Indonesia News Digest No 19 - May 16-23

 TABLE OF CONTENTS

NEWS & ISSUES

* Teen escapes life of prostitution

* SBY ’annoyed’ by Amien’s letter

* SBY visits critically ill Soeharto

* Disagreement between progressive forces needs to
be ended

* Answers sought in journalist’s murder

ACEH

* Law to ’ensure impunity’ for Aceh criminals

* Military hails retroactivity clause in Aceh
governing bill

* Students in Aceh protests decision to release
Suharto

* Human rights trials in Aceh approved

* World Bank urges follow-up on Aceh peace deal

* House factions oppose tribunal for past abuses
in Aceh

* Commission accuses media of objectifying women
in Aceh

WEST PAPUA

* New rule aims to develop Papua

* Two people die in clash with Papua police

POPULAR RESISTANCE

* Lombok teachers to boycott test
* Lombok residents free criminal suspect
* Villagers go bananas over bumpy road

PORNOGRAPHY & MORALITY


* Porn bill backers come out in force

* Activists seek review of shariah

* Thousands back anti-porn bill in Indonesia

HUMAN RIGHTS/LAW

* Lawmakers back move to protect officials

* Bemused Bagir tries to dodge media ambush

* Information bill shouldn’t cover state firms:
Government

* Rich convicts tell of first-class prison stay

RECONCILIATION & JUSTICE

* Don’t count on a Suharto accounting

* AGO to try Soeharto under civil law

* Eight years on, the May 1988 grief lingers

* Indonesia remembers downfall of Suharto

* News Focus: Soeharto’s health and legal case

* Indonesia president will not press Suharto graft
case

* Protesters want charges against Soeharto
reinstated

* Activists demand Soeharto prosecution

* Victims of Soeharto regime demand justice

* Students want Soeharto tried

* Blame game continues over May 1998 shootings

LABOUR ISSUES

* Employers relaxing the pressure for revision of
labor law

* Police disperse striking workers

* Most labor supply firms illegal

REGIONAL ELECTIONS

* Peaceful Ambon election brings praise

* Ambon residents protest election

GOVERNMENT/CIVIL SERVICE

* BPK reveals raft of budget irregularities
* New poll shows approval for SBY plummets
* SBY’s job approval rating hits all-time low

ENVIRONMENT


* Bandung begins digging out from beneath the
trash

* Bandung becomes a city of trash

* Palm oil industry killing orangutans

* Illegal logging ’costing US$5 billion a year’

ARMED FORCES/DEFENSE

* US lawmakers propose dropping restrictions on
military aid

* Local products to meet 16% of military needs

* Hassan to US to assure supply of military
equipment

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

* Bush, Howard stress Indonesia’s role in
terrorism battle

* Indonesia declares issue of 42 Papuans solved

BUSINESS & INVESTMENT

* Extra mile mile needed to attract investments:
Kadin

* IMF revises up Indonesia’s 2006 GDP growth

OPINION & ANALYSIS

* Pramoedya and the rebirth of national culture

* Eight years ahead

* Another ’windu’ of opportunity lost for
Indonesia

BOOK/FILM REVIEWS

* Revealing truth behind ’history’ of PKI

* Shedding light on dark history

 NEWS & ISSUES

Teen escapes life of prostitution

Jakarta Post - May 23, 2006

Apriadi Gunawan, Medan — Cheap makeup, stilettos
and condoms, sometimes. Perhaps it’s time to go
beyond the prettified Pretty Woman stereotypes of
women on the make to lift the lid on the ugly
reality of Indonesia’s quietly thriving
prostitution industry.

As the politics of sexuality capture headlines
through the pornography bill in Jakarta, the
strident debate is of little significance to
“Bunga”, one of thousands of ’licensed’ underage
sex workers.

While many commercial sex workers play hide-and-
seek with police, “Bunga” was free from official
interference — thanks to a special letter,
allegedly written by police officers, that
effectively licensed her activities.

"The letter was written on a bar owner’s
suggestion to police," Bunga told journalists at
Medan-based Indonesia Pusaka Foundation, an
organization providing legal assistance for
children, as she showed them the letter.

Her confession sheds light on an industry which
many acknowledge but few discuss. It’s a trade
which has thrived not only because of demand but
also due to covert protection.

Prostitution is illegal in this country, but the
Social Services Ministry does unofficially oversee
certain red light districts — formerly at Kramat
Tunggak in North Jakarta and the Dolly Complex in
Surabaya, East Java — as a means of trying to
rehabilitate sex workers.

More disconcerting are the frequent allegations of
security officers involved in protecting the
industry. Longtime problems of the abuse of women
by their pimps and the prevalence of sexually
transmitted disease are not the only issues, with
the rampant exploitation of child prostitutes such
as Bunga.

“I am 15, but the letter says 18,” Bunga, who’s
name means ’flower’, remarked. The native of
Medan, North Sumatra, claims prostitution in Walet
complex, Bagan Batu, Riau province, has long been
backed by unscrupulous security officers.

She said local police guard the prostitution
complex located in a plantation area far from the
city center. "I don’t know how many, but in each
bar, there was always a (plainclothes) policeman
guarding it. They carry firearms."

The elementary school dropout says she worked
there for five months, earning about Rp 300,000
per day. Many of her customers, she added, came
from Malaysia and Singapore.

Her story is not unlike the tens of thousands of
minors forced into prostitution. If not sold by
their elders, they are often enticed by tempting
offers by pimps.

The National Commission for Child Protection last
month said 40,000 to 70,000 children were
illegally traded for commercial sex annually. In a
survey of 12 major cities, the Commission also
found 27,000 locations which hire under-17s as
prostitutes.

Bunga said she was forced into prostitution by a
man named Deni, who in October lured her from
Medan with the promise of work in Riau. What
transpired next is the story of a thousand
victims: She was raped and then forced to serve
clients in Rokan Hilir.

"He threatened to kill me. Out of fear, I did
everything he asked, including giving him Rp
500,000 each week," she said.

Thankfully the second child of nine was tracked
down by her parents in March. The foundation has
helped her parents’ file a report against Deni
with the Medan Labuhan Police, but so far there
has been no action taken.

North Sumatra Police spokesman Comr. Aspan
Nainggolan, when asked about the alleged
involvement of police in the sex business, would
only pledge to take action if evidence was found.

"If it is true that police officers are backing
prostitution, then it’s a big problem. We don’t
have the authority to intervene in the case since
it is in another province, but we will work
together with the Riau Police," he said.


SBY ’annoyed’ by Amien’s letter

Jakarta Post - May 20, 2006

Jakarta — President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was
less than impressed Friday when he found his name
had been spelled incorrectly in a handwritten
invitation from the National Mandate Party (PAN),
presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng said.

The invitation in a plain plastic folder without
an envelope or signature was delivered to the
presidential office by PAN chairman Sutrisno
Bachir. From the party’s senior advisor and former
People’s Consultative Assembly chairman Amien
Rais, it invited Yudhoyono to PAN’s commemoration
of National Awakening Day on Saturday.

Andi said the President upon receiving the letter
commented on the absence of a proper envelope and
signature and wondered why his name had been
spelled wrongly.

Replying to the invitation, Andi quoted a Javanese
saying that closely translates to "be like this,
or this, but don’t be like that", before adding
the President would not attend the event because
he was already going to a ceremony in Bandung.

National Awakening Day marks the founding of the
country’s first nationalist organization on May
20, 1908.


SBY visits critically ill Soeharto

Jakarta Post - May 20, 2006

Jakarta — President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
visited Soeharto in the hospital Friday, saying it
was his duty as the head of the state and a
“humanitarian gesture” to the ailing former
leader.

"I have always visited my seniors, including
former presidents and vice presidents, when they
are ill. And it is particularly so if the ailment
is serious," Yudhoyono told reporters after the
30-minute morning visit at Pertamina Hospital,
South Jakarta.

Soeharto, who will be 85 in June and suffered
several minor strokes in recent years, has been
hospitalized since May 4 due to intestinal
bleeding and underwent surgery to remove a 40-cm
section of his colon three days later.

Soeharto later underwent 30-minute minor surgery
to stop bleeding from his earlier operation. His
condition, complicated by respiratory
difficulties, was brought under control through
blood transfusions and administration of drugs,
doctors said.

Yudhoyono did not comment on the controversy about
Soeharto’s legal status for alleged graft during
his 32-year rule. The Attorney General’s Office
decided last week to forego future prosecution due
to his declining health.

Dozens of protesters gathered Friday at Taman
Suropati, outside the Vice President’s residence
and close to the Soeharto family compound on Jl.
Cendana, Central Jakarta. The protesters, who
clashed with the police, demanded the revoking of
the attorney general’s decision, the seizing of
Soeharto’s assets and a class action suit by
people who suffered human rights abuses under his
regime.

Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng said
Soeharto was conscious and seemed to recognize
Yudhoyono. His eldest daughter Siti Hardiyanti
Rukmana helped the two men communicate due to
Soeharto’s difficulty in speaking.

Yudhoyono also met with the team of doctors
treating Soeharto and his relatives, Andi said.
"We only had the chance to talk about Soeharto’s
health condition. There was nothing about the
legal controversy."

Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla later met
with chief security minister Widodo A.S.,
Indonesian Military Commander Air Chief Marshal
Djoko Suyanto and Religious Affairs Minister M.
Maftuh Basyuni to discuss Soeharto’s condition.

Kalla, who did not go into detail about the
meeting, commented the Attorney General’s Office’s
decision to halt further prosecution was in line
with the law. "It’s based on legal considerations,
not political or emotional ones. The government is
consistent in taking legal measure and following
the law," he said.

Concerning corruption allegations about several
foundations under Soeharto’s patronage, Kalla said
their administration was handed over to the
government upon his resignation in 1998. He said
it was now a matter of reorganizing the
foundations.

Pertamina Hospital head Adji Suprajitno said
Soeharto’s condition worsened Friday afternoon due
to breathing problems, but was brought under
control through transfusions.

"He is still conscious and can communicate with
his family." He also said Soeharto’s condition had
not changed from its listing of critical when he
was admitted 16 days ago.

"This critical phase has been longer than we
expected. The hope was the critical phase would be
over in a week but it turned out it remains until
today because it has affected other organs."


Disagreement between progressive forces needs to
be ended

Kompas - May 19, 2006

Solo, Kompas — The disagreement between the
progressive-revolutionary forces that exist in
Indonesia must be ended immediately. If not, these
forces will be unable to weave together the
cooperation needed to generate the energy to
withstand the entry of neoliberalism into
Indonesia that is becoming increasingly pervasive
and visible.

This view was conveyed by sociologist George Junus
Aditjondro during a seminar titled "An Evaluation
of the Failure of Reformasi and the Need for an
Alternative Political Force", which was organised
by the Yaphi Legal Aid Foundation and the United
People’s Movement on Thursday May 18 in the
Central Java city of Solo.

"The ultimate success post-Suharto has been
Suharto’s release from clutches of the law.
Meaning it is increasingly apparent that the
protests held at Senayan [parliament] in the past
were not for reformasi, but only for a transition
of power in the direction of world markets,
neoliberalism. What should our attitude be in the
face of this? There are seven issues, one of them
is strengthening the movement by means of ending
the disagreement between the progressive-
revolutionary forces", explained Aditjondro.

The disagreements that has taken place between
religious forces, secular, or between mazhab
[school of thought concerning Islamic law] and
socialism were also taken up by Aditjondro. "Also
the disagreement between red-and-white nationalism
and non-red-and-white nationalism", he added.

Taken all together, the seven points raised by
Aditjondro on the question of checking
neoliberalism, represent none other than the
problems of the reform movement itself, which must
be confronted by a means of participating in the
movement to oppose Suharto’s release, not just his
release from the courts over the corruption cases
involving the seven foundations that he establish,
but also opposing his release from responsibility
for his political sins. (eki)

[Translated by James Balowski.]


Answers sought in journalist’s murder

Paras Indonesia - May, 17 2006

The New York-based Committee to Protect
Journalists (CPJ) has joined calls by
international press freedom groups for a thorough
inquiry into the recent murder of an Indonesian
journalist who was investigating corruption
allegations against officials in East Java
province.

Freelance reporter Herliyanto (40) was found dead
on April 29 with numerous stab wounds to his head,
neck, stomach and back in a teak plantation near
Tarokan village outside Banyuanyar town in
Probolinggo district. He had written articles
about corruption for regional newspaper Radar
Surabaya and two local tabloids, Delta Pos and the
now defunct Jember News Visioner.

"We condemn the murder of our colleague Herliyanto
and urge the national authorities to quickly and
fully investigate the circumstances surrounding
his brutal murder," CPJ executive director Ann
Cooper said in a statement Monday (15/5/06).

The Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent
Journalists (AJI) has said Herliyanto was
investigating corruption allegations involving
school construction funds in Tulupari village,
part of Tiris town.

AJI’s advocacy division earlier this month sent a
fact-finding team to the area to clarify
definitively whether Herliyanto’s murder was
connected to his reporting or was an ordinary
crime. The team has found “strong indications” he
was murdered because of his reporting on
corruption.

A preliminary police investigation revealed that
just before the murder, Herliyanto was followed by
five or six people on four motorbikes. His own
motorbike was found not far from his corpse, but
his camera and notebook were missing. Police have
ruled out robbery as a motive but are unwilling to
publicly say whether the killing was linked was to
his reports.

Local media reports said police have questioned 10
witnesses who saw the reporter in the hours before
he was killed. A May 5 report by
tempointeraktif.com quoted Probolinggo Police
Detective chief Commissioner Samsul Arifin as
saying robbery was obviously not the motive
because the killers had not taken the reporter’s
motorbike. The report said the victim was found
with his intestines spilled out about 30 meters
away from his motorbike, which had been left on a
road in the plantation.

The Jawa Pos daily on May 12 quoted an unnamed
source from Banyuanyar Police as saying
investigators believed five people took part in
the killing. The report said a witness told police
that Herliyanto had met with Tarokan village head
Sugiyadi shortly before he was killed. The witness
said that after the meeting, Herliyanto drove his
motorbike past Klenang market in the direction
toward Tulupari. He said two motorbikes then drove
in front of the reporter, while another two drove
behind him.

Arifin said police were using witnesses’
descriptions in an effort to identify and track
down the people on the motorbikes. He also said
police had asked the victim’s cellular phone
operator to provide a list of numbers for all
calls the reporter had made and received in the
days leading up to his death.

Police received the reporter’s phone from
Sugiyadi, who is being treated as a witness. On
May 11, he told the Radar Bromo daily he was not
able to help police much with their inquiries when
questioned for four hours. He said he was with his
wife when Herliyanto spoke to him briefly at a
food stall in Sebaung village, Gending
subdistrict. "At that time he only said he was in
a hurry because of an agenda. He did not say what
that agenda was." Sugiyadi said he received the
reporter’s phone from some Tulupari villagers and
then handed it over to Banyuanyar Police. He said
the SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card was
missing when the villagers found the phone. He
claimed he could not remember the identities of
the villagers who gave him the phone.

He said Herliyanto was well known as a reporter
and had recently been seeking data on the villages
of Pedagangan, Tulupari, Tegalwatu and Rejing, all
in Tiris town. He claimed he did not understand
what sort of data the reporter had been looking
for.

Herliyanto leaves behind his wife Sami Murdiyana
and their two children. Sami said that in the days
before the murder, officials had often visited her
husband to ask him questions. She told freelance
reporter Iman D. Nugroho that the perpetrators of
the crime should be sentenced to death, adding she
was prepared to visit the East Java Police chief
to demand a thorough investigation.

AJI expressed its appreciation to the local police
for their work and asked East Java Police chief
Brigadier Herman Suryadi to lend his support to
the investigation to ensure the perpetrators are
caught as soon as possible.

Herliyanto’s death occurred three days before the
commemoration of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
Villagers had initially assumed he was the victim
of an ordinary crime when they found his body at
about 8pm on April 29.

An investigation by TV7 television network
confirmed that before the murder, Herliyanto was
reporting on the local administration’s alleged
misuse of subsidies for the poor and school
funding in Tulupari. The report said funds
intended for the construction of a school in
Tulupari were allegedly stolen by the village head
and his aides.

Some of the victim’s colleagues testified that
Herliyanto had sent them a brief text message
stating that funds were being misused in Tulupari.
According to AJI, he had been gathering evidence
of the school funding swindle, including a
document with the forged signature of the school’s
principal. He was also said to be investigating
the village head’s alleged theft of funds for the
rebuilding of a collapsed bridge and river wall.

Iman Nugroho reports on his blog that Herliyanto’s
colleague Ricard De Mas Nre believes his friend
was slain because of his reports. "He was a
reporter who often wrote news about criminal
cases. I am convinced Herliyanto was killed
because of the news that he wrote," he was quoted
as saying.

"Furthermore, before he died, he sent me an SMS to
write news about the corruption of the BOSS
[School Operational Assistance]," said Ricard.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders has strongly
condemned the murder, saying Herliyanto died while
"trying to inform the public about corrupt local
officials" and called on the authorities to arrest
and prosecute those responsible.

A local journalist who wished to remain anonymous
said Herliyanto’s articles in Radar Surabaya were
not accompanied by a byline or his initials.

Probolinggo administration spokesman Tutug
Hariyadi said he knew Herliyanto because he had
been writing about local government issues.

About 30 reporters in Probolinggo on Monday staged
a rally to demand that Herliyanto’s killers be
unmasked. They said his last article appeared in
the May 1-7 edition of Delta Pos and was about the
alleged embezzlement of clean water funds by an
official in Pedagangan village.

"Some people felt offended by the articles he
wrote... Police must catch the perpetrators as
soon as possible and bring them to justice," said
rally organizer Samsul Choiri.

The protesters marched from the local police
office to the local government building, carrying
banners with slogans such as ’We Mourn
Herliyanto’, ’Stop Violence Against Reporters’ and
’Reveal the Case of the Murder of Herliyanto’.

A statement issued by AJI on Monday condemned the
killing as a threat to press freedom and urged
police to bring the killers to court.

It said an autopsy by Probolinggo Public Hospital
revealed the victim had sustained stab wounds
measuring 12.5 centimeters to his neck and 8
centimeters to his head, while his intestines had
spilled out about 25 centimeters.

The statement said one of Herliyanto’s articles in
Jember News Visioner in 2000 had described a
protest by Tulupari residents against their
village head for allegedly stealing from a program
to provide subsidized rice to the poor. The report
prompted local police to carry out an
investigation, with the only result being further
demands for the village head to step down.

AJI has recorded 53 cases of threats or physical
attacks on journalists over the past year up to 3
May, 11 of them in East Java.

One of the most prominent murders of an Indonesian
journalist was that of Fuad Muhammad Syafruddin,
better known as Udin, a reporter for the Bernas
daily in Bantul, Yogyakarta. He was severely
beaten outside his house in August 1996 and died
three days later.

He had written numerous reports exposing local
government corruption and was particularly
critical of Bantul regent Colonel Sri Roso
Sudarmo, revealing how he paid a bribe of Rp1
billion to a relative of then president Suharto to
gain re-election. The reports enraged Sudarmo and
efforts were made to silence Udin through
intimidation. But the journalist persisted with
his reports and was killed. Police refused to
investigate Sudarmo and instead blamed the murder
on a man they falsely accused of having an affair
with Udin’s wife. The case was eventually thrown
out of court but no officials were ever jailed for
the state-sponsored cover up. Sudarmo was
eventually tried by a military court for
corruption in 1999 but never accused of
masterminding Udin’s murder. Edy Wuryanto, a
policeman who assisted in the cover-up, was in
August 2001 sentenced to 10 months in jail for
withholding Udin’s notebook. The investigation
into the murder has never gone any further.

Hopefully police will have more courage in
revealing the mastermind behind Herliyanto’s
murder. If not, nothing has changed.

 ACEH

Law to ’ensure impunity’ for Aceh criminals

Jakarta Post - May 23, 2006

Tiarma Siboro, Jakarta — Human rights activists
have slammed legislators for being unwilling to
create a law that would ensure soldiers and rebels
are tried for past human rights abuses in Aceh.

Grouped in the Aceh Working Group (AWG), they say
the Aceh governing bill, which is expected to be
passed into law soon, will give impunity to all
perpetrators of human rights abuses committed
during the almost three-decade-long conflict in
which about 15,000 people died.

The activists say the worst cases of abuse
occurred between 1989 and 1998 when Aceh became a
military operation.

The government and legislators deliberating the
bill have agreed on the establishment of a human
rights court to try all rights cases that occurred
in Aceh after the signing of the peace agreement
in Helsinki on Aug. 15, 2005.

However, two powerful party factions on the
committee deliberating the bill, the Indonesian
Democratic Party of Struggle and the Golkar Party,
have rejected giving the court powers of
retroactive justice, which would allow it to try
people accused of crimes in the 29 years before
the agreement was signed.

Defendants would likely include Indonesian
Military (TNI) soldiers and Free Aceh Movement
guerrillas.

The parties, which together have a majority in the
House of Representatives that must pass the bill,
say use of retroactive justice in the court would
lead to “unfair” prosecutions of military
officers.

If the factions get their way, the Commission of
Truth and Reconciliation — an institution with
as-yet uncertain legal powers — is likely to be
left to deal with the past violations.

The Helsinki agreement — which the Aceh
governance bill is based on — only specifies the
creation of a human rights court and a truth
commission for the province. It does not detail
whether past crimes should be tried in the court.

AWG activist Choirul Anam said legislators’
reluctance to try people accused of serious crimes
in a human rights court showed the political elite
were attempting to bury a decade of abuses
committed during the military operation.

"Legislators should not just put aside the
retroactive principle, because the Acehnese people
have witnessed their loved ones falling victims to
the 10-year military operation.

"Isn’t it weird that they (government officials
and House members) are trying to ignore victims of
the military operation when our country has just
been elected as a member of the UN’s human rights
council?" Anam said.

During the military operation, the AWG gathered
evidence of 1,321 cases of extra-judicial
killings, 128 rapes, 3,430 cases of torture, 597
cases of arson, and 1,958 cases where Acehnese
citizens had gone missing. Indonesian Military
(TNI) spokesman Col. A. Yani Basuki said the
military would support whatever system the
government decided on to resolve past abuses in
Aceh.

"The TNI is not in the position to judge whether
the retroactive principle of justice is necessary
or not. We (the military) leave these issues up to
the government," Yani said.


Military hails retroactivity clause in Aceh
governing bill

Jakarta Post - May 20, 2006

Tiarma Siboro and M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta —
The Indonesian Military (TNI) says it does not
oppose soldiers being tried by an Aceh human
rights court using principles of retroactive
justice as mandated in the Aceh governance bill.

The bill, currently being deliberated in the House
of Representatives, would allow soldiers involved
in the 30-year conflict to be tried for abuses
committed years before human rights laws were
passed in the country.

"We have no objection to idea of imposing
retroactive principles in the Aceh governance
bill. We do understand the principle may bring to
trial some of our soldiers due to alleged human
rights violations in the past," TNI spokesman Col.
Ahmad Yani Basuki said Friday as quoted by Antara.

"But if the legal procedures are observed properly
and in a professional manner, we will support the
idea" of the establishment of an ad hoc human
rights tribunal in Aceh, Ahmad said.

He said the military had always respected the law
in Aceh. This had been illustrated by the
institution’s support for the trials of soldiers
charged with violations during the 2003 military
operation in the province.

While the TNI supports the move, most legislators
deliberating the Aceh bill are opposed to the use
of retroactive justice.

The two biggest factions in the House of
Representatives — the Golkar Party and the
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P),
are opposed to the idea, which they said would
lead to “unfair” trials.

Sutradara Gintings, from the PDI-P, said he
believed the retroactive principle would only be
used to target members of the military and not
violence committed by Free Aceh Movement (GAM)
guerrillas during three decades of separatist
fighting.

Meanwhile, the Aceh Working Group (AWG) urged the
government and the House to immediately establish
an ad hoc human rights court and a Commission of
Truth and Reconciliation in Aceh.

AWG activist Choirul Anam said the commission’s
establishment would force all parties, including
TNI soldiers, GAM members and Acehnese militias,
to confront the violence they committed during the
conflict.

"And the actors behind gross human rights
violations in Aceh — be they top level officials
or GAM top leaders — will not evade the ad hoc
human rights tribunal," he said.

The House’s special committee wrapped up its
deliberations of the Aceh governing bill Friday,
leaving many of the contentious issues in the
legislation to be discussed further by a working
committee.

Other contentious issues in the bill included the
establishment of local political parties,
independent candidates contesting local elections,
revenue sharing between the central government and
local administration from natural resources and
the sharia courts system.

Special committee chairman Ferry Mursyidan Baldan
of the Golkar Party said the House working
committee would convene on Monday. Its discussions
on the bill would likely be closed to the public,
Ferry said.

"However, if the working committee works behind
closed doors, there will be a press briefing every
evening to let the public know about our
progress," he said.

Twenty lawmakers will sit in the working
committee, half the members of the special
committee. Golkar and the PDI-P have four and
three members on the working committee,
respectively.


Students in Aceh protests decision to release
Suharto

Aceh Kita - May 19, 2006

Banda Aceh — Dozens of students from Student
Solidarity for the People (SMUR) held a peaceful
action at the Simpang Lima roundabout in the
Acehnese provincial capital of Banda Aceh on May
19. The action was protesting the decision by the
Attorney General to terminate the legal case
against former President Suharto.

Watched over by dozens of security personnel from
the Banda Aceh municipal police, protesters
brought red banners with the writing "Reformasi
has failed“and posters reading”Join in grieving
over the release of Suharto by the Attorney
General". Each one of the participants tied red
cloth over their mouths. Shortly before Friday
prayers the protesters disbanded.

Action coordinator Rahmat Djailani said that they
held the action to protest the decision by
Attorney General Abdurrahman Saleh to end the
legal cases against the former number-one person
in Indonesia. "The release of Suharto (from the
legal process) reflects the poor quality of law
enforcement and human rights in Indonesia", said
Djailani during a break in the action.

According to Djailani there are no grounds for the
government to end the legal case against Suharto.
Moreover, aside from the corruption case against
him, Suharto must also be held responsible for
human right violations that took place when Aceh
was declared a Military Operation Zone [1989-
1998].

"Following the Helsinki Memorandum of
Understanding, there has been a momentum to
resolve past human rights violations", said the
student from the Syiah Kuala University faculty of
law.

The demonstrators also condemned the government of
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice
President Jusuf Kalla. According to Djailani,
Yudhoyono and Kalla have failed to implement the
reform mandated by the students that brought down
Suharto on May 21, 1998. "Reform has been
implemented by people who do not understand the
program of reformasi", said the general secretary
of SMUR. [dzie]

[Translated by James Balowski.]


Human rights trials in Aceh approved

Tempo Interactive - May 18, 2006

Wahyudin Fahmi, Jakarta — The majority of
factions in the Special Committee for the Aceh
Government Draft Bill have approved the
establishment of a human rights court in Aceh, one
a year after the state decree was enacted.

The settlement of human rights problems, according
to Ahmad Farhan Hamid, a member of the Special
Committee from the National Mandate Party, must be
implemented equally, including in Aceh.

The reason for this is that human rights
violations in Aceh can already be categorized as
the most urgent.

"This is because in Aceh, there were sexual
assaults, rapes, murders and torture," he said
during the meeting led by Ferry Mursyidan Baldan,
Head of the Special Committee, yesterday (17/5).

Similar opinions were voiced by Muhammad Fauzi
from the Democracy Pioneer Star Party (PBPD)
faction, Marzuki Darusman from the Golkar party
faction and Mahfudz Siddiq from the Justice and
Prosperity Party (PKS) faction.

"With transparent human rights trials,
reconciliation in Aceh will run well," said Fauzi.

Marzuki suggested that human rights trials in Aceh
should be retro-passive or retroactive.

Benny K. Harman from the Democratic Party faction
and Nursyahbani Katjasungkana from the National
Awakening Party faction accused the central
government of being responsible for all the
incidents in Aceh carried out by the Indonesian
Military (TNI) and the National Police (Polri).

The central government, said Nursyahbani, issued
unfair policies that resulted in victims.

However, Sidharto Danusubroto, a member of the
Special Committee from the Indonesian Democratic
Party of Struggle (PDI-P) faction, proposed
something different.

Sidharto is of the opinion that after the law be
enacted, pardons could be granted for all human
rights violations committed by the TNI and Polri
without going to trial.

In response to all this, Home Affairs Minister
Muhammad Ma’ruf said that human rights violations
in Aceh were not institutional measures.

The central government, he said, had never issued
any policies allowing actions that could result in
victims.

“It was done by thugs,” said the former ABRI
(Indonesian Armed Forces-now TNI) Social and
Political Chief of Staff.

He requested all the incidents be retracted for
reference so that they will not be repeated. "And
not only for Aceh," said Ma’ruf.


World Bank urges follow-up on Aceh peace deal

Agence France Presse - May 15, 2006

Jakarta — Providing jobs, financial assistance
and housing to thousands of former guerillas and
political prisoners is essential for ensuring the
success of the peace deal in Aceh, the World Bank
said Monday.

"In following a peace agreement it matters what
you do afterwards. If you want to do it right,
then you have to understand combatants’ needs for
re-integration," said Andrew Steer, the bank’s
country director for Indonesia.

Three-quarters of the former combatants were
unemployed, 90 percent needed funds to pay debts
or support their families, and three-quarters
lacked housing more than six months after a peace
deal was signed, a World Bank study found.

The peace pact, signed in August, aims to end
almost three decades of violence involving Free
Aceh Movement (GAM) guerrillas and Indonesian
troops and police.

Almost 80 percent of the 1,682 political
prisoners, many of whom suffered harsh treatment
during their imprisonment, suffered wounds or were
disabled, said Patrick Barron, the study’s author.

But unemployment among the former guerillas was
the biggest threat to the peace deal, he said.

"There are risks of extortion and pressure on
local communities in the longer run. There is a
need to get people working," he said.

The government has allocated 200 billion rupiah
(22.9 million dollars) to assist former
combatants, political prisoners and victims of the
violence, including one million rupiah for each
combatant.

Under the peace pact, GAM agreed to drop its
demand for independence in return for — among
other concessions — the right to form local
political parties, which are banned elsewhere in
Indonesia to discourage separatism.


House factions oppose tribunal for past abuses in
Aceh

Jakarta Post - May 18, 2006

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta — The two biggest
factions in the House of Representatives have
balked at applying a retroactive principle for a
human rights tribunal for Nanggroe Aceh
Darussalam, which would effectively bar it from
trying members of the military.

The Golkar Party and the Indonesian Democratic
Party of Struggle (PDI-P) opposed Wednesday the
provision to invest the tribunal with the
authority to try past human rights abuses, which
would have included alleged violations committed
when the province was under military control in
the 1990s.

Lawmaker Marzuki Darusman of the Golkar faction
said the court should only hear cases of
violations committed after the law came into
effect.

"The retroactive principle should not be
applicable for the rights tribunal in Aceh," said
Marzuki, who was attorney general during the
administration of Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid.

He recommended that a new political consensus
should be reached on the handling of rights abuses
or crimes against humanity that took place in the
past 10 years.

Sutradara Gintings from the PDI-P faction said the
rights tribunal in Aceh could not hear cases of
rights abuses allegedly committed by members of
the Indonesian Military (TNI).

He demanded TNI personnel should be entitled to
the same exemption from prosecution provided to
Free Aceh Movement (GAM) members following the
signing of the Helsinki peace accord last August
that ended almost 30 years of strife.

"Equality must prevail for both sides. If GAM
members could walk free from their crimes because
of the mass amnesty, why shouldn’t TNI members be
given a break from the human rights tribunal?"
Sutradara also said the rights tribunal should be
limited to six months in duration.

The PDI-P faction has from the outset expressed
reservations about the bill’s contents, claiming
it panders to the demands of the former rebels.
The bill only mandates the establishment of a
rights tribunal and truth and reconciliation
commission. It also has been debated if the
court’s structure would follow that of ones
established in Jakarta, Makassar, Medan and
Surabaya.

Although deliberation of the bill is nearing
completion, with 90 percent of its content
discussed by a special committee, more time will
be needed to perfect the legal draft.

Communications and Information Minister Sofyan A.
Djalil, the government’s representative at the
deliberations, said the rights tribunal in Aceh
would be an effective deterrent.

"It will serve more as a human rights watchdog in
Aceh," Sofyan said.


Commission accuses media of objectifying women in
Aceh

Jakarta Post - May 17, 2006

Jakarta — Research by the Aceh Working group of
the National Commission on Violence Against Women
shows women are still objectified by the print
media.

The group studied two nationally distributed daily
newspapers, Kompas and The Jakarta Post, to see
how they covered female Aceh refugees after the
tsunami, including during the reconstruction and
rehabilitation process, the disbursement of
humanitarian aid, the peace building process
between the Indonesian government and the Free
Aceh Movement, as well as the implementation of
sharia law in Aceh.

The research was conducted to determine whether
women were being treated as subjects, meaning they
were interviewed directly and allowed to make
their own statement, or as objects, meaning that
their situation was reported, but they had no
direct voice in the coverage.

The group chose the topic because the situation in
Aceh was sensitive and needed special attention.
The women in Aceh were under a great deal of
pressure, living in a disaster zone with limited
facilities in the shelters provided.

The two newspapers were selected because The
Jakarta Post readers were among those working for
International Non-Governmental Organizations in
Aceh, while Kompas was selected because of its
influence on public policy.

The group studied 24 articles clipped from the two
newspapers between January 2005 and December 2005
using a critical approach and methodology that
interpreted the reportage article by article. The
results showed that only 18.30 percent of The
Jakarta Post’s represented the voice of women,
while just 8.9 percent of the reportage in Kompas
accommodated women’s points of view.

A researcher, Dewi Yuri, said mass media as a tool
for building public opinion still depicted women
as victims and dependent human beings. "In one
article from The Jakarta Post, about a woman who
had to give birth in a shelter, the husband gave
the statement representing the wife," she said.

She added that a direct quote was very important
in order to give women the opportunity to
represent themselves in newspapers so that there
would not be a bias in the news. "When women’s
statements are less important then men’s, the
newspaper shows that men have a higher social
status than women," she said.

She said the two newspapers still objectified
women and depicted them as victims. "In human
interest stories, women as victims can attract
more readers because readers are more interested
in reading how women could have survived the
tsunami," she said.

Dewi said the problem could not be separated from
economic and political interests in newspaper
circulation. "Newspaper companies have to survive
by competing. That fact makes journalists in
newspapers sometimes neglect second-class citizens
such as women," she said.

She said after studying the two newspapers
researchers had found women were not presented as
policy makers, but only as victims. "The two
newspapers had little coverage about women in
political matters," she said.

Dewi said the smaller number of women than men
representing themselves in newspapers showed women
had limited access to the public arena. "The print
media have a very important role in influencing
public policies and, therefore, journalists must
be sensitive to gender issues," said Dewi.

She said the government should formulate a law
that obliged mass media companies to be more
socially responsible. "The press must work freely
and also be responsible as a voice on human rights
issues."

 WEST PAPUA

New rule aims to develop Papua

Jakarta Post - May 20, 2006

Tony Hotland, Jakarta — The government plans to
issue a new regulation to ensure the trillions of
rupiah entering Papua under special autonomy is
being spent properly, the President says.

In the form of a presidential instruction, the
regulation will target the development of
infrastructure, poverty relief, heath care and
education in the resource-rich but underdeveloped
province.

The planned law is seen as a move to appease
native Papuans, who are angry at years of neglect
from the central government and Jakarta’s
inability to properly establish special autonomy
in the region.

Speaking after meeting Papuan leaders, President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the implementation
of special autonomy had faltered in Papua because
of some “key problems”.

Without going into detail about the instruction,
Yudhoyono said the decree would ensure the Rp 12
trillion (US$1.37 billion) of public money now
being spent annually in the province to set up
special autonomy was being properly accounted for.

Under the status, the province gets an larger
share of revenues generated from lucrative,
internationally owned mining and oil and gas
concerns in the region — all money that used to
go to central government.

"We need to ensure that the money, allotted in the
state and the regional budgets, is distributed for
its proper uses," he said.

Yudhoyono said the instruction would aim to speed
up the implementation of poverty relief,
infrastructure, education, health care programs in
the province, and create a mechanism to better
measure the region’s progress.

In the long term, Yudhoyono said Papuans’ standard
of living should increase to at least the national
average, they should suffer less from preventable
diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria and have
better access to education and jobs.

"We need to ensure that Papua has a sustainable
source of food. In infrastructure, Papua must at
least have basic facilities, like irrigation and
roads, in the coming years," he said.

The President also promised the administration
would ensure native Papuans held more positions in
regional and central government and other public
institutions.

"We need to empower more local people. This will
require affirmative action so that (Papuan)
youngsters can take positions in the civil
service, military or police. There will always be
a place for representatives from Papua," he said.

The government would also consult more local
experts when it created policy or attempted to
solve long-standing problems the region faced, he
said.

It would continue to communicate with local
institutions like the Papuan People’s Council and
would properly integrate the council’s powers into
the national system, he said.


Two people die in clash with Papua police

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2006

Jakarta — Two supporters of a former Jayawijaya
regent died following a clash with the police in
Papua on Monday, after they tried to prevent the
police from picking him up to appear in court on
charges of misappropriating the administration’s
budget.

The clash took place when the police came to
former regent David Hubi’s house to assist Wamena
District Court staff to bring him to trial as
ordered by the court. The crowd acted brutally,
forcing the police to fire warning shots to
disperse them.

"The police had to shoot David Hubi’s supporters
as they shot the officers with arrows. The
shooting was done in self defense," Jayawijaya
Police Chief, Adj. Sr. Comr. Robert Djoenso, was
quoted by Antara as saying. Two supporters were
injured in the incident and taken to Wamena
Hospital for treatment but later died in the
hospital.

Robert said the situation in Wamena and the
surrounding area had returned to normal while some
200 of David’s supporters were taken in for
questioning.

"Based on a preliminary intelligence report, David
Hubi’s supporters were provoked by certain people
who had been promised a promotion by the former
regent. They’re afraid of losing the promised
position and provoked the supporters to attack the
police," he said.

Jayawijaya Police, he said, had requested Papua
Police Chief Insp. Gen. Tommy Jacobus to deploy
more police personnel, acknowledging that he did
not want a repeat of the Abepura incident in March
where five security personnel were killed in a
clash.

Papua Police Chief Insp. Gen Tommy Jacobus said
David had failed to show up at the previous
trials, when the court was examining the witnesses
and evidence. The Wamena District Court subpoened
him after he refused to answer the summons.

He called on David’s supporters to use peaceful
measures to defend the former regent instead of
resorting to violence or attacking security
personnel. He also urged Jayawijaya residents and
community leaders to help calm David’s supporters.

"We’re concerned that there is a certain group
trying to provoke people to stage protests. Let
the people work in their fields or earn a living
for their families instead of involving them in
the conflict," he told Antara without identifying
the group.

Despite the clash, Monday’s trial proceeded as
scheduled with David Hubi attending the trial.
After the trial, he was sent to Wamena
penitentiary.

Prosecutor Andi Kurniawan said his office decided
to forcibly pick up the former regent for the
trial. The former regent is accused of embezzling
at least Rp 12 billion of the administration’s
2003-2004 budget.

"He had to be picked up since he had ignored two
summons to attend the trial at Wamena District
Court. When the prosecutor’s staff and the police
arrived at David’s house, the crowd had gathered
there and when we entered the house, we found so
many weapons, like bows, spears and blades," he
told Antara.

 POPULAR RESISTANCE

Lombok teachers to boycott test

Jakarta Post - May 22, 2006

Mataram, Lombok — Some 350 teachers in East
Lombok staged a protest Saturday, threatening to
boycott Monday’s national final test in junior
high schools if the administration failed to
return money cut from their salary for the past 26
months.

The protest’s coordinator, Maksin, said the
teachers, who flocked outside the office of East
Lombok regent, returned to the street since Regent
Ali bin Dahlan failed to meet his promise. They
were not able to meet the regent.

For over a year, the teachers’ salaries were cut
by 2.5 percent for professional donations. The
administration also cut the pay of all civil
servants.

The regent in February agreed to stop the cut and
promised to return some Rp 10 billion (US$1.1
million) collected from around 5,000 people.


Lombok residents free criminal suspect

Jakarta Post - May 19, 2006

Mataram — A crowd of people stormed Sambelia
Police station Wednesday to free a man detained
for his alleged involvement in illegal logging in
East Lombok district. No one was injured in the
incident.

West Nusa Tenggara Police spokesman Comr. Tribudi
Pangastuti said Thursday the incident occurred
several hours after police seized a vehicle
carrying nine logs as part of an illegal logging
operation.

After determining the logs were undocumented,
police seized the vehicle and detained the driver,
Nasir, 30, a resident of Paok Montong, East
Lombok. The logs are though to have been illegally
cut from the protected forest around Mt. Rinjani.

"But at around 6 p.m. about 250 people arrived to
protest the arrest," Tribudi said.

The crowd demanded police free the man and the
seized logs, which they said were not illegal and
were to be used to build a mosque. The crowd
eventually stormed the station and released Nasir.


Villagers go bananas over bumpy road

Jakarta Post - May 17, 2006

Sidoarjo — Residents of Sidoarjo have begun
planting banana trees in the numerous large
potholes that dot the village’s main road, Antara
news agency reported Tuesday.

They say the trees are being planted in a show of
anger with the local government’s failure to fix
the road, and as a safety measure. The trees will
warn motorcyclists of the presence of a pothole,
helping to prevent accidents.

Residents have repeatedly asked the local
government to repair the 500-meter-long Jl.
Masangan Wetan, but have received only unfulfilled
promises.

They say the road punishes cars and motorcycles
and increases the likelihood of accidents,
particularly when it rains and the potholes are
hidden under water.

 PORNOGRAPHY & MORALITY

Porn bill backers come out in force

Jakarta Post - May 22, 2006

Jakarta — Supporters of the much-debated porn
bill came out en masse in a number of cities
Sunday, urging lawmakers to immediately pass it
into law to improve the country’s morals.

The demonstrations, with the Jakarta rally’s
estimated attendance reaching tens of thousands,
brought together several Muslim organizations,
including Hizbut Tahrir, Muhammadiyah, Nahdlatul
Ulama (NU), the Prosperous Justice Party and
others from Jakarta, Banten and West Java.

In Jakarta, demonstrators packed streets around
the House of Representatives complex, forcing the
closure of streets leading to the toll road
entrance in front of the House building.

Religious leaders including the NU’s Hasyim
Muzadi, Muhammadiyah’s Din Syamsuddin, Husein Umar
and Cholil Ridwan were on hand, Antara newswire
reported. Celebrities such as dangdut music legend
Rhoma Irama, an advocate of cleaning up the
entertainment industry, also took part.

Opponents argue the bill does not address the
distribution of pornographic materials but instead
is an assault on people’s personal freedoms,
especially of women, because it defines a range of
acceptable public behavior. Strong opposition to
the bill has been expressed by the artistic
community as well as several ethnic groups which
decry what they consider an attempt to create a
monotheistic society.

The heated, emotionally charged debate about the
bill has exposed a cultural divide, and many
protesters Sunday carried banners denouncing
secularism.

A leader of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI),
Ma’ruf Amin, said the bill was essential as the
basis to eradicate pornography. He criticized
those in the media industry and entertainment
businesses who oppose the bill.

House Speaker Agung Laksono, who met with
representatives of the demonstrators, said the
legislature would remain neutral by accommodating
different opinions on the bill.

Muslim groups also rallied Sunday in West
Sumatra’s capital of Padang, Surabaya, East Java,
Semarang, Central Java, Mataram, West Nusa
Tenggara, Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, and
Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan.

In a discussion Saturday, participants expressed
concerns that one law cannot be used as a vehicle
to arbitrate religious and social norms.
University of Indonesia legal expert Maria Farida
questioned if the bill could enhance public
morality.

Mubarik Ahmad of the Ahmadiyah religious group
said at least 18 regions were poised to issue
sharia-based bylaws, such as a much criticized one
against soliciting in Tangerang, if the bill came
into law.

House working committee deputy Chairun Nisa said
the bill failed to regulate pornography, and would
not work in controlling how people behaved, "...
because it’s impossible to tell how people to
dress or the way their cultures are".


Activists seek review of shariah

Jakarta Post - May 22, 2006

Jakarta — Reports that more regencies and cities
around Indonesia are adopting shariah-style bylaws
have caused grave concern among women activists,
who worry that the trend will threaten not only
their rights but also the nation’s integrity.

A group of women’s rights activists in Jakarta is
drumming up support for a plan to file a request
for a Supreme Court review of 26 shariah-inspired
ordinances which have been adopted in various
regencies and municipalities.

They argue the ordinances on sex and morality
violate the 1945 Constitution, which guarantees
equal rights for men and women. They say local
administrations are taking advantage of the
central government’s lax supervision of local
legislations in the name of autonomy.

Among those which have adopted the controversial
ordinances are the predominantly Muslim
municipality of Tangerang, and several regencies
in South Sulawesi, South Sumatra, West Java, West
Sumatra and West Nusa Tenggara. Aceh province was
legally granted the right to adopt shariah in 2002
with the hope that it would help end the
secessionist rebellion there.

The head of the Jakarta chapter of the Legal Aid
Foundation for Women (LBH-APIK), Ratna Batara
Munti, is calling for a nationwide movement to
stop bylaws that discriminate against women.

In Tangerang, women are subject to arrest as
suspected prostitutes if they venture out without
a male companion at night.

Recently, the Coalition to Oppose Discriminatory
Local Ordinances filed a request for judicial
review of the Tangerang prostitution bylaw at the
Supreme Court. They believe the bylaw violates the
Constitution and the Criminal Code as well as the
International Declaration of Human Rights. "In
Palembang city (in South Sumatra), being a
homosexual is punishable by jail terms and hefty
fines," she said.

The ordinances appear to clearly violate
international conventions that the Indonesian
government has ratified, such as the 2005 law on
civil and political rights and the 1984 law on
women.

The International Convention on Civil and
Political Rights obliges signatories to repeal
policies that are incompatible with the principles
of human rights. "It is the right of every person
to determine his or her sexual orientation," Ratna
says.

Ratna points out that many of the shariah bylaws
discriminate against women, depriving them of
their basic rights, such as the right to dress as
they choose and act as they choose.

The General Secretary of the Indonesian Women’s
Coalition for Justice and Democracy, Masruchah,
illustrates how such bylaws discriminate against
women.

"In some regencies in South Sulawesi province, the
bylaws require women to wear Muslim clothes but
they do not prescribe the same thing for men,“said Masruchah, who wears a headscarf.”The bylaws curtail women’s rights to move and
act. In the West Java regency of Cianjur, women
are seen as ’good women’ only if they wear Muslim
clothes," she said.

According to activists, local administrations have
adopted the shariah ordinances without properly
consulting the people, let alone listening to
objections from critics, particularly those of
different religious faiths.

Masruchah says the end goal of the shariah
ordinances spearheaded by fundamentalist groups is
to turn Indonesia into a theocratic state.

"This is wrong. Islam teaches tolerance for people
of other faiths, so they are violating this
principle,“she said.”I believe that many people
do not feel comfortable with the bylaws, and
therefore, we have to form an organized movement,"
she said.


Thousands back anti-porn bill in Indonesia

Associated Press - May 21, 2006

Niniek Karmini, Jakarta — Tens of thousands of
conservative Muslims rallied in the Indonesian
capital Sunday in support of a proposed anti-
pornography bill that critics say would chip away
at the country’s secular traditions.

The protesters, who arrived in buses organized by
mosques and conservative Islamic groups, urged
parliament to immediately pass the bill, which in
its current form would ban kissing in public — as
well as erotic poetry, dancing, drawing, writing,
photos and film.

Organizers said 1 million people would attend the
demonstration. Turnout appeared far less than
that, perhaps 100,000, but it was still one of the
largest shows of force by conservative Islam in
recent years.

The protest shut down main roads in the capital
for several hours as the demonstrators made their
way to the parliament building, which was guarded
by hundreds of police officers, some in riot gear.
Some demonstrators carried banners calling for the
imposition of Islamic law in the country, which is
home to some 190 million Muslims — more than any
other country in the world — but also has
significant Christian, Hindu and Buddhist
minorities.

“Ban pornography and stop the sex industry,” they
shouted. “Down with liberalism and secularism,”
read one banner in support of the bill, which has
become a rallying call for the country’s growing
hardline fringe.

The bill, which was originally drafted in 1999
following the downfall of ex-dictator Suharto, is
facing opposition from nationalist lawmakers, who
form a majority in the house, and is unlikely to
pass as in its current form.

Those opposed to the bill include the country’s
minority faiths, liberal Muslim groups, artists
and several outlying regions which fear their
traditional dances and culture may be
criminalized.

They note the country already has laws banning
pornography, and say that the police, long accused
of taking bribes from criminals trying to avoid
arrest, should simply enforce them better.

Indonesian Muslims follow a moderate form of the
faith, but many believe that the state should
crack down on the sale of pornographic VCDs and
magazines, which are readily available for sale
throughout country.

 HUMAN RIGHTS/LAW

Lawmakers back move to protect officials

Jakarta Post - May 23, 2006

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta — Legislators have
given qualified support to the government’s plan
to issue a regulation that would protect officials
from prosecution for erroneous policies, after
many nervous civil servants refused to make
decisions.

Members of House Commission III on law and human
rights Taufiqurrachman Saleh of the National
Awakening Party (PKB) and Panda Nababan of the
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P)
said the policy would only be plausible if it was
aimed at boosting the officials’ performance
instead of protecting corrupt practices.

"We realize that the anti-corruption drive by the
law enforcers has most of the time gone too far so
that it discourages government officials from
executing their policies," Taufiqurrachman told
The Jakarta Post on Monday.

He said there were numerous cases in which regents
complained about anxiety at using the budget from
the central government due to fears of being
accused of corruption.

Panda said the regulation would only be effective
if the government consulted law enforcers,
especially the Attorney General’s Office, before
it took effect.

"But I doubt if the Vice President has consulted
the AGO," Panda said, referring to Jusuf Kalla who
first floated the controversial idea.

Addressing a Golkar Party function on Sunday,
Kalla said that the government was preparing a
regulation that would protect government
officials, including governors, regents and local
councillors, against prosecution for implementing
their policies.

Kalla said that if government officials made a
wrong policy, they could only be tried by the
state administrative court.

"We want to differentiate what is policy and what
is crime. If the policy is wrong then its maker
should be subject to state administrative court
and not criminal court," Kalla said.

Kalla said the legislation was planned because
under the existing laws, state officials are
highly susceptible to legal action for any action
they took. Consequently, few officials will accept
development projects and development has come to a
standstill due to the official inertia in many
areas.

He said once the new policy takes effect, it would
be more difficult for state officials to be
arrested for policy-related offenses. Kalla said
the new regulation would only need formal approval
from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to take
effect.

Some have said the regulation would protect the
bulk of Golkar Party members who elected for
office.

Following an intensified anti-corruption drive by
the Yudhoyono administration, increasing numbers
of government officials have been arrested and put
on trial.

Since 2004, Yudhoyono has allowed seven governors
and 60 regents/mayors to be investigated for
corruption cases. Prosecutors throughout the
country have also launched investigations into 735
members of city councils and 327 provincial
councillors.


Bemused Bagir tries to dodge media ambush

Jakarta Post - May 19, 2006

On a day when he should have been celebrating, a
flustered Supreme Court Chief Justice Bagir Manan
was instead doing his best to escape a media
ambush Thursday.

He was bombarded with questions about the trial of
Harini Wiyoso — a lawyer who claims to have
bribed Bagir on behalf of her client, tycoon
Probosutedjo — after his swearing-in ceremony for
a second term at the State Palace.

His face reddened as journalists hounded him about
the stalemate in Harini’s trial, where three
judges staged a walkout early this month to
protest the presiding judge’s refusal to call the
chief justice to testify about her claims.

Ironically, the request came from prosecutors of
the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), but
Bagir received warm congratulations from KPK chief
Taufiequrrahman Ruki.

"Let the judges solve the problem themselves. Give
them a chance. The Supreme Court doesn’t want to
meddle in the problem because it is still at the
court level," Bagir told journalists.

He also was evasive when asked if he would testify
if summoned by the court.

“That’s another problem,” he said as he tried to
walk and push journalists aside to elude further
questions about the case.

Bagir tried to pick up the pace a bit to lose the
pack of journalists, impatiently flicking away a
tape recorder put close to his face.

He was elected to a second term in office on May 2
when he received 44 of the 47 valid votes cast by
the Supreme Court justices. Critics derided the
show of support for the controversial Bagir as a
new low in the country’s checkered judicial
history.

Elected chief justice in 2001, Bagir’s term was
due to expire Thursday when he reached the
mandatory retirement age of 65 for justices, but
last July he extended the age to 67.

He presided over the controversial acquittal of
former House speaker Akbar Tandjung in a graft
case, despite his conviction by two lower courts,
and also cut the prison term of former president
Soeharto’s youngest son Hutomo “Tommy” Mandala
Putra, who was convicted of ordering the murder of
a judge. — JP/Tony Hotland


Information bill shouldn’t cover state firms:
Government

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2006

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta — The House of
Representatives and the government began
deliberating the long-overdue Freedom of
Information Bill on Monday, with the government
already showing signs it wants to water down the
legislation.

On day one of the deliberations, the government,
represented by Communication and Information
Minister Sofyan Djalil, proposed that the hundreds
of state- and city-owned companies covered by the
bill should be exempted from disclosing financial
information to the public.

A House-sanctioned draft of the legislation
proposes that the three branches of the government
along with state- and city-owned enterprises,
political parties, charitable foundations and
non-governmental organizations (NGO) disclose
their finances to the public.

"What’s good about opening (public) access to the
business plans or the corporate strategies of
state-owned companies. It will only give
advantages to rival companies," Sofyan told the
House Commission I on defense and foreign affairs.

Sofyan said people could already scrutinize the
finances of state-owned companies through the
internal audits of the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK).

Sofyan said it was more important for NGOs and
political parties to disclose their financial
information. "Especially the NGOs that receive
money from overseas. Who knows how they try to
undermine our country’s interests," he said.

Sofyan’s remarks were met with a chorus of
disapproval from House members. Representatives
from all factions on the commission took turns
rejecting the government’s proposal.

The lawmakers said by stopping people from
obtaining information from state companies, the
government was attempting to maintain the culture
of corruption in the institutions. "We all know
that state-owned enterprises have become the most
corrupt institutions in the country. They control
the bulk of state assets but yield only minimum
profits," lawmaker Ade Daud Nasution of the Reform
Star Party faction said.

Lawmaker Hajriyanto Tohari of the Golkar Party
said it was clear state companies should be the
prime targets of the legislation because they used
taxpayers’ money, unlike "political parties and
not-for-profit foundations, which collect funds
from members and charitable individuals." The
Freedom of Information bill was first proposed in
November 2001 but was not revived for deliberation
until last July, before it was again abandoned.

Observers say the bill is a vital tool for
fighting corruption and promoting good governance.
Also present at the hearing was Justice and Human
Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin.


Rich convicts tell of first-class prison stay

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2006

Jakarta — For many well-heeled Indonesians in
jail for graft or other crimes, penitentiaries are
not so different from hotels.

Both places have rooms — at different prices
depending on how much one pays — daily meals, and
some even come with televisions and Internet
connections.

Both also have uniformed receptionists — in
prisons they are called guards — who may treat
visitors with courtesy or with impertinence,
depending on how much one tips.

John, not his real name, has spent years in one of
the country’s most remote penitentiaries,
Nusakambangan prison off the coast of Java.
Classified as a high-profile offender, John
misappropriated billions of rupiah in state funds
during his tenure at a state financial management
firm.

With these kind of credentials, in the
penitentiary, John is entitled to “contribute” Rp
6 million (US$689) a month to the prison
administrators. By paying that much, John gets a
prison room to himself, clean sheets and catered
meals. He also gets a cleaning service provided by
other inmates. For that he is charged extra.

Just like any other convict with money in the
state facility, John can buy almost anything he
needs, as long as the guards are willing to let
him have it. For his favorite item, a newspaper,
he has to pay twice the price of what it is on the
market.

"Things get better as time passes. These days we
don’t have to pay as much. I guess the prison
guards become more lenient to those who have spent
a relatively long period in the prison," John’s
brother told The Jakarta Post. John’s brother said
that John had spent his first months of detention
in the Cipinang State Penitentiary, Jakarta. In
Cipinang, he spent Rp 15 million a month for a
room separate from the poorer inmates.

A visit by family or friends is the moment most
awaited by most inmates. For this too, there is a
charge. "I had friends who visited me several
times at the prison but they were turned away by
the guards because they couldn’t pay," said a
former inmate who was imprisoned in Krobokan State
Penitentiary, Bali, for the possession of an
illegal drug. "The price for visiting is relative.
Back in my day, it was around Rp 20,000 per
person," he said.

According to the former inmate, a guards and
prisoners had a symbiotic relationship. "The
guards sold what the inmates wanted. Some of them
even sold drugs to the inmates. Drugs are aplenty
in prison. I took them every day just to help me
get through the day, to make it go faster. If you
know what I mean,“the inmate said.”The are of course guards who oppose such a thing.
They were the clean ones. But they also sold
stuff. Stuff like phone cards, foods, cigarettes.
All kinds of things,“he said.”When I was first imprisoned, I was placed in
Section E. That was where the poor inmates were
supposed to be. The condition of the prison was
terrible. Plus, the kind of people who were in
that section, I couldn’t really converse with
them,“he said.”And so I requested for a transfer. For that I had
to bribe one of the guards. It wasn’t too costly,
only Rp 70,000. That was the only money I had. He
understood that I couldn’t quite fit in there,"
the former inmate said.

Responding to public concerns about bribery in
jails, the chief of security and order at the
Directorate General of State Correctional
Facilities, Djoko Mardjo, told the Post that his
office had taken extra measures to prevent
corruption and bribery from occurring.

"In the case of charges for visits, that is
strictly prohibited. We have placed signs in
prisons stating that there is no charge for
visits,“Djoko said.”Apart from that, the Directorate General has
instructed all heads of divisions in every
province to keep tight control on the guards. They
(the heads) have to conduct inspections of all
prisons under them," he said.

Djoko said how guards behaved in jail very much
depended on their pay and conditions. "Our system
is excellent, but it depends on the personnel in
the field. Alhamdulillah (praise be to God), the
House of Representatives has passed a draft
granting a significant increase in financial
benefits for our personnel this year," Djoko said.

 RECONCILIATION & JUSTICE

Don’t count on a Suharto accounting

Asia Times - May 23, 2006

Bill Guerin, Jakarta — Indonesian President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had successfully
distanced himself from his past association with
former strongman Suharto’s corrupt government.
Now, he faces a historic decision that could make
or break his administration’s corruption-busting
credibility with the masses who voted him into
office on a reform platform.

Sections of Jakarta’s political and bureaucratic
elite are eagerly pressing to dissolve the
corruption charges leveled against former
president Suharto, 84, who was forced from power
after violent popular protests in May 1998.
Yudhoyono is under mounting political pressure to
draw a line through the dark days of Suharto’s
32-year tenure and grant the medically ailing
former leader he once served as a cabinet minister
amnesty on humanitarian grounds.

The end of Suharto’s so-called “New Order” regime
in 1998 was marked by massive rioting and the
deaths of hundreds of pro-democracy protesters. It
also heralded the beginning of Indonesia’s
tumultuous and fractious democratic era. The
doomsday scenarios of disintegration, social
chaos, civil war or even a military coup predicted
after Suharto’s unceremonious fall from grace have
all notably failed to materialize.

At the same time, neither have the robust economic
growth levels hoped for from Indonesia’s new, and
in many other ways flourishing, democracy.
Corruption, collusion and nepotism have all
continued apace under Suharto’s successors; the
verdict is still out on Yudhoyono’s young
administration, and political analysts say his
decision on whether to grant Suharto amnesty will
send a strong signal about his willingness to
tackle endemic corruption issues.

Suharto’s legacy is steeped in controversy. Under
his leadership, Indonesia’s economy rose steadily,
with as much as 60% of the population lifted out
of some of Asia’s most abject poverty. His
authoritarian tenure was also attended by boom
times for his family, his cronies and the
conglomerates they ran, often under special
government privileges. Those now bidding to
rehabilitate his image have focused brightly on
Suharto’s many economic accomplishments.

By the 1990s, Suharto’s family members had
cornered various sectors of the local economy.
Only after Suharto’s fall did the colossal wealth
of his family and close business associates come
to be known. Suharto has stood accused in court of
embezzling some US$600 million from state coffers.
That may be the tip of the iceberg: independent
watchdog groups estimate he and his cronies may
have spirited away billions of dollars. And there
are still many unanswered questions about the
dozens of lending institutions that went bankrupt
in the wake of the regional financial crisis, many
of which were owned by Suharto’s associates.

A 1998 decree by the People’s Consultative
Assembly, the highest legislative authority in the
country, commanded the government of president B J
Habibie to eradicate and investigate corruption by
"former state officials, their families or cronies
and private businesses as well as conglomerates,
including former president Suharto". Since 2000,
however, the ex-strongman has successfully evaded
prosecution over the course of three different
administrations for the reason that he was
medically unfit for trial. He recently underwent
colon surgery and has suffered from a series of
strokes.

Untried crimes

The pending $600 million embezzlement case is one
of many crimes for which the former president
stands formally and informally accused. For
instance, the Commission for Missing Persons and
Victims of Violence (Kontras) claims that Suharto
should also be held accountable for alleged crimes
against humanity.

Kontras accuses Suharto of massive human-rights
abuses that resulted in the deaths of more than
500,000 people during the communist purge in 1966
after the abortive coup against former president
Sukarno, and Kontras coordinator Usman Hamid
contends that those crimes will never be solved
if, somewhat ironically, Suharto is pardoned on
humanitarian grounds.

Suharto’s political legitimacy relied heavily on
his regime’s ability to provide stability and
economic development. Within months of taking
power, he started a sweeping program of economic
reforms to stabilize prices, boost the agriculture
sector, open up the economy and lure in foreign
investment. His New Order regime spent vast sums
on new primary schools, health clinics and
improving rural infrastructure.

Manufacturing accounted for less than 10% of gross
domestic product in 1966; by 1996, that figure had
exceeded 25%. The average annual GDP growth rate
was about 7% between 1966 and 1996 — without
doubt an amazing policy achievement. By 1996,
poverty rates had dropped dramatically to 11% from
more than 60% when he first took power, while
national life expectancy had increased by some 20
years. The global spike in oil prices in the 1970s
helped more than treble per capita income.

Conversely, the seven years of democratic rule
that began in 1999 have failed to provide a
significant economic boost. Instead, the new
reform era has been continually dogged by rising
unemployment. Lagging exports and investment have
been intensified by arbitrary regulatory and
compromised legal situations that democratic
politicians, for whatever reasons, have largely
failed to tackle.

In the post-Suharto vacuum, party politics reigned
supreme, where loyalty among politicians was not
with the voters, nor the president, but rather in
assuring the survival of the wealthy and powerful
elite. The direct presidential polls in 2004 saw
Yudhoyono’s landslide win over these more
established and gradually discredited political
parties, including Suharto’s former party,
military-backed Golkar.

Significantly, a June 2004 survey by the
International Foundation for Election Systems
found that in choosing candidates, voters were
concerned about keeping prices low (31%),
controlling corruption (29%) and creating jobs
(19%). Since taking office, Yudhoyono has tried to
answer those voter concerns by focusing on
improving the economy and administrative and
regulatory reform — albeit to varying degrees of
success.

Moreover, Yudhoyono moved to distance himself from
the New Order regime, which he served for decades
both as a senior military official and as a
politician. He has rarely commented on the
previous government’s transgressions or the
Suharto corruption trial — even though such
groups as Transparency International have ranked
the former president as one of the most corrupt
politicians on the planet.

Under parliamentary pressure, indications are that
Yudhoyono is now poised to allow Suharto’s bygones
to be bygones. His attorney general has in recent
months stopped his previous periodic sparring
matches with Suharto’s lawyers. Some question now
whether those argumentative bouts were mere
political showmanship.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said last week that the
government “understands” Suharto’s situation. "I
think we should no longer speak so much about [the
corruption trial]. We should respect him." For
that to transpire, Yudhoyono and parliament would
need to issue a formal decree abolishing the legal
process now in motion against Suharto —
potentially a politically explosive move.

If that happens, some political analysts believe
there could be renewed bouts of social unrest,
only this time targeting Yudhoyono’s government
for participating in a perceived whitewash of
Suharto’s alleged economic crimes.

Peeved public perceptions

It’s still unclear exactly how a formal pardon by
Yudhoyono would go down with the broad population.
The politically charged issue notably arises at a
time the economy is stuttering. and Yudhoyono’s
popularity is clearly on the wane.

A poll published last week by the usually reliable
Indonesian Survey Institute showed that
Yudhoyono’s approval rating is now at an all-time
low, mainly due to concerns about his
administration’s handling of the economy. Of 700
people surveyed in nationwide face-to-face
interviews late last month, only 37.9% were
satisfied with the government’s performance,
compared with 64.7% a year ago. More than 72% of
those polled said they were unsatisfied with
Yudhoyono’s overall economic performance.

The Suharto case deepens his dilemma. Yudhoyono’s
early success and credibility in fighting
corruption would be dealt a severe blow by
declaring an amnesty that failed to require that
Suharto’s family return their allegedly huge ill-
gotten gains to state coffers. Amid continued
frustrations with the slow pace of reforms, such a
move could mobilize the many well-organized social
movements and also turn the newly emboldened local
press, which to date has been mainly generous in
its news coverage, against Yudhoyono’s government.

After Suharto underwent extensive colon surgery on
May 10, the attorney general in effect announced
that Suharto was a free man and that charges would
be dropped because of his deteriorating health.
The next day, when it was clear Suharto would
survive the procedure, Yudhoyono opted to move the
issue to the back burner. He cited waves of
opposing and supporting voices that "are getting
higher and that could lead to conflict" and said
he would not make a decision on the issue "until
the right time".

So long as Suharto remains alive and under threat
of prosecution, those who grew rich with his help
and who today remain entrenched in government, big
business and high society know that their
interests are still vulnerable. Indonesia’s vast
wealth was pillaged during the Suharto years, a
fact that many reform advocates are not willing to
forget.

Suharto, once popularly known as Indonesia’s
“father of development”, was able politically to
justify his family’s growing riches by his
government’s ability to deliver rising living
standards and relatively broad-based economic
growth. Still smarting from the 1997-98 Asian
financial crisis, the gap between Indonesia’s
politically connected rich and unemployed poor is
now very much widening again.

A political compromise that allows Suharto, his
family and former cronies to keep the estimated
billions of dollars they pilfered during his reign
is clearly unacceptable among the small, but
vocal, politically active sections of the
population. Yudhoyono faces a decision that will
clearly make or break his government’s credibility
among the masses who just two years ago so
enthusiastically voted him into office in the name
of reform.

[Bill Guerin, a Jakarta correspondent for Asia
Times Online since 2000, has worked in Indonesia
for 20 years, mostly in journalism and editorial
positions. He has been published by the BBC on
East Timor and specializes in business/economic
and political analysis related to Indonesia. He
can be reached at softsell prima.net.id.]


AGO to try Soeharto under civil law

Jakarta Post - May 23, 2006

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta — After dropping its
indictment of former president Soeharto on
criminal charges, the Attorney General’s Office
decided on Monday to build a series of civil cases
against the former strongman.

Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh told a House
of Representatives (DPR) session the AGO was
drawing up civil cases against Soeharto to hold
him accountable for past policies that had caused
the states to lose trillions of rupiah.

"We have prepared civil charges against him
(former president Soeharto)," Abdul Rahman told
members of the House Commission III on legal
affairs and human rights.

He said the cases would focus on the abuse of
Soeharto’s numerous cash-rich government
foundations.

The AGO’s decision was made only days after it
dropped all criminal graft charges against
Soeharto because it said the former president was
too ill to stand trial.

Eight NGOs, including the Indonesian Legal Aid
Institute Foundation (YLBHI), the Indonesian
Corruption Watch (ICW) and the Commission for
Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras)
have challenged the decision by filing a suit
against the Attorney General at the South Jakarta
District Court.

Abdul Rahman’s latest decision to take civil
action against the former president also drew
criticism from legislators. A number of Commission
III members said that the move would only confound
efforts to prosecute Soeharto.

House member Gayus Lumbuun of the Indonesian
Democratic Party of Struggle said any civil cases
brought against the leader could easily be
challenged by Soeharto’s many highly paid defense
lawyers.

"The bulk of Soeharto’s policies that were biased
toward his family and cronies were made when he
was a state official and he, therefore, could be
subject to corruption charges. "(This means) they
will be beyond the jurisdiction of the civil
courts," Gayus told the hearing.

During his final decade in power, Soeharto created
several policies that ended up directly enriching
his children and business friends.

Soeharto’s favorite son, Hutomo “Tommy” Mandala
Putra was given a license to import thousands of
duty- and tax-free South Korean-manufactured cars
under the guise of a national car policy. Tommy
was also given monopoly rights in the clove trade,
a decision which caused considerable damage to the
sector.

Lawmaker Bambang Sadono of the Golkar Party
suggested the AGO go after those high-profile
policies rather than alleged irregularities
involving Soeharto’s foundations.


Eight years on, the May 1988 grief lingers

Jakarta Post - May 22, 2006

Annisa S. Febrina and Nichola Sarvangga Valero,
Jakarta — This May, clothes fly from the shelves
of a department store in Slipi, West Jakarta, as
spring sale posters draw customers.

Eight years ago this month, clothes flew from the
shelves as the mall was emptied by looters, before
dozens of them were trapped and burned to death in
the 1998 riot.

Life has to go on, but it has not been the same
for those affected by the allegedly orchestrated
chaos that killed more than 1,000 people and left
mental scars on thousands others.

A group of youngsters in Bekasi has to live with
the guilt of not being able to save a Chinese
woman gang-raped before their eyes.

"We cannot erase the memory and it has been
haunting us," they testified, as cited by human
rights activist Esther Junus, who interviewed them
in an effort to compile facts on the incident.

Meanwhile, a group of Chinese women have had to
rely on each other to share the burden of the
horrible experiences of gang-rape they went
through eight years ago.

Mothers of those who have not returned home since
May 15, 1998, have sought help to share the
emotional burden of losing their sons and
daughters.

Volunteer psychologist Dameria, working with a
woman who lost her son during the riot, said the
mother is now frequently a patient in a mental
hospital. "She has her ups and down, and as May
comes, her depression becomes unbearable," Dameria
said.

Sumarsih, mother of Bernardinus Realino Norma
Irmawan, or Wawan, a Trisakti University student
shot to death on May 12, 1998, said her heart
would always be grieving.

All of them have lost something. Sons, daughters,
the sense of physical safety, sanity. It’s been
eight years since their lives were ruined in
various ways, but many questions about what really
happened are still unanswered.

The burned malls and ruined shops have been
rebuilt but the perpetrators of the riot remain
untouched.

Investigations by the non-governmental
organization Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa, led by
Esther Junus, have uncovered strong evidence that
there were groups of stern-looking, well-built men
going from one riot point to another to provoke
the masses.

They allegedly provoked them to steal, burn, rape
and create a havoc seemingly justified by the
pressures people felt from the economic crisis
that had hit a year before.

It is all part of the picture: the economic
shakeup, political upheaval, anarchy, military
violence, the downfall of a tyrant.

But, none of it matters for the victims and their
families. All they know is that their lives will
never be the same. And justice has not been
brought about by the current government.

"These eight years have been used by Soeharto’s
associates to consolidate through the use of state
institutions and other legal organizations,
leaving the case unresolved," Sumarsih said.

She added that the government, for the past eight
years, has emphasized horizontal issues to change
the people-versus-government struggle into group-
to-group conflicts.

Humanitarian Volunteers Network founder and
coordinator Sandyawan Sumardi told The Jakarta
Post everything that happened was just part of the
long process of democracy. "I consider all of this
to be part of the process of transition towards
reform and finally democracy," said the Jesuit
priest.

Sandyawan acknowledged that there was a
significant change in freedom of expression and
the ability to establish organizations. "Before we
were not even able to discuss things publicly.

"The civil society movement should have been
reinvigorated and strengthened since the fall of
Soeharto, but it turns out to be the opposite with
the government now stronger than ever," he added.

But, he said, "people will always find a way out
when they are oppressed." Sandyawan explained that
the increased presence and aggression of militant
groups calling themselves defenders of religion or
ethnicity are merely part of a larger context.

"I do not believe that this is a sporadic
movement; they are well-organized political and
economic tools," said Sandyawan.

Some who are fortunate enough not to have
experienced any of these horrible events might say
they are bored listening to the same stories over
and over again.

They will have to listen. And their children’s
children will, too. Time quickly wipes the
country’s short memory span clean. Time may heal
the wounds, but the scars will remain.


Indonesia remembers downfall of Suharto

Associated Press - May 21, 2006

Chris Brummitt, Jakarta — Protesters wearing
Suharto masks demanded the ailing former dictator
face trial Sunday, the eighth anniversary of the
massive pro-democracy demonstrations that ousted
him.

Suharto, 84, remained in the hospital following
colon surgery two weeks ago to stem intestinal
bleeding. Doctors said Sunday that the former
strongman, who has been weakened by several
strokes, was recovering, but remained seriously
ill.

Indonesia’s attorney general last week dropped
long-standing corruption charges against Suharto
because of his health, angering rights activists
but gratifying his supporters, many of whom became
rich during his 32-year rule and remain in
powerful positions within the bureaucracy.

“The country is split,” said Erry Harjapamengkas,
deputy head of Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency.
"Some groups want him to be forgiven, while the
younger generation wants to see him in court."

In Jakarta, around 200 protesters rallied outside
the presidential palace carrying a man wearing a
Suharto mask in a bamboo cage, one of several
demonstrations in the country calling for the
former army general to be punished.

"(President Susilo Bambang) Yudhoyono has to take
a clear step on Suharto by putting him on trial
and then returning the stolen money to the state,"
said Purnomo, a protester in the central Javanese
city of Yogyakarta. Like many Indonesians, Purnomo
goes by a single name.

The country has had four presidents since
Suharto’s ouster on May 21, 1998, after months of
nationwide pro-democracy protests and rioting, but
none have been able to decide on what to do with
the former dictator and his wealthy children.

Yudhoyono, himself an ex-army general who rose
swiftly through the ranks during the Suharto
years, has refused to take sides in the debate,
saying Saturday that the decision was purely up to
law enforcement agencies.

Marzuki Darusman, who was attorney general when
the original corruption charges were laid against
Suharto in 2000, said that case was just the tip
of the iceberg, but predicted powerful forces
would likely prevent any more legal moves against
him.

"There are forces of resistance within the
bureaucracy, really the armed forces, which think
this is as far as things should go," he said.

Suharto, who denies stealing any money from the
country, has been hospitalized at least four times
since his ouster, and doctors say the strokes have
permanently affected his memory and speech.
Critics say he should be tried in absentia if he
is too ill to come to court.

Human rights activists say Suharto should also be
charged in connection with at least 500,000
political killings during his regime, as well the
deaths of tens of thousands of people at the hands
of security forces in the separatist regions of
Papua, Aceh and East Timor, now an independent
country.

But Indonesia’s school history books largely gloss
over the atrocities, and many Indonesians remember
his rule for rapid economic growth, stability and
cheap rice and feel he should be allowed to live
out the remainder of his life without disturbance.


News Focus: Soeharto’s health and legal case

Antara News - May 20, 2006

Andi Abdussalam, Jakarta — While former president
Soeharto is still going through a critical stage
in his treatment at Pertamina hospital, a public
controversy is raging outside the hospital about
his fate as a leader accused of massive
corruption.

The former Indonesian strongman who was facing
critical political stage these weeks eight years
ago is struggling for his life at the hospital.
Outside the hospital, those discontented with the
handling of his legal case are calling for his
trial in absentia.

Calls for his trial in absentia were among others
made by former president Abdurrahman Wahid and
former chairman of the People’s Consultative
Assembly (MPR) Amin Rais. The same call was also
made by the ranks of law enforcers and other
quarters.

On the opposite side, there are also suggestions
that Soeharto be given amnesty, pardon or
clemency. Soeharto’s case should well be closed.

Abdurrahman Wahid and Megawati Soekarnoputri, two
most harmed parties when Soeharto was in power did
nothing to settle Soeharto’s legal status when
they were president.

This means that Soeharto’s case can basically be
closed," Jimly Asshidiqie, chairman of the
Constitutional Court, said.

In the meantime, Attorney General Abdul Rahman
Saleh, who vowed to reopen Soeharto’s case last
month, earlier this week issued a stop-
investigation letter, dropping his office’s
charges against the former Indonesian leader
because he was seriously ill.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called his
ministers on Friday to discuss the recent health
development of Soeharto who underwent a second
operation to remove a blood clot inside his
abdomen. Two weeks earlier, doctors had to cut off
40 cm of his colon to stop intestinal bleeding.

The ailing former president, who turns 85 on June
8, 2006, is charged with graft and gross human
rights violations during his 32 years in power. He
was accused of unlawfully collecting Rp1.3
trillion and US$419 million through seven
foundations he had led while he was president.

Efforts to take Soeharto to court were made a year
after his downfall from power. He stepped down
when a reform movement, socio-political chaos,
mass demonstrations and students shooting engulfed
Indonesia in May 1998.

But efforts to prosecute him always failed as the
octogenarian’s health was not good for trial. He
has suffered several strokes. Now he also has
heart and kidney problems.

Health and legal case

He made headlines when he had a mild stroke and
was rushed to Pertamina hospital on July 20, 1999.
He was hospitalized for ten days. He returned to
the same hospital for six-days on August 14, 1999
because of digestive bleeding.

Soeharto underwent medical tests at the Gatot
Subroto hospital in August 1994 where it was
discovered he had kidney stones. He also underwent
a three-day medical checkup at a cardiac hospital
in the German spa town of Bad Oeyhausen in July
1996 and in December 1997 suffered from exhaustion
and was forced to cancel his planned overseas
trips.

On October 11, 1999, Attorney General Ismudjoko,
due to lack of evidence, issued an order to stop
his office’s inquiry into alleged acts of
corruption, particualry in Soeharto’s past
position as head of a number of charity
foundations.

Ismudjoko’s successor, Marzuki Darussman, revoked
his predecessor’s ’stop-investigation’order and
reopened Soeharto’s alleged case.

On February 10, 2000, Darusman named Soeharto a
suspect in a widening corruption and power abuse
probe, and summoned him for questioning on
February 14, 1999 but the former general failed to
show up due to ill health.

Soeharto had several times defied attorney
general’s office summonses citing health reasons.
His medical team said the former president was
unfit for investigation. This prompted the
attorney general’s office to request a team of
doctors from the Cipto Mangungkusumo hospital to
examine his health.

The team said that Soeharto was fit for
investigation but underlined that it could not
guarantee that he was verbally able to speak.

Thus, on April 3, 2000, a team of investigators
from the attorney general’s office questioned
Soeharto in his Cendana residence but the team had
to stop its questioning as Soeharto’s blood
pressure was increasing.

The attorney general’s office team of prosecutors
also backed down on April 10, 2000 when it came to
Soeharto’s home to question him as the medical
team said Soeharto’s blood pressure had gone up to
180/90-95.

On April 13, 2000, President Abdurrahman Wahid who
was on a visit in Cuba to attend a G-77 meeting
asked Attorney General Marzuki Darusman to put
Soeharto under house arrest if he refused to be
examined.

The attorney general’s office had earlier in the
day put him under city arrest for a period of 20
days and on the previous day it imposed a travel
ban, preventing him from leaving overseas for one
year.

Darusman’s office’s efforts to questioned Soeharto
had always faced difficulties for his health
reason. In the second week of June, 2000, a team
of investigators of the AGO posed 32 questions to
Soeharto at his Cendana residence but the former
president answered most of the questions with " I
do not remember it.“He was then sent to the”Yayasan Harapan Kita"
cardiac hospital to have his brain checked in case
he was suffering from brain disorder or to assure
that he was not pretending to be unable to answer
a question.

Meanwhile, Soeharto’s team of lawyers had
requested the UN’s High Commissioner on Human
Rights to check whether Soeharto’s investigation
and house arrest by the attorney general’s office
had violated his human rights.

Three weeks later, Soehato’s lawyer Juan Filix
Tampubolon said the medical tests of his team of
24 personal doctors indicated he had suffered
brain damage. His brain power was recorded at 15,
lower than the normal figure of 36.

He could not associate one matter with another and
could not answer complicated questions.

In the face of public pressure to bring the former
ruler to court, the government on August 3, 2000
formally charged him with graft, having him sign a
document acknowledging his case was now in the
hands of prosecutors.

The decision was taken only four days before MPR
opens its annual session to hear President
Abdurrahman Wahid’s progress report in August
2000.

His first trial was held by the South Jakarta
district court at the auditorium of the Ministry
of Agriculture on August 31, 2000. But he failed
to show up at the court proceedings for health
reason.

The court proceedings were held three times on
August 31, Sept 14 and Sept 28. The Attorney
General’s Office team of doctors even told the
Sept 28 court session that Soeharto was physically
and mentally unfit to stand trial.

He was also declared to suffer permanent brain
damage. Thus, the court decided to halt the trial
and return the dossiers to the prosecutors office.
It also freed the former strongman from city
arrest.

Several years later

After several years, Soeharto began to appear in
public and looked physically healthy. The most
recent appearances included his attendance at the
marriage of one of his grand-daughters and a
meeting with his long-time friend, former
Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad last
month.In February, Soeharto also met with former
Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

While calls for his prosecution surfaced once
again, Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh said
last month he would reopen Soeharto’s case and
recheck his health. The attorney general said he
would think of other legal avenue to arraign the
former president in court if the health check
found him unfit for trial.

However, the attorney general had to wait once
again because about two weeks after he made the
statement, Soeharto was rushed again to the
hospital for intestinal bleeding. This time, his
digestive problem was serious. He was forced to
undergo intestinal surgery and to have 40 cm of
his colon cut off to stop the bleeding.

Soeharto is now lying in hospital while his legal
case is still in limbo. Over a half decade has
passed without a consensus on his definitive
status. This is because the problem belongs to
all. The problem clearly speaks volumes of his
case having become a “political commodity”. If all
remain unwise and continue to “squabble”, then
this problem will continue to hang over as well.

"I have chosen to put this issue on hold until a
truly appropriate time has come. I call on society
to be calm again so that we can think together
later on how to settle this matter correctly,
justly and wisely," President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono said last week.


Indonesia president will not press Suharto graft
case

Agence France Presse - May 20, 2006

Jakarta — Indonesian President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono has said he will not intervene after
prosecutors decided to drop corruption charges
against ailing former dictator Suharto.

Yudhoyono’s remarks came as hundreds of students
held a protests in Indonesia’s second-largest city
Surabaya to demand Suharto be tried for corruption
during his 32 years of autocratic rule.

"I respect the supremacy of law and therefore I
will not interfere in the case of former president
Suharto," Yudhoyono was quoted by the state news
agency Antara as saying. "I must not step into
(the case) because I could be wrong," he said.

Yudhoyono won Indonesia’s first direct
presidential election in 2004 on pledges to root
out endemic corruption and uphold the rule of law.

Prosecutors had accused Suharto of misusing 419
million dollars, as well as another 1.3 trillion
rupiah (worth 144 million dollars today) from
seven charitable foundations he established during
his rule. The attorney general’s office this month
dropped the charges, citing Suharto’s
deteriorating health.

One of Suharto’s daughters, Titik Hediati, on
Saturday apologised to the nation on behalf of her
family during a visit to a camp sheltering
refugees fleeing the rumbling Mount Merapi volcano
in Central Java.

"On this occasion I would like to say that
(Suharto) is only human, with all his strengths
and weaknesses, and we sincerely apologise for any
mistakes he made during his 32-year rule," Hediati
said on a broadcast on Metro TV. "He is far from
perfect and perfection belongs only to Allah," she
added.

Lawyers and rights activists said they would file
a class-action lawsuit on Monday against the
attorney general’s office to demand judges
overturn the decision to abandon the Suharto case.
Activists have also demanded Suharto, who stepped
down amid mounting unrest in 1998, be tried for
rights abuses during his military-backed rule.

Suharto did not attend any of three sessions of
his corruption trial in 2000, pleading ill health.

On Friday the former autocrat underwent his third
operation since he was admitted to Jakarta’s
Pertamina hospital in May 4 for intestinal
bleeding. Doctors said Saturday his condition had
improved but he was still in critical condition.

Yudhoyono called on Suharto at the hospital on
Friday and described his condition as “serious”.


Protesters want charges against Soeharto
reinstated

Jakarta Post - May 18, 2006

Jakarta (Agencies) — Protesters in Indonesia’s
capital demanded Thursday that prosecutors
reinstate criminal charges against former
president Soeharto, still hospitalized after colon
surgery earlier this month.

Soeharto was ousted after 32 years in power in
1998 amid student protests and nationwide riots.
In 2000, he was indicted on allegations of
embezzling US$600 million, but has never been
tried because his lawyers say he is too ill after
suffering a series of strokes.

Thursday’s protest in front of the State Palace
was one of several anti-Soeharto gatherings since
Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh announced
nearly a week ago that charges against Soeharto
were being dropped.

Presidential spokesman Andi Mallarangeng received
20 representatives of the protesters and promised
that he would convey the demand of the protesters
to President Susilo Bambang Yuwhoyono.

At the same time dozens of human rights activists,
students and family members of victims of the
former regime rallied outside the House of
Representatives, waving banners that said: "No
mercy for Soeharto,“and”Soeharto must be dragged
to court." Among the protesters was former
journalist Syamsu Bachri, 72, who said he was held
for 14.5 years as a political prisoner in the
infamous Buru Island jail.

He called Soeharto’s years in power “a massacre”
that left hundreds of thousands dead, including
civilians and military personnel.

Meanwhile, Soeharto, 84, had a CT scan Thursday
after being operated on to halt intestinal
bleeding — the forth time in two years he
received treatment for that problem.

His doctors said the scan revealed two new
blockages in the brain, but did not say anything
about his general condition or when the blockages
occurred.

Pertamina Hospital Director Adji Suprajitno said
they decided to perform additional tests because
he remains drowsy nearly two weeks after surgery.
He is receiving medication and was said to have
difficulty swallowing.


Activists demand Soeharto prosecution

Jakarta Post - May 17, 2006

Tiarma Siboro, Jakarta — Leading human rights,
democracy and antigraft activists, political
analysts and lawyers joined forces Tuesday to
condemn moves to clear former president Soeharto’s
name without due process of law.

In a joint press conference held Monday, they
unveiled a plan to file a class action suit
against the Attorney General’s Office for its
decision not to prosecute Soeharto because the
former strongman is too weak to stand trial.

Prominent critics included human rights
campaigners Asmara Nababan, Albert Hasibuan and MM
Billah; pro-reform activists Teten Masduki,
Fajroel Rahman and Ray Rangkuti; political
analysts Mochtar Pabottingi and Indra Jaya
Piliang; and legal practitioners Todung Mulya
Lubis and Chairul Imam who is a former director
for corruption at the Attorney General’s Office.

"The AGO (Attorney General’s Office) has
erroneously executed what it considers its right
to issue this policy because the Criminal
Procedures Code stipulates that prosecutors can
drop charges against a person only if the suspect
dies, or if the case has expired, or if it is
considered ne bis in idem (the principle under
which a suspect cannot be tried twice for the same
case).

"So what is the basis used by the AGO to drop the
planned prosecution of Soeharto? He (Soeharto) has
not died and neither have the corruption charges
against him expired, nor is the case considered ne
bis in idem," said Chairul who oversaw Soeharto’s
prosecution in 2000.

Chairul said the decision would have several legal
repercussions, the main one being that the state
would have to drop its plan to confiscate the huge
assets Soeharto had amassed through corruption
during his 32-year rule.

The state would also have to hand over case files
and all related documents to Soeharto, he added.
"If this happens, it will close the chance to
reopen the case“.”Law enforcers should push for
having Soeharto tried in absentia because he is
still alive," Chairul said. Todung shared
Choirul’s view, saying, "Soeharto and his lawyer
may already consider the case closed".

Mochtar Pabottingi appealed to President Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Jusuf Kalla
to ensure that Soeharto and his cronies are taken
to court, saying it would be the only correct
move. "Sure, there are certain groups that may
stand behind Soeharto. They could be politicians
from Golkar Party or the military. But the
government should side with the people’s
interests," he said.

The leading activists also urged the government to
immediately seize all assets belonging to Soeharto
and his cronies believed to have been amassed
illegally while the ailing New Order ruler was in
power.

"We ask all Indonesian people to be ready to take
the necessary moves to put Soeharto’s case back on
legal track," said their joint statement read out
during the press conference by Usman Hamid,
coordinator of the National Commission for Missing
People and Victims of Violence (Kontras).

Soeharto is alleged to have embezzled some US$419
million and Rp 1.3 trillion (US$150 million) in
public money during his leadership.


Victims of Soeharto regime demand justice

Jakarta Post - May 17, 2006

Tb. Arie Rukmantara, Jakarta — Concealing your
identity for more than 30 years is an arduous
task. It forces you to be suspicious of everyone
you meet in your entire life, says Harsutejo, a
former political prisoner during Soeharto’s
authoritarian regime.

"I couldn’t even mention the year that I was
born," the 70-year-old told The Jakarta Post on
Tuesday.

Due to a speech he made that cited Sukarno’s
teachings on nationalism, religion and communism
on Oct. 1, 1965, he had to serve six months in
prison for allegedly leading an organization
affiliated to the now defunct Indonesian Communist
Party (PKI).

Soon after Soeharto took over the presidency in
1966, the PKI was banned and blamed for having
masterminded the abortive coup d’etat on Sept. 30,
1965, leading to arrests and brutal killings of
millions of PKI members and its sympathizers.

Harsutejo said that soon after his release, he
went into hiding for fear of angry mobs and to
avoid troops who were hunting down PKI members.
During this time he threw away his identity card
and bribed officials to make scores of bogus
documents, from birth certificate to ID card in
order to take on a new identity.

"I was forced to live a new life and left the life
that I loved," said the man, whose original name
was Harsono Sutedjo.

Not as lucky as Harsutejo, Djoko Sri Mulyono, 60,
was sent into exile for 13 years and two months in
a penal colony on Buru Island because he joined a
labor union accused of links with the PKI.

"I lost my career and my life. I had to start all
over again after I was released in 1978," said the
former member of the Trikora Steel Labor Union of
Cilegon, Banten.

The two men said the only compensation they wanted
for all the sufferings they went through was to
try Soeharto.

"Soeharto is the one who instructed all the
arrests and killings. He must take
responsibility," said Harsutejo, adding that
according to some documents, the anti-PKI raids
claimed the lives of about three million people.

Djoko and Harsutejo, along with hundreds of other
former political prisoners, are opposed to the
government’s moves to clear Soeharto’s name.

The Attorney General’s Office announced Saturday
that it would not prosecute Soeharto, citing his
poor health as the reason. Now, President Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono is considering forgiving
Soeharto, his former military boss.

“Soeharto is the architect of my suffering,” said
Murad Aidit, 85, who also lived on Buru for 14
years. He was released from the island only after
the United States pressured Soeharto to close the
penal colony.

"The move to drop the charges against him really
hurts us,“he told AP.”But he will be tried by
history." Soeharto’s opponents say embezzlement is
not the worst of the former strongman’s crimes.
They say Soeharto, one of the world’s longest-
ruling dictators, should be charged in connection
with the political killings of people, mostly of
communists and left-wing government opponents.

Also angered by the decision of the Attorney
General’s Office are the victims of the 1984
Tanjung Priok tragedy, in which some 200 people
were killed and dozens others imprisoned.

They say President Yudhoyono must consider the
feelings of human rights victims under the
Soeharto regime.

"It is unfair to us if the President orders
charges against Soeharto dropped and forgives him.
This means the government has forgotten what had
happened to us," said a Tanjung Priok victim.

Many antigraft and human rights activists as well
as legal experts and academics also condemned the
decision, saying the ailing former president could
still be tried in absentia.

"There must be a verdict so the court can make a
final decision on his legal status. After that,
it’s up to the government whether to pardon him or
not," said Djoko.

Harsutejo and Djoko believe that Soeharto’s crimes
against humanity should be recorded in the
country’s history. "Should the government choose
to clear his name, it would mean ’falsifying’ our
history," said Djoko.

A senior researcher from the Indonesian Institute
of Sciences, Asvi Warman Adam said rehabilitating
Soeharto’s name should only be done after clearing
the names of Sukarno and all former PKI prisoners.


Students want Soeharto tried

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2006

Bandung — Dozens of students went on a march in
Bandung on Monday, urging the government to not to
drop its graft case against former president
Soeharto.

The students from the West Java branch of the
Indonesian Law Students Association, demanded the
government and the House of Representatives
continue to investigate Soeharto and prosecute him
in absentia if he was too frail to attend his
trial They also called on the government to
suspend Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh from
active duty.

"Soeharto is a human being like us, so why he is
treated differently?" protest coordinator Cecep
Agam said in a speech at the demonstration. "This
is betraying the government’s commitment to
implement reforms as promised during (its
election) campaign." The students marched down the
city’s busy main roads to the province’s High
Court buildings and the governor’s office. Many
carried pictures of the former leader and banners
reading: "Soeharto, we wish you speedy recovery,
for a speedy trial".


Blame game continues over May 1998 shootings

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2006

Tiarma Siboro, Jakarta — Two years after an
official report on the May 1998 riots was
submitted to the Attorney General’s Office
implicating top members of the security forces in
wrongdoing, no one has been prosecuted by the
state. Meanwhile, the AGO and the body that
investigated the riots continue to blame each
other for the halt to the investigations.

Attorney General’s Office spokesman Wayan Pasek
Swarta claimed prosecutors could not investigate
the riots because the National Human Rights
Commission (Komnas HAM) "has failed to provide
additional data in their report.“”As soon as we
received the report two years ago, we told Komnas
HAM’s investigators to provide more data in
relation to the riots. As of today, the
investigators have failed to do so," Pasek Swarta
told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

About 1,000 people are believed to have died in
the riots from May 13-15, according to a joint
fact-finding team set up by the government and the
national rights body, which first investigated the
incident in 1999. Many of those who died in the
chaos were trapped in buildings, which were set on
fire by unknown perpetrators, the team said.

The riots, which preceded former president
Soeharto’s resignation, were sparked after four
university students were shot dead during protests
against the New Order regime on May 12. Only
lower-ranking police officers were convicted for
the shootings, while no one has been arrested and
prosecuted for inciting the riots. The initial
team’s report also said 52 women, mostly Chinese
Indonesians, were gang raped or sexually assaulted
in the riots.

However, it was not until the 2003 that the
group’s preliminary report on the riots was
submitted to Komnas HAM, which then took over the
investigations. After making revisions, another
team set up to reinvestigate the riots, submitted
its report to the AGO in 2004.

A former member of the first fact-finding team,
Asmara Nababan, said the AGO "has refused to
follow up (both) the reports, claiming that Komnas
HAM members had not taken the necessary oaths,
entitling them to conduct an investigation."
Asmara said the AGO was conveniently ignoring the
law setting up the national rights body, which
gave Komnas HAM members the authority to
investigate all human rights cases.

Asmara said the absence of progress in the case
showed the government and lawmakers lacked the
political will to proceed. "I can’t blame the AGO
because it is part of the executive, and what it
does is certainly based on the orders of the top
authority in the executive," Asmara said,
referring to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The official report on the riots names several
top-ranking officers, who it said should be held
accountable for maintaining security at the time
of the violence, including former military chief
Gen. (ret) Wiranto.

"As Wiranto outranked Susilo when they were both
active military officers, I am pessimistic that
the current administration will be willing to deal
with the May riots,“Asmara said.”But I do not
think that we should stop filing appeals to the
government to prosecute the alleged orchestrators
of the riots," Asmara told the Post.

Aqil Mochtar, the deputy chairman of the House of
Representatives Commission III on legal and human
rights affairs, said lawmakers would have the
chance to ask Attorney General Abdul Rahman Saleh
about the May riots in a scheduled hearing later
this month.

Aqil said lawmakers could also question Abdul
Rahman about other outstanding human rights
issues. "The Constitution grants us the right to
supervise the executive, and we will execute these
rights during the planned hearing," he said.

 LABOUR ISSUES

Employers relaxing the pressure for revision of
labor law

Jakarta Post - May 20, 2006

Jakarta — The Indonesian Employers Association
(Apindo) appears to be backing off on the proposed
amendments to the 2003 Labor Law, saying that
there are other more urgent ways in which the
business climate can be improved.

Chairman Sofyan Wanandi told The Jakarta Post on
Friday that the association’s priority at the
moment was to encourage an overhaul of the
taxation, customs and excise, and investment
legislation.

"To improve the existing investment climate, new
legislation in these sectors needs to be finalized
as quickly as possible. As for the labor
legislation, it’ll be OK if it is revised later
on," Sofyan said.

He said that while the amendment of the labor
legislation was important to improving the
investment climate, it was not the only factor.

"We need one big package that includes laws on
taxation, customs and excise, and investment, as
well as improved infrastructure and a revision of
the labor legislation," he said.

A spate of labor unrest followed proposals to
amend the 2003 Labor Law so as to allow greater
freedom to employ part-time workers and outsource
work, limit severance and service payments to
dismissed workers earning monthly salaries of Rp
1.1 million (US$100) or less, and greater freedom
to employ expatriates.

Workers staged two rallies to protest against the
proposed changes on May 1 and May 3. The latter
protest turned violent, with demonstrators
knocking down part of the fence around the House
of Representatives complex, prompting police to
arrest eight union members.

The employer’s association said that the May 1
rally alone, which had disrupted production in
many factories, had caused losses of Rp 850
billion.

Since then, representatives of the employers and
labor unions have agreed to seek solutions by
holding a bipartite meeting in June.

Sofyan said that the outcome of the meeting
between the employers and workers would be
presented to the government at a tripartite
meeting. "Hopefully, we can bring the results to
the tripartite meeting in July so that they can be
brought before the House in August".

Sofyan said that he hoped all the new legislation
to improve the business climate would be finalized
by the end of the year.

He said that due to poor regulation and the
effects of the high cost economy, foreign
investors were shunning Indonesia, and putting
their money in other countries.


Police disperse striking workers

Jakarta Post - May 19, 2006

Malang — Hundreds of Malang Police officers moved
in Thursday to break up a strike by workers at an
auto body manufacturing plant in East Java.

Police detained 130 workers and named 28 as
criminal suspects. The strikers had earlier sealed
off the entrance to PT Adi Putro’s factory.

"The 28 were named suspects to try and intimidate
us...," said Indonesian Workers Struggle Union
(SPBI) secretary-general Andi Irfan, who was among
those detained by the police.

Malang Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Ismail Isja
said the police took action against the strikers
only after allowing their action to go on for a
month.

He said the police had received a recommendation
from the Malang Manpower Office to break up the
strike. The company, which had no comment on
Thursday’s events, earlier ordered the strikers
back to work.

The head of the Malang chapter of the SPBI, Lutfi
Chafid, said he regretted the incident and
criticized the police for interfering in a dispute
between workers and their employer.

"This is a crime against workers. We are only
fighting for our rights," Lutfi said.


Most labor supply firms illegal

Jakarta Post - May 17, 2006

Jakarta — Most of the labor supply companies
operating in Jakarta, Bogor, Tangerang and Bekasi
(Jabotabek) are illegal, an association says.

The Association of Labor Supply Companies
(APJTKSI) said Tuesday that of 400 labor supply
firms, only 147 were listed with the Manpower and
Transmigration Ministry. Labor supply companies
usually match skilled workers with jobs in big
companies.

"They don’t usually register their workers in the
social security program (Jamsostek)," the
association’s secretary-general Parsaulian said
Tuesday. The association, which was set up last
year with 57 members, will submit its findings to
the ministry.

Labor supply companies are regulated under a 2005
ministerial decree and the 2003 Labor Law.

 REGIONAL ELECTIONS

Peaceful Ambon election brings praise

Jakarta Post - May 22, 2006

M. Azis Tunny, Ambon — Despite its image as a
conflict-torn city, Ambon’s peaceful first direct
election of its mayor last Monday suggests that
its residents are politically mature.

With only small technical problems and protests by
those claiming to represent losing candidates,
provisional vote counting at the Ambon General
Elections Commission (KPUD) suggests the incumbent
mayor, MJ Papilaja, and his running mate,
businesswoman Olivia Latuconsina, may have won the
city’s top job.

Candidates Made Rachman Marasabessy and Jhon
Malaiholo, who were running behind, said
separately they were ready to face losing as part
of the democratic process. They asked others to
accept the results without disturbing the city’s
peace.

The first direct election to choose regional
leaders kicked off last year with the election of
Kutai Kartanegara as regent in East Kalimantan.

Marasabessy, who ranked fourth in the provisional
vote count, asked his own supporters as well as
other candidates not to react violently to the
election for their own personal interests, keeping
in mind that the city is just recovering from
conflict.

"All (losing) candidates should support the
winner. It means they should work together to
build Ambon and safeguard peace. I think losing is
part of democracy," the lawyer, who once joined
the Muslim Legal Team, told The Jakarta Post.

He denied his supporters were involved in
Wednesday’s protest at KPUD, claiming he was ready
to win or lose when he first decided to compete in
the election.

"I came in fourth because that’s the support I got
from the people. We have to appreciate the support
without working against the democratic process.
There’s no need to stir people up because they
might become the victims of politics, not the
candidates," said the man, who was endorsed by the
Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and 13 other small
parties.

Jhon Malaiholo, who ranked fifth in the election,
hoped there would be moral support that would not
tarnish the democratic process.

"We have to appreciate the democratic process, and
candidates running in the election should be ready
to face the facts if they don’t win. Political
maturity is needed to ensure stability in the
city, especially as all candidates contesting the
election have signed a declaration that we’re
ready to win or lose," he said.

Responding to the protesters’ claims that the
election was unfair, Maluku Governor Karel Albert
Ralahalu told people to restrain themselves to
prevent fresh conflicts. "If there’s a problem,
there’s a rule to deal with it. Please take the
matter to court," he told journalists.

Amboina diocese Bishop PC Mandagi said despite the
protest, the election had taken place peacefully,
showing that Ambon residents prioritize peace,
brotherhood and security over the election.

"The goal in life is not election but peace,
brotherhood and security. Direct election is one
of many ways to build justice, peace, brotherhood
and security. And I see that Ambon residents are
mature in exercising democracy," Mandagi said.

He said if there were certain groups of people
claiming the election was unfair, those views
should be appreciated. The claims, however, should
be accompanied by solid evidence.

He said if they have strong evidence that there
were election violations, they should take the
matter to court to prove it.

"Don’t only yell out loud in protest, or even
threaten to commit violence or damage the KPUD
office. If there’s no evidence, those who accuse
people of election violations are provocateurs.
They deserve to be arrested and tried for harming
peace, brotherhood and security in Ambon," he
said.

He said Ambon’s peaceful election could serve as a
model for elections in other regions. "As we can
see, Ambon residents can participate in the
democratic process peacefully," he said.


Ambon residents protest election

Jakarta Post - May 18, 2006

M. Azis Tunny, Ambon — Hundreds of angry
supporters of losing candidates in Ambon city’s
first direct election staged a protest Wednesday
at the Ambon General Elections Commission (KPUD)
office, accusing that Monday’s election results
were invalid.

Carrying banners which condemned the incumbent
mayor MJ Papilaja, who gained the most votes in
the provisional vote tally at the KPUD, the
protesters accused the mayor of smeared campaigns
that encouraged conflict among Muslims and
Christians.

"Papilaja has stirred up Muslims and Christians in
Ambon by distributing illegal fliers to win the
election... We want security and peace, don’t
trick us into creating conflict. We’ll take his
campaign team to court," charged Yusril Mahedal,
one of the protesters, in his speech.

The protesters claimed to be the supporters of
candidates Richard Louhenapessy-Syarif Hadler,
Made Rachman Marasabessy-Aloysius Leisubun and
Hendrik Hattu-Iskandar Walla.

Yusril asserted that the election was marred by
violations and the results should be ignored.

The protesters also condemned the quick count
result which was conducted by the Indonesia Survey
Circle (LSI) which also showed Papilaja as the
probable winner in the election.

"We want KPUD to kick LSI out of Ambon because its
vote counting result has upset the people. Their
announcement was a public lie, we aren’t buying
it," Yusril said.

KPUD chief P.P. Tabalessy said the election was
conducted according to procedure and told
dissatisfied candidates to take the matter to
court.

Despite the protest, provisional vote counting at
KPUD on Wednesday still showed Papilaja had gained
44,900 votes of the overall 130,352 votes being
counted.

This was followed by running mates Louhenapessy-
Hadler with 36,718 votes, Hattu-Walla with 19,952
votes, Marasabessy-Leisubun with 17,955 votes and
Jhon Malaiholo-Irma Betaubun with 10,827 votes.

 GOVERNMENT/CIVIL SERVICE

BPK reveals raft of budget irregularities

Jakarta Post - May 17, 2006

Urip Hudiono, Jakarta — The Supreme Audit Agency
(BPK) has issued yet another damning report on the
management of the state finances, revealing 5,377
cases of irregularities worth nearly Rp 48
trillion (US$5.3 billion) in the spending of
public funds during last year’s second semester.

The BPK’s latest audit report is particularly
alarming given that the number of cases and the
sums involved represent a significant increase on
the 2,128 cases worth Rp 7.12 trillion reported by
the agency for the same period in 2004.

Among the financial improprieties that BPK chief
Anwar Nasution reported Tuesday to a House of
Representatives’s plenary session was a finding
that Rp 2 trillion and $27.58 million in tax and
non-tax revenues from 11 ministries had not been
reported to the Finance Ministry’s treasury unit.

"We have also reported two cases that appear to
involve corruption to the Attorney General’s
Office for further investigation,“Anwar said.”These cases consisted of a Health Ministry
project that potentially caused losses to the
taxpayer of Rp 1.75 billion, and the State
Secretariat’s management of Rp 199.75 billion-
worth of state assets at the Gelora Bung Karno
sports stadium and the Kemayoran complex." Other
significant findings include inefficiencies and
losses of up to Rp 253.75 billion in various
government procurement projects, and Rp 1.5
trillion in questionable debt reductions and bad
loans involving a number of dissolved banks that
had to be guaranteed by the government.

The audit was conducted from July to December 2005
and involved 534 audit items worth Rp 402.13
trillion, and $643.84 million in funds covered by
the year’s state budget, local government, state-
owned enterprise (SOEs) and regional enterprise
accounts.

The BPK’s SOE audit revealed inefficiencies and
losses of up to Rp 6 trillion and $573.83 million
in government investment funds managed by the
SOEs.

Its audit on the regions, meanwhile, uncovered Rp
423 billion in unreported tax revenues and Rp
646.74 billion in procurement project
inefficiencies and losses.

Anwar lambasted the fact that the government has
been inordinately slow in following up on the
BPK’s findings, having only taken action in
respect of less than half of the 16,433 cases of
irregularities, worth more than Rp 132.49
trillion, that the BPK has reported since 2003.

"This shows a lack of seriousness on the part of
the government in establishing good governance in
the state finances," he said.

Anwar further said that the BPK hoped to complete
its full audit on the government’s 2005 state
budget accounts this July.

In the four years since 2001, the BPK has given a
disclaimer opinion on the government’s annual
accounts — refusing to approve them due to the
persistence of irregularities despite the coming
into force of the new State Finance Law and
Treasury Law.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s
administration, elected in 2004, has said that
combating graft and establishing good governance
are its top priorities. The 2005 state budget was
the first budget to be drafted and administered by
the Yudhoyono government.

Separately, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati
was quoted by Antara as saying that the government
would soon issue a regulation to help SOEs recover
their claims and settle debts, without affecting
the BPK’s constitutional right to audit them. A
number of state banks plagued by rising non-
performing loan levels have requested more
flexibility from the government in dealing with
their financial problems.


New poll shows approval for SBY plummets

Radio Australia - May 19, 2006

Just eighteen months in office and Indonesian
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s approval
rating has hit an all time low. A new survey
released in Jakarta shows just 37 percent of the
public is happy with the president’s performance.
The public’s major concerns are the economy,
unemployment, the rise in fuel and electricty
prices and planned changes to the labor laws.

Presenter/Interviewer: Linda LoPresti

Speakers: Ed Aspinall, Indonesian political
analyst at the Australian National University

Aspinall: I don’t think those results are
particularly surprising, it’s not simply that the
honeymoon period is over, but there’s a sort of a
fundamental contradiction in Indonesian politics
which has applied not only for SBY but also to his
predecessors, namely that there’s a continuing
atmosphere of very high expectations in the
populace about, firstly about restoring economic
growth and welfare to pre-crisis levels, but
secondly about pushing through political reforms.
But on the other hand, the other side of that
contradiction is that many of the reforms or the
steps which are now required to set Indonesia on
its feet as it were are really very deep, systemic
changes which are required. It’s not simply a
matter now of getting the institutional
architecture or the grand design right, but
there’s a need to thoroughly purge elements of
government like the judiciary of corruption, and
that’s the kind of process which is going to take
years rather than months.

Lopresti: Are people perhaps not being quite
realistic in judging his performance, because
since taking office there’s been a number of
tragedies, the tsunami disaster and more terrorist
attacks in Bali, and there’s also the problems
leftover from the previous administration?

Aspinall: Well whether they’re realistic or not I
mean this decline certainly mirrors earlier
declines we saw with previous presidents, although
it also should be pointed out that when we compare
where he stands in the polls compared to where his
predecessors, Megawati Sukarnoputri and previously
Abdurrahman Wahid stood in the polls at similar
periods in their own presidency, he’s still doing
much better than his predecessors, and I think
that’s partly because his response to some of
those tragedies you’ve mentioned have generally
been considered satisfactory by the population.

Lopresti: Now the poor state of the economy was
one of the major concerns raised by those polled.
Now this is despite the new economic team that he
assembled late last year, a team that clearly
hasn’t impressed the people. Has he surrounded
himself do you think with the wrong people making
the wrong policy decisions?

Aspinall: That’s probably part of it, but I mean
again he faces a very difficult context on the
international scene as it were he’s got
competition in those areas which used to really
drive forward the Indonesian economy like
manufacturing and so on, competition from places
like Vietnam and China. And on the other hand also
harming the investment climate, you still get this
very strong perception among foreign investors in
particular but also domestic ones, that there are
remaining serious problems of corruption, lack of
predictability in the business climate, high cost
economy and so on. These problems which again
aren’t really amenable to any kind of a quick fix.

Lopresti: Is he still in a position despite what
appears to be his continuously declining
popularity, is he still in a position to press
ahead with his agenda? Can he gain wide support
for his policies in the future?

Aspinall: One thing although his popularity has
now dropped below 50 per cent, we’ve got to
remember that this is in a context where he
doesn’t really face a very credible opposition. So
when we compare his popularity rating to that of
potential contenders, he’s still much, much
higher. So in that sense he still does face a
fairly open political terrain with the capacity to
take some fairly bold steps if he so desired. And
this is the second problem really that it’s been a
hallmark of SBY’s presidency that he really is a
political leader who doesn’t just think once or
twice before making a costly decision, he really
thinks twenty times. And he’s been widely
criticised as being too hesitant by many
commentators and members of the public in
Indonesia.


SBY’s job approval rating hits all-time low

Jakarta Post - May 17, 2006

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta — Just 37 percent of
the public approves of President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono’s job performance, the lowest rating he
has registered in his 18 months in office, a poll
has revealed.

The survey, conducted by the Indonesian Survey
Circle (LSI), discovered a number of unpopular
decisions made by the Yudhoyono administration,
such as raising fuel prices and electricity rates
and a planned amendment of the labor law, had
stirred a fast-growing resentment among the
public.

Of 700 respondents surveyed between April 23 and
April 27, only 37.9 percent said they were
satisfied with the overall performance, a nose
dive from 79.7 percent 18 months ago, when
Yudhoyono first assumed office. The survey’s
margin of error is 3.8 percent.

The economy is the public’s greatest concern, with
73.9 percent saying they believed the Yudhoyono
administration had failed to tackle the chronic
problem of unemployment.

The poll also found 70.4 percent of respondents
felt there had been no improvement in their
household incomes. Over 60 percent of respondents
said they had experienced a drop in their
purchasing power.

The poor state of the economy was attributed to
the lackluster performance of the President’s new
economic team, assembled by Yudhoyono late last
year. 72.2 percent of the respondents said they
were not impressed by the work of the economic
team.

LSI executive director Denny Januar Ali said that
with his continuously declining popularity, it
would be difficult for Yudhoyono to press ahead
with his agenda. "The implication is that
Yudhoyono will have problems gaining a wide
support for future substantial policies," Denny
said.

Denny recommended Yudhoyono not make new policies
that would only to the people’s problems. He also
said Yudhoyono should reinforce his alliance with
political parties, especially the Vice President
Jusuf Kalla-led Golkar Party or he would be left
with a fragile government.

In spite of the growing resentment, however, Denny
thought it unlikely that there would a movement to
overthrow the President. "In spite of the poor
state of the economy and the cropping up of
opposition figures who seek to capitalize on that
failure, Yudhoyono’s position is safe as people
still believe in him as a respectable and clean
figure," Denny said.

There are also other reasons for Yudhoyono to draw
a sigh of relief. The LSI survey revealed 59
percent believed the administration had done well
in tackling rampant corruption, far better than
its predecessors.

The peaceful resolution of the Aceh conflict has
also became a hallmark of the Yudhoyono
administration, as indicated by 56 percent of
respondents praising his handling of Aceh.

Lawmaker Didiek J. Rachbini of the National
Mandate Party said the first thing Yudhoyono
needed to do to rejuvenate the country’s economy
was court as many investors as possible to invest
here. "If need be Yudhoyono must come to them one
by one and spread a red carpet for them," Didiek
said.

 ENVIRONMENT

Indonesian villagers planning to sue Newcrest

Australian Associated Press - May 17, 2006

Villagers in eastern Indonesia plan to sue
Australian gold producer Newcrest Mining, accusing
the company of environmental vandalism and failing
to deliver on promises to improve their welfare.

Newcrest operates two controversial gold mines on
remote Halmahera island, in the Molucca chain, and
has clashed with local people and environmental
groups amid accusations of heavy-handed security
tactics.

In 2004, one protester was shot and killed near
the gates of the $US100 million ($A130 million)
Toguraci mine during a demonstration over
operations in protected forest areas. Kao
villagers said they now planned to sue Newcrest.

They claim the company had violated an agreement
struck in 1997 with local people and joint-venture
partner Pt Nusa Halmahera Minerals, which owns a
small share in the mine.

"We have many times warned them to do what’s been
agreed with Kao traditional society, but they
never pay attention," local elder Ahmad Arifin
told Waspada online from the North Maluku capital
Ternate. “They are ignorant.”

In Melbourne, a spokesman for Newcrest said the
company and senior mine managers on Halmahera were
unaware of the looming legal case.

Newcrest was plagued by intermittent protests at
the Toguraci site, with local people variously
occupying the mine for five weeks in 2003 and
staging blockades in 2004.

Villagers accused the mine of operating illegally
in a protected forest area until the former
government of then President Megawati Sukarnoputri
changed the law in 2004.

Activists have previously demanded Newcrest
distribute Rp500 billion ($A83 million) in profits
from its nearby Gosowong mine, while spending 10
per cent of future profits from Toguraci site on
local community projects.

Arifin said the legal case against Newcrest was
still being prepared and refused to divulge the
details of claims.

He denied the villagers were against development,
but said international investors should lead to an
improvement in the lives of local people. "If
their presence only brings problems, then we will
refuse it," he said.

Newcrest recently announced Rio Tinto executive
Ian Smith would take over the helm of the company
in August, promising he would improve the
operations side of the business, Higher-than-
expected arsenic levels and lower gold grades have
caused problems gold and copper mine sites in
Western Australia.

The company has advised its net profit for 2005/06
would range between $US125 million ($A163.3
million) and $US135 million ($A176 million), after
posting a first half profit $US74.2 million
($A96.94 million).

A legal case in Indonesia could add to Smith’s
challenges US-based Newmont Mining Corporation,
has been fighting a long-running legal battle in
Indonesia after local people claimed tailings from
its Minahasa Raya mine polluted Buyat Bay in the
North Sulawesi, causing nearby villagers to become
seriously ill.

In February, the Indonesian government said it
would settle a civil suit with Newmont for $US30
million ($A39 million), including increased
scientific monitoring and more community
development.


Bandung begins digging out from beneath the trash

Jakarta Post - May 20, 2006

Yuli Tri Suwarni, Bandung — The foul smell
emanating from rotting garbage piled up along
Bandung’s roadsides started to diminish Friday but
it was still there.

Bandung has turned into a city of garbage in the
past month, an image it is working hard to change
with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono set to
arrive there Saturday on an official visit to
observe National Awakening Day.

But the cleanup pledged by Bandung Mayor Dada
Rosada that started to intensify this week, was
mostly conducted on special routes where the
President is planning to pass.

Some of the garbage on the city’s roadsides,
reaching as high as five meters in some areas, has
started to be taken to a temporary dumping site in
Pasirluyu area.

But much of it has been left to rot as the
temporary dumping site can only accommodate 1,200
cubic meters of garbage, while the Bandung City
Sanitation Office estimates there is up to 200,000
cubic meters on the roadsides.

"When we’re hosting a guest, we have to cleanup,
it’s the same in Tegallega...," Dada said, playing
down suspicions the cleanup was only conducted to
please the President.

The city’s real problem in finding a final dumping
site has not been resolved. An “emergency” meeting
was held Friday and attended by West Java Governor
Danny Setiawan, Dada Rosada and Cimahi Mayor Itoc
Tochija to find a long-term solution to the
problem.

The provincial administration also invited
officials from Bandung regency, Garut and Sumedang
to assist in finding land for a final dumping
site, which has been nonexistent following the
closure of Leuwigajah dump in South Cimahi. The
dump was closed after the collapse of a mound of
garbage in 2005 that killed more than 100 people.

The governor gave the mayor three months to find
the city a permanent dumping site.

Dada said starting Saturday, the waste would be
dumped at a temporary site in Pasirbajing, Garut.
A resident there, he said, has agreed to rent 12
hectares of land to accommodate garbage sent from
Bandung city at the cost of Rp 550 million
(US$60,349) for three months. "We’ve requested
security from Bandung and Garut Military
commands," Dada told the governor.

He said the security personnel were necessary
since many Pasirbajing residents were opposed to
the idea of their area being turned into a dumping
site. The Leuwigajah tragedy is still fresh in
their minds and they were concerned over possible
air and water pollution.

Yoseph Sumarno, the commissioner of PT Brill which
is assigned by the mayor to take care of Bandung’s
garbage problem, complained that they had been
rejected in many locations earlier selected as
dumping sites. "Since September 2005 we’ve been
left hanging. We can’t start managing the waste
since it is hard to find a dumping site," Yoseph
said.


Bandung becomes a city of trash

Jakarta Post - May 17, 2006

Bandung — The West Java capital city, Bandung, is
in the midst of a serious garbage crisis, with
200,000 cubic meters of trashed piled along its
streets.

The problem, blamed on a lack of final dumping
sites, has been going on for the past month.
Residents living around the city’s two temporary
dumping sites in Cicabe and Pasir Impun are now
rejecting incoming garbage.

The old sites have been reused due to the lack of
alternative final dumping sites after Leuwigajah
dumping site was closed following a garbage slide
which killed more than 100 people in 2004.

In Cihargeulis market, for example, the mound of
rubbish is now over two meters high and fills a
third of the market area. area. Bandung produces
7,500 cubic meters of garbage a day.

"The garbage has not been disposed of for the past
month. We’re worried it might cause diseases,"
said a trader, Ucu.

But cleanliness will return soon, albeit
temporarily. Bandung Mayor Dada Rosada has
instructed a clean up campaign ahead of President
Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s visit to observe
National Awakening Day on May 20 and National
Family Day at the end of June.


Palm oil industry killing orangutans

Jakarta Post - May 17, 2006

Femke van den Bos, Jakarta — It will only take up
to two or three years of rain forest destruction
if the current rate continues to determine the
fate of the orangutan. The populations of
orangutans that will still exist in 2008 will not
be viable anymore and the damage done will be
irreversible. The genetic pool of the orangutan
will be too small to ensure the survival of the
species.

Palm oil is a widely used vegetable oil that you
can find in many products, like soap, chocolate,
toothpaste, chips and even biofuel. It is an
important export product for Indonesia, with
China, India and the European Union being the
biggest consumers.

Originally, oil palms came from West Africa, but
they can flourish wherever heat and rainfall are
abundant. Nowadays, Indonesia and Malaysia are the
largest producers of palm oil in the world, with
Sumatra and Borneo being the main producing
islands.

Unfortunately, these islands are also home to the
orangutans (which aren’t found elsewhere on the
planet) and thousands of other animal and plant
species. Recently, a whole new range of species
was discovered by scientists in Kalimantan, all of
which are also now threatened with extinction.

Indonesia is facing the highest rate of tropical
rain forest loss in the world: Borneo, which is
divided between Malaysia and Indonesia, has lost
half its forest cover, while Sumatra has lost 70
percent. Of the original orangutan habitat 90
percent has disappeared.

In the last decade, the deforestation rate has
accelerated to two million hectares of forest each
year. According to a World Bank report, oil palm
plantations are the major cause of this
acceleration.

There are millions of hectares of already degraded
land available and perfectly suitable for oil palm
plantations in Indonesia. But instead of using
these areas, companies prefer to cut down rain
forests and earn quick money selling the wood.

A common phenomenon is for companies to apply for
permits to cut forests for the establishment of
economically feasible plantations (the sole reason
they receive the permit). These firms then
disappear after the land has been cleared. The
land is left behind has no use at all, and the
firms move on to cut new forest for "new oil palm
plantations".

After cutting the forests, palm oil companies use
uncontrolled burning to clear the land. In 1997-
1998, a devastating fire killed one third of
Borneo’s orangutan population, and destroyed five
million hectares of forest. As their habitat
shrinks, orangutans are forced out of the forests
onto the plantations in search of food.

Plantation workers often see them as pests and
abuse or kill them. Many of them are shot, beaten,
cut with machetes, burned or even buried alive.
The orangutan rescue centers are overcrowded with
displaced and abused orangutans.

The government was planning to grand concessions
for a huge deforestation project involving 1.8
million hectares on the border between Malaysian
and Indonesian Borneo.

The cleared land was supposed to be used for palm
oil plantations, but research showed that only 10
percent is suitable for oil palms; the rest of the
land was either too high or too steep to grow the
palms.

The minister of agriculture, Anton Apriyantono,
announced on May 7th that the government would go
ahead with the mega-plantation project, but only
on 180,000 hectares. The Heart of Borneo (a 22
million hectare joint conservation project
involving Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia) would be
left undisturbed. This is a small victory for
environmentalists! But the clearing of 180,000
hectares of primary forest and other future
projects involving the clearing of forests will
still have a disastrous impact not only on
orangutans and other wildlife, but also the
indigenous people.

The land for plantations is often forcibly taken
from the people who traditionally owned it and
violent conflicts are not uncommon in the palm oil
industry.

In many plantations, employees have to contend
with low wages and appalling living conditions.
The palm oil industry may create jobs and generate
export revenue; it can also trap entire
communities in poverty.

Boycotting palm oil is not the answer, but
demanding that it is sourced from sustainable
plantations is. This means no more high value
conservation areas will be cleaned, traditional
land rights of local communities will be
respected, fire won’t be used to clear land, no
bonuses will be offered for the killing of
orangutans, and corridors will be retained to
connect remaining forests to allow free movement
of animals.

Please help us persuade the Indonesian government
to stop all further forest conversion and respect
the customary rights of the local people.
Hopefully we will be able to change the future.

[The writer is a veterinary curator with
Proanimalia at Tegal Alur wildlife rescue center.]


Illegal logging ’costing US$5 billion a year’

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2006

Ambon — The country is losing around Rp 45
trillion (about US$5 billion) a year because of
widespread illegal logging, Forestry Minister MS
Kaban says.

Kaban reiterated his pledge that the government
aimed to stop all illegal logging activity in the
country by end of the year.

"Our forests are in a critical condition, it’s
like a late stage cancer... caused by big illegal
timber bosses,“Kaban said Monday.”If we managed
our forest products well, our rich forest
resources would create jobs for the people," Kaban
said.

Many industrialized countries could maintain
forest areas, he said. "Korea, for instance, has
regreened 70 percent of its forests, while
European countries can maintain their green
areas." Kaban said officials would step up their
efforts to hunt down and apprehend illegal
loggers, with surveillance conducted by land and
air.

 ARMED FORCES/DEFENSE

US lawmakers propose dropping restrictions on
military aid

Associated Press - May 20, 2006

Washington — A congressional panel that funds
foreign operations has proposed dropping
restrictions on aid to Indonesia’s military, with
the panel’s Republican leader saying it was time
to recognize the country’s dramatic democratic
turnaround.

A Democratic lawmaker, however, expressed
disappointment that the House appropriations
subcommittee on foreign operations would lift
restrictions.

Under current law, the US Secretary of State must
certify that the Indonesian government has
addressed US worry about human rights abuse in the
military and other concerns before aid is granted.

Last year, US officials waived the restrictions,
citing a part of the law that allowed a waiver for
national security reasons. The subcommittee has
proposed providing US$2 million less than the $6.5
million President George W. Bush had requested to
help Indonesia’s military with transportation,
counter-terrorism and maritime security; lawmakers
proposed $1.28 million in funds for military
training.

The request is an early stage in a lengthy
legislative process. An overall bill must
eventually be approved by both chambers of
Congress and signed by Bush. The Indonesia
proposal is part of a $21.3 billion measure that
would pay for foreign assistance programs for the
budget year that begins Oct. 1. Overall, the
measure is $2.4 billion less than the $23.7
billion the administration wanted.

The United States cut all military ties with
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim
nation, in 1999 to protest alleged human rights
abuses by Indonesian troops in East Timor. The ban
was lifted in November by the Bush administration,
which views the Indonesian government as a bulwark
against Islamic militancy.

"The Congress needs to understand that things
change," Rep. Jim Kolbe, chairman of the
subcommittee, said Friday. "And there are few
countries in the world where things have changed
as much as Indonesia in the last five, six, seven
years."


Local products to meet 16% of military needs

Jakarta Post - May 18, 2006

Abdul Khalik, Jakarta — To reduce its arms
imports, Indonesia plans to increase the
production of its various military equipment to at
least 16 percent of its total defense needs.

Research and Technology Minister Kusmayanto
Kadiman said Wednesday the Defense Ministry has
agreed to increase its domestic purchase of
military equipment from 6 percent to 16 percent
within two years.

"Both the President and the Vice President have
said we must not import any equipment that we can
produce domestically. We should not be afraid as
we have the capability to fulfill various military
needs," Kusmayanto told The Jakarta Post after
speaking at a business forum in Jakarta.

He said that with the 10 percent increase in
domestic expenses Indonesia would save much money,
as the country’s total military expenses for
equipment were worth Rp 23 trillion per year.

"Police and military have begun placing many
orders to our local companies. The prices of these
local products are 50 percent lower than those of
imported products with almost similar quality," he
said.

For naval needs, Kusmayanto said, PT PAL in the
East Java capital of Surabaya could produce all
armed or unarmed patrol boats as well as warships
with or without radar systems.

Fast patrol boats could have a range of sizes,
from 14 meters to 58 meters, he added.

For the Air Force, PT Dirgantara Indonesia in
Bandung, West Java, have managed to produce
various kinds of airplanes, with or without radar
systems, as well as personnel and logistic
carriers, and war planes, Kusmayanto said.

"PT Pindad in Bandung can produce bullets, machine
guns, pistols, grenades, transport vehicles, and
ground battle vehicles. So, we actually can supply
our military with some part of its needs," he
said. Indonesia has been facing difficulties in
getting its defense equipment intact after the
United States imposed restrictions on military
sales over concerns about human rights abuses,
blamed on the Indonesian Military (TNI) in East
Timor in 1991. The US Congress has imposed various
restrictions since 1992.

The ban forced Indonesia to look for new arms
suppliers, including Russia. Alleged purchases
from “grey markets” were also an option as the
14-year arms embargo left the TNI badly in need of
new equipment.

However, considering Indonesia a strategic partner
in fighting terrorism, last November the U.S
issued a waiver removing all remaining
congressional restrictions on its military
assistance to Indonesia.

In February, the Bush administration proposed a
six and a half fold increase in foreign military
financing for Indonesia.

But some military analysts here say the Americans
are clearly not moving quickly enough.

On April 9, a group of arms dealers for TNI,
including two Indonesian Air Force officers, was
arrested by the American Federal Bureau of
Investigation for allegedly attempting to make an
illegal US$40 million purchase from an unnamed US
company.

Subsequent indictments revealed that they went to
Honolulu to buy 245 air-to-air Sidewinder
missiles, 882 Heckler & Koch MP5 guns, 880 HK 9mm
handguns, 16 HK sniper rifles, 5000 rounds of
ammunition and an aviation radar system.

"We have now the political will to produce our own
military equipment. Many, however, see the imports
as an opportunity for corruption. We must
eradicate such practices immediately," Kusmayanto
said.


Hassan to US to assure supply of military
equipment

Jakarta Post - May 17, 2006

Abdul Khalik, Ottawa/Jakarta — Foreign Minister
Hassan Wirayuda will visit the United States this
week, where he is expected to talk up Indonesia’s
improved human rights record and seek assurances
on the supply of military equipment from the US, a
senior official at the Foreign Ministry said
Tuesday.

The director for North and Central American
affairs at the Foreign Ministry, Harri Purwanto,
said the visit was part of efforts to boost
Indonesia’s military capability by capitalizing on
Jakarta’s improved military ties with the US

"Pak Hassan will hold official talks with US
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during his
visit. We hope Indonesia will benefit from
improved relations and can improve its military
capacity building and supply of military equipment
from the US," he told The Jakarta Post from
Ottawa, Canada, on Tuesday.

He said the visit also would strengthen the
strategic partnership between Indonesia and the US
by defining common interests and working toward
them.

The United States imposed restrictions on military
sales and cooperation with Indonesia over concerns
about rights abuses committed by the Indonesian
armed forces in Timor Leste (formerly East Timor)
in 1991. The US Congress imposed various
restrictions on military ties with Indonesia since
1992.

The ban forced Indonesia to look for new arms
suppliers and the country purchased four Sukhoi
jets from Russia last year, and also has bought
military equipment from “gray markets”.

However, considering Indonesia is a strategic
partner in the war against terrorism, last
November the US State Department issued a waiver
removing all remaining congressional restrictions
on US military assistance to Indonesia.

In February, the Bush administration proposed an
increase in foreign military financing for
Indonesia.

Two months ago, Rice said during a visit to
Jakarta that Indonesia had made progress in
combating military corruption. As part of these
closer ties, a senior Indonesian Military
delegation was dispatched to Washington to discuss
defense and security.

Also, Indonesia was recently voted onto the newly
established UN Human Rights Council, with the
country claiming its membership was proof the
international community recognized its progress in
protecting human rights.

But for some in Indonesia, the Americans are not
moving quickly enough. On April 9, known arms
suppliers for the Indonesian Military and two
Indonesian Air Force officers were arrested by the
FBI when they allegedly tried to make an illegal
US$40 million arms purchase from an unnamed US
company.

The subsequent indictment said the group went to
Honolulu to buy 245 air-to-air Sidewinder
missiles, 882 Heckler & Koch MP5 guns, 880 HK 9mm
handguns, 16 HK sniper rifles, 5,000 rounds of
ammunition and an aviation radar system.

Harri said that besides bilateral issues, such as
trade and cooperation in fighting terrorism,
Hassan and Rice also would discuss global and
regional issues, including the US role in Asia and
the Pacific.

Hassan is scheduled to visit Canada, the US and
Qatar during his trip from May 16-25. He will
arrive in Ottawa on May 17 before leaving for
Washington the following day.

In Canada, Hassan will meet with his Canadian
counterpart Peter Mackay, as well as leaders of
the Canadian senate and parliament, to discuss
bilateral trade and political ties between the two
countries.

 FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Bush, Howard stress Indonesia’s role in terrorism
battle

Agence France Presse - May 17, 2006

Laurent Lozano, Washington — "We did have an
opportunity to talk extensively about some of the
challenges in our immediate region," Howard said
after the talks, adding that he highlighted the
importance of Indonesia, the world’s most populous
Muslim nation, in counter-terrorism.

"I spoke about the... importance of the role of
Indonesia, the symbolism and also the tactical
consequence of Indonesia being the largest Islamic
country in the world," Howard told reporters, with
Bush by his side, at the White House.

Howard said “the success and prosperity” of
democratically-elected Indonesian President Susilo
Bambang Yudhoyono’s “moderate Islamic leadership”
was itself "a very important factor in the long
term success of the fight against terrorism.

"Because the fight against terrorism is not only a
military and physical one; it is also an
intellectual one. And it’s a question of providing
within the Islamic world a successful democratic
model as an alternative to the fanaticism of those
who would obscenely invoke the sanction of Islam
to justify what they seek to do," the Australian
leader said.

Indonesia has been the epicentre of terrorist
attacks in the Asian region, with more than 240
people dying over the past four years in
operations blamed on the regional extremist
network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and its affiliates.
A second Bali bombing in October last year killed
20 people on the popular tourist island.

Bush said "we’ve got to be steadfast and firm if
we intend to succeed in defeating the terrorists."
The US president praised Australia as one of the
closest US allies, particularly in promoting
peace, fighting terrorism and ending the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Aside from terrorism, the two leaders discussed
the Iranian and North Korean nuclear crises, the
situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the recent
violence in East Timor as well as issues such as
energy and trade.

Howard, whose meeting with Bush is the seventh
since the US leader was first elected to office in
2000, had provided staunch support for the US-led
invasion of Iraq three years ago. Of the world
leaders who backed the war, Howard may be the only
one who remains popular at home.

Asked about the chemistry behind their close
personal relationship, Bush said "the interesting
thing talking to John Howard is that you can trust
the man.

"And that’s what is a necessary ingredient to be
working together for the common good. And I also
appreciate a person who is capable of standing by
a decision," said Bush, whose popularity at home
has plunged due largely to the unending Iraq
conflict.

At a lavish White House ceremony ahead of their
summit, Howard praised Bush for his leadership of
the war on terror.

"The world needs a president of the United States
who has a clear-eyed view of the dangers of
terrorism and the courage and the determination —
however difficult the path may be — to see the
task through to its conclusion.

"And in you, sir, the American people and the
world have found such a leader and such an
individual," Howard told Bush.

Amid Australian media speculation that Howard,
serving his fourth term as Prime Minister, would
bow out before his term ends in 2007, Bush said
the Australian leader would remain in office much
longer.

"I suspect he’s going to outlast me, so that is a
moot point," Bush said, when asked if he could
work effectively with a future Australian leader.

Bush feted the Australian leader at a formal White
House dinner Tuesday, attended by their wives,
Janette Howard and Laura Bush.

The guests attending the black-tie affair included
Australian-born Rupert Murdoch and his wife, Wendi
Deng, Chevron Corp. chairman David O’Reilly, IBM
Corp. chairman Samuel Palmisano and Morgan Stanley
President James Gorman.

American country music singer Kenny Chesney, whose
hits include “Me and You” and "She Thinks my
Tractor’s Sexy," was the featured entertainer for
the formal White House dinner. Chesney, wearing a
broad-brimmed black cowboy hat and an open dark,
blue shirt, made headlines in gossip magazines
last year when his marriage to Hollywood star
Renee Zellweger ended in divorce after four
months.

The dinner menu included summer squash soup,
house-cured duck prosciutto and a main course of
fish — pan-roasted barramundi — accompanied by
lemon risotto with asparagus tips. A chardonnay
and pinot noir were served and desert was a nougat
glace with fresh oranges. In his toast to Howard,
Bush called the partnership between the two
countries “broad” and “deep.”


Indonesia declares issue of 42 Papuans solved

Sydney Morning Herald - May 16, 2006

Mark Forbes, Jakarta — Indonesia has praised
Australia’s new stance against Papuan asylum
seekers, indicating a thaw in the diplomatic
freeze imposed by President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono after a boatload of 42 Papuans were
granted asylum.

Ahead of a planned meeting with the Foreign
Minister, Alexander Downer, in Singapore last
night, his Indonesian counterpart, Hassan
Wirajuda, said Australia had responded positively
to the crisis by introducing a new "Pacific
Solution".

Mr Wirajuda said Indonesia had dropped demands for
the return of the 42 Papuans and that Australia
had shown “goodwill” in its attempt to resolve the
stand-off, in a marked change of tone. Both
nations benefited from a strong bilateral
relationship and the issue of the 42 was “solved”,
he said.

The meeting is expected to pave the way to
restoring relations, which had sunk to their
lowest ebb since East Timor’s bloody independence
struggle. Dr Yudhoyono had ordered a review of all
co-operation with Australia and had recalled his
ambassador from Canberra, claiming Australia was
undermining Indonesia’s sovereignty The results of
the meeting will be referred back to Dr Yudhoyono
and the Prime Minister, John Howard, who are
planning a face-to-face meeting to mark the
resolution of the issue.

Mr Wirajuda indicated the ambassador could be
returned, although it could take some time and
further negotiations.

Privately, both sides are hopeful the crisis will
be resolved within the next few weeks, before a
planned Australia-Indonesia forum to be attended
by government leaders in Jakarta around the end of
June.

Mr Wirajuda said Australia had committed to
processing any future asylum seekers in the
Pacific and "even if they would be classified as
refugees they would not be accepted in Australia.
This is positive for us for the future".

The new policy would help persuade would-be
refugees from Papua to abandon plans to seek
asylum in Australia, he said.

Although there was a need for further discussion
on the policy, Australia’s response to finding
three Papuans on a Torres Strait island last week
demonstrated its effectiveness, Mr Wirajuda said.
"Australia did not allow them to land and to be
processed but were returned to the country where
they departed from, namely to Papua New Guinea.

"This is also positive. There is policy that we
give positive appreciation to and there is
implementation of the policy that we respect and
we think it is goodwill on Australia’s part to
respond to our message and position."

Indonesia realised it was unrealistic to demand
the removal of the visas already granted to the 42
Papuans, Mr Wirajuda said.

 BUSINESS & INVESTMENT

Extra mile mile needed to attract investments:
Kadin

Jakarta Post - May 20, 2006

Benget Simbolon Tnb., Jakarta — The Indonesian
Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) has
warned the government that enacting a new
investment law and improving the macro economy
would not be enough to generate sustained
investment inflows.

Kadin chairman M.S. Hidayat said that Indonesia’s
competitors, such as China, Vietnam and Thailand,
also had competitive packages to attract foreign
investment.

"So, if we don’t make it (the investment law) more
competitive or at least similar to theirs, then it
won’t be successful in attracting new foreign
investment," Hidayat said during a discussion on
the new investment bill, which will soon be
deliberated by the House of Representatives.

The discussion, which was also attended by Trade
Minister Mari E. Pangestu and Investment
Coordinating Board (BKPM) chairman M. Lutfi,
mostly focused on what was claimed to be the
government’s excessive focus on the macro economy
and insufficient attention to the real issues
facing businesses on the ground, such as hidden
costs, lack of incentives, too many disincentives,
high taxes and tariffs, and bureaucratic and time
consuming licensing processes.

Hidayat said that the government should not be
satisfied with only restoring the macro economy to
health.

"The improvements in the economic fundamentals,
such as a stronger rupiah, are not enough to
attract investors,“he said.”The most important
thing is how to make investing in Indonesia less
costly," he added.

The government, he said, should also pay more
attention to the urgent issues, such as hidden
costs, high taxes and burdensome regulations, that
had long been complained of by business.

The chairman of East Java’s Kadin branch,
Airlangga Satriagung, noted during the discussion
that one of the main issues facing firms was the
hidden costs in doing business in Indonesia.

"If you want, for example, to secure your license
faster, you have to pay more," he said, adding
that such costs were unpredictable.

Other Kadin members complained that the government
often acted contrary to its own promises. "While
promising to provide incentives to improve the
investment climate, it instead issues regulations
the only serve to hamper business,“he said.”When one product or sector starts performing
well, then the government will slaps new taxes on
them," he added.

Mari said that the government would heed the
suggestions made by Kadin. She also said that the
government would reduce taxes to make Indonesia
more competitive than its competitors.

But she added that it was highly unlikely that the
government would give tax holidays to investors,
even though other countries continued to do so.

However, Lutfi said that the BKPM was urging the
government to introduce other forms of tax relief
that would achieve the same objectives as a tax
holiday.

"We won’t use the term ’tax holiday’, which
currently meets strong resistance from government
officials. Instead, we could call it a kind of
deferment tax," he said.

He noted that an automotive company from the
United States was currently building a new plant
in Greater Jakarta, while a number of shoes firms
from South Korea would relocate their plants from
China to Indonesia.

"Together, they will employ tens of thousands of
workers here," he said, adding that the
relocations were due to the European Union’s
imposition of antidumping duties on China.


IMF revises up Indonesia’s 2006 GDP growth

Jakarta Post - May 20, 2006

Endy M. Bayuni, Jakarta — The International
Monetary Fund has revised upwards its forecast for
Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth to
5.2 percent for 2006 in another sign of growing
international confidence about the direction of
the government’s policies.

The endorsement comes as Indonesia grapples with
volatility in the financial markets that has seen
the rupiah and stock prices seesawing in the past
week.

The latest forecast was announced at the
conclusion of a two-week IMF mission in Indonesia,
led by Milan Zavadjil, to conduct its annual
consultations with Indonesian officials. A report
from the mission is expected to be published in
August.

The IMF predicts an economic recovery in the
second half of the year as interest rates fall and
the economy fully adjusts to higher domestic fuel
prices, which were raised at the end of 2005,
according to a statement attributed to IMF senior
resident representative Stephen Schwartz.

GDP growth slowed to 4.6 percent on-year in the
first quarter of 2006 because of the impact of the
fuel price hikes.

Previously, the IMF had predicted growth "in the 5
percent range" for all of 2006.

This is the third upward revision of the 2006 GDP
growth forecast made in light of improvements in
some of the economic fundamentals, Zavadjil told a
media briefing.

He pointed to the slowdown in inflation, which,
while still in double digits, is heading towards
the 7-9 percent targeted by the government by the
end of the year.

The IMF also endorsed the government’s efforts to
sustain growth momentum through increased
budgetary spending, and raising its deficit
targets.

It also referred to the recent decision by Bank
Indonesia to ease interest rates. The IMF fully
supported the central bank’s cautious approach in
setting interest rates, bearing in mind that its
priority should continue to be reducing the
inflation rate.

On the volatile rupiah and stock prices, Zavadjil
said this was more a reflection of external forces
rather than changes in the fundamentals of the
Indonesian economy, but this was all the more
reason why the central bank must move with
caution.

Indonesia’s $43 billion international reserves
could help to cushion exchange-rate volatility, he
said.

"The anticipated recovery is dependent on a
continuation of a favorable external environment,“according to the statement by Schwartz.”Nevertheless, there are important risks to the
outlook stemming from further increases in
international oil prices, a tightening of global
financial conditions, and slower than projected
government spending." The IMF supported the
government’s economic reform programs which it
said would allow Indonesia to realize its
potential growth rate of between 6 and 7 percent
in the coming years.

 OPINION & ANALYSIS

Pramoedya and the rebirth of national culture

Jakarta Post - May 20, 2006

Max Lane, Jakarta — It was an amazing experience
to translate the works of Pramoedya Ananta Toer,
to have had to think deeply about what he wrote,
to discuss with him the situation in Indonesia. I
translated This Earth of Mankind, Child of All
Nations, Footsteps and House of Glass in the
1980s. Recently I have just finished translating
his The Chinese in Indonesia and Arok Dedes, both
of which will be published this year. I am in the
process of completing my own book, People Power,
the Fall of Suharto and Indonesian History which
is partly inspired by his analysis of Indonesian
history.

Pramoedya’s contribution to Indonesian literature,
historical analysis and political thinking has
been great indeed. In this respect, I very much
disagree with the perspective put forward by Andre
Vitchek in his article With Pram died Indonesian
culture in The Jakarta Post. Vitchek’s article
underrates the struggle by many Indonesians to
revive culture, science and democratic life in
Indonesia and in so doing also negates the real
impact of Pramoedya’s own writing and ideas.

Of course, it is true that the coming to power of
the New Order in 1965 did end an era. It
represented the suppression and the failure of the
first great wave of the Indonesian revolution, a
wave that lasted from the beginning of the 20th
century until 1965.

The movement to finish the national revolution
failed. The New Order was a counter-revolutionary
government, not simply because it suppressed those
political forces calling for a social revolution
— the Left, but also because it suppressed the
national revolution itself. The cultural life that
was painfully emerging out of the national
revolution was suppressed.

It was represented in the ideas of Sukarno, which
Pramoedya supported until the end of his life in
all the literary works of the early national
revolution and then those which came out of LEKRA
and the LKN in the 1950s and 1960s.

But most significantly, the New Order bureaucracy,
military and conglomerates, alongside the business
power of the West and Japan, took over the
country. Culture became a commodity in their
market place.

This is all true and it makes Pramoedya the last
great voice of the first wave of the Indonesian
national revolution, and its accompanying social
revolution as well. But it would be wrong to not
see the beginnings of the second wave of the
revolution beginning to sprout a long time ago.

Yes, its true this new wave is at its beginning.
But we should have learned from reading This Earth
of Mankind and its sequels that these great
revolutionary processes also have their own
grueling, and sometimes painfully slow, gestation
periods.

The national awakening described by Pramoedya
begins with Kartini in the 1890s. The rise and
fall of Tirto Adhisuryo and Sarekat Islam plays
out over another twenty years — the time period
of the Buru Quartet books. The Youth Oath, which
in Pramoedya’s eyes was the beginning of the idea
of Indonesia was not until 1928. Independence was
in 1945; the escalation of the struggle to "finish
the revolution", not until 1969.

The first wave of national revolution failed. This
was a generational failure, so total was the
suppression. New generations take up the struggle.
There may be no new Pramoedyas yet, but there are
plenty of new Minkes, not to mention Marcos and
Haji Misbachs. Moreover, there also those whose
writings and ideas have provided the bridge from
one generation to the next. W.S. Rendra’s plays
and poems, such as The Poet’s Pamphlets and The
Struggle of the Naga Tribe are just one example of
works that played that role.

All those that threw themselves into that first
wave of national revolution, failed and saw the
revolution blocked by oppression and the country
stagnate, will be disappointed, frustrated, and
even lonely. They are separated from the Indonesia
they helped create, as a new process and new
generation start again. Pramoedya also felt that
deeply.

But the current and next generations do not start
from scratch. Suharto may have destroyed much of
the political and cultural heritage of 60 years of
revolutionary struggle, but not everything. In
fact, Pramoedya’s works themselves are part of
what is not destroyed.

To proclaim that Indonesian culture has died with
Pram is to negate Pram while praising him. The
whole generation of activists through the 1980s
and 1990s built upon Pramoedya. The student
activists and leaders; Wiji Thukul; a revival in
pride among all generations — all this is not
dead.

But yes, today they swim against the current. This
is not the first half of the century which was
marked by the struggles against colonialism around
the world and then the civil rights and anti-war
movements in the West. The ideals of social
justice and radicalism are swimming against the
current almost everywhere.

If Pramoedya is not widely read in Indonesia,
neither is Howard Fast in the US He is virtually
out-of-print, and is Steinbeck still a symbol of
mainstream American culture? No, this is a problem
we all face: Everywhere. Frankly, I think the
effervescence among young people in Indonesia is
more exciting than that in my own country,
Australia.

So the need is not to proclaim the death of
Indonesian culture, nor to issue general appeals
for people in Indonesia to read Pram. The question
now is how to push forward the processes that have
re-started since the 1970s, accelerated again in
the 1990s and now await the next stage forward.

In terms of people reading Pramoedya in Indonesia,
this must be also treated concretely and not
through abstract appeals. A wider reading of
Pramoedya will flow as the next wave of the
national revolution starts to build up. But there
are some concrete things that could be raised.

What needs to be done to get Pramoedya’s writings
and other major works into the high schools and
universities? What can be done to make libraries
more resourced places? How can initiatives like
the Bandung based Pramoedya Institute be supported
and expanded? Reading This Earth of Mankind, Child
of All Nations, Footsteps and House of Glass
teaches us how grueling, how complex and how
richly liberating the process was of preparing the
way for the Indonesian national revolution to get
underway.

With the failure of that first wave, its crushing,
we should learn from Pramoedya’s writing to expect
no less a grueling, complex and richly liberating
prelude to the next wave. One of Pramoedya’s
greatest contributions has been to help that
process get under way.

[The writer is lecturer in Indonesian Studies,
University of Sydney.]


Eight years ahead

Jakarta Post Editorial - May 22, 2006

Patience is thin, and memory short. Year in and
year out, these factors have served very well for
those who resist any attempts at change since
Soeharto quit the presidency eight years ago on
May 21.

Many an Indonesian has expressed frustration that
life has not been getting any easier since 1998.
As despair sets in, along with references to "the
good old days," it has been easy to forget the
three minimum demands for reform raised by
demonstrating students back then: an end to
authoritarianism, corruption and the abuse of
human rights.

Without all three, Indonesia would be a much more
beautiful place to live. Of course this dream is
still far away, as those coming into power pounce
on every chance to seize anything of value while
they can — the downside of what has otherwise
been progress in terms of weakening the grip of
centralized power.

“Notoriously resistant” was how a scholar once
described corrupt behavior in the public sector.

We do have hopeful signs, now that the corruption
law can and has been used to convict greedy heads
of state-owned firms who are charged with
corruption, such as in the cases of the social
security fund and state electricity companies.

Our patience will no doubt be further tested as we
find out whether the convictions have a major
impact on the lower ranks of the public sector,
the “mission impossible” zone of the corruption
battle.

“Notoriously resistant” also aptly describes the
habitual human rights abusers among us. They mock
all of those who can only raise a cry of protest,
to the point of the issue often being rendered
irrelevant, an unnecessary stumbling block on the
way to progress. The result: a dauntingly long
list of unresolved abuses in which few have been
made accountable.

With such a difficult legacy so far from any form
of closure, how should one respond to the appeals
for forgiveness made by the family of ailing
former president Soeharto? "As a normal human
being pak Soeharto has his strengths and
weaknesses," said daughter Siti Hediyati during a
weekend visit to refugees from Mount Merapi.
Therefore, she added, "for the 30 years that he
led this nation, we apologize for anything that
might not have been carried out well and for any
shortcomings that he might have had."

The appeal was more or less a repeat of her
father’s contrite words on May 21, 1998: "I
apologize for my mistakes and shortcomings, and I
hope that Indonesia will remain strong," he
uttered in his usual flat tone.

It is, however, too similar to the caveat the
speaker gives at the end of the average seminar:
"We beg your pardon for any unintendetional
shortcomings in the way this event was organized."

But neither should one expect Siti to plead her
father’s case with a long list of his misdemeanors
in hand: imbuing the country with a culture of
corruption; overlooking, or perhaps being in some
way responsible for rights abuses; allowing
political henchmen to build up power in exchange
for their loyalty, etc.

The only legal case against Soeharto is on charges
of embezzling some US$415 million and Rp 1.3
trillion (about $150 million) in public money. How
magnanimous of him and of his family to ask for
forgiveness; after all, even these charges have
been dropped!

What now? Soeharto has reportedly smiled with
gratitude from his sickbed on hearing that the
case against him will be dropped. Discounting
stubborn activists, people may shrug and concede
what may be a dying request for forgiveness, from
a man who also managed to lift millions out of
poverty and win praise for the country’s strong
economic growth.

We’ve argued here before that regardless of the
legal limbo, our highest representative body, the
People’s Consultative Assembly, needs to issue a
decree defining Soeharto’s place in this nation’s
history — be he evil or benevolent.

Regardless of what the government’s response may
be, it would serve the need to recognize one
source of our ills. We could then move on to the
next eight, ten or 50 years. For we need Davids on
all fronts to face up to the Goliaths — the
persistent mindsets of the generations that lived
under the New Order regime. The mindsets and
habits which allow corruption, ignore human rights
and favor an authoritarian hand in government, are
the Goliaths that will stick with us if a quick
fix is all we seek.

This is not to say that the need for patience
means tolerating a plodding pace of reform. A
public opinion poll conducted between 1998 and
2006, released last week by the Indonesian
Research Institute (LSI), showed that while a
fairly high 72 percent of 1,400 respondents now
say they believe in democracy over other political
systems, their anger over the economy threatens to
erode this trust.

In 1999, 13 percent of respondents supported the
military’s role in politics, which has gradually
increased to a much higher 36 percent today.

People weary of price hikes and the squabbling
among the elite may indeed have short memories of
the impact of overt military power in this
country. The wise and powerful among us might take
a hint from those figures, and use the trust of
that 72 percent to the best possible effect.


Another ’windu’ of opportunity lost for Indonesia

Jakarta Post - May 16, 2006

Endy M. Bayuni, Jakarta — You have to be either
Javanese or a really desperate person, or both, to
believe that this year’s eighth anniversary of the
downfall of Soeharto and his regime is worth
commemorating differently from previous years.

This Sunday, the nation marks the first windu
(eight years) since that fateful day when
Indonesia’s long-time strongman finally buckled
under pressure in the face of a massive student-
led people’s power movement. His decision to call
it a day, after more than 32 years in power, paved
the way for democratic reforms that would
supposedly bring this nation greater prosperity
and peace.

Fast-forward eight years, and we are a long way
from either state, although we can boast that we
have had a series of democratic, free and fair
elections.

Windu is an Indonesian word originating from
Javanese. It denotes a period of eight years, as
opposed to dasa of Sanskrit origin, meaning a
decade. Why we have this term in our daily lexicon
is no mystery at all. The Javanese believe — or
live — in eight-year cycles. They have a name for
each year in the cycle, in the same way that an
animal has been assigned to each year of the 12-
year Chinese calender. Therefore, this year’s
eighth anniversary to mark the beginning of a new
phase in Indonesia’s history is being popularly
touted by the Indonesian-language media as
“Sewindu Reformasi”, literally the first eight
years of the reform movement. This is, after all,
a nation dominated by the Javanese and their
culture, and the editors of this English-language
newspaper have had a hard time explaining to our
non-Indonesian readers why this year should be
different from any other.

But do Indonesians really believe that 2006 is
different from previous years? Are we celebrating
Sewindu because we truly believe in this eight-
year cycle, or simply because we have a word for
it? If you are not Javanese, and have followed
Indonesia’s progress over the past windu you are
likely to be perplexed by arguments that this year
is somehow different from the others. Especially,
when it seems little has progressed since the dawn
of reformasi — and there is a good argument that
says things have gotten worse.

Each year, around this time, when we mark one of
the major turning points in our national history,
we ask the same questions, and every time, without
failing, we get the same unsatisfactory answers.

- What happened to the perpetrators of all the
human rights violations during that 32 years? Will
they ever be tried?

- What happened to the perpetrators of corruption?
Will they ever go to jail? Will they ever return
the trillions they looted?

- Who killed the Trisakti University students in
May 1998? Who were behind the massive riots in
Jakarta that same month, and the anti-Chinese
attacks and rapes that followed?

These and many other questions about the evil
deeds committed during Soeharto’s 32-year rule, as
well as the more specific questions about the
tragic events of May 1998, have never been dealt
with satisfactorily. This raises serious questions
about justice in this country and, therefore, the
direction of the reforms.

That we have not been able to answer these
questions satisfactorily is making a mockery of
our status as an emerging democracy. What is the
point of having free and fair elections when the
state still cannot dispense justice? Rubbing salt
on this unhealed wound, the government last week
dropped US$550 million worth of corruption charges
against Soeharto. That low figure in itself is
laughable, but the timing of the government’s
decision could not have been worse.

If anybody is really celebrating "Sewindu
Reformasi" this week, it will probably be Soeharto
(a man steeped in Javanese tradition), his corrupt
children and his cronies. They are now officially
off the hook.

For what it is worth, we should still commemorate
the event although not necessarily in a way any
different from past years. It should at least
remind us that we have a long way to go to attain
the ideals of the reform movement, a movement for
which many of our young people gave their blood,
sweat and tears. Let’s bow our heads to them.

 BOOK/FILM REVIEWS

Revealing truth behind ’history’ of PKI

Jakarta Post - May 21, 2006

[Yang Berlawan: Membongkar Tabir Pemalsuan Sejarah
PKI (Those Who Fought: Lifting curtain on
falsified history of the PKI) Imam Soedjono Resist
Book, Yogyakarta, January 2006 469 pp.]

Endrizal, Yogyakarta — Modern Indonesian history
was laid out during the authoritarian rule of the
Soeharto regime. With the progress of time, this
written history of the Indonesian people has
become accepted by both laymen and academics.

Unfortunately, this history has been tainted and
manipulated by the government elite so that it is
laden with vested group interest. Facts are
twisted and made up.

The overall impression is that Indonesia’s modern
history has been written by historians in a manner
that is subjective in approach and in conformity
with the wishes of the ruler.

Writers of history have deliberately painted black
a number of events in modern Indonesian history.
It is saddening to realize that, during Soeharto’s
New Order regime, the only correct version of
history was that which was compiled by the
government or by those backing that authoritarian.

A close analysis of this situation will reveal why
that government was keen to blacken specific
historical events or to forge their own version of
events. We will also get an impression that the
New Order was carrying out a major, hidden agenda.
Indirectly, history was turned upside-down. The
government removed any political foes that they
determined were not in line with its own beliefs
and interests. It is this twisting of history that
has happened to the Indonesian Communist Party
(PKI) and Indonesia’s founding president, Sukarno.

The New Order regime deliberately twisted history
to preserve their power. This falsification of
history has led to the formation of an erroneous
public opinion that the PKI was a cruel party, and
a party that the people must take as their arch-
enemy because it did not reflect the country’s
five-point principle of Pancasila.

This manipulated public opinion has served to
engender the people with hatred for the PKI
without first making an objective assessment of
the party and its activities. It goes without
saying that only the government, which sought its
revenge upon the PKI, could benefit from this
situation because they could retain power.

To legalize the repression of political foes, the
New Order twisted, turned inside-out and
engineered many historical accounts.

One obvious example is Soeharto’s accusation that
the PKI was the mastermind of the Sept. 30, 1965
abortive coup. This was clearly a trick that
Soeharto employed to eradicate the PKI, because
the party was then considered to be a very
dangerous political foe, standing in the way of
Soeharto’s ambition to claim state power.

We must not allow this kind of historical
engineering to go on. It is time for us to
objectively assess our own history. If we allow
our history to be manipulated simply to satisfy
the wishes of one particular group, this is
tantamount to allowing the younger generation to
remain in the dark, ignorant and fooled.

As a result, it becomes impossible for us to
assess historical events objectively and expose
historical truths.

As noted historian Prof. Sartono has put it: "The
present can be understood well only if we have
good knowledge about the past." Yang Berlawan:
Membongkar Tabir Pemalsuan Sejarah PKI (Those Who
Fought: Lifting curtain on falsified history of
the PKI) by Imam Soedjono tries, freely and
daringly, to expose the past and straighten out
our twisted history. He believes that without a
good understanding of the past and without
reviewing it with as objective an approach as
possible, it will not possible for us to move
forward correctly in future (p. vii).

Imam has tried his best to get rid of his
subjectiveness and also of any accounts based on
historical fabrication and falsification committed
during the New Order regime.

At the same time, he has tried to introduce a
history that has virtually never been explored in
official versions of Indonesian history, such as
on the repatriation of Muso and on the leftist
movement that attempted to implement experimental
social reform, particularly in rural areas.

Yang Berlawan claims that, although the PKI has
written some black pages in Indonesia’s history,
the party also played a major role in the national
struggle to win independence from the hands of the
colonialists.

From 1916-1917, the Indonesian people suffered a
major crisis under the Dutch colonial regime:
Acute starvation swept through almost all parts of
Java. In particular Wonogiri, an area of chronic
poverty, was hit by high prices and incessant
security disturbances, as well as an increase in
its beggar population. (p. 23).

The Dutch imposed forced labor on the Indonesian
people, growing sugarcane for the colonialists’
sugar factories. In this increasingly worsening
situation, new organizations such as the Islam
Abangan sprang up.

The Islam Abangan, which claimed to champion
popular interests, demanded that the government
accord it official recognition. This demand was
refused, as this organization both defied the
government and agitated the people to rise against
the Dutch government. The movement spearheaded by
this organization ended with the arrest of its
leader, Haji Misbach.

In mid-1922 Misbach was released from prison, and
this event marked the emergence of Indonesian
communists and a communist party movement in
Surakarta. The cadres of this party were
characterized by their perseverance in combining
Marxist ideologies with Islam. This was quite a
natural approach, because Islam held great sway in
those days, so a religious leader had a dominant
role in mobilizing his followers.

Indirectly, the PKI was a pioneer of the peasant
rebellion in Indonesia. Agricultural laborers
could no longer put up with the high taxes imposed
by colonial rulers and capitalists; neither could
they stand the arbitrary treatment to which they
had long been subjected.

The people reacted strongly against the colonial
rulers and the capitalists, resulting in the
Bedewang affair, followed later by a peasant
rebellion in Nias. Then the farm laborers in
Karanggak rose up, along with members of the PKI
and the Serikat Rakyat, or People’s Union, and lay
down their lives against the oppression.

Regrettably, during the New Order regime, these
PKI-led events were cut from the nation’s official
history.

Although the PKI played a significant role in
determining the course of Indonesia’s
independence, the party was instead accused of
trying to bring down the national government in
masterminding the Sept. 30 coup.

In Yang Berlawan, Imam counters any and all
unfounded suspicions harbored against the PKI.
This book is an excellent resource for those
readers who seek historical truth.


Shedding light on dark history

Jakarta Post - May 21, 2006

[Soeharto File: Sisi Gelap Sejarah Indonesia
(Soeharto File: The dark side of Indonesia’s
history) Asvi Warman Adam Ombak, Yogyakarta, March
2006 245 pp.]

Zamaahsari A. Ramzah, Yogyakarta — Asvi Warman
Adam’s Soeharto File: Sisi Gelap Sejarah Indonesia
(Soeharto File: The dark side of Indonesia’s
history) is meant neither to benefit from the
success gleaned by Antonie C.A. Dake’s Sukarno
File: Kronologi Suatu Keruntuhan (Sukarno File:
Chronology of a fall) or to counter Dake’s book,
which contains much controversy in accusing
Sukarno of being involved in the bloody incident
known as the September 30, 1965 Movement, or G30S.

Asvi’s book is meant to reveal the involvement of
another actor behind this incident, which has
claimed the greatest number of lives in
Indonesia’s history of political violence.

The writer does not deny the involvement of a
foreign party — the US’s Central Intelligence
Agency — nor of the Indonesian military as a
result of the rivalry within the armed forces.
This latter element also includes the involvement
of Sukarno, as many observers and historians have
long believed.

The “other actor”, according to Asvi, is Soeharto.
To prove the correctness of his analysis, the
writer views this matter by approaching it via the
transition of power from Sukarno to Soeharto,
which he believes was not a natural succession.

First, this transition began with the attempted
G30S coup d’etat and second, it ended with the
issuance in 1966 of the March 11 Presidential
Executive Order, which is better known as its
Bahasa Indonesia acronym of Supersemar.

Y. Pohan (1988) has summed up the events that
occurred between Oct. 1, 1965 and March 11, 1966
as a “crawling coup”, while Saskia Eleonora
Wieringa (1999) refers to the Oct. 1, 1965
incident as the “first coup” and the March 11,
1966 event as the second coup.

On the other hand, Peter Dale-Scott views this
event as a three-stage coup: First came the
September 30 Movement, a “false coup”; second, the
revenge, which took the form of the massacre of
members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI)
and third, the eradication of the remnants of
Sukarno’s power.

Asvi is highly convinced that Soeharto was
involved in the first two major events, namely the
G30S coup in 1965 and the Supersemar coup in 1966.

It was very clear that Soeharto was involved in
the second “coup”. Although Soeharto argued that
he had not forced Sukarno’s hand, in actuality his
lieutenants and three generals made Sukarno issue
the Supersemar at gunpoint. Aside from this, on
the morning of March 11, 1965, unidentified troops
were found deployed around the presidential palace
so that Sukarno decided to leave for Bogor.

Perhaps Soeharto was not the one who conceived the
idea for the first coup, but he at least had some
preliminary knowledge about the plan, as well as
about the existence of the Council of Generals.
The greatest benefit from this failed "coup
attempt" went to General Soeharto.

Sukarno was most disadvantaged by this coup,
because he fell short of condemning the PKI and so
left an impression that he was implicated in this
incident. Furthermore, the cabinet Sukarno formed
following the Oct. 1, 1965 incident still
accommodated some representatives from the PKI (p.
80).

While Soeharto is an excellent strategist, Asvi
believes he is not a grand master that can devise
his moves far in advance. In most cases, Soeharto
was lucky in that he was able to capitalize on an
opportunity.

In short, it was a play without a theatrical
director or a well-written script. Soeharto was
not the puppeteer; instead, he was an actor
skilled at improvisation (p. 18).

Tornquist (1984) and Saskia (1999) have said
exactly the same things about Soeharto.

Tornquist believes it was very likely that
Soeharto was watching the events unfolding before
him, waiting for the right moment to overtake both
Sukarno and Gen. Nasution. Meanwhile, Saskia
believes that when Soeharto eventually moved to
act, he did so firmly and swiftly, implementing
his scheme to depose Sukarno while making his way
up to the top seat of the country.

As for Soeharto’s involvement in the first coup,
this became increasingly obvious a few days after
the incident. Aside from controlling the state
radio station, Radio Republik Indonesia (RRI),
Soeharto and his army officers controlled the mass
media. Prominent pro-Sukarno newspapers like Warta
Bhakti, which they believed would oppose them, was
banned.

Then the army launched its propaganda through the
military press, such as Angkatan Bersenjata and
Berita Yudha, to sow enmity against the PKI. They
reported, for example, that the seven G30S victims
dumped into a well at Lubang Buaya had been
mutilated. They said the bodies of the six
generals and one lieutenant had been cut open by
hundreds of razors, that their genitals had been
cut off and their eyes cut out.

This report later turned out to be untrue. A
forensic report drawn up by a doctor who had
conducted a post-mortem on the victims’ bodies
showed he did not find any evidence of mutilation
(p. 54).

Aside from uncovering Soeharto’s involvement in
the G30S and Supersemar incidents, Soeharto File
also exposes the political sins and gross human
rights violations committed during Soeharto’s New
Order era.

Among these are: the banishment of political
detainees to Buru Island (1969-1979); killings in
Irian Jaya, East Timor, Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam,
Lampung and Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok; the July 27,
1996 attack on the headquarters of PDI-P and the
Trisakti incident and Semanggi affair of 1998.

Regarding Soeharto’s alleged practices of
corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN), Asvi
proposes moving Soeharto abroad in order to make
it easier to investigate into the wealth he
collected and the crimes he committed when he was
in power — Soeharto can be tried in absentia. A
similar method has been adopted by many other
countries: in the Philippines against Ferdinand
Marcos; in Iran against Shah Reza Pahlevi; in
Haiti against Duvalier; in Nicaragua against
Somoza and in Congo against Mobutu.

Asvi even lists 10 reasons why Soeharto must be
tried in a court of law. In addition, according to
Ben Anderson, Soeharto had caused the Unnatural
deaths of over 800,000 Indonesians during his
rule.

Regardless of the “merit” that Soeharto recorded
when he was in power, he indeed deserves to be
tried for various gross violations of human
rights.

[The writer is a student of the School of Social
and Political Sciences at Muhammadiyah University,
Yogyakarta.]

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