-Sandiaga-Visits-NU

National holidays & celebrations

Prabowo Subianto receives 'The Star of Soekarno' award

Tempo - August 17, 2018

Rezki Alvionitasari, Jakarta – The Presidential Candidate Prabowo Subianto received 'The Star of Sukarno' award from the founder of Sukarno Foundation for Education, Rachmawati Soekarnoputri, as he is considered meritorious in the fields of justice, independence and humanity.

The award was granted during the commemoration of 73rd Indonesian Independence Day at the University of Bung Karno, Menteng, Central Jakarta, Friday, August 17.

Rachmawati said that the Independence Day commemoration coincided with the political year or the presidential election. "Therefore, let me remind you to not choose a leader who focuses on foreign interests, a neoliberalist, who leaves the country in debt," she said.

The "The Star of Soekarno" award was also previously granted to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad, Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, North Korean President Kim Jong Un and Former Cuban President, Fidel Castro.

"Today, I give it to Pak Prabowo Subianto. Hopefully, he can lead the people of Indonesia in the future," said the younger sister of Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Source: http://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/08/17/055920903/Prabowo-Subianto-Receives-The-Star-of-Soekarno-Award

Poverty & social inequity

Improve social welfare and reduce wealth gap, MPR speaker tells

Jakarta Post - August 16, 2018

Marguerite Afra Sapiie, Jakarta – People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Zulkifli Hasan has reminded President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration to work harder on the country's economy, including improvements in social welfare and reducing inequality among the people.

In his speech to open the MPR plenary meeting on Thursday – held a day before Independence Day – Zulkifli told Jokowi and Vice President Jusuf Kalla that while the country's achievements over the last 20 years of the Reform Era were satisfying, the government needed to create breakthroughs in addressing economic challenges.

"As the people's representative and MPR speaker, I want to assert that there's no independence in poverty and there's no independence without social justice," said Zulkifli, who is also the chairman of the opposition National Mandate Party (PAN).

He went on to say that people who lived under or slightly above the poverty line were prone to be affected by the increase in commodity prices. He said the government must ensure price stability so citizens could maintain their purchasing power.

"Mr. President, housewives have conveyed a message [for the government] to ensure that the prices of staple commodities are attainable," Zulkifli said.

He also cited the importance of managing Indonesia's foreign debt to ensure domestic economic stability and resilience, and more importantly to prevent a financial crisis.

"We must keep in mind that the principles of the nation's well-being should not be defeated when they clash with the political reality [...] the principles must not be neglected for the interest of a few elites," he said.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/16/improve-social-welfare-and-reduce-wealth-gap-mpr-speaker-tells-jokowi.html

Farming & agriculture

Increased cattle population behind decline in beef imports, says

Jakarta Post - August 21, 2018

Jakarta – The Agriculture Ministry's husbandry and animal health directorate general claims that the increased cattle population through its artificial insemination (Upsus SIWAB) program had caused a decline in imported beef since 2016.

Data at the directorate general shows that Indonesia imported 147,851 tons of beef in 2016 and 120,789 tons in 2017. This year, the country has imported 69,168 tons of beef in the first half, from a projected 113,510 tons of imported beef.

"If beef imports do not exceed the projection this year, it means that the import volume has declined since 2016," said husbandry and animal health director general I Ketut Diarmita on Monday, as reported by kompas.com.

Ketut said the ministry was working to realize food resilience by increasing the national cattle population through the Upsus SIWAB program, which was introduced in 2015.

He said that the government had readied 4.78 million vials of frozen bull semen in 2017 through three artificial insemination facilities: the BIBB in SiNGOsari, East Java, the BIB in Lembang and the BIBD in South Kalimantan.

The program successfully impregnated 1.89 million cows in year, but only 911,135 cows carried their pregnancy through birth, Ketut said. Meanwhile, the cattle population in 2017 totaled 18.54 million cattle, a 3.84 percent growth from 2016.

He added that this year, 804,753 calves had been born through the program by Aug. 13, out of the targeted 1.68 million calves for 2018, and that the ministry was aiming for a cattle population of 25 million by 2021. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/21/increased-cattle-population-behind-decline-in-beef-imports-says-ministry.html

Land & agrarian conflicts

Indonesian court rejects bid to stop coal power plant expansion

Reuters - August 17, 2018

Michael Taylor, Kuala Lumpur – An Indonesian court has rejected a legal challenge from local residents attempting to halt the expansion of a coal power plant on the holiday island of Bali, the environmental group Greenpeace said on Friday.

Three residents near the Celukan Bawang power plant, about 120 km (75 miles) from the main tourism hub of Denpasar, had tried to stop the planned expansion due to pollution fears.

"The judge only used the perspective of our opponents," said Didit Wicaksono, a climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia, which backed the legal challenge.

"We are very sad about the decision," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, adding that an appeal in a higher court was now planned.

The legal bid claimed that the expansion – which would more than double power capacity at the site – would be a setback to the remote area's tourism and fishing industries.

The expansion would lead to increased air and water pollution, damage crops, and have a negative effect on wildlife at a nearby national park, argued the plaintiffs.

In its ruling on Thursday, the Denpasar administrative court said the action "had no legal standing" and that new technology would be able to mitigate the risk of pollution, according to Greenpeace.

The court also ruled that expansion work should not be halted during any appeal process, Wicaksono said, adding that activists and community members are planning to protest near the plant.

PT General Energy Bali, which runs the Celukan Bawang power plant, could not be reached for comment. Agung Pribadi, an energy ministry spokesman, said by phone that the government would respect the court's ruling.

In a statement, one of the plaintiffs, I Ketut Mangku, said that pollution from the coal plant has negatively affected the health of both his family and his crops. "The planned expansion is going to be even more harmful with far reaching impact," he said.

Indonesia is among the fastest-growing countries for energy consumption due to a steadily increasing population, economic development and a rise in urbanization.

Like other Asian nations, the government faces the challenge of boosting electricity access while meeting its pledge to cut climate-changing emissions under the Paris Agreement.

Indonesia's emissions targets can only be achieved by reducing its reliance on coal power and ramping up investment in clean, renewable energy projects, electricity experts say.

[Reporting by Michael Taylor, Editing by Jared Ferrie.]

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-indonesia-coal-bali/indonesian-court-rejects-bid-to-stop-coal-power-plant-expansion-idUSKBN1L20YK

Jakarta & urban life

Greenpeace calls for bold action to improve Jakarta's air quality

Jakarta Post - August 22, 2018

Jakarta – Greenpeace Indonesia has called on the government to do something about Jakarta's unhealthy air quality, especially during the 2018 Asian Games.

"It is a call for a concrete action because all eyes [from countries participating in the Games] are on us," said Greenpeace Indonesia's climate and energy campaigner Bondan Andriyanu, as quoted by tempo.co on Wednesday.

He went on to mention that Airvisual, an app that measures air quality in cities around the world, named Jakarta as the city with the worst air quality on Aug. 11.

The city's Air Pollution Standard Index (ISPU) stations in Jagakarsa in South Jakarta, Kelapa Gading in North Jakarta and Kebon Jeruk in West Jakarta had also shown similar figures.

Bondan said there were many factors causing air pollution that needed to be controlled, such as "gas emission from transportation, industries and power plants".

Previously, several foreign media outlets had pointed out the issue, highlighting concerns over Jakarta's bad air quality during the multisport event.

On Tuesday, activists from Greenpeace Indonesia climbed a billboard in South Jakarta and installed a poster containing a message about the capital's current air condition, with the hashtag #WeBreatheTheSameAir written on the board.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/22/greenpeace-calls-for-bold-action-to-improve-jakartas-air-quality.html

Sport & recreation

Ticket scalpers irk visitors around Bung Karno sports complex

Jakarta Post - August 21, 2018

Jakarta – Asian Games visitors have complained about ticket scalpers operating near official ticket booths at the Bung Karno sports complex in Senayan, South Jakarta.

Chaya Annisa, 21, accompanied by a friend, went to a ticket booth in front of Gate 5 of the sports complex to buy tickets for a 6:30 p.m. Indonesia versus Thailand basketball match. Unfortunately, tickets had been sold out since 11 a.m., she explained.

Seeing their confusion, a ticket scalper approached them to offer tickets at Rp 400,000 (US$27) each, four times the official Rp 100,000 price.

"I'd rather find a different booth than buy a ticket at four times the price," she said on Monday as reported by tempo.co.

Sentari Shela, who was also approached by a ticket scalper, expressed outrage at how ticket scalpers readily exploited visitors with unreasonably priced tickets. "How can you sell a Rp 100,00 basketball ticket for Rp 400,000?" she said.

Ticket scalpers also sold tickets on Monday for a badminton match for Rp 350,000, more than double the official price of Rp 150,000.

Lamentably, poor ticket handling by official channels has also made it difficult for people to watch games live. There are insufficient ticket booths and the official online seller was switched, at the last minute, to e-commerce platform Blibli.com after the previous seller, KiosTix, experienced a server breakdown on Friday. (nor/ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/21/ticket-scalpers-irk-visitors-around-bung-karno-sports-complex.html

Indonesia denies reports on Jakarta's air pollution during Asian

Jakarta Post - August 19, 2018

Jakarta – The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has denied reports in foreign media outlets highlighting concerns over Jakarta's bad air quality during the 2018 Asian Games.

Foreign outlet Aljazeera raised concerns about Jakarta's air quality in an article published on Aug. 17 saying that the air pollution index showed an "unhealthy" level of 154 micrograms of harmful particles per cubic meter in Jakarta just three days before the start of the Games.

The bad air quality was feared to impact athletes' performance given that they take in about 20 times more air than a person at rest.

Aljazeera is one of the many foreign outlets that raised the concern. Other outlets such as Channel News Asia, Sydney Morning Herald and Iran's Financial Tribune have also published articles on the issue.

However, BMKG head Dwikorita Karnawati denied the allegations based on research in recent years showing that Indonesia's overall air quality has fared better in the past few years.

"The World Health Organization's latest research on the most polluted cities in the world excluded Jakarta in its top 10 list," she said on Saturday.

This year's Climate Change Performance Index report put Indonesia as the world's 14th biggest greenhouse gas emitter. The greenhouse gas emission measurement in the BMKG's global atmosphere watch in Bukit Koto Tabang, West Sumatra also showed that Indonesia's CO2 increase rate sat at 1.94 ppm since 2004, lower than the global increase rate of 2.08 ppm.

"We [Indonesia] have often been accused of being the biggest greenhouse gas emitter, as well as a country that has a severe level of air pollution, but research and on-site observation shows that our air quality is not as bad as people think," Dwikorita added.

A review of the daily air quality index (AQI), which is observed by Greenpeace Indonesia, revealed that the test run of the car-restriction policy in Jakarta, beginning July 2, did not reduce the concentration of fine particulate matter (PM 2.5).

The concentration of PM 2.5 in Central Jakarta and South Jakarta on weekdays was above 50 micrograms per cubic meter (?g/m3), which is considered a moderate level. (ris/evi)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/19/indonesia-denies-reports-on-jakartas-air-pollution-during-asian-games.html

Jokowi opens Asian Games in dazzling ceremony

Jakarta Post - August 18, 2018

Ramadani Saputra, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo officially opened on Saturday night Asia's biggest sporting event at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, in a dazzling ceremony that showcased the nation's traditional cultures.

"On behalf of the Indonesian people, we are proud and we are honored to welcome our special guests from 45 countries. With the 18th Asian Games, we, the nations of Asia, want to show [the world] that we are brothers, we are united and we want to reach our goals," said the President, who entered the venue riding a motorcycle.

"By saying bismillahhirohmanirrohim [in the name of God, the most gracious and merciful], I declare that the 18th Asian Games are open."

Witnessed by around 40,000 spectators inside Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, the ceremony opened with 2,200 high school dancers from 18 senior high schools across the capital who enchanted the audience with the Saman dance, a traditional dance from Aceh, the westernmost province in the country.

Welcomed by the dancers, thousands of athletes from 44 National Olympic Committee (NOC) contingents then started to walk into the arena in front of a grandiose stage designed to resemble a mountain.

Each contingent was led by a representative that wore a bird-shaped costume designed by Dynand Fariz, who is famous for his creations from the Jember Fashion Carnaval, an annual parade.

After all contingents entered the arena, spectators immediately cheered loudly when the country's team entered the arena as the last contingent of the night.

This is Indonesia's second time hosting the Asian Games, having previously done so in 1962 in Jakarta. (ahw)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/18/jokowi-opens-asian-games-in-dazzling-ceremony.html

Gridlock, putrid waterways: is Jakarta Asian Games ready?

South China Morning Post - August 18, 2018

David G Rose – Jakarta is nicknamed the "Big Durian" by its denizens as its varied delights are usually accompanied by a strange smell.

While enjoying all the attractions of an Asian megacity – deliciously spicy street food to capacious luxury malls – visitors to the Indonesian capital can find themselves distracted by the endlessly gridlocked traffic, impassable pavements, fetid waterways and perpetually hazy skies.

Politicians and PR experts have been trying to smooth over some of those rough edges in recent weeks as Jakarta, along with Palembang in Sumatra, prepares to host the 2018 Asian Games. With an eclectic mix of 45 nations taking part in 40 sports – even more than the Olympic Games – the logistics are daunting. Indonesia has never held a sporting event on such a scale.

Just three months after the country's worst terror attacks in a decade, when suicide bombers killed 13 people in Surabaya, security is also being stepped up, with 100,000 police and soldiers deployed to protect the venues.

Amnesty International also claimed Friday that Indonesian police shot dead 77 people in a crackdown on so-called "petty criminals" in the lead-up to the Asian Games, which the human rights group condemned as an "unnecessary and excessive use of force".

Yet the hosts insist they are ready to meet the challenges of hospitality and transport as well as security, having stepped in on short notice in 2014 when Vietnam reneged on its offer to hold the event in Hanoi, citing the eye-watering costs. Nearly 17,000 athletes and officials will take part in the event, representing countries as diverse as Iran, Palestine, Uzbekistan and Singapore.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo promised the Games would be a "golden opportunity" for his country to "amaze the world". Accordingly, a new airport terminal, new sports venues and two athletes' villages have been built, as has a new light rail transport in Palembang, which will host around a third of the competitions.

But preparations in Jakarta have included some bizarre attempts to give the city a facelift and mask the uglier sights and smells.

A particularly pungent waterway known as the "Black River" near the athletes' village has been covered with plastic sheeting and treated with chemical deodorisers to disguise the smell.

New pavements, cycle lanes and street lighting have been installed and young trees planted to freshen up Jakarta's main boulevard, Jalan Sudirman.

But while a pedestrian bridge has been dismantled to afford guests a better view of the city's symbolic "Welcome Monument", the underpass planned to replace it is not yet finished.

Instead, a temporary zebra crossing has been painted on the road, which is anathema to Jakarta's car and motorbike-focused populace, and which now requires a constant police presence to make sure drivers stop.

The Games' cute mascots – Indonesian bird of paradise "Bhin Bhin", one-horned rhinoceros "Ika" and the Bawean deer "Atung" – are seen everywhere, from massive video screens to soft toys, and also on banners disguising unsightly construction sites. Yet promotion of the actual sporting competitions or where to buy tickets is harder to find.

Traffic is still a major worry for athletes, officials and spectators hoping to get to their events on time. A long-promised MRT public transport system has not been delivered, so Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan has instead pledged extra buses and special bus lanes.

He has also extended the "odd-even" traffic policy which restricts drivers from entering busy areas on alternate days, depending on the last digits of their number plate. Commuters who can afford it have boasted of buying two cars to get around the problem.

Backstage at the venues themselves, there have also been some difficulties. Last Sunday, during a test of the power demands for this weekend's showpiece opening ceremony, one of the main generators at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium complex in Jakarta overloaded and caught fire. Another generator in Palembang sank half a metre into the ground when it was installed.

Muhammad Buldansyah, a spokesman for organisers INASGOC, confirmed there had been "minor things to fix" during the preparations but he added that work was continuing right up to the deadline to improve facilities.

"What we can say is now all the infrastructure is done and the necessary requirements to hold the events are in place," he said.

"To make it a great event, we still need to work over the next few days to improve a few things, to make the facilities perfect for broadcasters, to train the local volunteers. We have many minor things to fix but without any major problems, we hope that the minor things will be overlooked."

Organisers are currently well short of the overall target of 1 million ticket sales, with only 7 per cent to 8 per cent of tickets already accounted for. While certain events, such as badminton or aquatic sports, are selling well, advance ticket sales have been slow, a situation not helped by the official online ticket website crashing on Friday.

Seats for events cost between 50,000 to 800,000 Indonesian rupiah (HK$27 to HK$430) each, prices some Indonesians have complained are too expensive for a family event.

Opposition parties say they proudly support the Games but have also questioned whether the country can afford the 8.7 trillion rupiah cost.

Irawan Ronodipuro, foreign relations spokesman for the Gerindra party, said: "We are all hoping that the Games will be successful, for Indonesia and the rest of Asia. But as the opposition we have a responsibility to ask whether the money spent on this is benefiting ordinary people, who are already worried about the cost of living."

Buldansyah said he was confident sales would improve after the opening ceremony, which has a reported budget of US$55 million, and will be attended by Widodo, South Korea's Prime Miniser Lee Nak-yeon and other VIPs.

"For the opening ceremony, tickets are pretty much sold out," he added. "For the Games itself, well, just like anything else in Indonesia, everyone leaves it to the last minute, and when one to two days are left before an event people wish to see, they will rush to buy tickets," he said.

The Games last until September 2.

Source: https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/society/article/2160138/gridlock-putrid-waterways-jakarta-asian-games-ready

Asian Games 2018: Jakarta's desperate battle with pollution falls

Agence France Presse - August 17, 2018

Jakarta – Indonesia is about to open the Asian Games but its traffic-clogged capital Jakarta remains shrouded in a haze of air pollution that threatens to mar the world's second-biggest multi-sport event.

Jakarta's toxic skies have been stuck at unhealthy levels for weeks despite drastic efforts to cut down on congestion, including an odd-even licence plate system and the closure of some schools and toll roads.

The city's air-quality index reading hovered around 107 on Friday, posing a danger for people sensitive to air pollution including those with respiratory problems. But the index has regularly topped 150 this month, which is considered a health threat to the general population. A reading over 300 is seen as hazardous.

About 16,000 athletes and officials from 45 Asian countries – along with hordes of sports-crazy tourists – are flocking to Jakarta and co-host city Palembang for the showpiece event, which kicks off on Saturday.

Athletes competing indoors will be relatively unaffected, but it's a different story for outside sports like athletics, archery, baseball, softball and rugby, said Budi Haryanto, an air pollution and health expert at the University of Indonesia.

Competing in an environment with dirty air limits athletes' ability to perform at their best, he added, with Jakarta's average 31 degree Celsius temperatures already threatening to leave competitors drenched in sweat.

It's a worry for racewalker Hendro Yap, 17, who hails from Indonesia's cultural capital Yogyakarta where the climate is cooler and less polluted. Yap, who broke the Southeast Asian Games record last year in Kuala Lumpur for 20-kilometre race walking, said he finds competing in Jakarta a challenge.

"For (people) who are used to running in Jakarta... it might be slightly easier," he told AFP, adding, "but it's still very hard. You sweat more. And in Jakarta it's so polluted that it's hard to perform."

Tackling Jakarta's foul air is no easy task. There are some 18 million cars plying the roads of the sprawling city of 10 million – and the number of vehicles is going up every year. The majority of Jakarta's air pollution is due to vehicle emissions.

Environmental experts say there is little hope for clean skies during the two-week tournament. "It's hard to find a solution because the key lies in regulating emissions," said Hindun Mulaika, climate and energy manager at Greenpeace Indonesia. "The government still thinks this is purely a transport problem," she added.

Meanwhile, annual forest fires in Sumatra are threatening to envelop the sleepy city of Palembang in a different kind of toxic cloud.

Other countries have faced similar air pollution challenges including Beijing when it was set to host the Olympics in 2008. The Chinese capital took successful, drastic measures including temporarily closing factories to clean up its skyline.

Source: https://www.firstpost.com/sports/asian-games-2018-jakartas-desperate-battle-with-air-pollution-falls-short-as-haze-hangs-over-citys-preparations-for-tournament-4984871.html

Body count rises in Jakarta's crime sweep ahead of Asian Games

Asian Correspondent - August 17, 2018

A human rights group said Indonesian police have shot dead more than 70 people in an "escalating" crackdown on petty criminals ahead of the 2018 Asian Games that opens Saturday.

Amnesty International (AI) said at least 77 people have been gunned down across the country, nearly half of whom were shot in the games' host cities of greater Jakarta and South Sumatra.

Many of the killings, AI said, occurred during police operations explicitly devised to prepare the cities for hosting the multisport event scheduled to be held between Aug 18 and Sept 2.

AI Indonesia Executive Director Usman Hamid said the figures reveal a clear pattern of "unnecessary" and "excessive" use of force by the police.

"In the months leading up to the Asian Games, the authorities promised to improve security for all. Instead, we have seen the police shooting and killing dozens of people across the country with almost zero accountability for the deaths," Usman said in a statement.

"The killings must stop and all deaths must be promptly and effectively investigated," he said. Usman said the killings also reflected a constant "veil of impunity" that taints public security institutions. "The hosting of an international sporting event must not come at the price of abandoning human rights."

AI pointed out that the killing peaked from July 3 and 12. In the short time frame, 11 people in greater Jakarta and three people in South Sumatra were shot dead by the police during a series of operations.

A further 41 were shot in the legs, while more than 700 of 5,000 people arrested were charged with a criminal offence, the group said.

A spate of violent crimes in the Jakarta has raised public concern and police were using it to justify the killings, AI said. The crimes, called "begal", involved criminals who carry sharp weapons or guns and use motorbikes to rob and attack people.

The group said the deaths represent a 64 percent increase in the total number of those killed for committing petty crimes compared to the same period for 2017.

"The police are clearly exercising a 'shoot first and ask questions later' policy," Usman said, adding the government should launch investigations in the killings.

The games will witness a 20 percent increase in participation compared to the Incheon Games four years ago.

Security concerns for the event increased after suicide bombings claimed by Islamic State killed more than 30 people in the country's second-biggest city of Surabaya in May.

Source: https://asiancorrespondent.com/2018/08/body-count-rises-in-jakartas-crime-sweep-ahead-of-asian-games/

Indonesian police kill dozens in Asian Games 'clean-up'

The Guardian - August 17, 2018

Kate Lamb, Jakarta – Police in Jakarta have killed dozens of people as part of an escalating crackdown against petty criminals ahead of the Asian Games, in a campaign Amnesty International has described as "unnecessary and excessive".

Based on monitoring from January to August this year, Amnesty International said 31 police killings were directly linked to the Games, which open in Jakarta and Palembang on Saturday.

The rights group said police shot dead 77 petty criminals across the whole of Indonesia during the same period, a 64% increase from 2017.

Amnesty International Indonesia executive director Usman Hamid argued the surge in killings revealed a "veil of impunity" that taints the Indonesian security apparatus.

"The hosting of an international sporting event must not come at the price of abandoning human rights. The killings must stop and all deaths must be promptly and effectively investigated," he said.

About 12,000 athletes are expected to compete in the 18th Asian Games, the largest multi-sporting event outside the Olympics, which will run from 18 August to 2 September. Indonesia is deploying 100,000 police and soldiers to provide security.

Intense preparations have been under way to beautify the capital for the influx of foreign visitors, and the surge in police killings comes as part of a "public safety" operation to secure the cities for the big event.

The shootings follow several directives this July from high-ranking police officers for their personnel "to take firm actions" against suspects who pose a public threat, including a "shoot on sight" policy against those who resist.

Following those orders eleven people were fatally shot in 10 days of July, with rights groups sounding concern that officers had interpreted the statements as "a licence to kill".

"The Asian Games are intended to celebrate human achievement, not provide a pretext for a police 'shoot to kill' policy in the name of crime control," said Phelim Kine, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

Despite criticism Indonesia's national police chief Tito Karniavan chief reaffirmed the policy on 30 July, saying: "If they fight the officers during the arrest then have no doubt, just shoot them."

In the past two years several Indonesian officials have lauded the killing of criminal suspects and offered praise for President Rodrigo Duterte's violent drug war in the Philippines.

In July 2017 the national police chief suggested the Philippine example showed that capital punishment was an effective way to deal with drug dealers.

"From practice in the field we see that when we shoot at drug dealers they go away," he said.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/17/indonesian-police-kill-dozens-in-asian-games-clean-up

Police & law enforcement

Top detective appointed new National Police deputy chief

Jakarta Post - August 17, 2018

Jakarta – National Police lead investigator Comr. Gen. Ari Dono Sukmanto will be inaugurated as the new deputy chief to fill the vacancy left by former deputy chief Syafruddin who has been appointed as the new Administration and Bureaucratic Reform Minister.

According to kompas.com, National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian said on Friday that he had decided to appoint Ari, now serving as chief of the National Police's Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim), and would announce it officially on Friday afternoon.

Previously, there had been speculation that Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Idham Aziz would be appointed as the new deputy chief due to claims made by House of Representatives Speaker Bambang Soesatyo. However, Idham denied the rumor saying that he was still serving as Jakarta Police chief.

On Wednesday, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo appointed Syafruddin to replace National Mandate Party (PAN) politician Asman Abnur as Administration and Bureaucratic Reform Minister.

Asman resigned from his post on Tuesday following his party's decision to support Jokowi's presidential election contender Gerindra Party chairman Prabowo Subianto. (ris/wit)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/17/top-detective-appointed-new-national-police-deputy-chief.html

Foreign affairs & trade

Lobby groups oppose plan to increase import tax

Jakarta Post - August 23, 2018

Jakarta – The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) and the Indonesian Employers Association (Apindo) have opposed a government plan to increase import tax on goods that can be produced locally, saying it could backfire on the economy.

"The Indonesian manufacturing industry is starting to grow. Don't let [import tax] be counterproductive to efforts to encourage exports," kontan.co.id recently reported Kadin deputy chairman for international relationship Shinta W. Kamdani as saying.

The government plans to impose additional import tax of 7.5 percent on goods that have domestic equivalents to reduce the current account deficit. The government is currently reviewing 500 imported items that may be subject to the higher import tax.

Shinta said imposing a higher import tax would push up prices, including consumer goods prices, because raw materials used to produce some consumer goods were imported.

She said such a move could be counterproductive in the government's effort to access new markets through free trade agreements (FTAs) and to attract more investors.

Apindo deputy chairman Suryadi Sasmita also called on the government to give assurances that the higher import tax would be imposed only on goods that made a slight contribution to economic growth because if was imposed on all goods, it would affect people's purchasing power.

"Businesspeople still want to sell their goods, while the people want affordable prices," he said. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/23/lobby-groups-oppose-plan-to-increase-import-tax.html

Indonesia should find new markets for palm oil: Minister

Jakarta Post - August 21, 2018

Jakarta – Finance Minister Sri Mulyani has said that Indonesia should be aggressive in looking for new palm oil markets because of various problems in the traditional markets, such as negative campaigns against the commodity and the impact of the ongoing trade war.

"We should not act defensively or just wait and see," said Sri Mulyani when speaking in a seminar on palm oil organized by the Indonesian Oil Palm Estate Fund (BPDP-KS) in Jakarta on Monday as reported by kompas.com.

"When I worked for the World Bank, I visited many countries in Africa and Latin America. They already had initiatives to develop palm oil. Many companies in Asia, particularly Malaysia, wanted to enter the palm oil business [there]."

She expressed confidence that the export potential of palm oil remained high amid current challenges, particularly in nontraditional markets.

As the largest palm oil producing country, Indonesia produced 37.8 million tons of CPO in 2017, with exports valued at US$21.25 billion, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

However, Sri Mulyani said Indonesian palm oil businesspeople tended to be content with being domestic players and acted defensively in facing global market challenges.

"If we become major players in the world's palm oil business, we can set the rules. We can formulate and influence policy," she said, adding that the fund needed to cooperate with the palm oil industry to create a strategy to enter nontraditional markets. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/21/indonesia-should-find-new-markets-for-palm-oil-minister.html

World recognizes Indonesia's diplomatic achievements: Jokowi

Jakarta Globe - August 16, 2018

Jakarta – The world recognizes Indonesia's diplomatic achievements, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said during his annual speech at the House of Representatives on Thursday (16/08).

Jokowi encouraged all to have the confidence to engage with the international community, as the country's performance has been acknowledged.

"On June 8, the world trusted Indonesia and voted for us to became a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2019-20 period," he said.

Indonesia has been active in international peace-building, also by engaging religious leaders in conflict resolution. In May, it held a trilateral conference with Islamic scholars from Afghanistan and Pakistan, who together with their Indonesian counterparts denounced violent extremism, terrorism and suicide attacks as against Islamic principles.

In his speech, the president also reiterated Indonesia's support for the independence of Palestine. "Palestine becomes the main priority of Indonesia's term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council."

Indonesia will also continue promoting its Asean-centered concept of Indo-Pacific cooperation, which it introduced during the ministerial meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore earlier this month.

Indonesia's foreign policy in the economic sector has also been successful. In June, the European Union lifted a ban on Indonesian airlines' entering its airspace.

The president also mentioned the country's achievements in defense and infrastructure cooperation with African countries. "Indonesia has exported defense systems to Africa and our state-owned enterprises have begun infrastructure cooperation there," he said.

Source: http://jakartaglobe.id/news/world-recognizes-indonesias-diplomatic-achievements-jokowi/

Mining & energy

One-price fuel policy implemented in 66 remote areas

Jakarta Post - August 20, 2018

Jakarta – State-owned oil and gas holding company Pertamina has constructed 66 fuel stations in remote and underdeveloped areas at which it will apply the government's one-price fuel policy.

Pertamina vice president of corporate communication Adiatma Sardjito said 12 fuel stations had been established this year and 54 in 2017.

"The target is to establish 67 stations for the one-price fuel policy this year," Adiatma said in a media release on Monday, adding that to realize the target, Pertamina faced tough challenges because of limited infrastructure in the areas.

The one-price fuel policy is a government program to provide people living in frontier, outermost and least developed regions with fuel at the same prices as in other areas.

Adiatma explained that the consumption of fuel in the 66 areas reached 0.3 percent of total national consumption, which was 56,000 kiloliters in June. Seventy percent of the consumption is subsidized Premium-branded gasoline, while the remaining 30 percent is subsidized Solar diesel fuel.

The 12 stations built this year are located in Seimenggaris, Nunukan, North Kalimantan, on March 9; Liang, Banggai Islands, Central Sulawesi, on March 9; Banggai Tengah, Banggai Laut, Central Sulawesi, on April 6; Prime district, Lanny Jaya, Papua, on April 6; West Wawonii, Konawe Islands, Southeast Sulawesi, on June 11; Tagulandang, Sitaro Islands, North Sulawesi, on June 29; Fayit district, Asmat, Papua, on July 2; Gido, Nias, North Sumatra, on July 26; Miangas, Talaud Islands, North Sulawesi, on July 30; Sula Islands, North Maluku, on July 31; Belantikan Raya, Lamandau, Central Kalimantan, on Aug. 3; and Sungai Boh district, Malinau regency, North Kalimantan, on Aug. 7. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/20/one-price-fuel-policy-implemented-in-66-remote-areas.html

Coal production at 37.11 percent of full-year target

Jakarta Post - August 16, 2018

Jakarta – Indonesian coal production was recorded at 180 million tons on Wednesday, or 37.11 percent of the government's 485 million target this year.

However, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has said he wanted Indonesia to further increase coal production to 585 million by year-end as part of efforts to narrow the current-account deficit (CAD).

"Yesterday [Tuesday], during the limited Cabinet meeting, the President said that we needed foreign exchange. He raised the possibility of increasing coal production by 100 million tons," Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry spokesman Agung Pribadi said on Wednesday.

He claimed that one coal miner was ready to increase its production by 25 million tons worth around US$1.5 billion.

Speaking about the country's meager coal production in the first half 2018, Agung claimed some companies had not reported their output and expressed confidence that coal miners would be able to meet the new production target.

"Coal [mining] is affected by the weather. Rainfall could reduce coal productivity. But the companies have their own calculations on their technical operations. Good's willing, the target could be achieved," Agung added.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Coal Miners Association (APBI) director executive Hendra Sinadia confirmed that coal production in the first half had been hampered by bad weather.

"Our production in the second half will increase significantly. But whether we could meet the target, it is our challenge," Hendra said as reported by kontan.co.id, adding that coal miners welcomed the government's plan to boost coal production this year in an effort to boost exports. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/16/coal-production-at-37-11-percent-of-full-year-target.html

Fishing & maritime affairs

Indonesia sinks more than 100 foreign illegal fishing vessels

Associated Press - August 22, 2018

Jakarta – Indonesia has sunk 125 mostly foreign vessels involved in illegal fishing as it ramps up efforts to exert greater control over its vast maritime territory, an official said on Wednesday.

The sinkings at 11 locations across Indonesia were carried out simultaneously on Monday.

Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry spokeswoman Lily Pregiwati said the operation wasn't announced in advance to avoid straining relations with neighbouring countries.

Indonesia says it has sunk 488 illegal fishing vessels since October 2014, usually with explosives. The government says the illegal boats are a threat to the local fishing industry. Their operators are frequently perpetrators of modern day slavery, using workers trafficked from Southeast Asian nations.

The vessels sunk this week included 86 Vietnamese-flagged ships, 20 Malaysian and 14 from the Philippines.

Video shot by local media showed fishery ministry workers scrambling to an adjacent boat from a sinking vessel that had been filled with sand and flooded.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, claims a huge exclusive economic zone, which is frequently penetrated by foreign fishing vessels. Its northerly reaches are regarded by China as its traditional fishing grounds despite their distance from the Chinese mainland.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/indonesia-sinks-more-than-100-foreign-illegal-fishing-vessels-20180822-p4zz1u.html

Infrastructure & development

Jokowi highlights achievements in infrastructure, welfare

Jakarta Post - August 16, 2018

Karina M. Tehusijarana, Jakarta – In his state-of-the-nation address before members of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo highlighted his administration's achievements in infrastructure development and social welfare programs in his fourth year since taking office.

"For almost four years, my government has fought to regain the people's trust by really working to develop the country from Sabang to Merauke, from Miangas to Rote Island, equitably and fairly," Jokowi said in the annual speech in the legislative complex on Thursday morning.

Dressed in his now signature blue suit and red tie, Jokowi said the construction of infrastructure such as toll roads, airports, and mass transit facilities had importance beyond their physical uses.

"In truth we are building civilization, building connectivity between cultures, building the infrastructure for a new culture," he said.

He also claimed that his administration had succeeded in developing Indonesia's human resources.

"We often speak of our natural resources, but we forget that Indonesia has great strength in the form of its human resources," he said. "This is the largest and strongest form of capital that we have."

He highlighted the Indonesia Smart Card and the national health insurance (JKN) scheme as examples of his achievements in the area.

The President also acknowledged that there were still strides to be made in reducing poverty, regional disparities and income inequality. "I am certain that by really working together, our nation can accomplish this," he said.

The President is set to give two more speeches, including a state-of-the-nation address before the House of Representatives and one on the state budget. (rin)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/16/jokowi-highlights-achievements-in-infrastructure-welfare.html

Indonesia enters high human development category: President

Tempo - August 16, 2018

Jakarta (Antara) – President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) noted that Indonesia has been placed in the high human development category as the quality of life of the Indonesian people has continued to improve.

"Indonesians' quality of life over the past four years has continued to improve. The country's Human Development Index has increased from 68.90 in 2014 to 70.81 in 2017," President Joko Widodo told the annual meeting of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) on Thursday.

The president, commonly known as Jokowi, said the government has taken steps to improve the quality and ease of access to education through the distribution of the Smart Indonesia Card, which has been received by 20 million schoolchildren as of 2017, in addition to providing scholarships for students.

The government also ran the Healthy Life Campaign to develop a healthy community and social protection program for disadvantaged people.

"The government has gradually increased the number of National Health Insurance beneficiaries from 86.4 million in 2014 to 92.4 million in May 2018," he remarked.

The MPR's annual meeting was also attended by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, cabinet ministers, foreign representatives, former presidents BJ Habibie and Megawati Sukarnoputri, and former vice presidents Try Sutrisno and Boediono.

Source: http://en.tempo.co/read/news/2018/08/16/055920873/Indonesia-Enters-High-Human-Development-Category-President

Banking & finance

Rupiah regains most volatile crown

Bloomberg - August 23, 2018

Kuala Lumpur – Indonesia's rupiah has regained the crown of being Asia's most volatile currency.

Concern about the nation's widening current-account deficit has focused attention on the currency amid a global selloff in emerging markets. A gauge of the rupiah's swings over the past three months has surpassed those of South Korea's won, ending a period of relative calm that started in 2017 when central bank measures crimped its trading range.

"The factors that have been weighing on the currency, which are very externally-led, aren't going to go away quickly," said Mitul Kotecha, a senior currency strategist at TD Securities in Singapore. "To a large extent, it reflects the current-account vulnerability."

Three-month implied volatility for the dollar-rupiah currency pair climbed as high as 9.25 last week, the most since February 2017. It was as low as 4.60 in September.

Indonesia's current-account deficit swelled to US$8 billion last quarter from $5.7 billion in the previous three months, according to central bank data published this month. The rupiah tends to be relatively vulnerable to any selloff in emerging markets due to the high foreign ownership of the nation's bonds.

Indonesia's currency has dropped 7 percent this year, the worst performer after India's rupee, and slid to 14,651 per dollar last week, the lowest since October 2015. The rupiah will slide to 14,750 by year-end, TD Securities's Kotecha predicts.

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/23/rupiah-regains-most-volatile-crown.html

Sri Mulyani responds to criticism from MPR speaker

Jakarta Post - August 20, 2018

Jakarta – Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati has responded to criticism raised by People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Speaker Zulkifli Hasan on the government's debt, saying that a recent Rp 396 trillion (US$27.15 billion) payment was to cover 44 percent of a debt incurred before President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo took office.

"The recent debt payment was an obligation that should have been fulfilled in the past. Why is it being disputed now?" Sri Mulyani wrote on her Facebook account in response to a criticism made by Zulkifli in his speech before President Jokowi on Friday.

She stressed that the debt had been made when Zulkifli was a member of former president Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono's cabinet

She added that in 2009, the government's annual debt payment reached Rp 117.1 trillion, while the state budget's health allocation was at Rp 25.6 trillion. This year, with a debt payment of Rp 396 trillion, the government allocated Rp 107.4 trillion for the health budget.

"This means that the ratio between the debt payment and health allocation had declined 19.4 percent in nine years," she said, assuring that the government managed the debt prudently and accountably.

She explained that the state budget deficit was always maintained below 3 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP); 2.59 percent in 2015, 2.49 percent in 2016, 2.51 percent in 2017, and a projected 2.12 percent in 2018.

"It undeniably proves that the government is careful, and it manages financial risks professionally and credibly. Because what's at stake here is our economy and welfare, and the safety of the people," she said.

Sri Mulyani also underlined that the government had decreased its primary deficit from Rp 142.5 trillion in 2015 to Rp 129.3 trillion in 2017. (bbn)

Source: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2018/08/20/sri-mulyani-responds-to-criticism-from-mpr-speaker.html

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