Indonesia News Digest No 20 May 24-31, 2006

, by INDOLEFT News Service

 TABLE OF CONTENTS

NEWS & ISSUES

* Baasyir due to leave jail soon

* New group vows to stay true to Pancasila,
Constitution

* Group plotting to restore West Java kingdom

ACEH

* GAM won’t field governor candidates, source says

* Malik Mahmud: We have to be realistic

* Aceh rights cases suggested via truth commission

* GAM establishes political party

WEST PAPUA

* Aus-Indon security pact a return to form

* Australia denies refugee status to Papuan asylum
seeker

PORNOGRAPHY & MORALITY

* Pass porn bill into law: Ulemas

* Nightclub protest leads to brawl

* Legislators ready to start anew on porn bill

HUMAN RIGHTS/LAW

* NGOs press for bill on discrimination

* Soeharto victims denied access to his sickbed

* A Chinese-Indonesian history of discrimination

LABOUR ISSUES

* Workers demand release of friends
* Officials under fire over labor funds

YOGYAKARTA EARTHQUAKE

* 647,000 Indonesians displaced by quake

* Government defends quake relief effort

* Coordination woes hold up quake aid

* Survivors of quake resort to desperate measures

* Race to help survivors as quake toll tops 5,400

* Quake-proof construction standards ’ignored’

* Death toll rises, rescue efforts go on

* Deadly quake strikes Yogya

* A look at deadly earthquakes in Indonesia

CORRUPTION/COLLUSION/NEPOTISM

* Sutiyoso fuming over budget graft allegations

* ’Soeharto, one of the biggest embezzlers ever’

* SBY supports regulation to protect public
officials

ENVIRONMENT

* Mining group objects to new forest guidelines

* Lampung’s mangroves now only a beautiful memory

HEALTH & EDUCATION

* Indonesian villagers blame magic, not flu

* Group protests bird flu decision

ISLAM/RELIGION

* Yudhoyono concerned by militias

* Gus Dur supporters want FPI disbanded

* Ulemas proscribe separatist movements

* SBY urged to bring militants into line

* Ma’ruf has no plans to drop references to
religion on IDs

* Activists report Maftuh for slandering Ahmadiyah
sect

BUSINESS & INVESTMENT

* Governments told to up infrastructure investment

* President’s plan to form new economic task force
slammed

* Profit from fashion declines by 40%

* President says IMF debt to be repaid in 2 years

OPINION & ANALYSIS

* Solidarity not enough

* Disaster nation

 NEWS & ISSUES

Baasyir due to leave jail soon

Paras Indonesia - May 24, 2006

Radical cleric Abu Bakar Baasyir, who has always
denied accusations of leading regional terrorism
network Jemaah Islamiyah, is due to be released
from jail next month after serving 29 months for
his role in the Bali nightclub bombings that
killed 202 people.

Following is a brief look at Baasyir’s time in and
out of jail over the past 28 years.

Baasyir was first jailed by the regime of former
dictator Suharto in 1978, sentenced to nine years
for subversion for links to two Islamic militia
groups — Komando Jihad and Darul Islam — accused
of seeking to establish an Islamic state. He was
also convicted of distributing “inflammatory”
literature calling for jihad against enemies of
Islam. He was given an early release in 1982 and
fled to Malaysia in 1985 to escape further
imprisonment. It was while in Malaysia that he
allegedly co-founded Jemaah Islamiyah.

He returned to Indonesia following the May 1998
resignation of Suharto and resumed his role as
head of the al-Mukmin Islamic Boarding School in
the Ngruki neighborhood of Solo, Central Java. In
August 2000, Baasyir co-founded the Indonesian
Mujahidin Council (MMI), which wants secular
Indonesia to adopt strict Islamic law. A week
after the October 2002 Bali bombings, he was
arrested on charges of treason and authorizing a
series of church bombings on Christmas Eve 2000.

The cleric went on trial at Central Jakarta
District Court in April 2003, charged with
treason, authorizing bombings, immigration
offenses and falsifying identity documents. He was
accused of founding Jemaah Islamiyah to destroy
Indonesia’s religious harmony in order to
overthrow the government and establish an Islamic
state. Prosecutors recommended a sentence of 15
years in jail, although they could have demanded
life. In September 2003 he was sentenced to four
years in jail for treason and falsification of
documents, but acquitted of being the leader of
Jemaah Islamiyah and of ordering the assassination
of then president Megawati Sukarnoputri.

Jakarta High Court in November 2003 overturned
Baasyir’s treason conviction, but upheld his
guilty verdict on the lesser charges of
falsification of documents and immigration
offenses, and cut his sentence to three years. The
Supreme Court in March 2004 further cut his
sentence to 18 months.

Baasyir was released from Jakarta’s Salemba jail
in April 2004 and immediately rearrested on
terrorism charges, including conspiracy, plotting
attacks and ties to Jemaah Islamiyah. He was put
on trial at South Jakarta District Court in
November 2004, this time accused of inciting his
followers to carry out the Bali bombings and the
August 2003 blast at Jakarta’s JW Marriott Hotel.
Prosecutors also said he visited a Jemaah
Islamiyah military training camp in the southern
Philippines and passed on an edict from Osama bin
Laden calling for killings of Americans and their
allies.

In March 2005, Baasyir was sentenced to 30 months
in jail for involvement in a “sinister conspiracy”
that led to the Bali bombings. He was cleared of
the other charges. Prosecutors had recommended a
sentence of eight years. Western governments
strongly criticized the verdict as too lenient.
Baasyir’s lawyers also complained, claiming the
verdict was baseless and merely an effort to save
face for the police and the prosecution, which had
presented a very weak case.

Baasyir’s sentence was controversially reduced by
a hefty 4 months and 15 days as part of annual
remissions granted to “well-behaved” prisoners on
August 17, Indonesian Independence Day. Remissions
are also granted to prisoners at the end of the
Muslim fasting month of Ramadhan, which last year
finished in November, but the cleric was denied a
further sentence cut at that time. His supporters
accused Australia of putting pressure on Indonesia
to keep him in jail.

Baasyir has always denied any wrongdoing and
claimed his trials were held at the behest of the
US and its allies because they oppose his campaign
for Islamic law in Indonesia.

Impending release

Baasyir’s lawyer Achmad Michdan on Tuesday
(23/5/06) said the cleric would be due for release
from East Jakarta’s Cipinang jail on June 14. He
said prison officials had confirmed the release
date.

He said Baasyir will immediately return to his
home at the school in Ngruki. He played down
concerns among MMI followers that Baasyir may face
further detention and incarceration. "In our
opinion, even if he’s questioned it’s unnecessary
to detain him again," he was quoted as saying by
detikcom online news portal.

Although Baasyir will soon complete his sentence,
his lawyers are still hoping the Supreme Court
will agree to a judicial review of his case and
overturn the guilty verdict.

As part of the appeal process, death-row Bali
bomber Amrozi in April testified at Cilacap
District Court in Central Java that Baasyir was
not involved in the attack. Amrozi, smiling and
laughing as usual, claimed that he and others had
been tortured into implicating Baasyir in the
bombings.

Baasyir’s lawyers said they would submit Amrozi’s
testimony to the Supreme Court in the hope of
having the cleric absolved and released. So far
the Supreme Court is yet to make a decision. As
for Amrozi, he’s expected to go before the firing
squad within a year, along with fellow bombers
Imam Samudra and Mukhlas.

The US, Australia and Singapore have accused
Baasyir of being Jemaah Islamiyah’s spiritual
leader. The US Treasury Department’s Office of
Foreign Assets Control recently declared Baasyir a
Specially Designated Global Terrorist and said any
bank accounts or other financial assets held by
him in the US would be frozen. It’s unlikely he’s
keeping any money in the US.

Baasyir’s supporters won’t believe their leader is
free until they see it. They fear that a May 16
meeting between US President George W. Bush and
Australian Prime Minister John Howard, in which
Indonesia’s “important role” in war on terror was
lauded, could put pressure on the government to
re-arrest Baasyir. "Their statement will later be
directed toward Abu Bakar Baasyir, who will soon
be free. Their aim is to pressure the Indonesian
government in order to find a way to once more
entrap Abu Bakar Baasyir," Ngruki director
Wahyuddin was quoted as saying by detikcom on May
17.

He accused Indonesian police of exceeding their
authority in combating terrorism because some
suspected terrorists were recently shot dead
before being proven guilty of any crime. Police on
April 29 raided a terrorist hideout in Wonosobo,
Central Java province, killing two militants and
arresting two others. The two dead were key
associates of the country’s most wanted terror
suspect, Malaysian fugitive Noordin Mohammad Top,
who yet again escaped capture.

"I do not reject that action be taken against the
perpetrators of terrorism, but our police’s
action, such as in Wonosobo, has exceeded the
proportional and professional limits," said
Wahyuddin.

He claimed Bush’s agenda is to "continue to weaken
Indonesia“by making an enemy of Muslims.”Bush in
no way upholds peace; rather, he is a person who
is always looking for an enemy. If he said
Indonesia is the key to eradicating terrorism, the
key is actually in Bush’s hands. He is the one who
can unlock and lock world terrorism,“he said.”It’s only natural that we suspect ulterior
motives. Why is it that every time Baasyir is
about to be released from prison there are always
incidents that undermine the situation and then
there are cornering statements. Who is behind all
of these incidents?" he asked.

Wahyuddin urged President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono’s government to reject all foreign
intervention and not unconditionally believe all
assessments of the country. He said Indonesia
should be more like Iran by being determined "not
to be oppressed by a superpower regardless of the
risks".

He said it would be to the country’s advantage to
seek more balanced international relations by
forging closer ties with Russia or China.

Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin
has rejected rumors that Indonesia will be
pressured into keeping Baasyir in jail. "If the
law says he should be released, he will be
released. Indonesia is a sovereign country.
Therefore there should not be any intervention
from the outside," he was quoted as saying by the
Associated Press.

Australia presently seems more preoccupied with
ongoing civil unrest in East Timor and a planned
meeting between Yudhoyono and Australian Prime
Minister John Howard, rather than hindering
Baasyir’s impending release.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on
Wednesday declined to confirm reports that Howard
and Yudhoyono would meet over June 28-29 in Bali.
"I’m not confirming any dates and I don’t think
that the meeting is likely to take place in Bali
by the way; it’s likely to take place in Indonesia
and not in Jakarta. And secondly, let me say that
I think it is very likely, but still not certain,
that there will be a meeting in the next few weeks
between President Yudhoyono and John Howard."
Downer told 2UE Radio that Indonesia would not be
alarmed if Australian troops were to enter East
Timor to help restore order. Following is the
relevant transcript of the interview: 2UE: Are the
Indonesians a little nervous about our renewed
interest in East Timor and concerned that we have
ships ready to go, and so on? Downer: They haven’t
said so and I met, as you might recall, with the
Indonesian Foreign Minister on Monday a week ago,
and we had some discussion about the situation in
East Timor then and I did remind him, because I
assumed he would have already known, that we had
been making preparations just in case. But he
seemed perfectly comfortable with that.

2UE: They’re kind of relaxed about that?

Downer: I think so. I mean, who else is going to
be able to provide stability if there has to be
some outside assistance.

2UE: Not them.

Downer: You’re right, not them. They know that.

2UE: One last question, is the Prime Minister
going to meet the Indonesian President fairly
soon, has that been lined up? Downer: It’s being
lined up and it’s likely to happen in the next
month or so.


New group vows to stay true to Pancasila,
Constitution

Jakarta Post - May 24, 2006

Hundreds of people from various organizations
gathered Tuesday at the North Sumatra provincial
council building in Medan to announce the
formation of the Anti-Communist Community Group.

In its founding declaration, the group promised to
remain committed to the consistent implementation
of the state ideology Pancasila and the 1945
Constitution.

The idea for the group was first proposed by an
organization of people who were active in fighting
the perceived communist threat following the 1966
coup attempt blamed on the now-defunct Indonesian
Communist Party, and later gained support among
provincial leaders. The new group rejects
communist, liberal and capitalist ideologies.

Members of the group showed their support by
signing a 10-meter-long banner that read
“Foundation of anti-communist community”.

The head of the province’s Arief Rachman Hakim
Ampera Fighters Group, Amril, said the new
community was created to check an increase in
perceived communist-related activities, such as
the recent destruction of the Pelda Sujono heroes’
monument in Simalungun regency.

"These actions are against Pancasila and the 1945
Constitution. We fear that if don’t act, there
will be more anarchy here. We are gathered today
to ensure we stay alert for any acts of anarchy
committed under the guise of democracy, human
rights or justice," Amril said. (JP/Apriadi
Gunawan)


Group plotting to restore West Java kingdom

Jakarta Post - May 24, 2006

Multa Fidrus and Theresia Sufa, Tangerang — Three
Tangerang men were arrested Monday for planning to
set up an independent state in West Java.

“State” paraphernalia and documents were found by
police at the movement’s Tangerang base, a modest
house in Jayanti district.

The three men, identified as Syahron, Badri and
Suhaedi, belong to the Sunda Nusantara Community
Communications Forum (FKMSN). Sunda was the name
of a kingdom in West Java. About 15 percent of the
Indonesian population today speak Sundanese.

Police seized a red-and-white flag bearing five
stars, a number of documents, a kujang
(traditional dagger) and stamps and stickers that
were ready for distribution.

Tangerang Police chief of detectives Adj. Comr.
Adex Yudiswan said neighbors were concerned about
the nature of the group’s activities. He said the
movement planned to establish a new state, which
they called Sunda Nusantara.

A suspect, Syahron, said the forum wanted to "get
history straight" because Sunda Nusantara was an
independent state, long before Indonesia existed.
"Sunda Nusantara needs to be revived because
history has been glossed over," he said.

He said Indonesia may have declared its
independence in 1945, but long before that the
people, from Sabang to Merauke — the eastern and
western extremities of the nation — were part of
the United State of Sunda Nusantara.

"We don’t want to establish a state within a
state. We want to revive a state that was buried.
Therefore, the FKMSN does not acknowledge the
Republic of Indonesia, nor the Pancasila, which
embodies the basic principles of Indonesia as an
independent state," he said Syahron said the forum
was established in 2001 by a man called Achmad
Sujai, who leads the movement from its
headquarters in Bogor, West Java.

The forum has chapters in Bandung, Garut, Cirebon,
Sukabumi, Lebak, Karawang, Cianjur, Bekasi and
Jakarta. Each chapter has a chairman who is
assigned to recruit followers. "In Tangerang, we
have recruited as many as 700 followers, mostly
locals," Syahron said.

Separately, the head of Jayanti district
administration, Ari Novi Purnama, said officials
had been observing the group since January. "The
movement is very dangerous and could cause the
nation to fall apart. Their presence is a threat,"
he said.

He said the administration was suspicious of the
forum on a number of counts. "First, they
established a base in Pabuaran village, Jayanti,
which is far from the capital. Most Pabuaran
residents are poor and uneducated," he said.

Tangerang police summoned Syahron and several
members of the group for questioning early last
month but they were released due to lack of
evidence.

Bogor Police also raided a house Tuesday on Jl.
Pendidikan in Babakan, Bogor, which is believed to
be the forum’s Bogor base. They arrested a man
identified as Muhamad Husain, who said he was
merely an employee of the so-termed Sunda Kingdom
Council.

Bogor Police chief of detectives Adj. Comr. Iwan
said the raid was conducted in response to
information from Tangerang Police. Muhamad is
still being questioned by police.

A Jl. Pendidikan resident, Pipin, said she had
been completely unaware of what was being
discussed in the all-night meetings held at the
house. "They frequently held meetings from dusk
until dawn. I thought they were just a bunch of
people talking business"

 ACEH

GAM won’t field governor candidates, source says

Jakarta Post - May 30, 2006

Tiarma Siboro, Jakarta — An internal rift has
forced the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) to drop its
ambition to field gubernatorial candidates in the
upcoming direct elections, a reliable source says.

The bickering broke out during a close-door
conference in Banda Aceh last week after some GAM
leaders insisted on a coalition with existing
Indonesian political parties — something that
GAM’s top leaders have flatly rejected.

"The latest development in Banda Aceh is that
(designated GAM prime minister) Malik Mahmood has
decided GAM will not field its own candidates.
Everyone can run for the elections but nobody may
claim to represent GAM," a GAM leader who attended
the meeting told The Jakarta Post.

During the meeting from May 22 through 24, leaders
voted for former GAM guerrilla leader Tgk.
Naziruddin and Aceh activist Muhammad Nazar as
GAM’s governor and deputy governor candidates
respectively.

Naziruddin is a former GAM rebel soldier who led
guerrillas in the Batee Illiek area, while Nazar
is an executive of the GAM-affiliated Aceh
Referendum Information Center (SIRA).

Naziruddin and Nazar defeated seven other
candidate pairs in the vote. However, according to
the source, many other candidates would not admit
defeat, insisting GAM leaders join politicians
from existing political parties to ensure GAM won
more of the popular vote.

The source said some factions had pushed for
veteran United Development Party (PPP) leader
Hasbi Abdullah to pair with Muhammad Nazar.
However, top GAM leaders such as Mahmood had
balked at any moves to join existing political
parties.

To end the bickering that was threatening GAM’s
integrity, Mahmood decided that GAM would not
field candidates for the gubernatorial election,
the source said.

Other GAM leaders against coalitions with existing
political parties are top executives in exile
Zaini Abdullah, Bakhtiar Abdullah, and Sofyan
Dawood.

As part of the Helsinki peace deal signed with the
government last August, GAM demanded, and won, the
right to become a political party in its own right
and field independent candidates in all of Aceh’s
regional elections. This right is expected to be
passed into law when the House of Representatives
finishes its deliberations on the Aceh governance
bill later this year.

Mohammed Nur Djuli, a member of GAM’s negotiating
team during last year’s Helsinki talks, played
down the reports of internal conflicts at the
conference. "I can confirm that Naziruddin and
Muhammad Nazar won the recent candidate
selection," Nur Djuli told The Jakarta Post by
phone from Malaysia.

More than 80 GAM representatives from the United
States, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Australia, and
Sweden attended GAM’s conference. They joined
other GAM members from North Sumatra, Java and 17
other areas in the archipelago.

In related development, Aceh Governor Mustafa
Abubakar said he had not set a schedule for local
elections because the Aceh governance bill had not
been passed by the House. "We (the Aceh
administration) are now registering voters and
hoping that the process can be completed by
October," Mustafa said.

About 2.7 million Acehnese will be eligible to
elect governors, regents and mayors when the
regional elections take place.

Other parties have also selected their candidates
for the gubernatorial elections. They are Malik
Raden-Sayed Fuad Zakaria, for the Golkar Party;
Tamlicha Ali-Mukhlih Mukhtar (Reform Star Party);
Iskandar Husein-Thantawi Ishak (Crescent Star
Party); and Mustafa Abubakar-Humam Hamid (National
Mandate Party and the PPP).


Malik Mahmud: We have to be realistic

Jakarta Post - May 28, 2006

Kanis Dursin, Banda Aceh — Following the signing
of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the
government and the Free Aceh Movement in Helsinki
last Aug. 15, several GAM leaders who had lived
overseas for decades began to head back to the
formerly conflict-torn province.

One GAM heavyweight who recently returned is Malik
Mahmud, the prime minister in the GAM hierarchy.
Since his return Apr. 19, Malik Mahmud has been
touring the province, especially visiting areas
hit hardest by the Dec. 26, 2004 tsunami.

"People’s responses (to our visits) have been
tremendous," Malik Mahmud said to The Jakarta Post
during an exclusive interview in his office in
Banda Aceh recently.

Malik Mahmud, who is visiting Aceh for the first
time after living overseas for more than 30 years,
told the Post that the people of Aceh do not want
to settle for anything less than what is specified
in the Helsinki agreement.

"They are highly politicized. They know exactly
what their rights are according to the Helsinki
agreement and they told us to fulfill all the
points stated in the agreement," he said.

During the 30-minute interview, which was also
attended by GAM spokesman Bakhtiar Abdullah and
National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM)
member Hasballah M. Saad, Malik Mahmud talked
about the implementation of the Helsinki
agreement, reasons why GAM dropped its demand for
independence, and preparations for the upcoming
gubernatorial and regental elections in Aceh. The
following is an excerpt from the interview:

How do you assess the implementation of the MOU?

As far as GAM is concerned, we have implemented
the most crucial part of the MOU, which is handing
in our arms. We have done that without any major
breach.

However, other articles in the MOU, such as the
RUU (Aceh Governing Bill), are still of concern
because the deadlines have been missed. The bill
was supposed to be endorsed by the end of March,
but the process has been delayed and we don’t know
when it will be passed.

Another point of concern is how much of the
substance of the RUU is in conformity with the
MOU. These are the concerns of GAM and of all the
Acehnese people.

Recently I have been traveling to several places
in Aceh, to townships as well as kampong areas.
You know people in kampong areas are already
politicized, they brought up this issue.

Is there any article in the bill that does not
conform to the MOU?

I’m not supposed to comment at the moment. There
are people in our team who are involved in the
bill deliberation. I don’t want to create
polemics. We have a team and I think they are
looking into all these issues.

Many people out there are still wondering why the
Helsinki talks proceeded smoothly.

Well, we did have several meetings before the
Helsinki talks. The meetings with the Indonesian
government started in 2000. Of course we have
given credit to the initiatives of the Henry
Dunant Center. As you know, we did reach several
agreements (in previous talks) such as on a
humanitarian pause and Cessation of Hostilities
Agreement, but there were just always problems. In
once instance, we were about to sign (an
agreement), but problems suddenly popped up.

For our part, we are very honest in seeking peace
for Aceh as we believe that the end of any
conflict is peace. But how to achieve that peace
is subject to negotiation.

What were the issues that bogged down previous
talks but that you managed to resolve in the
Helsinki negotiations?

Aceh had been in a conflict situation, but with
the tsunami (that killed more than 100,000 people)
we saw that indeed the people in Aceh really
needed peace. We took this opportunity to pursue
peace negotiations.

Also, at that time the international community
came in throngs to Aceh to give humanitarian
assistance and help reconstruct Aceh. There was a
very strong voice in the international community
that this was the time to continue negotiations.
They were very supportive. I presume they also
monitored the progress of the previous
negotiations that collapsed, but this time,
everyone was very sympathetic with Aceh. While
helping tsunami victims, they urged and supported
this peace initiative.

In the MOU, GAM agreed to drop its demand for
independence. Can you explain why you made that
concession?

First of all, we have to understand why Aceh
wanted independence. The policy of previous
governments was that they didn’t want Aceh to get
independence and at the same time they imposed a
system that was not acceptable to Acehnese, and
this caused many problems.

Under the new government, we saw that this had
changed. They were more flexible on that point and
of course we have responded (accordingly). If Aceh
can get what it wants peacefully without
separating itself from Indonesia, why should we go
to war? So, that is what I said at the time, that
we had the right people at the right time and the
right place to achieve peace.

What compromises did the government make during
the Helsinki talks?

Well, we demanded (and the government agreed) that
there would be local political parties in Aceh so
that the Acehnese can form their own parties to
implement their aspirations without any
interference from parties outside Aceh. For so
long, the Acehnese have not had their political
rights and because of that there were a lot of
problems... we had economic problems, social
problems and of course the conflict.

But under the agreement, we saw that we could get
back our rights, even though we would still be
part of Indonesia. I think there are only five or
six points in the agreement that state that Aceh
still belongs to Indonesia, while other points
state that the Acehnese are in charge of the
province. So, we feel that we got our rights back.

Some suggest that the MOU was a face-saving act on
the part of GAM, since the movement lost many
members in previous wars and lost its base of
support in the tsunami.

Well, we have to be realistic. We have to take
into account the reality on the ground. If that
(peace agreement) is a solution that’s good for
both parties, of course with dignity on both
sides, why not! This is for the sake of peace, for
the sake of future progress. So, there is nothing
wrong with that and I think any other country in
the world would do the same thing. And also when
we come to that kind of situation we have to be
very, very decisive and brave to face reality. And
that is what we did.

How has the reintegration of former GAM members
proceeded?

First, the word (re)integration is not correct, I
think. GAM members are ordinary people of Aceh.
They come from among kampong people in Aceh. So,
when there was this ceasefire they just went back
to their villages or families. Of course, life has
changed for them. Before they were thinking of
war, but suddenly the situation changed. When
there is peace of course they have to think about
how to go back to their normal lives with their
families.

They have responsibilities for their families and
frankly they are now jobless. Like anybody else,
when you are jobless and you have families, you
have a problem. The situation is worsened by the
fact that economically Aceh is still below
subsistence level. So it is very difficult for our
people (former GAM members) to get suitable jobs.
This is one of our concerns and I think it should
be the concern of the government too. The
government must think of concrete measures to
resolve the problem because this is not the
problem of Aceh alone, but a national problem. Of
course there are some international communities
who have helped us, but their assistance is only
the minimum. Nevertheless, we thank them for that,
whatever they did. We have to find some other
means for our fighters to go back to their
families and get suitable jobs.

Have all GAM members come down from the mountains?

Yes.

Have there been any reports of conflict between
former GAM members and local people when they
returned?

No. As I said, GAM belongs to the people and so
the people are part of us. So, there is no
conflict. As you see, this is the first time I
have come back to Aceh after 30 years, and just
two days ago I went around the regions of West
Aceh — townships as well as rural areas — and
believe me it was the first time in my life I went
there. The response from people in those regions,
both in kampongs and in townships where there were
many rich people, was tremendous. I did not have
any fear or concerns about safety. On many
occasions I had to stand up just to say hello to
them.

That reflects (the good) relationship between
people in the rural areas and townships with GAM
in Aceh.

What particular part of Aceh did you visit?

We went to Meulaboh, Tapak Tuan and other areas of
western Aceh and we received a very warm welcome
from them. Many people cried and were thankful for
the (Helsinki) agreement and peace. However, they
were very concerned about their future. And,
amazingly, people in those rural areas understand
about this RUU.

They told us that we have to achieve the Helsinki
agreement 100 percent. So they are very conscious
about their rights, and this is really amazing.
That is why I said earlier that we had lost all of
our privileges or rights, but now the rights have
come back. Anyway, the journey was good and of
course I emphasized (to the people that we will
get what we agreed to in Helsinki) and I think the
government will cooperate in this endeavor because
this is good not only for the Acehnese but also
for all of Indonesia.

The MOU also stipulated that former GAM members
would be recruited as TNI (Indonesian Military)
members. Has there been any move toward that
process?

I think there is no move in that direction yet
from either side. Well, we understand that’s
because of emotional things. For the moment, I
think, we don’t want to talk much about this
because people are still emotional. For example,
people in kampongs are very traumatized by people
in uniform. So, I think, at this moment let them
relax (laughs).

What preparations are you making for the
elections?

We are thinking about fielding our candidates. But
we have not decided who they are. I think in the
coming weeks or months, they will come up.

Do you think GAM can win the elections?

Well, I think if you had followed me in my travels
and witnessed how the people received me — well,
I’m a GAM member. The people came to us crying,
telling us they really hoped that this time peace
would be sustainable so that they can improve
their lives. This is very important, they
understand and they know what their rights are and
what they want. They brought this matter to us.
So, we will try our best to deliver something that
they had lost for a very long time.

Some observers doubt that you will win the
elections. Are you ready to accept defeat?

(Laughs) Whatever the people’s choice is, they
have all the rights. So, whether we are defeated
or not it’s up to the people. For us, what we have
and what we will deliver to the people will remain
the same.

But the final decision should be in the hands of
the people themselves. (Bakhtiar Abdullah
interrupts: It’s better to die fighting than to
die standing (laughs). The fight will be in the
political field. Of course, the fight is in the
political sphere.

Under the current circumstances, can a fair
election be held in Aceh?

I don’t know yet. I’m very pessimistic about this
(laughs). But, anyway, we hope for the best.

Do you have candidates for the gubernatorial post?

We are talking about it now, but we have not yet
decided.

Are you running for the post?

(Laughs) I think not yet. You know, even if I run
(and win) I cannot implement our policies fully.
Perhaps in the 2009 legislative elections I can
run. If we win the 2009 legislative elections in
Aceh, we can implement our policies. At this
moment, if I were in the parliament, perhaps we
would have only one or two members, while the
others would go against me (laughs). Anyway, that
is the way it should be. We need to be patient. As
I said earlier our fellow Indonesians should see
that achievements in Aceh are also the
achievements of Indonesia. Whatever is good for
Aceh is also good for Indonesia.

What will you do if you lose the elections?

If the current conditions are right, I mean if
democracy is at work here, we will become the
opposition. That is natural. The gubernatorial and
regental elections will also fill the gaps in the
present local government. Under the current
situation, we (GAM) cannot implement our policies
because the old system is still here.

If you win the elections, what will be your
highest-priority programs?

Our programs focus on improving the living
standard of the poor because the poor constitute
the majority of the people in Aceh.

How will you improve their living standard? I
think we can do something about that. I’m
confident of that.

How do you see the relationship between GAM and
TNI if you are in power

Probably there will be problems. But I, GAM
members and TNI are all human beings. I think we
need a human approach especially in countries like
Indonesia. We have to reflect on why the conflict
happened, and where we are now and what is the
best future for all.

This in fact shows that in general we need to
improve ourselves. I think with this common
understanding — for the betterment of a future
Indonesia — why don’t we sit down and think about
the conflict and rectify our mistakes. Indonesia
has a very, very great future if only we can plan
well. I think Indonesia will become one of the
biggest economies in the world.

Are you staying in Aceh for good?

At the moment, not yet because you know there are
a lot of things that I need to do outside Aceh. Of
course, now there are more things to be done in
Aceh itself. I have decided that I will divide my
time between Aceh, Europe and the United States.
Of course, I think Aceh is still the final
destination for me.

When do you think you can come with your family
and stay here?

Well, I think after all the points in the MOU are
implemented. Then, I will spend more time and
energy here in Aceh.

What is your message for GAM members who remain
overseas?

They can stay outside. Many GAM members staying
outside the country have children. They are now
being educated overseas. That is an advantage. I
think in the future Aceh needs young, better-
educated Acehnese.

Now we have families in all the Scandinavian
countries — other parts of Europe, also America
and some in Australia. In ten years’ time, they
will produce well-educated Acehnese. You know
education overseas has a different, better
environment and I hope that they will go back to
Aceh one day.

How many children do you have?

I have four children of my own and two adopted
children. They are all grown up and have families
of their own.

Where are they living?

In Sweden and Singapore.


Aceh rights cases suggested via truth commission

Tempo Interactive - May 24, 2006

Fanny Febiana and Aguslia Hidayah, Jakarta —
Muladi, Governor of the National Resilience
Institute (Lemhanas), has suggested that Aceh
human rights cases could be resolved through the
Commission for Truth and Reconciliation (KKR).

If the cases are to be resolved through the human
rights court, there is concern that this could
open old wounds.

"Aceh is already settled. The peace is here, and
old wounds shouldn’t be opened again," said Muladi
after the 41st anniversary of Lemhanas at Jakarta,
yesterday (23/5). If the KKR decree is inadequate,
Muladi suggested that it be improved soon.

He said that human rights violation cases can be
resolved in two ways. First, settling matters
through the KKR. This will be taken if those
involved admit committing acts of human rights
violations. The victims will receive compensation
and the accused will receive amnesties.

However, if the accused do not admit guilt and
there is no evidence, the case must be resolved
through a second way, at a human rights court. If
those accused are put in trial by the KKR and
found guilty but are unwilling to admit to their
acts, they will be taken to the human rights
court.

According to Muladi, the retroactive principle may
be implemented in the human rights violation cases
that took place prior to State Decree No.26/2000
being put into effect by the ad hoc court.

However, implementing this principle must meet
several conditions, such as crimes against
humanity be proven systematically, be aimed
towards civilians and be the obligation of the
state’s policies. Last but not least, they have to
be approved by the House of Representatives (DPR).

Muladi said trials at the human rights court that
can be held retroactively must meet these
standards. This is because it is a common
occurrence during an army conflict. In addition,
the victims were from both sides.

Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander, Marshal Djoko
Suyanto, said he felt that the retroactive
principle must be very carefully considered. "Was
it only TNI personnel who committed human rights
violations there? This must be analyzed," said
Djoko.

He confirmed that human rights violations were not
only committed by TNI personnel. "But this doesn’t
mean I don’t agree with the retroactive
principle," he said.

Djoko said that attention should be paid to how
far the principle can be implemented. "Don’t just
put it into effect as regards one side only," he
said.

Djoko went on to ask whether Indonesia would apply
the retroactive principle going back thousands of
years or fifty years. "Is the principle contained
in Indonesian law?" he asked.


GAM establishes political party

Jakarta Post - May 24, 2006

Nani Afrida, Banda Aceh — The Free Aceh Movement
(GAM) formally announced the establishment of a
new political party Tuesday and appointed two
independent candidates to take part in the next
direct gubernatorial elections in Nanggroe Aceh
Darussalam.

The decision came at the end of a three-day
meeting which focused on discussing the political
programs of the former separatist group. However,
GAM representatives would not divulge the name of
the party nor the identities of the candidates.

"We cannot announce our independent candidates
because we are still waiting for the results of
the bill deliberation," Zaini Abdullah, formerly
GAM’s foreign minister in exile, told the media
about the ongoing deliberation of the Aceh
governance bill in the House of Representatives.

Speculation about the identities of the candidates
centers on Hasbi Abdullah and Muhammad Nazar of
the Aceh Referendum Information Center (SIRA).

The meeting was attended by about 100 GAM figures,
including former top executives in exile Malik
Mahmood Al Haytar and Bakhtiar Abdullah, who
returned to Aceh earlier this year after many
years abroad.

Other foreign representatives came from the United
States, Norway, Malaysia, Denmark, Canada,
Australia and Sweden. They joined members from
North Sumatra, Java and 17 other areas in the
archipelago.

The meeting also decided the GAM would only
nominate its independent candidates in the
upcoming regional elections and not through a
coalition with other parties.

"As soon as the Aceh administration bill is
approved in line with the Helsinki agreement, we
will disclose the names of our candidates," said
Sofyan Dawood, a spokesman of the Aceh
Administration Transfer Commission.

"The most important thing here is that the main
points were discussed in the framework for the
establishment of the local political party," Malik
Mahmood said.

 WEST PAPUA

Aus-Indon security pact a return to form

Green Left Weekly - May 31, 2006

Rohan Pearce — While not many details about the
“security treaty” being negotiated between
Canberra and Jakarta have been made public, the
Howard government has indicated that it will
include an Australian commitment to Indonesia’s
“territorial integrity” — in particular,
opposition to self-determination for West Papua,
including the right of West Papuans to secede from
Indonesia and establish an independent state.

On ABC TV’s May 21 Insiders program, Barry Cassidy
asked foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer
about reports that Jakarta had asked for "a clear
written statement that your government rejects
Papuan independence claims. Have they asked for
such a statement and would it be the right thing
for Australia to do?“Downer responded that”we’ve
been working with the Indonesians on putting
together some sort of framework agreement on
security cooperation, and a component of that...
should be a mutual recognition of each other’s
territorial integrity".

Downer told Cassidy the agreement would "of
course“include a”recognition of Papua’s
integration into Indonesia. And we would be very
happy with a provision... where Australia formally
recognises Indonesia’s territorial integrity."

The treaty is Canberra’s latest attempt to patch
up its relations with the Indonesian elite in the
wake of the 1999 Australian military intervention
in East Timor and, more recently, the granting of
asylum to West Papuan refugees fleeing repression
by the Indonesian military. Despite a shift in
Australian policy to accept an independent East
Timor, not much, it seems, has changed since the
salad days of the Canberra-Jakarta alliance —
when Australia, along with the United States,
supported the bloody rise to power of the dictator
General Suharto in 1965 and, eight years later,
backed Indonesia’s brutal invasion and occupation
of East Timor.

Joe Collins, a spokesperson for the Australia West
Papua Association, said there is "too much secrecy
about this proposed security treaty... While West
Papuans are continuing to be killed, Australia
should not be negotiating a security agreement
which will restore military relations with
Indonesia in any form." A Newspoll published on
April 19 found that 76.7% of Australians support
self-determination for West Papua.

At one level, Canberra’s attitude towards West
Papua represents the crudest kind of imperialist
logic: An all-too familiar equation of trading a
supposed commitment to human and democratic rights
away for corporate profit — in the form of the
Freeport goldmine, which is 40% owned by Rio
Tinto.

More broadly, the concern of the "political
realists“and cynical”pragmatists" responsible
for devising Australian foreign policy is to
maintain the sometimes fragile-seeming stability
of the Indonesian state as an important bulwark of
capitalism in South-East Asia, and securing the
direct economic interests of Australian capital in
Indonesia (Australia’s 11th-largest export market;
in 2003 Indonesia was the 15th largest investment
destination for Australia).

Self-determination for West Papua is portrayed as
an impossibility, in much the same way as the
“integration” of East Timor into the Indonesian
republic was described by Gareth Evans — former
Labor government foreign minister and now,
ironically, a member of the UN Advisory Committee
on Genocide Prevention — as “irreversible”.

In a March 8 address to the US-Indonesia Society
in Washington DC, Australia’s ambassador to the
US, Dennis Richardson (the former director-general
of ASIO), said: "First, I must declare my hand. In
Australia, some commentators talk critically about
the so-called ’Indonesia lobby’. Ostensibly, this
is a group of people, primarily government
officials, academics and some in business, who
conspire together to pervert Australia’s true
national interests for those of Indonesia." He
proudly declared himself a member of the so-called
“Indonesia lobby”.

"There is no need for any concept of conspiracy
when the interests of two parties are mistakenly
thought to be coterminous", Scott Burchill, senior
lecturer in international relations at Deakin
University’s School of International and Political
Studies, replied to Richardson in a March 15
article in the Melbourne Age. "The Jakarta lobby
has argued for good relations with the regime in
Jakarta — especially its vicious and
unaccountable military — regardless of the
appalling crimes it was committing in Aceh, East
Timor or West Papua. For Richardson and his ilk,
however, terrorism is only ever perpetrated by
Islamists and never the state, despite
overwhelming evidence to the contrary."

Burchill is spot-on except on one point — his
claim that it is a mistake to think that the
interests of the two parties in the Canberra-
Jakarta alliance are concordant. The apologetics
by the “Jakarta lobby” for Australian backing of
Indonesian state repression reflect the near-
consensus of elite opinion that maintaining the
alliance, in which Australia is the dominant
partner, between the two nations is in Australia’s
“national interests” — i.e., the interests of
Australian capital.

A May 25 editorial in the Australian Financial
Review reflected this: "The government is right to
endorse Indonesia’s territorial integrity because
that is the only way to have a productive
relationship with our giant Asian neighbour on
everything from regional trade to disease
control.“In imperialist nations like Australia,”national interest" is almost inevitably
antipathetic to human rights and real democracy.

Unfortunately, but predictably, the Australian
Labor Party is backing the federal government’s
rapprochement with the Indonesian regime. In an
April 4 doorstop interview, Labor’s foreign
affairs spokesperson, Kevin Rudd, said that the
"temperature in the [Canberra-Jakarta]
relationship at the moment is not good. We need to
get it back to normal and I would urge both our
friends in Jakarta as well as the government in
Canberra to get back to the diplomatic negotiating
table as quickly as possible.“On April 2 Rudd said,”Whatever the points of view
within the Australian community are on that
subject, both the Liberal Party and the Labor
Party have a view that West Papua is part of the
Indonesian republic, but we want West Papua to
have effective autonomy. You can have West Papua
as part of the Indonesian republic, which we all
support.“At the moment,”effective autonomy" seems, at
most, a distant prospect. In August, a protest of
tens of thousands of people called by the Papuan
Customary Law Council symbolically handed back
Jakarta’s 2001 Autonomy Law and the Papuan
People’s Assembly created by the law. The
introduction of the Autonomy Law neither ended
human rights abuses in the province nor eliminated
Papuans’ poverty (officially the province is
Indonesia’s second wealthiest, however the poverty
rate is double the national average).

Amnesty International’s 2006 World Report cited
reports of arbitrary arrests, torture and ill-
treatment of West Papuans by Indonesian security
forces. For the 12th consecutive year, Amnesty
reported, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture’s
request to conduct research in Indonesia was not
granted.

In September 2005, Amnesty condemned the acquittal
of two senior Indonesian police officers over the
killing of three Papuan students and the torture
of more than 100 others. It described the case as
a "worrying illustration of Indonesia’s security
forces again being allowed to escape justice". The
case related to December 2000 raids on student
dormitories in West Papua. One student was shot
during the raids and two others died as a result
of torture. Those detained and tortured included
pregnant women and children as young as seven.

The verdict "means that not a single member of
Indonesia’s security forces has been convicted of
these horrific crimes after nearly five years of
investigations and legal proceedings. The verdict
also denied victims any compensation", commented
Natalie Hill, Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific program
deputy director, on September 8, the day the
verdict was announced. More recently — on May 15
— two West Papuans were shot dead by police
during a protest outside the Wamena court.

Nor have the human rights abuses suffered by West
Papuans stopped at Indonesia’s borders. On May 24
the Australian immigration department announced
that a visa would not be granted to the final West
Papuan in the Christmas Island detention centre,
David Wainggai. The 42 other West Papuans were
granted visas in March.

The failure to grant Wainggai a visa was condemned
by Green Senator Kerry Nettle, who said that he
had "one of the strongest cases for asylum, being
the son of one of the most prominent leaders of
the West Papuan Independence movement, Thomas
Wainggai, who died whilst languishing on a life
sentence in an Indonesian prison after raising the
West Papuan flag. He has been rejected on the
basis of a flimsy technicality which [immigration
minister Amanda Vanstone] must know will not stand
up to much scrutiny. Mr Wainggai is now doomed to
remain alone on Christmas Island whilst he waits
for his case to be appealed at the refugee review
tribunal.“As Burchill put it in his Age article,”As the 43
asylum seekers on Christmas Island have clearly
demonstrated, John Howard and Alexander Downer are
more committed to West Papua’s retention within
the Republic of Indonesia than those unfortunate
enough to live in the territory seem to be".


Australia denies refugee status to Papuan asylum
seeker

Associated Press - May 24, 2006

Sydney — Australia on Wednesday denied refugee
status to the last member of a group of 43 asylum
seekers from the restive Indonesian province of
Papua.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone said the
man’s application was rejected because he was
eligible to live in another country and had not
exhausted avenues to seek asylum elsewhere.

His was the final case reviewed by Australian
officials who granted temporary asylum to 42 other
Papuans in March, prompting a diplomatic row with
Indonesia.

"We believe this person has the right to re-enter
and live in a third country," Vanstone told
reporters in Adelaide, but refused to identify the
asylum seeker or the country.

However, media reports identified the man as the
29-year-old son of a prominent pro-independence
movement leader in Papua. His mother is believed
to be a Japanese citizen living in Jakarta.

Indonesia reacted furiously to Australia’s
decision to grant asylum to the 36 adults and
seven children who arrived from Papua by boat in
January, and claimed they faced persecution if
they returned. Jakarta withdrew its ambassador
from Canberra over the controversy, rekindling
memories of strained relations in 1999 when
Australia supported East Timor’s ballot for
independence.

Seeking a decision on the case, lawyers for the
43rd asylum seeker told the Federal Magistrates
Court earlier this month that Australia was using
the man as a pawn to improve its standing with
Indonesia.

 PORNOGRAPHY & MORALITY

Pass porn bill into law: Ulemas

Jakarta Post - May 29, 2006

Ponorogo — The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has
issued an edict demanding the government and House
of Representatives pass a controversial
pornography bill into law.

"We ulemas agree Indonesia must have an
antipornography law... With us, there is no
negotiation on this point," said Ma’ruf Amin,
chairman of the MUI’s fatwa commission.

The controversial bill, now being deliberated by
the House of Representatives and government
officials, has received its strongest support from
some Muslim groups. The bill’s opponents say its
vague definition of pornography threatens freedom
of expression and pluralism.

"We ulemas want strict punishment for violators of
the future antipornography law," Amin said, adding
that a moral police should be established once the
bill became law.


Nightclub protest leads to brawl

Jakarta Post - May 29, 2006

Tangerang — The Tangerang Saviors Front (FPT), a
paramilitary group, became involved in a brawl
with locals late Saturday night after protesting
the presence of nightclubs in the Pinangsia
commercial complex in Karawaci, Tangerang.

The FPT demanded the clubs be closed, in
accordance with a controversial local bylaw
banning prostitution and the sale of alcoholic
drinks.

Led by Tubagus Mahdi, some 150 members of the
group gathered outside the clubs to demand their
closure, when motorcycle taxi drivers, club
employees and local youths attacked the front
members. The attack drove off the group, two of
whose members were injured in the incident.

Tangerang Police detained five members of the FPT,
including group leader Mahdi. They were questioned
for five hours before being released. The police’s
intelligence unit head, Comr. Elisius, said the
protest by the FPT was illegal. "They did not have
a permit for last night’s rally," he said. —
Antara


Legislators ready to start anew on porn bill

Jakarta Post - May 27, 2006

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta — The House special
committee on the pornography bill will rework its
draft to focus on curbing the prevalence of
obscene materials, a development that brings the
heated discussion about its contents back to
square one.

The decision was made after committee members
agreed that the current draft denied people’s
basic rights and also was rife with
inconsistencies, lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari told
The Jakarta Post on Friday.

"Proponents of the bill have repeatedly said that
it was to protect women and children, but there
was no mention in the bill about laws that protect
women and children as its legal consideration,"
Eva said, adding the revamping of the draft would
amount to drawing up a new bill.

She said that after taking into account the noisy
demonstrations for and against the bill, committee
members also agreed to focus on measures to curb
the production and distribution of pornographic
materials, instead of restricting individual
behavior.

The member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of
Struggle (PDI-P) faction, a staunch opponent of
the current bill, said the bill was drafted in
1999 before there was a greater protection of
basic rights enshrined in the amended
Constitution.

She said passing the current bill into law would
only heighten tensions between the opposing sides.
"We don’t want a law that will tax us with grave
social costs in the future." Various groups have
united to protest the bill, arguing it will stifle
the country’s cultural diversity and suppress
minority groups if it becomes law. "Preparation of
the new draft alone will take at least three
months," Eva said.

Special committee chairman Balkan Kaplale of the
Democratic Party insisted the deliberation of the
bill would be completed by mid-June, with only a
plenary session necessary for its endorsement.

Similar inconsistent statements and actions by
Balkan have annoyed fellow committee members, who
accuse him of incompetence. Some of the members,
mostly from the PDI-P faction, earlier demanded
Balkan be replaced.

Lawmaker Hilman Rasyad Syihab of the Prosperous
Justice Party, the bill’s strongest political
supporter, described the changes as an amendment,
not an overhaul. However, Hilman agreed the
amendment would focus on provisions designed to
curb production and distribution of porn.

Balkan, contacted separately by the Post, did not
consider the changed draft to be out of the
ordinary. "There has indeed been an amendment in
the bill, but it was only one among many stages
that a law has to go through before being
approved," he said in a telephone interview from
Samarinda, East Kalimantan.

 HUMAN RIGHTS/LAW

NGOs press for bill on discrimination

Jakarta Post - May 29, 2006

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta — A coalition of non-
governmental organizations demanded Sunday the
House of Representatives draft a regulation that
would outlaw all types of discrimination.

The Committee for the Eradication of
Discrimination from Indonesia said in a statement
the House special committee tasked with
deliberating the bill on the eradication of ethnic
and racial discrimination must make provisions
outlawing other forms of discrimination.

"On top of ethnicity and race, people should not
be discriminated against because of their gender,
religion, political convictions, physical
handicaps, status of birth, nationality and
wealth," the coalition said in a statement made
available to The Jakarta Post.

The coalition said such a broad definition would
annul the bulk of prevailing laws and regulations
that maintained discriminatory practices in their
provisions.

"There are numerous bylaws that keep
discrimination against certain groups in place,"
it said. The coalition also cited a number of
violent acts committed against organizations and
individuals with controversial political and
religious views as a reason for an all-
encompassing provision.

The bill on the eradication of racial and ethnic
discrimination, currently being deliberated by a
special committee, is a leftover from the previous
seating period.

As the bill’s title suggests, it seeks only to
outlaw racial and ethnic discrimination. It was
proposed by the House and is being discussed
simultaneously with one relating to civil
registration and has caused some debate.

A number of groups have alleged the bill, once
passed into law, would favor small and minority
groups in the country.

Ethnic Chinese groups have said they believe a new
anti-discrimination law is unnecessary, but that
they would like to see the end of what they regard
as unfair treatment of ethnic Chinese by the
government.

Other groups, such as the National Commission for
Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and the Indonesian
Ulemas Council (MUI) said the bill, once it took
effect, would only give rise to redundancy and
legal confusion, as the Indonesian government had
already ratified numerous United Nations
conventions against discrimination.

In spite of the controversy, deputy chairman of
the House special committee Mufid A. Busairy of
the National Awakening Party said lawmakers would
press ahead with their deliberation of the bill.

"A law on anti-discrimination is necessary to
bring an end to all the types of discriminatory
practice which we see in society committed by both
sides, the majority and minority groups," he told
the Post.


Soeharto victims denied access to his sickbed

Jakarta Post - May 27, 2006

Jakarta — Unlike Soeharto’s many VIP guests whose
hospital visits have been covered by television
stations, the 20 people attempting to visit the
ailing former dictator Friday morning might have
gone unnoticed if not for the floral display they
carried.

The 20 people, many of whom were victimized by the
policies of Soeharto’s 32-year authoritarian
government, arrived in five cars to deliver the
floral display, which carried the message: "Get
well soon and continue the legal process against
Soeharto." They were accompanied by members of the
Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of
Violence (Kontras).

Suciwati, the wife of late Kontras founder Munir,
and Sumarsih, the mother of one of the students
killed in the 1998 Semanggi shootings, along with
their floral gift, were stopped by guards as soon
as they stepped out of the elevator on the fifth
floor of Pertamina Hospital in South Jakarta where
Soeharto is being treated.

Hospital director Adji Suprajitno said Suciwati
had not received permission to visit Soeharto.
“Groups are not allowed to visit him,” he said.
The director added that anyone who wanted to see
the former president had to obtain permission
beforehand.

Suciwati spoke to reporters after rejoining the
other visitors in the hospital lobby. "The guards
let us write down our names on the guest list. We
are the family members of victims of violations
during the Soeharto regime."

She then left the floral display with
receptionists on the first floor. She said all of
the members of the group had lost loved ones in
the Semanggi shootings in 1998 and 1999, the
Tanjung Priok tragedy in 1984 and the Trisakti
shootings in 1998.

Also on Friday, Social Affairs Minister Bachtiar
Chamsyah, who arrived at the hospital not long
after the visit by Suciwati, was welcomed by
Soeharto’s eldest daughter Siti “Tutut” Hardiyanti
Rukmana. Bachtiar said Soeharto was sleeping when
he arrived.

Previously, Soeharto’s family rejected a visit by
members of the Tritura Defenders Front, who
demanded that Soeharto be prosecuted for his
actions while in office.

Meanwhile, doctors on Friday said Soeharto’s
condition was improving. They said his intestinal
bleeding had stopped and his red blood count had
risen to 10.6 grams per deciliter of blood.

Mardjo Soebiandono, who leads the former ruler’s
medical team, said Soeharto was receiving 80
percent of the targeted 2,000 calories a day. "We
are supplying nutrition through an intravenous
feeding tube and a tube in his stomach,“he said.”He is also now able to eat soft foods."


A Chinese-Indonesian history of discrimination

Jakarta Post - May 26, 2006

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta — For more than 40
years, Hariyanto has been judged by his ethnicity.

During the anti-communist pogrom in the mid-1960s,
the native of Tanah Abang was accused of being a
communist simply because he was a Chinese
Indonesian. Even today, his religion, Taoism, is
constantly confused with Confucianism and his ID
card says he is a Buddhist.

Years of official discrimination against Chinese-
Indonesian citizens prompted Hariyanto and
thousands of others to put Buddhism, one of the
five religions then recognized by the government,
on their ID cards.

While it may just be an imprint on a piece of
paper, its consequences are serious. "We all have
to disguise what faiths we practice because we
fear that government officials will meddle in our
religious affairs," Hariyanto told The Jakarta
Post.

When he went to worship — the sign on the Taoist
temple’s main gate also stated it was a Buddhist
institution. Despite this insult, ethnic Chinese
like Hariyanto are so used to discrimination that
they accept it as the norm.

"I personally don’t care anymore whether or not
the government recognizes Taoism or Confucianism
as religions. These are our beliefs, not theirs,“Hariyanto said.”I don’t want to talk too much about the
discrimination or else I will be accused of being
a communist once again," he said.

A member of the Army-sponsored Student Action
Front during the 1960s, Hariyanto was labeled a
communist because he was reluctant to join a
campaign to crush the Indonesian Communist Party.

After the fall of the New Order regime, the
government officially recognized Confucianism as
an established religions in the country, aside
from Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Hinduism
and Buddhism. However, this acceptance has not
filtered down to the lower levels of bureaucracy.

Unfortunately for Hariyanto, Taoism, an offshoot
of Confucianism, was not recognized. Most people
here confuse Confucianism and Taoism because both
are beliefs originally from mainland China.
However, Taoist texts reject many of the basic
assumptions of Confucianism.

During his presidency, Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid
tried to end discrimination against ethnic Chinese
by officially recognizing their beliefs and
culture. However, despite the policy change, most
ethnic Chinese say little has changed.

Daniel Lesmana, who lives in Palmerah in West
Jakarta, says that being a Chinese Confucian means
he is often extorted by government officials. The
45-year-old said that even if he wanted to state
his real religion on his ID card, the process
would be slow, costly and uncertain.

"Issuing ID cards and other documents to Chinese
people has become a way for government officials
to make money. That is why it is difficult to
change their attitudes to us," he told the Post.

Daniel feels Chinese Indonesians here are being
unfairly singled out by officials in the country,
unlike Indonesian Arabs or Muslims from other
ethnic groups.

Communities here are often targeted by officialdom
in random ID card sweeps, especially when alleged
wrongdoing by Chinese Indonesians is exposed in
the media.

This happened earlier this month in Makassar,
South Sulawesi, where tensions in the area were
high following the death of a housemaid who worked
for a Chinese family.

 LABOUR ISSUES

Workers demand release of friends

Jakarta Post - May 31, 2006

Jakarta — Some 300 people from several labor
organizations staged a rally Tuesday in front of
Jakarta Police Headquarters, demanding the release
of eight workers who were detained following an
ugly demonstration on May 3.

Rally coordinator Ilham Syah said the eight were
not guilty of damaging public property as charged.

"We have evidence and people who can bear witness
to the fact that our friends, who are now being
detained by city police, were caught on the bus,
on their way home from the rally. They were not
involved in any kind of violence, "Police could
just place them under house arrest instead of
detaining them for questioning," Ilham said.

Speaking to the protesters, the head of the city
police’s general crime unit, Sr. Comr. M.
Djaelani, said, "We have records of the eight
committing violent acts".

He said police were through with questioning the
eight workers and it was now up to the Jakarta
Prosecutor’s Office. Although they were
unsatisfied by Djaelani’s explanation, the
protesters left peacefully.


Officials under fire over labor funds

Jakarta Post - May 27, 2006

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta — A labor union has
accused senior officials at the Manpower and
Transmigration Ministry of misusing Rp 30 billion
(about US$3.3 million) in funds earmarked for the
severance pay of workers with oil and gas
companies.

The funds that are unaccounted for have left
thousands of dismissed workers without the
severance pay they are entitled to, the Federation
of Workers Unions in the Chemical, Energy, Oil and
Gas Mining and Public Works Sector (FSP-KEP)
reported.

The union claims that part of the funds have been
used to finance the construction of three
hospitals for workers in North Sumatra, Riau and
Papua and to purchase two luxury cars for two
senior officials at the ministry.

"We found irregularities in the provision of Rp 30
billion of the funds for the three labor hospitals
and in the purchase of luxury cars," union
chairman Sahat Butar-butar told The Jakarta Post
on Wednesday.

He added that the union was still completing a
comprehensive report that it intended to file with
the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

Sahat also said that workers had no representation
in managing the funds and they had not received a
report on how the funds were managed.

Based on a joint ministerial decree issued by the
manpower minister and the mining and energy
minister, subcontractors in the oil and gas mining
sector have since 1995 been required to put aside
8.33 percent of their contracts’ value for
severance payments for all dismissed workers.

The scheme was initially carried out by state-
owned insurance firm Astek and the Severance Pay
Scheme Foundation (YDTP).

The foundation was liquidated in 2000 and a
government team was appointed by the manpower
minister to manage the foundation’s assets and
funds totaling Rp 155 billion. The reason for the
closure of the foundation was not made public.

The team is led by Muzni Tambusai, the director
general for industrial relations at the ministry.
Following YDTP’s liquidation, subcontractors have
set up a severance payment scheme for their own
workers.

Sahat also claimed that the funds belonged to
workers and had to be paid to potential
recipients.

"The absence of transparency in the funds’
management has raised allegations that the
government officials in the team have personal
interests in holding on to the funds," he said.

Muzni dismissed the accusations, saying the funds
did not belong to workers because they had been
collected from subcontractors that won projects
from Pertamina and its partner companies in the
oil and gas mining sector.

"Of course, the funds collected from
subcontractors were aimed at providing severance
pay for contract workers after their terms
expired," he said, citing about 38,000 dismissed
workers who had participated in the scheme but had
not received their severance pay.

Muzni also acknowledged that his team had paid Rp
30 billion to establish three hospitals for
workers in Medan, Pekanbaru and Sorong but claimed
it was taken from the interest on the funds.

"Suspicions could arise over possible
irregularities in the deal but we made it in
accordance with the rules of the game," he said
without giving any details about the hospitals.

 YOGYAKARTA EARTHQUAKE

647,000 Indonesians displaced by quake

Associated Press - May 31, 2006

Chris Brummitt, Bantul — US Marines joined an
international effort to deliver aid and medical
care to nearly 650,000 Indonesians displaced by a
devastating earthquake, as hopes faded of finding
more survivors.

Two US Marine cargo planes carrying a mobile field
hospital landed Tuesday in Yogyakarta, closest to
the quake area in central Java, after cracks in
the airport runway were patched.

A disaster assistance response team from the US
Agency for International Development is being
readied and the amphibious assault ship USS Essex,
which has extensive medical facilities, is en
route to the area, White House deputy press
secretary Dana Perino said.

The United States also increased its aid
contribution to $5 million.

The United Nations said at least 21 other
countries have joined the effort to help those
left homeless by Saturday’s magnitude-6.3 quake,
which killed more than 5,800 people. An estimated
647,000 people were displaced by the quake, nearly
a third of them homeless and the rest staying with
relatives, said Bambang Priyohadi, a senior
provincial government official.

The government said Wednesday the temblor
destroyed more than 135,000 homes, reducing them
to piles of bricks, tiles and wood in less than a
minute. Priyohadi based the displaced figure on
the number of homes destroyed and a family index
of 4.8 people per house.

The main hospital in hardest-hit Bantul district
was still overwhelmed, with 400 patients for just
over 100 beds, and doctors complained of a lack of
supplies.

“We are short of splints, gauze, even beds,” said
Dr. Hidayat, the hospital’s earthquake emergency
coordinator, adding that 90 percent of the victims
had bone fractures. "The minute we get fresh
splits, they are gone."

But conditions improved at several other
hospitals, where parking lots and hallways that
had been filled with hundreds of victims in the
days after the quake were clear, with most
patients now being treated in beds.

Workers removed a tent outside Yogyakarta’s
largest hospital, Sardjito, that had been used to
shelter the injured.

The UN’s top humanitarian official said the aid
effort was going well, and there had been major
improvements in coordination among aid
organizations and nations since the 2004 Indian
Ocean tsunami that killed 131,000 people in
Indonesia’s Aceh province alone.

“We are now reaching more and more victims,” Jan
Egeland told The Associated Press in Brussels,
Belgium. "I am getting reports that we are making
enormous progress." The government’s Social
Affairs Ministry said the official death toll rose
Wednesday to 5,846.

Most survivors were still living in improvised
shacks or group shelters erected in rice fields.
Groups of families cooked together, each
contributing scavenged food.

Despite government promises of aid, shortages of
food and fresh water remained a pressing concern,
and thousands of people used cardboard boxes to
beg for cash and supplies from passing drivers.

The head of a Malaysia search and rescue team said
hope had faded of finding more survivors or
bodies, and his group had turned to clearing
rubble from streets instead.

"The collapsed homes were all so small that anyone
who was trapped would have been extracted by their
family members," Abdul Aziz Ahmad said, adding his
team found only one body Monday.

A 44-member team of Chinese doctors, search and
rescue workers and seismologists also arrived with
five tons of supplies, including a field hospital,
China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported.
Thailand said it would send 48 military medical
personnel, medicine and equipment. Teams from
Malaysia, Singapore, Norway and other nations
already are working in the area.

The Asian Development Bank announced a total of
$60 million in grants and low-interest loans to
rebuild the earthquake zone.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who has
temporarily moved his office to Yogyakarta and
spent a night sleeping in a tent with survivors,
vowed to fight corruption in delivering aid money.
"I am ordering that not even one dollar will be
misused," he said.

The quake was the fourth destructive temblor to
hit Indonesia in the past 17 months, including the
one that triggered the Dec. 26, 2004, Indian Ocean
tsunami.


Government defends quake relief effort

Agence France Presse - May 31, 2006

Yogyakarta — Indonesian officials defended the
earthquake relief operation under way in central
Java, amid complaints from local residents that
aid has been slow to arrive.

"The situation is getting better and better,
especially in the area of distribution," said
Major General Bambang Darmono, the coordinating
officer on the ground for the national disaster
management agency BAKORNAS. "Every area has been
reached by the distribution effort," he told AFP.

Meanwhile, the death toll from the earthquake that
rocked Indonesia’s main island of Java at the
weekend has risen to at least 5,846, the social
affairs ministry said. As many as 200,000 were
left homeless by Saturday’s 6.3-magnitude quake on
Indonesia’s main island.

International humanitarian aid and foreign medical
teams have begun pouring into the disaster zone,
but desperate local residents have criticized the
relief effort, saying the Jakarta government has
been too slow to react.

Darmono rejected that claim, telling AFP: "I know
there are a lot of people complaining, but it
doesn’t mean there is no activity. "We are still
in an emergency phase, so we are still continuing
with our efforts — delivering food, and also
evacuating people if there are victims in the
area," he said.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has
urged local officials to work with regional and
national authorities, as well as international aid
agencies, to deliver aid to those in need as
quickly as possible.

Another official with BAKORNAS, who gave his name
as Tabrani, said officials were working hard to
“optimize the distribution” of aid supplies. "The
issue is not the food stuffs, but how we could
distribute it in a quicker manner," he said.

Ibrahima Kone, a technical officer for the World
Health Organization (WHO), said international aid
agencies were still working to record a proper
tally of the tonnes of aid coming into the area.
"At the end of today, or tomorrow morning at most,
we should have a better view of what we have
received, and how we are going to dispatch it," he
said.

"Usually, for two or three days after an
emergency, it takes two or three days for the
system to get ready to deal with this huge amount
of aid." The United Nations on Tuesday gave a
relatively upbeat assessment of the aid effort on
the ground but admitted that problems remained.

“I think the situation is under control,” said
Elizabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the UN’s
humanitarian coordination office in Geneva. "So
now the problem is logistics, rain, storage,
congestion of airports — all the usual problems
we meet when there is a disaster of this size."


Coordination woes hold up quake aid

Jakarta Post - May 31, 2006

Ridwan Max Sijabat/Tony Hotland, Jakarta — The
government is insisting on classifying Saturday’s
deadly earthquake in Yogyakarta and Central Java
as a local disaster, despite calls for it to be
declared a national disaster and complaints about
poorly coordinated aid efforts.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla said here Tuesday it
was not a national disaster because its scale and
impact were not as great as the 2004 tsunami in
Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, and the provincial
administrations in the two provinces could handle
it properly.

Kalla, also chairman of the National Disaster
Management and Refugee Coordination Board
(Bakornas PBP), said the government allocated Rp 1
trillion (US$107.5 million) from the 2006 state
budget for emergency relief and to carry out
reconstruction.

In Yogyakarta, several religious figures and
social activists argued it qualified for the
higher status because it caused a huge number of
fatalities and widespread physical damage to
houses, schools, houses of worship and
infrastructure.

Among those at the gathering were the chairman of
the country’s second largest Muslim organization
Muhammadiyah, Din Syamsuddin, the chairman of the
local office of the Indonesian Ulemas Council
(MUI) Sumadi and journalist Rosyad Sholeh.

They faulted the government for acting too slowly
in dealing with the emergency situation, in which
more than 5,300 people lost their lives.

The chief of Bakornas PBP’s relief section, Sugeng
Trioetomo, said the central government believed
the two provincial administrations were capable of
handling the disaster.

"There are no special criteria on disasters
classified as national disasters and those
(considered) local disasters, but the Yogya quake
is termed a local disaster because it could be
handled by the local administrations," he said.

He said all international institutions who wanted
to help the victims should coordinate with the
field post command team, led by the commander of
the Diponegoro Military Command overseeing the two
provinces, Maj. Gen. Sunarso.

Although the details have yet to be officially
announced by Bakornas, Sugeng said confusion over
aid delivery should be overcome once donors knew
the point of contact was the commander.

Foreign aid began flowing into the country only a
day after the disaster, but foreign delegations
complain of confusion about distributing the aid.

"I would say that the biggest problem is
coordination," said European Commission delegation
head Jean Breteche. "Everybody wants to help,
which is good, but it is more efficient if it is
well coordinated." He acknowledged the difficulty
of coordination.

"When you have 50 or more NGOs, donors, with their
own equipment, it is not easy to coordinate
because they want to start quickly." Malik Aliun,
a local spokesman for the Saudi Arabian
government’s charity institution, said Riyadh was
committed to supplying humanitarian and medical
aid totaling $5 million, but could not proceed due
to a lack of information from the Indonesian
government on where to land.

Some international organizations have praised the
initial aid efforts. "The government and army have
done a lot since the earthquake struck, and the
cooperation between the humanitarian community and
the Indonesian authorities was very good, and very
efficient," UN humanitarian coordination office
spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs was quoted as saying by
AFP in Geneva.

Social worker Iman Prasodjo said coordination in
the handling of natural disasters would remain a
problem unless the current bureaucratic system of
Bakornas PBP was changed.

"The structure of the coordinating board and its
task force has to be revamped, and all government
personnel should be replaced by professionals and
trained workers to allow them to handle natural
disasters and refugees professionally," he said.


Survivors of quake resort to desperate measures

Jakarta Post - May 30, 2006

Sri Wahyuni and Blontank Poer,
Bantul/Jakarta/Klaten Homeless survivors of
Saturday’s earthquake resorted to desperate
measures Monday amid a dearth of assistance, with
some camping out in a cattle shed and others
begging for food from passersby.

As the death toll from the quake in Yogyakarta and
Central Java passed 5,130 Monday, rescue workers
continued the desperate search for people among
the rubble.

It was similarly grim for the survivors, who were
forced to take cover wherever they could amid a
continuing downpour. They complained they were
neglected amid the slow coordination of
assistance.

They gathered together their few remaining morsels
of food to be cooked and shared in communal meals.

"Without any assistance, our food supplies will
run out within the next two days," said Singgir
Kartana, a resident of Samen hamlet, Bambanglipuro
district, in devastated Bantul regency.

Plastic tents dot the roads in the area, where
more than 3,000 died and many saw their homes
razed in the earthquake, which measured 5.9 on the
Richter scale according to the Meteorology and
Geophysics Agency.

Residents battled the driving rain to build a
bigger shelter to accommodate more people.
"Yesterday we lived in a very simple tent before
moving to a cow shed due to the heavy rain,"
Singgir said, adding that about 450 houses in the
hamlet were leveled by the quake.

Even residents whose homes withstood the disaster
are staying outside. "I prefer not to return to my
house. I’m still traumatized," said Mrs. Wiji, 70,
who was buried under rubble together with her
daughter Kiri, 18, before being rescued.

She is one of about 100 residents now living in an
open makeshift shelter in nearby rice fields.
Their anxiety increased when Mt. Merapi, the
volcano lying north of the quake’s epicenter and
restless for many weeks, showed heightened
activity Monday.

Bantul Regent Idham Samawi apologized for slow
assistance, attributing it to limited personnel.
He promised each district would get 5.5 tons of
rice, 300 boxes of instant noodles and 100 boxes
of bottled water.

In their desperation, some of the survivors,
including children, begged for food from
passersby.

Hospitals overwhelmed by five times their normal
patient load appealed for more medical staff and
supplies to treat the thousands of injured who
overflowed from their wards, raising fears of the
spread of disease amid an acute lack of
facilities.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, speaking after a
Cabinet meeting late Sunday, said a three-month
state of emergency would be in effect in the
quake-hit areas, with the government aiming to
complete reconstruction within a year.

Kalla, who heads the National Disaster Management
Agency, said Monday the government expected half
of the total budget for the emergency relief and
reconstruction process would come from foreign
aid. The current budget estimate is Rp 1 trillion
(about US$107.5 million) for a one-year period.

"We will give Rp 100,000 for utilities and another
Rp 100,000 for clothes monthly for each household.
We will give 12 kilograms of rice per person each
month and Rp 3,000 each day for other food," said
Kalla.

The government would provide about Rp 30 million
to those whose homes were severely damaged, and Rp
10 million for those with minor structural damage.
Payments would be made in two installments.

More international rescuers landed in the
devastated region, including a 20-strong search
and rescue team from Taiwan and an 87-member
Malaysian rescue team which headed out of Bantul
in a convoy.

Despite the dire need for help, some residents are
being told to follow bureaucratic measures to
receive assistance.

"I went to the district office but was asked to
make a proposal," complained Sunardi, a resident
of Jetis hamlet in Canan village, Wedi district in
Klaten regency.

“We don’t know how to do that.” Locals have taken
to stopping passing aid convoys for donations.
"We’re cooking everything with a lot of water so
there is enough to go around."

Secretary of Gantriwarno district in Klaten, Kukuh
Riyadi, said the regency’s disaster mitigation
unit told district and village officials to
require the provision of a letter from district
officials.

"The procedures are set by the regency
administration, but it has got us into trouble
when dealing with residents," said Kukuh, adding
his office so far relied wholly on assistance from
individuals and institutions.

[With additional reporting by Slamet Susanto in
Yogyakarta and Suherdjoko in Bantul.]


Race to help survivors as quake toll tops 5,400

Agence France Presse - May 30, 2006

Ian Timberlake, Bantul — Desperate Indonesian
quake survivors were still waiting for aid despite
pledges help would come fast, as the rising
activity of a nearby volcano fuelled fears of an
eruption.

The death toll from Saturday’s quake in Central
Java province rose past 5,400, but the most urgent
task was to get help to 200,000 rain-soaked
victims, many of whom huddled under makeshift
tents for a third night. Hopes appeared all but
lost of finding any more survivors in the ruins
after Saturday’s 6.3-magnitude temblor.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono visited
survivors camping out near the damaged Prambanan
Hindu temple complex and pledged that food and
medical aid would reach them soon "We are giving
priority to the victims — those who are injured,
the sick, those who need surgery and also refugees
who lost their homes and other belongings," he
told reporters at the compound, a UNESCO heritage
site.

"We are prioritising the medical treatments to
save as many lives as possible," the president
added later as he toured a makeshift camp in
hard-hit Klaten district east of ancient
Yogyakarta city.

The Indonesian army deployed at least 2,000
soldiers to assist with relief efforts, Army Chief
General Joko Santoso said.

Australia ordered more than 80 disaster experts
and medical personnel to the worst hit areas
around Yogyakarta, in what Foreign Minister
Alexander Downer characterised as part of "a
hugely expanded emergency response".

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) expected to
ferry in more than 40 tons of supplies on Tuesday,
including seven tons of emergency rations and four
portable warehouses to store food, spokesman Barry
Came told AFP. Shipments also included tents,
blankets, portable water treatment units and
generators as aid flowed in from around the world.

The UN set up a coordination centre at Yogyakarta
airport to organise the flow of help. But some
victims grumbled relief was too slow and too
meagre.

In Klaten and throughout badly-damaged Bantul
district, beggars held cardboard boxes daubed with
the words, “Asking for aid”. "If we don’t, how do
we get money?" asked Budi, 18, whose box was empty
as he waited for donations with a handful of other
young men.

"Yesterday we got 40,000 rupiah (4.35 US
dollars)," which villagers spent on cooking oil
and food, said Wawan, 28, adding that government
aid of three packets of instant noodles per family
was not enough.

But the beggars slowed relief efforts as they put
chairs, oil drums and stones in the road to slow
drivers and ask for money. A stream of aid trucks
was caught in a major traffic jam on the main
highway, stretching some 10 kilometres (six
miles), the Detikcom online news service reported.

Hospitals were anxiously waiting for more medical
staff and supplies to treat the thousands of
injured who overflowed from their wards, raising
fears of the spread of disease in the wet and poor
sanitary conditions.

Indonesia has struggled to cope with the scale of
the disaster, as Yudhoyono acknowledged Monday.
The social affairs ministry said 5,427 were
confirmed to have died in the quake with some
20,000 injured. The Red Cross said 200,000 were
homeless.

Adding to concerns was increased volcanic activity
at Mount Merapi, to the north of Yogyakarta, which
belched heat clouds and sent trails of lava
running down its slopes, heightening fears of an
eruption. Plumes of smoke rose some 900 metres
(3,000 feet) into the air — nearly double the
height of the previous day — and the area
remained on high alert.

Scientists have warned that although the magma
flow which forms a dome at the peak appeared to be
weakening, the structure may collapse and spew out
millions of cubic metres of rock and lava.

"Theoretically as well as statistically, there is
a very large possibility that tectonic activities
trigger or increase volcanic activities,"
Syamsulrizal, who works at Indonesia’s national
vulcanology office, told AFP.

The quake was Indonesia’s third major disaster in
18 months, following the tsunami that killed
168,000 in Sumatra and another quake that killed
more than 600 people in Nias last year.


Quake-proof construction standards ’ignored’

Jakarta Post - May 30, 2006

Jakarta — In the wake of the tragedy in
Yogyakarta, in which thousands died in collapsed
houses and buildings, experts warned that
earthquake-resistant construction standards must
be strengthened to prevent future disasters.

"The number of victims in Bantul and Yogyakarta
could have been minimized had they built quake-
proof houses," said Surono, a geophysicist at the
Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation
Center.

As of Monday afternoon the government put the
death toll from Saturday’s temblor at 5,200 in
Yogyakarta and neighboring areas in Central Java.
About two-thirds of the deaths occurred in the
coastal Bantul regency, south of Yogyakarta.

Surono said Monday the proximity of population
centers to the quake’s epicenter contributed to
the high death toll. Yogyakarta is about 37
kilometers from the epicenter, which was 33
kilometers beneath the sea. Quake-resistant
construction would at least have given people time
to get out of houses and buildings before they
collapsed, Surono told The Jakarta Post.

Wayan Sengara, an expert from the Department of
Civil Engineering at Bandung Institute of
Technology, said most houses in Yogyakarta
sustained some structural damage in the
earthquake, such as collapsed or cracked walls.
But many of the more strongly constructed hotels
in the city only suffered light damage, like
broken windows.

A government decree issued in the 1970s and
revised in 2002 requires local governments to
follow quake-proof construction standards, which
vary according to the different levels of seismic
activity in their respective regions.

"Quake-proof construction increases the cost of a
building by about 10 to 15 percent," Wayan said.
This extra cost is one reason the standards are
often ignored, Wayan said, along with the
government’s failure to educate the public about
the importance of quake-resistant construction.
And though there are agencies to supervise
building standards, it is thought contractors
often get around these standards through bribes.

An expert in structural and earthquake technology
at the Public Works Ministry, Suwandojo Siddiq,
said pictures of 200 damaged houses in Yogyakarta
showed they were all constructed from concrete,
while more traditional building materials such as
woven bamboo would be harmless in an earthquake.

However, given that concrete is now the preferred
building material for houses, he said the best way
to make houses quake-resistant was by using steel
reinforcements. "People build houses differently
in Sumatra, Java and Kalimantan," Suwandojo said,
adding quake-proof construction techniques should
be adjusted to different areas of the country.

The director of construction at the Public Works
Ministry, Antonius Budiono, said officials from
the department traveled to the regions each year
to monitor construction standards in different
areas of the country and inspect buildings.
“Buildings should be checked every five years,” he
said.

Antonius said the Jakarta government had done the
best job of enforcing construction standards. In
1996 a magnitude 6.0 earthquake resulted in
minimal damage to high-rise buildings in the
capital.


Death toll rises, rescue efforts go on

Jakarta Post - May 29, 2006

Jakarta — The death toll from Saturday’s
earthquake had reached more than 4,600 as of late
Sunday, as rescue workers continued to search for
survivors.

Hospitals and medical staff remained overwhelmed
as patients continued to stream in. Around 200,000
people are thought to have been left homeless by
the quake, which hit 5.9 on the Richter scale,
according to the Meteorology and Geophysics
Agency.

On a visit to Gontor Islamic school in Ponorogo,
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he would
work from Yogyakarta with Cabinet ministers so he
could “directly supervise the evacuation process”,
said his spokesman, Andi Mallarangeng.

A late night Cabinet meeting with Vice President
Jusuf Kalla revealed the government is setting
aside Rp 1 trillion (about US$ 107.5 billion) for
one year, including Rp 300 billion for a three
month emergency relief phase, and the rest for
reconstruction and rehabilitation. Electricity,
telecommunications, and fuel supplies are yet to
be restored to all quake-affected areas.

State Minister for State Enterprises Sugiharto
said state power firm PT PLN would have restored
electricity in Central Java’s Klaten regency,
Yogyakarta’s metropolitan area and Bantul regency
by Sunday, Antara reported.

Saturday’s quake knocked out lines carrying 400
megawatts of power to the area, with Yogyakarta’s
metropolitan area regaining electricity by the
day’s end, but Klaten and Bantul still left in the
dark. PLN will bring in power directly from its
West and Central Java grids.

Sugiharto also said state telecommunications firm
PT Telkom had fixed 82 of the 112 telephone line
towers damaged during the quake.

State oil and gas company PT Pertamina
spokesperson M. Harun said Yogyakarta’s 60,700-
kiloliter daily fuel requirements were being met
by supplies from the nearby cities of Cilacap,
Solo, Cepu and Madiun.

Yogyakarta’s Adisucipto Airport is limited to
humanitarian aid operations as repairs are still
underway. Reuters reported medical supplies and
body bags were arriving at the airport.

From Bantul, south of the provincial capital,
Agence France-Presse reported thousands of troops
and emergency rescue teams had joined volunteers
who were clawing at debris with their bare hands,
but power blackouts and heavy rain at dusk were
hampering rescue efforts.

The stench of decomposing bodies filled the air as
soldiers used a backhoe to dig through the rubble
in one neighborhood that was completely leveled by
the temblor.

Yuni, in her 40s, searched frantically for her
uncle, who lived with a maid at a house that had
collapsed, AFP reported.

Aid workers warned dwindling supplies of food and
water and a lack of housing could pose long-term
challenges.

In order to cater to the demand for blood, the
Surabaya branch of the Indonesian Red Cross was
keeping its donation services open 24 hours, the
branch head said.

UN Children’s Fund spokesman John Budd told
Reuters the number of people left homeless by the
disaster was still vague.


Deadly quake strikes Yogya

Jakarta Post - May 28, 2006

Yogyakarta — Nothing remains of Cabean hamlet in
Sumbermulyo village, Bantul regency. The only sign
that it was a thriving community of farmers is the
mosque, which now serves as a mortuary.

The simple wooden homes of the hamlet lay
scattered across the ground, alongside the bodies
of their owners.

“We’ve run out of cloth to cover the dead,” said
resident Warjianto who, along with other
survivors, was left with the painful task of
removing the bodies of 37 fellow villagers. One of
them was his son, Trimulyadi, who died beneath the
rubble of their home.

For weeks, residents of Yogyakarta had looked
skyward for signs of danger, little realizing that
peril would come not from the rumbling Mt. Merapi
but from the ground beneath their feet.

In less than a minute, an early morning earthquake
measuring 5.9 on the Richter scale brought down
thousands of houses and buildings, many poorly
constructed, turning them into tombs for thousands
of people.

The 5.9 reading was provided by the national
Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG); other
sources measure the quake at 6.2.

A number of hamlets and small villages in Bantul
were left in near total ruin; the regency suffered
the worst of the earthquake damage.

In the immediate aftermath of the quake, the air
was filled with panic and desperation. Mobs of
residents fled on foot and motorcycles for higher
ground, fearing a tsunami like the one that swept
through Aceh in December 2004.

"We had to force our way into the infirmary where
the medicine is kept because the keys were lost,
but in any event that stock has now run out,"
Bantul Regent Idham Samawi said.

The confirmed death toll has passed 2,900,
including at least 2,000 deaths in Bantul. These
figures are expected to rise. Quoting local
officials, Antara reported at least 3,800
buildings were destroyed.

Hospitals in the royal city of Yogyakarta quickly
filled with the dead and injured. Many patients
were laid outside, not only because the wards were
full, but also because of the fear caused by the
numerous aftershocks that reverberated throughout
the city over the course of the day.

The usually busy Jl. Malioboro in the tourism
heart of Yogyakarta was mostly deserted.

Governor Hamengkubuwono IX tried to calm residents
and made an urgent national appeal for help.
"We’re setting up emergency aid stations and
clinics. Victims are lying in open areas," he
said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono arrived in
Surakarta, Central Java, on Saturday afternoon,
accompanied by Health Minister Siti Fadillah
Supari, and immediately made his way to Yogyakarta
by car.

Upon his arrival he was mobbed by weeping,
sometimes hysterical residents. "Please stay calm,
we are doing all we can," he said in response to
the pleas. The President will remain in the area
for the next few days to help organize relief
efforts.

Such was the strength of the quake that struck
around 5:55 a.m. that it was felt as far away as
Malang, East Java, some 340 kilometers east of
Yogyakarta.

“It felt like a big truck passing by,” Malang
resident Adi Supriyanto told the Post. However,
there were no reports of damage in the city.

In Surakarta, the nearest large city to
Yogyakarta, several buildings were damaged,
including a four-story hospital and the Solo
Square mall.

At the Waluyo senior citizens hospital in the
city, patients rushed out of the building when the
earth began to move. Once outside, nurses began
administering oxygen to the patients.

By dusk, aid was beginning to trickle into
Yogyakarta through Semarang and Surakarta — the
two closest cities with functioning airports.
Repairs on the badly damaged runway at Adi Sucipto
airport in Yogyakarta were set to commence
Saturday night.

The Indonesian Military and the Indonesian Red
Cross were among the first to send in rescue teams
and assistance. Among the supplies were hundreds
of body bags.

For Warjianto, the resident of Cabean hamlet,
there is little time for grief as he sifts through
the remains of his home, trying to salvage what he
can from the disaster. "I want to cry, but there’s
no point. This is fate."


A look at deadly earthquakes in Indonesia

Associated Press - May 27, 2006

A look at some deadly earthquakes in Indonesia
since 2000:

- May 27, 2006: A magnitude-6.2 quake flattens
homes and hotels near the ancient central city of
Yogyakarta, killing more than 3,000 and injuring
thousands more in the nation’s worst disaster
since the 2004 tsunami.

- March 28, 2005: A magnitude-8.7 quake strikes
Nias and Simeulue islands off the western coast of
Sumatra, killing about 900 people and flattening
thousands of houses and bridges.

- Dec. 26, 2004: A magnitude-9 earthquake ruptures
the sea floor off Sumatra island, triggering a
tsunami that hits a dozen countries, including
Indonesia, where at least 131,029 are killed and
tens of thousands remain missing. The Indonesian
province of Aceh is closest to the quake’s
epicenter and suffers most.

- Nov. 26, 2004: A magnitude-6.4 earthquake rocks
Indonesia’s West Papua, near Nabire, killing about
30 people and causing dozens of buildings and
homes to collapse.

- Nov. 12, 2004: A magnitude-6 quake strikes off
the eastern coast of Alor island, about 1,000
miles east of the capital, Jakarta. At least 27
people are killed and hundreds of buildings are
damaged.

- Feb. 6-7, 2004: A magnitude-6.9 quake on Feb. 6
and a magnitude-7.1 aftershock the following day
kill 34 and devastate Nabire in remote Papua
province.

- June 4, 2000: A magnitude-7.9 quake hits
Bengkulu province, killing at least 117 people and
injuring about 1,900.

- May 4, 2000: A magnitude-7.5 earthquake shakes
Sulawesi province, killing at least 35 people and
injuring at least 148.

 CORRUPTION/COLLUSION/NEPOTISM

Sutiyoso fuming over budget graft allegations

Jakarta Post - May 31, 2006

Jakarta — Governor Sutiyoso arrived back in the
city Tuesday, from a day trip to Yogyakarta, to
face allegations the administration
misappropriated Rp 1.56 trillion (US$166 million)
from the 2005 provincial budget.

"I’m asking the council not to make any statements
that will cause a stir. I’m afraid the public will
think we really have embezzled the money," he
said.

Sutiyoso said, as far as he knew, the city
administration’s financial situation had been
examined by a number of auditors, including the
Supreme Audit Body (Bapeka), the Development
Finance Comptroller (BPKP) and the city audit
agency (Bawasda).

The Democratic Party made the charges during a
plenary session Monday, without putting forward
any evidence to back up the graft allegations.

The party only specified the sectors in which the
alleged corruption occurred.

It estimated that misappropriated funds for
infrastructure — the hardest-hit sector —
totaled Rp 868.9 billion, while Rp 292 billion was
embezzled from the budgets for health and
education.

In the law and public order sector, the money
embezzled was estimated to be Rp 208 billion,
while, in the least affected sector — population
and manpower — misappropriated funds were
estimated to reach Rp 13 billion.

Sutiyoso’s response was similar to Deputy Governor
Fauzi Bowo’s. The two were adamant the Democratic
Party’s findings were way off the mark.

“The figures don’t make any sense,” he said. "If
administration officials were proven to have
embezzled that amount of money, I would hang them
myself on the flag pole in front of my office,"
Sutiyoso said.

When asked if the allegations were politically
related to next year’s gubernatorial election, the
governor declined to comment. "I don’t know
anything about that," he said.

The governor is scheduled to attend the session on
June 6 to clarify the allegations.

Representing Sutiyoso at Monday’s plenary session,
Fauzi Bowo challenged the council to prove the
allegations.

Last month, the city audit agency reported that
about Rp 7 billion of the provincial budget had
been embezzled, though no real action was taken in
response.

The council’s deputy chairman, Ilal Ferhard, said
if the allegations were proven valid he would
refer the case to the provincial prosecutor’s
office.


’Soeharto, one of the biggest embezzlers ever’

Jakarta Post - May 26, 2006

While former president Soeharto’s life hangs in
the balance in the hospital, controversy over
whether or not the government should proceed with
the graft charges against him has set in. The
public at large cannot accept the fact that the
Attorney General’s Office has decided to withdraw
lawsuits against Soeharto. The Jakarta Post asked
people their views on the issue.

Sutarman, 50, is a tower crane operator at a
construction site at the Hotel Indonesia traffic
circle in Central Jakarta: I do not agree with the
charges being dropped because he was responsible
for the largest number of human rights violations
in the world and is still one of the biggest
embezzlers ever.

We, the ordinary people, have suffered so much and
of course cannot except the fact that he will not
stand trial. All the Indonesian people know what
his crimes are. That is why he must be tried and
cannot be released, ever.

If he still makes any claims about his ailing
health in order to evade trial, we must consider
whether anyone can possibly be ill for eight
years. This just goes to show that the Yudhoyono
administration is powerless as were the previous
administrations.

Heidi Laksana, 24, is a college student. She lives
in Kwitang, Central Jakarta: I completely disagree
with the Attorney General’s Office’s decision. The
government does have the right to feel compassion,
but must at least seize all his assets and return
them to the state for the benefit of the people.

I think that seizing his assets will bring clarity
to people because we know how Soeharto and his
cronies stashed away money for themselves. This
would be preferable to sending him to prison. It
is unlikely that he would receive the same
treatment as other prisoners. Soeharto would get
privileges in prison, if he ever was imprisoned.

This just shows that Soeharto still has power
because of the government’s reluctance to try him.
A small-time crook in Indonesia can be severely
punished, but why is it that someone who is
clearly guilty cannot be dealt with.


SBY supports regulation to protect public
officials

Jakarta Post - May 24, 2006

Mataram/Jakarta — President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono said Tuesday a “common language” was
essential in the fight against corruption as
public officials remain fearful of facing
prosecution for erroneous policy decisions.

Yudhoyono and governors from across the country
said the absence of a regulation protecting state
officials left them liable to prosecution on
unfounded corruption charges when their policies
failed. The government and legislators have
expressed support for legislation to protect
officials.

Crackdowns by law enforcers’ and anticorruption
bodies have discouraged many officials from
handling development projects, governors said.

Yudhoyono, addressing the national meeting of
governors, called on law enforcers, auditors and
the central bank governor to "speak the same
language“in dealing with corruption.”We’ll ensure that only those who really do wrong
who would be prosecuted. Come and consult with us
in Jakarta, but don’t let development stall in
your area," the President told the governors.

He said many governors were too afraid to disburse
development funds and law enforcers needed to be
able to differentiate crimes from pure policy
mistakes.

"I want the attorney general, the Bank Indonesia
governor and the National Police to come up with a
common understanding of corruption," he said.

Critics say the plan, which was made public by
Vice President Jusuf Kalla last week, would only
worsen corruption in the bureaucracy and would be
detrimental to the Yudhoyono administration’s much
applauded anti-corruption drive.

Gorontalo governor Fadel Muhammad said the
regulation was vital for all state officials to
protect them from overzealous law enforcers who
could arrest graft suspects based on a single-
source report.

"We need the regulation to give us a sense of
security in doing our job," he was quoted as
saying by Antara newswire. "It’s an open secret
that many officials are in trouble only because
law enforcers act on one source of information."
The governors hoped law enforcers would verify
information about alleged corruption by local
government officials with supervisory
institutions, such as the Regional Supervision
Agency.

 ENVIRONMEN

T

Mining group objects to new forest guidelines

Jakarta Post - May 31, 2006

Jakarta — The debate over whether to protect the
country’s forests or promote investment in the
mining sector has reemerged, with mining firms now
up in arms over Forestry Ministry guidelines that
they claim are hampering their operations.

Association of Indonesian Coal Producers chairman
Jeffrey Mulyono said the guidelines — issued
through Forestry Minister Regulation No. 14/2006
— only caused unnecessary problems for mining
firms, and could deter future investment in the
sector.

Jeffrey, who also chairs the Indonesian Mining
Association, slammed the requirement that a mining
firm intending to operate in a forest would have
to provide a “compensatory site” twice as large as
the mining concession they intended to lease.

Those failing to comply with the requirement
within two years would be subject to an additional
royalty of 1 percent of production value.

It is this additional royalty that the mining
firms particularly object to, with an executive of
coal miner PT Interex Sacra Raya, Frans Nongka,
saying it could amount to "thousands of times the
land and building taxes imposed by the Finance
Ministry, and the annual royalties that mining
firms have to pay to the Energy and Mineral
Resources Ministry."

Central Kalimantan Governor Teras Narang agreed
with the mining firms, arguing that the regulation
would only add to the cost and risk of investing
in the mining sector, which many regions depended
on for their development.

"The regions are currently trying to pay for their
own development by strengthening local revenues
from business and investment. Thus, all relevant
regulations need to support these efforts," he
said.

Commenting on the dispute, the Energy and Mineral
Resources Ministry’s director general for mineral,
coal and geothermal resources, Simon Felix
Sembiring, said his ministry would soon discuss
the matter with Forestry Minister M.S. Kaban.

He said he hoped the talks would also make a
distinction between production forests and
protected forests that required stricter
conservation guidelines.

The bitter controversy over whether mining should
be allowed in the country’s protected forests
erupted in 2004 after the government issued
Government Regulation in lieu of Law No. 1/2004,
overruling the 1999 Forestry Law, which prohibited
open-pit mining in protected forests.

The regulation in lieu of law, which the
government argued was necessary to provide legal
certainty in respect of mining contracts signed
before the 1999 Forestry Law was enacted, was
later confirmed as the 2004 Forestry (Amendment)
Law, thus allowing 13 mining firms to resume their
operations within protected forests.

A challenge to the law brought by
environmentalists was turned down by the
Constitutional Court, although the court did ban
six of the firms from operating in protected
forests and ordered the rest to comply with the
relevant Forestry Ministry regulations.

Indonesia’s forestry and environment ministries
face a tough task in conserving the country’s
remaining 40 million hectares of forest, the
world’s third largest forest area, with 2.6
million hectares being deforested each year,
mostly as the result of illegal logging.


Lampung’s mangroves now only a beautiful memory

Jakarta Post - May 29, 2006

Oyos Saroso H.N., Bandarlampung — Illegal loggers
in Lampung have cleared tens of thousands of
hectares of mangrove forests, the green belt along
Sumatra’s eastern coast.

Logging activities have also occurred along the
coasts of South Lampung, Tanggamus and
Tulangbawang regencies, creating large-scale
coastal abrasion, thus making it difficult for
traditional shrimp farmers to obtain seawater for
their ponds.

According to data from the Lampung office of the
Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), of
the total 160,000 hectares of mangrove forests in
the province, 85 percent have been damaged in the
past eight years.

A traditional shrimp farmer in Sragi village,
South Lampung, Sulaiman, 40, said that mangrove
forest destruction had been going on for the past
five years, especially within the past year to
make way for shrimp ponds.

"As a result, coastal erosion has gradually
worsened." According to Sulaiman, the drop in the
seawater debit due to erosion has caused many
farmers to go out of business and take up other
jobs, like working as laborers in Bandarlampung.
Hundreds of farmers involved in producing shrimp
fries have also gone bankrupt.

Now, hundreds of hatcheries in South Lampung have
been left idle and have become mosquito breeding
grounds.

Sulaiman said that large-scale shrimp farmers
could stay in business by procuring water pumps to
maintain the water levels in their ponds. "Only
large-scale farms can afford to do that," he said.

Illegal logging is still going on around the PT
Dipasena Citra Darmaja (DCD) shrimp farm in
Tulangbawang regency. Company spokesman Agus Tito
said that local residents had cleared 3,000
hectares of mangrove forest spanning 27 kilometers
long and 300 to 700 meters wide.

Tito said that if mangrove logging continued
unchecked along the green belt, coastal erosion on
the eastern coast of Sumatra would exacerbate and
threaten the shrimp industry.

A number of areas along the eastern coast of
Lampung are in a critical condition. Data from
Mitra Bentala, an NGO advocating the conservation
of mangrove forests, indicates that only around 5
to 20 percent of mangrove forests still remain.

Mitra Bentala director Herza forecast that natural
disasters would likely occur if spatial planning
in coastal areas was not implemented.

According to Herza, mangrove forest destruction in
Lampung, such as on East Lampung regency’s east
coast has reached between 15 to 20 percent,
Lampung Bay (Bandarlampung) 5 percent, Semangka
Bay (Tanggamus) 20 to 25 percent, and on West
Lampung’s coast between 10 to 20 percent.

"It is caused by the rampant conversion of
mangrove forest into traditional shrimp farms by
local residents, around 100 meters from the beach.
Ironically, after opening the farms, residents
abandon them and look for more favorable places,"
said Herza.

The most critical condition, said Herza, was the
forest area in East Lampung regency’s eastern-most
area which was difficult to reach. He said that
apart from the opening of new traditional shrimp
farms, sand miners had also contributed to coastal
destruction. A researcher from Lampung University,
Buchori Ayik, said that the east coast had a
relatively level coast and the longest span of
mangrove forest in Lampung. Mangrove forest
destruction, he explained, is caused by forest
conversion resulting in coastal erosion.

Lampung Walhi data shows that around 85 percent of
the 160,000 hectares of mangrove forests in
Lampung have been damaged due to forest conversion
since 1998. As many as 12,000 hectares are located
in the green belt area along the eastern coast
around the Mesuji river delta in Tulangbawang.

"The loss of mangrove forests has caused coastal
abrasion on the east coast of Sumatra. The
mangrove forest in Tulangbawang acts as a buffer
against erosion caused by strong waves especially
when there are easterly winds," said Lampung Walhi
director, Mukri Friatna.

The Lampung governor’s aide in economic, financial
and development affairs, Harris Hasyim, said that
the provincial administration would require Rp 2
trillion (US$222.5 million) to restore the damage
done to mangrove forests across Lampung by illegal
loggers.

Hasyim said that if forest destruction continued
unchecked it would be unfavorable for Lampung’s
economy, especially following the endorsement of
the international environmental policy on
agricultural products, including fisheries, such
as shrimps, a significant contribution to
Lampung’s economy, the consequences of which would
be the ban on Lampung fishery products being
exported to developed countries.

To overcome the problem, according to Harris, the
provincial administration is working together with
Lampung University and local hatchery companies to
initiate the Forest Fisheries Program, in which
residents, who depend on mangrove forests as their
main source of income, are not only required to
preserve them but also manage shrimp farms.

 HEALTH & EDUCATION

Indonesian villagers blame magic, not flu

Associated Press - May 29, 2006

Margie Mason, Kubu Simbelang — The three brick-
and-clapboard houses stand along the village’s
muddy dirt road, empty and forlorn. A naked light
bulb hangs from a wire over one door, still
burning. A white pet bird cries for food from its
cage. But no one dares to go near.

Health experts have focused on the houses since an
extended family started dying from bird flu and no
links to sick birds could be established. They
suspect limited human-to-human transmission, but
say there is no need to panic because no one else
in this mountain farming village has fallen ill
and the virus has not mutated.

Some neighbors insist, however, that bird flu is
not to blame. They are convinced black magic is at
work, that ghosts now haunt their quiet Christian
community of about 1,500 people.

Many are too scared to even pass by the family’s
houses, and some who live nearby are awakened by
nightmares that they will be the next to die. "We
are so afraid just to step into that house," said
a 37-year-old woman who identified herself only as
Sembining. "We can’t tell what we’re afraid of —
we’re just afraid."

She lived near the victims and said the first
woman who died was like a daughter to her. She
recalled feeding and caring for her friend as she
lay burning with fever before bird flu was ever
suspected. Sembining can’t understand why she,
too, didn’t fall ill. "I think the family was
cursed,“she said.”It must be, because if it’s
bird flu, why only their family? Their blood?"

This is the largest cluster in a handful of cases
involving bird flu passing from human to human,
but scientists think it has always done so between
blood relatives — not spouses. That has led some
to theorize there may be a genetic susceptibility
to the disease, but there is no evidence yet to
support that.

Tests found no trace of the H5N1 virus in the
village’s poultry, and dozens of hens, roosters
and chicks run freely in backyards. Pigs, cows,
buffalo, dogs and barefoot children roam along the
rutted road and across fields of chilies, oranges
and limes.

Whatever the source of the infection, six of seven
family members who tested positive for H5N1 have
died. An eighth was buried before samples could be
taken, but the World Health Organization considers
her part of the cluster.

As their neighbors started dying, confusion and
mistrust prompted villagers to stop cooperating
with officials. Many refused to give blood
samples, fearing they would later fall ill and
suffer the fate of their neighbors.

The case has been a powerful lesson for WHO
officials in understanding the importance of early
communication and education.

"We’re seeing what problems we’re going to run
into on the ground," WHO spokesman Dick Thompson
said. “We’re learning with every step.”

Jules Pieters, manager of WHO’s rapid response and
containment group in Geneva, said it is clear that
people familiar with the culture, language and
customs of this area should have been involved
earlier to help villagers understand what was
happening, how to protect themselves and the
importance of allowing treatment if they develop
symptoms. Instead, many people who were never
scared of doctors before are now terrified of
them.

"We are afraid to be sent to an isolation room.
You know an isolation room is a slaughtering room
— a room for the people who want to die," said
villager Caranta Perangin-Angin. "Therefore we are
afraid of (letting doctors) take blood. Taking the
blood, for me, symbolizes going to die."

Indonesian officials reported that at least one
patient had fled the hospital to seek traditional
medicine and was later caught and returned. In the
event H5N1 should mutate into a form easily passed
among humans, such behavior would likely spread
the illness further — a serious worry for experts
who fear the possibility of a bird flu pandemic.

"In these situations, we need to first earn the
trust of the people most directly at risk,“Thompson said.”I think one of the lessons we’re
learning from this outbreak is that you can’t just
drive truckloads of Tamiflu into this area and
expect that the problem is solved." He said some
villagers began associating Tamiflu, the chief
drug to treat bird flu, with death because members
of the infected family — most of whom were given
the medicine too late to help — were dying after
taking the pills. Not everyone in the village is
spooked.

Parked on a bench outside his tiny shop and
strumming a guitar, Bapak Karunia Sembiring smiled
when asked about bird flu. "If the doctors said
it’s bird flu, then so be it." He said he is happy
officials are monitoring the villagers’ health and
spraying disinfectant. But the 60-year-old fears
his village will be shunned.

"I’m a little bit worried about what will happen
in the future to the village,“he said.”The worst
is that the world will hate us, will judge us."


Group protests bird flu decision

Jakarta Post - May 29, 2006

Jakarta — About 50 people from North Sumatra’s
Karo regency living in Greater Jakarta staged a
peaceful rally near the Hotel Indonesia traffic
circle Saturday, protesting the government’s
decision to name Karo a bird flu affected area.

"The decision is premature. It only causes
material losses to our brothers who are poultry
breeders and traders there," one of the
protesters, Anderson Ginting, said as quoted by
Tempointeraktif.

Poultry breeders in Karo have seen their daily
income drop drastically since bird flu cases were
reported in the regency.

The Health Ministry confirmed last week that a man
died of bird flu in Kubu Sembelang, Karo. The
result brought the total cases of bird flu in
Indonesia to 43, with 33 fatalities, second only
to Vietnam.

North Sumatra joins Jakarta, West Java and other
parts of Indonesia that have been affected by bird
flu.

 ISLAM/RELIGION

Yudhoyono concerned by militias

Jakarta Post - May 29, 2006

Jakarta — Amid criticism for his alleged failure
to take action, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
has expressed concern about the growth of militias
who glorify violence in the name of religion or
ethnicity.

Although he made no specific mention of any group,
Yudhoyono said that nobody in the republic has the
right to dictate their views to others by means of
violence. He said he knew of groups who are
intolerant and take the law into their own hands.

"No element or community in this country can force
their will on others, or do whatever they want and
resort to lawlessness. It’s time for each of us to
behave responsibly," he said while opening a two-
day congress of the New Indonesia Alliance Party
(PPIB) here on Saturday.

Public resentment of the government’s failure to
stop violent religious and ethnic-based militias
has been growing, following incidents of violence
involving such groups.

The former First Lady Siti Nuriyah Wahid reported
Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR) leader Fadloli El
Muhir to the police for allegedly slandering women
activists who took part in a street demonstration
against the anti-pornography bill. FBR members
have also reportedly tried to force singer Inul
Daratista to leave Jakarta for similar reasons.

Last week, members of the Islam Defenders Front
(FPI) reportedly forced former president
Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid to leave the podium at
an interfaith forum in Purwakarta, West Java. They
did it to protest his statement on a radio talk
show that the holy Koran was "the most
pornographic scripture".

The Purwakarta incident has triggered tension
between FPI and Gus Dur’s supporters, who staged
street demonstrations last Friday demanding that
the government disband FPI.

Addressing his followers during a counter-
demonstration near FPI headquarters in Central
Jakarta, FPI leader Habib Riziq insisted that the
group would defend the anti-pornography bill as
best they could.

The bill, which has found support among Islamic-
oriented political parties and conservative Muslim
leaders, is being debated at the House of
Representatives.

The President portrayed the growth of intolerant
groups which justify violence as a sign of eroding
nationalism. "Our founding fathers built this
country on the consensus of unity in diversity. It
is a consensus that we have to uphold forever," he
said.

The president said forcing others to accept
certain values is not only against the law but
also against the principle of democracy.

PPIB chairman Sjahrir, a noted economist and a
presidential advisor for economic affairs, also
warned of national disintegration because the
people are increasingly segregated. They have come
to distrust each other, he said. "When you don’t
have trust in others, you trust only yourself. The
concern is when your trust in yourself is
absolute. We must maintain integration because, by
design and by essence, our principle of unity in
diversity is about differences," he said.


Gus Dur supporters want FPI disbanded

Jakarta Post - May 27, 2006

Ridwan Max Sijabat and ID Nugroho, Jakarta/Jember
— Hundreds of supporters of Abdurrahman “Gus Dur”
Wahid rallied Friday to demand the government
disband the militant Islam Defenders Front (FPI),
who disrupted an appearance by the former
president at an interfaith meeting this week.

They demonstrated at the National Police
Headquarters in South Jakarta and FPI’s base in
Slipi, Central Jakarta. Police kept tight control
over the demonstration to prevent violence.

In the East Java town of Jember, hundreds of FPI
militia members clashed with members of Garda
Bangsa, a paramilitary group affiliated with the
National Awakening Party, although no serious
injuries were reported.

Tension between the groups has escalated after FPI
members forced Gus Dur off the stage at a rally
Tuesday in Purwakarta, West Java. They denounced
his opposition to the controversial pornography
bill, which is supported by fundamentalist Islamic
groups.

Members of several other militant groups also were
reportedly involved in the Purwakarta incident.

Gus Dur, a controversial leader of Indonesia’s
largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama, is a
steadfast advocate of pluralism and has condemned
the bid by hardliners to establish a theocratic
state.

"The FPI have slandered Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus
Dur), who is our leader, a former president, a
national unity symbol and our imam. Their actions
cannot be tolerated," said Garda Bangsa leader
Eman Hendarman.

Separately, NU deputy chairman Rozy Munir told The
Jakarta Post the police should have taken strict
action against FPI members long time ago.

"Violent acts should not be tolerated. They do not
represent Muslims as they claim to do," he said.

Garda Bangsa was joined by about 200 people
grouped in the Alliance for an Antiviolent
Society, the NU’s paramilitary force Banser and
Christian youth organizations at police
headquarters.

"We demand the police enforce the law. Violent
organizations that wage terror and criminal acts
have to be stopped,“Eman said.”We didn’t notify Gus Dur about this protest. He
would have objected to this because he is a man of
peace and wouldn’t approve of any actions that
could incite violence." The protesters submitted a
petition to the police listing alleged violent
acts committed by the FPI. National Police
spokesman Brig. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam promised
the police would look into the protesters’ claims
and discuss them with legislators.

"We listen and consider all the complaints. If it
is proven that it (the FPI) has caused civil
unrest and poses a threat to the public, of course
we can disband it," he said.

At around 3 p.m. protesters moved to the FPI
headquarters in Slipi area. At Petamburan, some
150 FPI members were joined by about 300 members
of the Betawi Brotherhood Forum, who carried
wooden sticks, sharpened bamboo and chains.

To avoid a confrontation between the two mobs, the
police redirected Gus Dur’s supporters when they
reached Slipi.

FPI leader Habib Riziq told reporters that the
Purwakarta incident should not be “exaggerated”
but he did not apologize, as demanded by Gus Dur’s
supporters.

He said the FPI would defend the pornography bill
and would ask police to protect them in their
efforts.

Riziq said Gus Dur’s appearance in Purwakarta had
“hurt the feelings of every Muslim”.


Ulemas proscribe separatist movements

Jakarta Post - May 27, 2006

Indra Harsaputra, Ponorogo — The Indonesian Ulema
Council (MUI) on Friday proscribed any movements,
either by individuals, groups of people,
institutions or organizations, that threaten
national unity.

The decree was one of several decisions taken
during a meeting of ulema from across the country
at the Gontor Muslim boardinghouse in Ponorogo,
East Java.

This was the second meeting of its kind, held to
address different problems facing the country. The
first such meeting took place in Jakarta in 2003,
during which the ulema proscribed terrorism and
bank interest rates.

"The unity of Indonesia is final. To those
intending to separate from the country, Muslims
have to enlighten them that such action is
forbidden (by Islamic law)," said Ma’ruf Amin,
chairman of MUI’s fatwa commission.

Ma’ruf said that when some parties in Madura
expressed their intention to establish a separate
province under the name Serambi Medinnah, they had
not violated the decree because they were still
acting within the confines of the unitary state.

The Madura chapter of the MUI declared earlier
this month its intention to establish Serambi
Medinnah, which literally means Medina’s veranda.

Ma’ruf said the MUI had no desire to make Islam
the sole religion of Indonesia, and would continue
to protect the right of non-Muslims to practice
their religions.

"We agreed with all ulema to uphold the concept of
the unitary state of the Republic of Indonesia,
with not only Islam, which should be accommodated,
but also other religions, with all the rights and
obligations," he said.

Ma’ruf reiterated the MUI would protect the rights
of all nonindigenous people and non-Muslims. He
said the organization was in the process of
bringing together elements of all the country’s
Islamic groups, including the largest Muslim
organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, Muhammadiyah and
the Islam Defenders Front, and reaching an
agreement on tolerance.

"I guarantee they will not be involved in any acts
of violence. They will be calmer and appreciate
tolerance without violence," he said.

If nonindigenous people are discriminated against,
like in the issuance of citizenship cards, the MUI
will ask the government to address the problem.
"The citizenship issue has nothing to do with
religion, but the bureaucracy," he said.

The MUI again urged the government to ratify the
bill on pornography, as well as an
antidiscrimination bill.

The ulemas also underlined the importance of
encouraging every region to have local regulations
banning prostitution, the consumption of alcohol
and gambling, like those already implemented in
Tangerang and Cilegon in Banten, Cianjur in West
Java and Bulukumba in South Sulawesi.

Other decrees issued during the meeting included
one banning demonstrators from harming themselves.
Protesting by sewing your mouth shut is forbidden
by religion because it is against human nature,
Ma’ruf said.


SBY urged to bring militants into line

Jakarta Post - May 26, 2006

Jakarta — Religious leaders from the country’s
major Muslim organizations and activists have
demanded President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono crack
down on extremist groups that commit violent acts
in the name of religion.

Activists grouped in the Alliance for an
Antiviolent Society and leaders of Indonesia’s
largest Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama and
Muhammadiyah, have warned the nation’s integrity
is under threat from the groups.

They urged the police to stop radical groups from
taking the law into their own hands. They were
responding to a number of violent incidents
recently.

On Tuesday, the Islam Defenders Front (FPI)
demanded former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur”
Wahid leave the podium at an interethnic and
religious discussion in Purwakarta, West Java.
They said Gus Dur should not have been allowed to
attend the discussion because he rejected the
pornography bill, and that the discussion should
be stopped because the organizer used the term
pluralism.

In Bekasi, police arrested Bekasi Islam Defenders
Front chairman Abdul Qodir, along with 20 other
FPI members, last Monday because they had damaged
property, including alleged houses of
prostitution. Armed with sticks, the group raided
several cafes in Kampung Kresek in Pondok Gede,
Bekasi, after participating in a mass protest
Sunday in support of the pornography bill.

Former first lady Sinta Nuriyah Wahid reported the
chairman of the Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR),
Fadloli El Muhir, to Jakarta Police last Monday
for allegedly slandering activists who took part
in a rally against the pornography bill.

Fadloli said during last week’s live broadcast on
Metro TV that the women who participated in the
rally were "evil, wretched women who did not have
good morals".

The FBR also threatened singer Inul Daratista,
telling her to leave the capital, and raided her
karaoke lounge in North Jakarta after she appeared
in a rally against the bill.

The executive director of the International Center
for Islam and Pluralism, Syafi’i Anwar, said the
phenomenon indicated that the state endorsed
violence.

"The state must be responsible for protecting its
citizens. But what we see now is that the state
lets some groups use violence to force their
beliefs (on others)," he said.

He said the police seemed afraid to act because
the groups used Islam as a cover. "Sooner or
later, the international world will see this as a
threat".

Nahdlatul Ulama executive Masdar F Mas’udi said
the groups’ actions were contrary to Islam. "Islam
teaches people not to use violence or to force
their beliefs on others." He said their actions
should be seen as criminal. "The state has the
responsibility, because citizens can make
mistakes. However, our President and Vice
President have not taken any action, even though
they have seen violence happening in this
country," he said.

Entertainer Rieke Diah Pitaloka said the groups
had been singling her out for harassment since she
asked the government to issue a policy on the
pornography bill. "The police did nothing to
protect me".

Din Syamsuddin, the chairman of Muhammadiyah, has
also expressed concern about the groups’
lawlessness. He specifically referred to the
harassment of Gus Dur. He urged police not to
hesitate to take action against the perpetrators,
regardless of whether they claimed to be defenders
of Islam.

"Muhammadiyah is gravely concerned about the
violence a group of people committed in the name
of religion," Antara quoted him as saying Thursday
in the West Kalimantan capital of Pontianak.
"Violence and anarchy undermine the nation’s
integrity and the democracy that Indonesia is
rigorously pursuing," he said.

A member of the House of Representatives, Badriyah
Fayumi, called on all Indonesian people to respond
in a measured way. "Do not fight violence with
violence. Let the police handle the problem," she
said.


Ma’ruf has no plans to drop references to religion
on IDs

Jakarta Post - May 26, 2006

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta — The government will
maintain references to religions on identity cards
for the time being, the home minister says.

"There has never been a plan to drop religions
from ID cards," M. Ma’ruf told The Jakarta Post on
the sidelines of a House of Representatives
hearing Thursday.

Earlier this month, ministry secretary-general
Progo Nurdjaman said that the government was
considering dropping the reference to religions on
ID cards after protests from numerous minority
faiths. Progo said classing people by their
religions was unnecessary and could be used by
intolerant groups to incite sectarian violence.

Opposition, however, quickly mounted against the
proposal. In April, Muhammadiyah chairman Din
Syamsuddin told Antara the idea was preposterous.

"In a secular country, a column for religions on
ID cards is unnecessary, but we should not follow
this standard. People here identify themselves by
their religions," he said. Secularism is enshrined
in the nation’s Constitution.

Din said injustice rather than religion caused
most conflict in the country. The government
should tackle poverty and injustice rather than
remove religious references from state documents,
he said.

Stating one’s religion is compulsory on ID cards
along with details of one’s date of birth, marital
status and occupation. The problem is the state
recognizes only six religions: Islam,
Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and
Confucianism.

People of other faiths must choose one of the six
if they want a valid ID card — a move that human
rights groups have long criticized as
discriminatory.

Chinese Confucians and Taoists used to suffer the
most from the requirement, with many writing
Buddhist or Christian in the religion column.

Now, the Confucians are officially recognized —
in theory. One ID application form seen by The
Jakarta Post included a six box marked “other” —
presumably where followers of Confucius could
write their religion.

But would these “other” religions be recognized by
local officials? Many Confucians think not and
continue to tick one of the five main faiths when
they get a new card.

However, according to Ma’ruf, a man in the East
Java town of Malang applied successfully for an ID
card as a Confucian. "It was the right decision as
it was in line with the Constitution," he said.

Swandy Sihotang of the non-governmental
organization the Coalition for Civil Registrations
said there was no good reason for the government
to continue the identity card policy.

"There are millions of people whose faiths are not
recognized and have to pretend they believe in one
of five recognized religions. The government
should start paying attention to them," Swandy
told the Post.


Activists report Maftuh for slandering Ahmadiyah
sect

Jakarta Post - May 24, 2006

Jakarta — An non-governmental alliance protecting
religious freedoms reported the Religious Affairs
Minister to the National Police on Monday,
accusing him of defaming the Ahmadiyah sect.

Uli Parulian Sihombing, a lawyer acting for the
Alliance for the Freedom of Religion and Faith,
said the group had "reported the minister (Maftuh
Basyuni) for insulting and slandering... the
members of the Ahmadiyah community." Uli said
Maftuh had violated at least four articles of the
Criminal Code by repeatedly saying in the media
that the Ahmadiyah sect was heretical and was
misleading people.

In the Feb. 20-26 edition of Tempo magazine, the
minister was quoted as saying that the members of
Ahmadiyah group should stop calling themselves
Muslims because their beliefs were heretical to
Islam.

The Ahmadiyah follow the prophet Mirza Ghulam
Ahmad (1835-1908), an Indian who claims to be the
last prophet of Islam — after Muhammad, an idea
mainstream Muslims reject.

Uli said the alliance believed the minister’s
statements had helped lead to the persecution of
Ahmadiyah followers in Segerongan village, West
Lombok. About 120 followers were forced out of
their compound there after local Muslims drove
them out of the area.

"We will also request police protection for the
members of Ahmadiyah," Uli said.

The alliance, established in July 2005, is made up
of NGOs and individuals concerned with upholding
the freedom of minority groups to worship.

"We are very concerned about the fate of several
religious groups (in the country) whose members
have been marginalized and have been prosecuted as
criminals for their faiths," Uli said.

Lia Aminudin, the leader of a small religious
group, the Eden community, is currently being
tried at the Central Java District court after
being charged with inciting civil unrest for
spreading the group’s teachings.

When contacted by The Jakarta Post, the minister’s
personal assistant, Ahmad, said Maftuh was aware
of the alliance’s plan to report him to the police
but was unavailable for comment.

 BUSINESS & INVESTMENT

Governments told to up infrastructure investment

Jakarta Post - May 30, 2006

Riyadi Suparno, Tokyo — The World Bank, a strong
advocate of private sector investment in
infrastructure, is now calling on governments
around the world to increase their investment in
infrastructure, noting that private sector
investment in the sector can never be enough and
has often brought about an unintended consequence:
the victimizing of the poor.

Speaking at the opening of the Annual Bank
Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE), World
Bank President Paul Wolfowitz noted that attempts
to differentiate between “public” and “private”
approaches to infrastructure provision were
misplaced.

"We have moved away from a paradigm which once
expected the private sector to play the dominant
role in infrastructure. The private sector can —
and does — play an important role in increasing
investment and strengthening service delivery.

"But it is apparent that the capacity or
willingness of the private sector to respond to
all the infrastructure needs is limited,"
Wolfowitz said.

According to the World Bank, private sector
investment in the infrastructure sector in
developing countries continued to decline from a
peak of US$128 billion in 1997 to a mere $58
billion in 2003.

Antonio Estache, senior economic adviser to the
infrastructure vice presidency of The World Bank,
said that not only was private sector investment
in infrastructure declining, but public sector
investment in the sector was also falling.

This was happening because many governments of
developing countries had deliberately reduced
their investments in the sector as a result of
zealous privatization drives.

He noted that private sector investment only
accounted for about 20 percent of all investment
needs in developing countries, and, therefore,
public investment was badly needed to make up the
shortfall.

Much of the private sector investment has been
concentrated on the more lucrative sectors,
especially telecommunications, while sectors
important to the poor, particularly water and
sanitation, were very much neglected.

Even when the private sector did become involved,
the governments of developing countries often
failed to provide the necessary regulatory
frameworks that would ensure access and
affordability for the poor. And again, the poor
were victimized by not having access to services
or, even when they did have access, by being
forced to spend too much of their incomes to buy
the services.

Therefore, Wolfowitz warned that the public sector
approach to infrastructure must focus not only on
economic growth, but also on what he termed
“smart” growth, i.e. "growth that is economically
sound, environmentally friendly, socially
acceptable, locally desirable and, most important,
growth that makes a difference in people’s lives."

Wolfowitz also called on the governments of
developing countries to get tough on corruption as
corruption once again penalized the poor more than
any other bracket in society.

"Ordinary people will not fully benefit from new
infrastructure such as roads if — as in the case
of certain projects in Asia — the improved access
is accompanied by ’informal’ levies or charges
that raise transport costs back to previous
levels," he said.

To that end, Wolfowitz noted that the World Bank
would continue to support infrastructure
development in developing countries.

In the global order of infrastructure, the bank
sees itself as a “two percent solution” as the
bank currently contributes about 2 percent of the
some $400 billion invested annually on developing
countries’ infrastructure.

Public investment in infrastructure is becoming
more important now, not only because of declining
private investment but also because of the
increasing needs for infrastructure in developing
countries as a result of population growth, as
well as the increasing movement of people from
rural to urban areas.

Today, of the 6.3 billion people in the world, 1.6
billion do not have access to energy services, and
2.6 billion people lack access to water and
sanitation services.

In the next 25 years, another 2 billion people
will be born — 97 percent of them in developing
countries. Not only that, more than half of these
people will live in urban areas, creating more
challenges in meeting their basic infrastructure
needs. They will need access to water and
sanitation services, energy, transport and
telecommunication services.

"We know, however, that this is not an impossible
task. Sustainable development can go hand-in-hand
with responsible infrastructure development, which
takes into account social and environmental
considerations from the outset," Wolfowitz said.


President’s plan to form new economic task force
slammed

Jakarta Post - May 29, 2006

Jakarta — Experts have criticized a plan by
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to form a new
working unit to help address the country’s
economic problems and improve the investment
climate, saying the only thing the business
community needed was a concrete and unified
economic policy.

Yudhoyono should concentrate on making concrete
policies and maximizing the existing resources,
the chairman of the Indonesian National Economic
Recovery Committee, Sofjan Wanandi, said Sunday.

"The planned unit is basically a good idea. But I
doubt that the President will implement the input
provided by the unit. He cannot even implement
existing plans and resolve the problems already
conveyed by the business community," he said.

In a Cabinet meeting Friday, Yudhoyono came up
with the idea to form a unit tasked with providing
input on ways to address economic problems at
home, and also to supervise the implementation of
the government’s economic policies.

"The unit is part of a tool attached to the
President. Its task will be to smooth reform in
the economy, administration, state enterprises and
small and medium businesses," Coordinating
Minister for the Economy Boediono said after the
meeting.

The unit, which will be formed through
presidential decree, will consist of professional
economists and businesspeople. There are reports
that former Cabinet secretary and former attorney
general Marsilam Simanjuntak has been tapped to
lead the unit.

Boediono said the unit also would help the
government improve the business climate and ensure
that problems faced by the business community
would be addressed effectively and promptly.

Economist Aviliani said such a unit would be a
waste of energy because the economic policies
applied by Yudhoyono were no different from those
of previous administrations.

"The real sector needs a breakthrough in economic
policies, not more advisers or new plans. If the
unit can only provide similar programs to those
already arranged by the economic ministers, it
would be just another waste," she said.

Since taking office in October 2004, experts say
Yudhoyono has failed to introduce any substantial
economic policies to help encourage investment,
despite having already replaced his chief economic
minister and finance minister.

Local and international investors remain concerned
about illegal fees, a complex bureaucracy, legal
uncertainty and unfriendly local administrations,
with few signs their concerns are being addressed.

While Yudhoyono and his economic team blame
external factors as the main cause of the
country’s economic problems, the business
community sees little effort being made to lessen
the impact by concretely addressing the problems.

"The problems have already been laid out by the
business community. What Yudhoyono should do is
execute the economic policies already planned. He
should be quick because the real sector is not
developing and unemployment is soaring," Sofjan
said.

Indonesia is facing an economic slowdown with
sluggish growth in the real sector, which has seen
the number of unemployed rise to 40.1 million, or
37 percent of the country’s 107 million workforce.


Profit from fashion declines by 40%

Jakarta Post - May 27, 2006

Jakarta — Fashion products have not bounced back
from the fuel price increase in October last year,
causing earnings from clothing and shoes to
decline by 40 percent since January.

The management of Mal Cinere in South Jakarta,
Lanny Darmawan, was quoted by Antara as saying
that although Jakarta’s shopping malls were never
empty of visitors, only a few actually came to buy
something.

"Visitors still come, about 10,000 visitors a day,
but only a few people actually return home with
shopping," she said, explaining that unlike
fashion products, food and beverages sales were
more resilient.

Mall tenants say that to get through this dry
period, they are aggressively promoting their
products through various promotional programs.
"Reduced profits are no big concern, just as long
as they can stay afloat during this time," Lanny
said.


President says IMF debt to be repaid in 2 years

Jakarta Post - May 24, 2006

Tony Hotland and Urip Hudiono, Mataram/Jakarta —
President Yudhoyono confirmed the government’s
intention Tuesday of repaying ahead of schedule
Indonesia’s multibillion dollar debt to the
International Monetary Fund (IMF), which would be
done in two stages and within two years.

"I have talked to Bank Indonesia and I think it’s
about time we paid. We will repay our $7.8 billion
debt to the IMF in two years," he said during a
visit to Mataram, the capital of West Nusa
Tenggara, on the island of Lombok.

During a briefing of provincial governors,
Yudhoyono explained that the repayment was
essential to reducing the country’s heavy debt
burden, whose continued existence has come in for
heavy criticism from some sections of the
community lately.

He asked members of the public to be fair,
however, and not allow the foreign debt question
to be turned into a political football as
Indonesia still required loans to support the
nation’s economic and development plans.

"We need to now manage our debts better, and
continue the efforts to repay them earlier by
increasing domestic revenues, both from fiscal and
non-fiscal sources. We will also continue to
prevent corruption so that we can pay our debts
and improve our economy," Susilo said.

The government has been under public pressure to
reduce the country’s foreign debt and improve its
management. Last year, the nation’s foreign
borrowings stood at US$72.8 billion, including
borrowings on the global bond market and the IMF
debt.

This accounts for some 45 percent of gross
domestic product (GDP), with principal and
interest payments accounting for a quarter of
state revenues as compared to less than 10 percent
for the country’s education sector.

Separately, BI Deputy Governor Hartadi A. Sarwono
said the central bank would soon finalize a debt
repayment plan and submit it to the government for
approval. He acknowledged that besides a one-off
payment of the IMF debt, a two-tranche repayment
was among the options being considered.

"We may pay back half of the debt this year, and
the rest next year,“Hartadi said.”Our main
concern is the ability of our foreign exchange
reserves to cover the repayments."

Indonesia’s outstanding debt to the IMF takes the
form of a standby loan that BI manages to support
the country’s forex reserves. It matures in 2010,
and is part of some $25 billion in total loans the
Fund extended since the outbreak of the 1997 Asian
financial crisis to help Indonesia rescue ailing
banks and restructure its debts.

BI Senior Deputy Governor Miranda S. Goeltom had
previously said that early debt repayment was
“almost certain”, considering Indonesia’s recently
strengthening forex reserves, which currently
stand at some US$43 billion.

Analysts have, however, warned of risks in hastily
repaying debts out of the forex reserves, which
consist mostly of the short-term portfolio funds
that have recently flooded into Indonesia’s high-
yield financial markets, but which could flow out
again at any time. The rupiah and local stocks
have recently come under sustained pressure
resulting from negative global sentiment.

Indonesia ended its loan agreement with the IMF in
2003 amid criticism from nationalist circles of a
number of economic reform policies tied to the
loans, including subsidy cuts and the
privatization program.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, who first
suggested the early repayment of the IMF debt,
said a preliminary study by BI showed it would be
more beneficial to repay the debt given rising
borrowing costs.

Sri Mulyani, a former IMF director, also said that
with Brazil and Argentina having recently repaid
their debts to the IMF, Indonesia and Turkey were
now its largest debtors, and virtually its largest
income contributors, which could be considered
unfair given Indonesia’s developing country
status.

IMF country director Stephen B. Schwartz had
earlier said that the Fund would welcome whatever
Indonesia decided to do, stressing that every
member country member had the right to repay its
debts ahead of schedule.

 OPINION & ANALYSIS

Solidarity not enough

Jakarta Post Editorial - May 31, 2006

The entire country and the world have once again
reacted with solidarity following another natural
disaster here, this time the magnitude 5.9
earthquake that devastated Indonesia’s densely
populated Yogyakarta and parts of Central Java
last Saturday.

Humanitarian assistance from Indonesians of all
walks of life, foreign countries and institutions
continues to pour in for the survivors of the
deadly quake.

While praising the global response to the
disaster, we question the coordination among
institutions involved in the humanitarian mission.
There have been continuing reports of aid failing
to reach survivors days after the disaster struck.

A displaced man who was sharing a tent with dozens
of other people was shown on TV complaining to
visiting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono about
food shortages. Other survivors interviewed on
radio and TV said their flattened village had
remained unnoticed.

Coordination is the key to a successful disaster
response operation, as the massive efforts in
tsunami-devastated Aceh and Nias taught us. Poor
coordination, lengthy bureaucratic procedures,
poor management and incompetent human resources
are common barriers to a relief mission, and add
to the plight of disaster victims.

In the case of the Yogyakarta quake, apparently a
lack of coordination has slowed the distribution
of humanitarian assistance for an estimated
600,000 people made homeless by the disaster. The
President has dismissed reports of looting and
theft, but such crimes could happen if no
improvements are made to ensure survivors get the
help they need.

It is difficult to understand why there are such
problems in aid distribution, given that
Yogyakarta and Klaten, the areas hardest hit by
the quake, enjoy the kind of quality
infrastructure that Aceh and other islands outside
Java generally do not have.

Perhaps some of these problems could have been
prevented had the President declared the
earthquake a national disaster as soon as the
scale of the destruction became apparent.

National disaster status allows the President to
appoint a person to handle relief operations. With
clear authority, this person is responsible for
aid delivery, medical treatment for the injured
and, if necessary, the reconstruction of destroyed
properties.

By declaring a national disaster the government
also is able to deploy all possible resources to
help the survivors, including allocating emergency
funds and disbursing the money without having to
wait for approval from the House of
Representatives.

With one person clearly in command, the President
would not have to stay in Yogyakarta to directly
oversee disaster handling, a move this paper sees
as unnecessary.

Telecommunications infrastructure in Yogyakarta,
except for the first day after the quake struck,
is sophisticated enough to enable video
conferences between the President and government
officials in the field.

It was certainly a morale booster for Yudhoyono to
make a trip to the disaster area in the immediate
aftermath of the quake and show solidarity with
survivors, but that was enough. His absence from
Jakarta, where most of the Cabinet members and top
government officials work, for several days could
affect his administration.

Furthermore, his stay in Yogyakarta could raise
the eyebrows, if not jealousy, of other disaster
victims, like those in Aceh and Nias, where over
130,000 people were killed and thousands of others
went missing when the tsunami struck in 2004.

There is still much work to be done to help quake
survivors. The compassion for the survivors is
certainly there, now all that is needed is
teamwork to speed up relief efforts. We do not
expect the people to suffer any longer.


Disaster nation

Jakarta Post Editorial - May 29, 2006

Television reports of disasters in the country now
come with melancholy tunes, most notably the
ballads of Ebiet G. Ade. Since the 2004 earthquake
and tsunami in Aceh, his song Berita kepada Kawan
(News to a friend) seems to have become the
official theme song for tragedies.

While scientists rush for explanations every time
a natural disaster strikes, it is inevitable that
many ordinary people look inward and ask what sins
they may have committed to anger God and nature.

Ebiet’s lyrics are once again being heard on Metro
TV. As Yogyakartans were anxiously anticipating a
possible eruption by Mt. Merapi, a strong
earthquake rocked the province and surrounding
areas early Saturday. In his ballad, Ebiet
speculates that the disasters in the archipelago
are because God is “tired of our behavior”.

We may scoff at the elderly and religious who
agree with Ebiet, who say we have been cursed with
earthquakes and tsunamis, landslides, floods and
bird flu because of our sins. But in the wake of
the prompt outpouring of condolences and aid from
all corners of the globe in response to this
latest tragedy, it would not hurt us to check our
bad habits — mainly corruption.

World leaders and the international community are
always generous in delivering humanitarian aid to
the victims of disasters here. And they are kind
enough not to come out and say why they are
anxious every time they help us. They worry that
their assistance will be misused and stolen, as
has happened in previous disasters. Unfortunately,
there are Indonesians heartless enough to exploit
their suffering compatriots and steal the aid they
so desperately need.

Greed, which clouds common sense, is an
alternative explanation for the country’s
disasters, apart from the archipelago’s hazardous
location in the so-called Ring of Fire. Witness
the destruction of forests and poorly constructed
infrastructure, likely the result of people
skimming money from the budgets for these
projects. Many buildings here are all too easily
damaged in earthquakes, despite claims of solid
design.

And, as if forgetting that corruption remains our
worst enemy, many of us, including religious
leaders, have been occupied in recent months with
trying to secure the passage of a pornography
bill. The controversy over this bill, aimed at
improving the nation’s morality, has become a
national preoccupation, at times accompanied by
violence, while those involved in corruption live
their lives undisturbed.

When mosques in some areas of Aceh were the only
structures left standing after the tsunami, it was
pointed to by some as a sign that He protects the
God-fearing. It may be true that God protected
those mosques, but few gave thought to the
possibility that these places of worship remained
standing because those responsible for their
construction were too afraid to steal money from
the construction budgets, fearing the wrath of
those who commissioned the mosques, or perhaps of
God himself.

Apart from curbing greed, a little education about
how to reduce the losses and damage from natural
disasters would go a long way. As a country prone
to disasters, we need to learn from Japan, for
instance, how to take preventive measures and
raise awareness among the public about how to
respond to earthquakes.

In yet another difficult period, we thank domestic
donors and volunteers, and the international
community for their immediate assistance. From our
previous experiences with disasters, we hope every
measure is taken to ensure every rupiah of donated
money goes to those who are entitled to it. Then
Ebiet’s words would no longer be relevant, of a
people who repeat their mistakes and remain "proud
of their follies".

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