Indonesia News Digest Number 4 - January 19-25, 2004


West papua Labour issues Neo-liberal globalisation Government & politics 2004 elections Corruption/collusion/nepotism Media/press freedom Regional/communal conflicts Local & community issues Human rights/law Focus on Jakarta News & issues Environment Health & education International relations Military ties Economy & investment Opinion & analysis


German journalist arrested for visa violations in Aceh

Associated Press - January 24, 2004

Banda Aceh -- A German freelance journalist was arrested for illegally entering and reporting in war-torn Aceh province, a military spokesman said Saturday.

Cradow Cascha, 35 -- who claimed he was working for the International Press Association -- was detained late Friday while traveling on a public minivan in Central Aceh, said Lt. Col. Asep Sapari.

"He sneaked into Aceh province," Sapari said. "We suspect he did not have the proper visa and permit to report in Aceh." Cascha was being held in Gayo Luwes military post, he added.

The German Embassy in Jakarta and the International Press Association could not be contacted for comment.

Authorities have severely curtailed reporters' freedom of movement in Aceh since Jakarta declared martial law and launched a major military operation last May to crush the insurgency after failed peace talks with the rebels.

Foreign reporters now face a virtual ban from Aceh and require hard-to-get permits after media reports accused the military of abuses. Reporters must also enter Aceh via specific ports which have immigration officials.

Sapari said that Cascha had traveled overland from neighboring North Sumatra province.

An American freelance journalist, William Nessen, was arrested on June 24 and jailed for 40 days for violating his visa by traveling with the separatist rebels for three weeks. He was later deported.

Aceh rebels serve prison terms in Central Java

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2004

Nani Farida and Suherdjoko, Banda Aceh/Semarang -- Under a tight security escort 54 convicted Free Aceh Movement (GAM) members were transferred from Aceh on Thursday to prisons across Central Java to serve their sentences.

The group is the first batch of 143 prisoners who will do their jail time in exile across Java.

Wearing blue prison uniforms, the rebels -- all sentenced to three years or more in prison -- were handcuffed and chained to each other. Officers led them to a truck that drove them to Sultan Iskandar Muda military air base in Blang Bintang, Aceh Besar.

Shuffling to the truck, the rebels could only bow their heads, with their hands holding their few belongings -- worn-out pillows and mattresses. They were then flown by an Air Force C-130 Hercules to Semarang, the capital of Central Java. Only a few had the chance to meet family members before leaving.

"The transfer of the prisoners is due to legal procedures -- especially after we learned all of the prisons here are overcrowded," Aceh Police Chief Insp. Gen. Bachrumsyah Kasman said as he watched the transfer of the GAM prisoners. "Most of the prisoners were former GAM commanders in the field," he added.

Bachrumsyah said a second batch of about 89 prisoners would be flown immediately to Java from the North Aceh town of Lhokseumawe. They would include former GAM negotiators Sofyan Ibrahim Tiba, Teuku Kamaruzzaman, Nashiruddin bin Ahmad, Amni bin Ahmad Marzuki and Muhammad Usman.

Meanwhile in Semarang, Marsono, head of the provincial office of justice and human rights, said that 10 of the 54 prisoners would have to serve their prison terms at the Ambarawa town penitentiary, 23 at the Pekalongan town penitentiary, while the remaining 21 would be at the Magelang penitentiary -- all in Central Java.

"The government initially planned to transfer two other female inmates, but had to cancel that decision," Marsono told reporters without elaborating.

To secure the situation in Semarang when the rebels arrived, two platoons of Army soldiers equipped with M-16 rifles and dozens of police personnel were deployed.

Marsono said the government had decided to send 79 of 89 GAM prisoners in the second batch to the Nusakambangan maximum security prison island, while the remaining 10 would serve their terms at Semarang's Kedung Pane penitentiary. "About 32 GAM prisoners will be in Permisan, 20 others in Kembang Kuning, and the remaining 27 in Batu," Marsono said.

The government has said the exile was required to prevent the rebels from encouraging separatism in their homeland.

Over 1,000 rebels have been captured or surrendered since the Indonesian Military (TNI) launched its massive offensive against GAM in May last year. At least 1,300 people have been killed in the campaign. Human rights groups say most were unarmed villagers caught up in Indonesian Army operations.

GAM has been fighting for an independent homeland in the province since 1976. More than 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

GAM negotiators given harsh jail terms

Green Left Weekly - January 21, 2004

Pip Hinman -- On January 14, the Aceh high court upheld the verdict of a lower court which last year convicted five Free Aceh Movement (GAM) negotiators of treason and terrorism and sentenced them to long prison terms. The maximum penalty is death.

The five had been sentenced to serve between 12 and 16 years in prison, but due to overcrowding in Acehnese prisons the Indonesian government will send them to Nusakambangan, a prison in central Java set up under Dutch colonial rule.

A spokesperson for the Acehnese Community of Australia, Nurdin Abdul Rahman, condemned the court's decision and said he is worried that the negotiators would be tortured. He called on the Australian government to intervene to stop the GAM negotiators from being imprisoned. "These five GAM negotiators had been appointed by GAM, with the consent of the government of Indonesia", he said.

By early in 2003, it had become clear that President Megawati Sukarnoputri's government wasn't interested in finding a peaceful solution. It had insisted that GAM drop its demand for independence and disband if the negotiations were to continue. On May 19, the Megawati government declared martial law in Aceh and sent a 40,000-strong military force to try to crush the rebels.

A report by the US-based Human Rights Watch released on December 18 states that extra-judicial murders, "disappearances", physical abuse, arbitrary detention and restrictions on freedom of movement are now commonplace in Aceh. The report was compiled from the testimonies of Acehnese refugees in Malaysia.

More militia groups set up to fight GAM

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2004

Nani Farida, Banda Aceh -- After the six-month extension of martial law in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, civilians have been mobilized to set up militia groups across the war-torn province to help crush separatist rebels.

Members of these groups are equipped with sharpened bamboo sticks and machetes and wear white-and-red headbands. Most claim that they were victims of violence blamed on Free Aceh Movement (GAM) rebels.

An Acehnese man, Ahmad, 31, was among those civilians in Aceh Besar regency who joined a militia group. Along with around 1,500 people, mostly youths, he gathered at Peukan Biluy water fountain, about 15 kilometers east of the provincial capital of Banda Aceh, to declare the establishment of the Anti Aceh- Separatist Front (FPAS GAM) recently.

The group was initiated to help the military and police crush the rebels who are believed to have set up camps in the hilly area, known as a GAM stronghold.

"We were asked recently to gather here and Pak Keuchik [the village head] said that we should hunt for GAM rebels in that mountainous area," Ahmad, who is a banana vendor in Lambaro traditional market, said.

Nevertheless, he refused to answer a question pertaining to whether or not he would use sharp weapons to fight the separatist guerrillas. "I'm afraid the military will say I am a GAM member if I refuse to join [a militia group]. It is better I am here [with the group], isn't it?" Ahmad asked.

The wives of those joining the group also met at the fountain. They expressed concerns over their husbands' safety, arguing that they already knew that it was impossible to fight GAM that was equipped with guns, including AK-47s. However, after a whole day looking for GAM rebels the members of the group failed to find even one guerrilla.

Martial law was extended in Aceh on November 19. Earlier, the Indonesian Military (TNI) blamed a lack of public support from Acehnese civilians for its failure to capture key GAM leaders.

TNI chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto has endorsed the mobilization of civilians in Aceh. The military, however, refused to call the group a militia group, despite the fact that its members are allowed to carry sharp weapons.

Similar anti-GAM movements had earlier been initiated in Central Aceh and Bireun and other regencies across Aceh. In Aceh Jaya regency, the anti-GAM movement is called the Anti-Free Aceh Movement Front (FAGSAM), while in South Aceh, thousands of civilians have established the Anti-Separatist Movement (GPSG). In Lhokseumawe, North Aceh, a similar group is called the People's Fortress to Fight Aceh Separatists (Berantas).

In Indrapuri subdistrict, security officers have reportedly asked the wives of GAM rebels and their relatives to help them locate the guerrillas.

Human rights activists have expressed concern over the rampant establishment of militia groups in Aceh, saying the move could create civil war there.

In 1999, the TNI backed the establishment of pro-integration militia groups in the country's former province of East Timor ahead of a UN-sponsored independence vote there. The militiamen were blamed for carnage in East Timor when it voted for independence in August 1999.

TNI thwarts attack on headquarters

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2004

Jakarta -- The Indonesia Military (TNI) headquarters in Cilangkap, East Jakarta has thwarted a possible bomb attack allegedly planned by the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) as the man picked for the mission did not have the gumption to carry it out, an officer said.

The man, identified as 33-year-old Riduansyah from Aceh, a civilian employee at the TNI headquarters, has sought police protection after the rebels threatened to kill him and his family, TNI spokesman Col. D.J. Nachrowi said on Saturday.

"They [GAM] thought they could influence him. But I think he has the nationalist spirit as he rejected their order," he told The Jakarta Post.

TNI headquarters is located in Cilangkap in East Jakarta. The compound is also the Navy and Air Force headquarters.

The military launched a major offensive against GAM in May last year to end the decades-long rebellion in the resource-rich province.

Riduansyah, who lives with his wife and two children in a housing complex in Parung, Depok, West Java, is a native of Kutacane in Southeast Aceh. He is currently being questioned at the Jakarta Police headquarters, according to Sr. Comr. Mathius Salempang, who heads the detective and crime unit. "We need to verify whether his statement is true or not," he told the Post.

An officer at Depok Police station, with whom Riduansyah filed his report of the death threat, said the TNI employee had been involved in talks with a man who claimed to be a local GAM commander.

The GAM commander then asked Riduansyah to meet him somewhere in Parung. Riduansyah later met three men, who all claimed to be GAM members, in the area early in the morning, the police said.

"They had a gun and forced him [Riduansyah] to go with them. They later asked him to set a bomb in the headquarters and gave him Rp 23 million [US$2,738]," the officer, who requested anonymity, said. It remains unclear whether the three people also provided Riduansyah with explosives.

Riduansyah said he did not have the nerve to follow the instruction, but spent the money for his personal needs. The men who claimed to be GAM members continued to phone him, asking him to carry out the bombing.

Nachrowi said the police would investigate the case thoroughly in a bid to identify those who ordered Riduansyah to bomb the TNI headquarters.

GAM spokesman Sofjan Dawood denied any plan to carry out a bomb attack on the TNI headquarters. "We don't have any plan to blow up the TNI headquarters, although it is permissible," he said.

Sofjan also said he did not know Riduansyah or the rebels who ordered the bomb attack. "Riduansyah must be questioned thoroughly to understand his motive. He comes from Kutacane, which is not a strategic operational area for GAM," he asserted.

Central Aceh and Southeast Aceh are known to be a "white areas" where GAM influence is minimal.

The authorities have linked GAM to a series of bombings across the country, particularly after the deadly 2000 blast at the Jakarta Stock Exchange building on Jl. Sudirman in Central Jakarta.

A number of Acehnese, who were sent to jail for the incident, were accused of being GAM members. However, Tengku Ismuhadi Jafar, the alleged mastermind of the bombing, has denied any link with GAM.

Following the imposition of the martial law in Aceh in May last year, subdistricts in Jakarta have required residents to watch over Acehnese neighbors.

 West papua

Marshal law will mean suffering for the Papuan people

Kompas - January 24, 2004

Jayapura -- The plan by the People's Consultative Assembly Commission I urging the government and related partners to conduct a military operation in Papua for the sake of safeguarding the general elections has been opposed by a number of parties.

This program is opposed by the objective conditions of the Papuan people at the moment. If it is forced on them, it will further open opportunities for Papuan independence, linked with issues of human rights violations in the region.

These comments were made by Papuan Governor J.P. Solossa in Jayapura on Friday, January 23, during a break in a ceremony to inaugurate the Head of the Papuan High Court, Kardjan, who's post will be taken over by I Gusti Ngurah Suparka. Suparka has held a post in Papua before, while Kardjan will take over as the head of the high court in Makassar.

The plan to declare a state of civil emergency in Papua was carried by the Cenderawasih Pos as a headline story. According to the daily, during the plenary meeting of thety chairperson of the commission Effendy Choirie, they urged that a state of civil emergency be immediately implemented in Papua.

[The daily said that] the commission is very concerned about the security situation which is developing in Papua at the moment and predicted that this will deteriorate and head towards the disintegration of the nation in the lead up to the 2004 general elections.

A number of migrants who Kompas met with said that this plan would further burden the lives of the people. The people will become poorer, more backward and oppressed by such an action.

Speaking to the press, Solossa himself explain that there is no need for a state of civil emergency. There are no grounds to implement a civil emergency in the region because the situation and conditions in Papua are extremely safe and peaceful."We will hold a consultation of regional leaders", said Solossa.

The deputy chairperson of the Papuan People's Representative Assembly, Paskalis Kosay, said that the commission's plan has absolutely no objective basis. The DPR has intentionally thrown up an issue which is wrong and will confuse the public. (KOR)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

Storm brewing in Papua

Asia Times - January 24, 2004

Tom Benedetti -- A storm is quietly but rapidly gaining force in an overlooked corner of the world. Papua (formerly West Papua or Irian Jaya) is being ravaged in an escalating program of repression by the Indonesian military.

Invaded by Indonesia in 1963, Papua is still under siege as its native people struggle for justice and self-determination against overwhelming odds. Indonesia gained control of the region through a controversial United Nations "referendum" in 1969. One thousand locals were forced to vote openly in front of armed soldiers, and told they would be shot unless the vote supported integration with Indonesia. Not surprisingly, the vote was unanimous. Those who campaigned against Indonesia leading up to the so-called referendum were labeled as subversives and assassinated, their villages strafed and bombed. Since then, raising the Papuan flag has been punishable by death.

Civil society in Papua (a loose coalition of 250 or more distinct tribes) has repeatedly called for a Zone of Peace, requesting that the Indonesian army and militia groups lay down arms and respect human rights so conflicts can be resolved through dialogue. However, anyone promoting even peaceful alternatives to full and unquestioned integration with Indonesia is an immediate target for arrest, torture or assassination by Indonesian security forces.

This month, journalist and filmmaker Mark Worth was found dead, just two days after Australian television announced the premiere of his documentary on Papua's struggle for self-determination. If murdered, as many believe, Worth is the most recent in a long line of civic and cultural leaders, academics, journalists and human-rights activists strategically assassinated. Their heads or bodies are often displayed like trophies to intimidate compatriots with similar ideas. Yet many Papuans continue to call for change in defiance of the personal consequences.

In all, at least 100,000 Papuans have been killed during the occupation. The exact number tortured, disappeared and murdered is much higher, but is impossible to know since human-rights defenders and journalists are arrested or assassinated as a matter of course. Hundreds of thousands more Papuans have been forced from their ancestral land, many dying of starvation as a result of food sources being destroyed by rapacious logging. (Virtually all large businesses in Papua are owned and run by the Indonesian military, or are engaged in major contracts with the military.)

Papuan people reflect some of the oldest and most unique cultures in the world. Some agrarian cultures in Papua predate Mesopotamia. They will soon be obliterated unless the outside world steps in.

Last month, Jakarta appointed Colonel Timbul Silaen as the new chief of police for Papua. Silaen was in charge of security forces in East Timor during the police-supported massacres in 1999. His co-conspirator in those atrocities, Eurico Guterres, is now openly, and with Jakarta's consent, organizing militia forces in Papua while he appeals a jail sentence for crimes against humanity. These and countless other events present a direct parallel to Indonesia's well-planned campaign of terror used to destabilize East Timor and escalate violence after the 1999 vote for independence.

Led by the same men, the genocide this time will likely be carried out unnoticed as the world is distracted by other events. Similar to the current situation in Aceh, it is likely that Papua will soon face a total blackout. Journalists have been banned for years, and it is widely expected that non-governmental organizations will soon be denied access as well.

Unlike East Timor, Papua is a huge, wild and often inaccessible area. It also lacks organized support from the international community. Only a handful of activists worldwide and very few countries have ever expressed concern at the UN -- tiny Vanuatu being the notable exception. Now more than ever the Papuan people need the world's attention. They need diplomatic (rather than military) aid to fend off the increasing might of a determined invader, and ultimately ever to see justice.

All that most Papuans ask is for a review of the farcical 1969 "referendum" -- not independence, not expulsion of the migrants who now almost outnumber them, not financial or economic aid. Just a review that, if conducted fairly, should lead to a legitimate referendum on self-determination -- this time conducted in a reasonable way under the supervision of UN observers rather than Indonesian soldiers.

Papua is the western half of the world's second-largest island, shared with independent Papua New Guinea and located north of Australia. It contains 15 percent of the world's languages, and greater ecological diversity than anywhere else on Earth.

[Tom Benedetti is with WestPAN (West Papua Action Network), Canada.]

Papua police to guard election

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2004

Jayapura -- The Papua Police are preparing two-third of its personnel to guard the upcoming elections, a senior officer at the police headquarters said on Wednesday.

"The 6,000 officers, or two-thirds of our total personnel, will be backed by some 2,000 personnel from the Trikora Military command overseeing Papua province," said Brig. Gen. Tommy Jacobus, the deputy chief of the Papua provincial police.

The provincial police are deploying such a large number of officers because security in Papua remains tens and violence could occur during the election period between April to September, he said.

The one-star general said threats to security in the province could come from, among others, the Free Papua Movement, which has been waging a low-level revolt in the province since 1963.

To help the Papua Police guard the elections, the National Police Headquarters handed over a Cassa airplane to the provincial police.

"It will be useful to mobilize personnel to remote areas that cannot be reached by land," Tommy said.

Tribesmen's blood spilt for want of a good law

The Times (UK) - January 24, 2004

Charles Foster -- It was predictable and depressing. Every year on December 1, West Papuan tribesmen, wearing penis gourds and cowrie necklaces, try to raise the Morning Star flag that signifies their independence from Indonesia. And every year the Indonesian police and army, commanded by men who won their spurs in East Timor, beat them and shoot them.

West Papua, formerly Irian Jaya, is a forgotten jungle province, a long way in every sense from the rest of the world. It is the easternmost province in the Indonesian archipelago. After the Second World War the Dutch East Indies were in turmoil. The Dutch reluctantly relinquished Irian Jaya, and then came one of the great scandals of international law.

Indonesia agreed that there would be a referendum of all of West Papuan people. The Western world smiled: this was language it liked. But Indonesia changed the rules. Under the eyes of the UN, it selected just over a thousand representatives of the population, and by various forms of coercion forced them to vote for integration with Indonesia. This resulted in the ironically named Act of Free Choice of 1969. The UN, happy to wash its hands of a troublesome problem, and unwilling to take on a powerful and aggressive Indonesian government, endorsed the Act.

The Act of Free Choice is a bad joke. No objective commentator has said with a straight face that it represents the will of the people. West Papuans are Christian or shamanic Melanesians. They have nothing in common with the Indonesians. For the Indonesians, West Papua is literally a goldmine. The vast Freeport mine pays a lot of Indonesian bills. The colossal American interests in Freeport no doubt mute the voice of international outrage.

West Papua highlights the impotence of international lawyers. Last year I sat in the Temple sifting through documents about the imprisonment, on transparently trumped up charges, of Benny Wenda, a West Papuan leader. He had been beaten, tortured and threatened with death. I was asked to advise. The answer was that the law could do nothing. Indonesia has signed up to none of the relevant international treaties, and even if it had there was unlikely to be any chance of redress. Diplomacy was pointless too: even if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office could be persuaded to make itself unpopular, Indonesia's contempt for diplomatic overtures was notorious. I could write a letter to a tired official in Jakarta, who would file it in the bin.

On a wider front the impotence was just as complete. If international law means anything, it should mean that the Act of Free Choice is void and the occupation of West Papua unlawful. But one quickly learns cynicism. The real law of nations is the law of realpolitik. If you are big, rich and well armed, you write the law books. Ask Iraq. Ask the men in Guantanamo Bay. Ask the shareholders in the Freeport mine, who could redraft Indonesia's policy towards West Papua if they chose to. If you are big and say that a pre-emptive strike to effect a regime change is the law, that's fine. If you are not, you get pre- emptively struck to teach you a law lesson.

The big obstacle to change in the international human rights arena is the notion of national sovereignty. We are wedded to it. It is a nice idea for nice nations to cherish, but it is usually deployed as a keep-out-of-jail card (and a keep-dissenters-in- jail card) by nastier places. There is little point in having voluntary rules that are subscribed to only by the people who do not need to subscribe to them. Universal justiciability, independent of signatures on treaties, has to come. There are two options.

You can have legally unregulated colonial wars waged by big nations on the pretext of maintaining the very norms of international law that those wars breach; or you can ignore the violations and, according to your taste, either wring your hands in helpless anguish or get on with pretending that the world is a cosy place.

The real challenge for people involved in international human rights and the related questions of public international law is to keep hopeful. It is not easy. Benny Wenda, despairing of legal process, bypassed the law.

He escaped, and after being hunted through the highlands of Papua New Guinea found his way to Heathrow. Similarly, if the international community just stands by, the oppressed will seek their own way. Those efforts could be bloody. Anyone who cares about peace, people or just the good name of the law should try to make real the dreamers' hopes of international justice.

[The author is a barrister at 6 Pump Court, Temple.]

Police blamed for papua human rights trial delay

Jakarta Post - January 22, 2004

Makassar -- The South Sulawesi High Prosecutor's Office said on Tuesday it had completed the case files of two police officers charged with human rights abuses in Papua province a month ago.

Prosecutors could not present the dossiers to an ad hoc court in Makassar, South Sulawesi, because the National Police had yet to hand over the two suspects to them for trial.

"There are no other problems outstanding. The drafting of charges is already completed and has been approved by the attorney general ... But what is hampering us is that the two suspects have not been handed over to us," said Mailan Syarieff, a senior official at the South Sulawesi High Prosecutor's Office.

He said his office had twice written to the National Police asking for the handover of the suspects -- Brig. Gen. Johny Wainal Usman and Sr. Comr. Daud Sihombing.

However, the request had not been responded to as the two suspects remained on active duty, Mailan added. Wainal and Daud are both charged with having a role in a deadly clash between police officers and people in Abepura, Papua, in November 2000, which killed at least five civilians.

The clash was sparked by sweeps on local villagers, following an attack on a police station in Abepura by a group of armed men.

 Labour issues

Most employers neglect women's rights: NGO

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2004

Eva C. Komandjaja, Jakarta -- A large percentage of firms in large cities across the country are denying women their legal rights in the workplace, a survey by the Women's Journal Foundation (YJP) has found.

The survey, released during a women's workers workshop on Wednesday, revealed that although prevailing laws require companies to grant a three-month maternity leave as well as regular menstruation leave to women, many companies have not been abiding by the law.

According to the survey, the offending employers discourage women from taking the full three months off.

Munawaroh, a worker at a garment factory in Bandung, West Java, said on Wednesday that at her company, where almost 90 percent of the workers are women, pregnant workers are told to take maternity leave for two months at the maximum and get extra money as compensation for the third month.

The survey also revealed that in many cases, pregnant women have been required to take their maternity leave for three consecutive months after giving birth.

"So, the pregnant workers remain at work for the full nine months of their pregnancies, which can be dangerous to their health and of their unborn babies," the report said.

Existing laws allow for one-and-a-half months before they are due and an equal amount of time after they give birth.

The survey also shows that there are many non-permanent workers whose contracts are annulled when they are seven or eight months pregnant, presumably so companies will not have to provide paid maternity leave.

In addition to the maternity leave issue, most companies are also lax about granting time off for menstruating workers.

According to Law No. 13/2003, a company is required to grant two days of paid menstruation leave to all women workers each month.

Of the 10 companies surveyed in Jakarta, Tangerang, Bandung and Solo, only one is abiding by the menstruation leave regulation appropriately.

Seven other companies stated that they would grant the two days only if the worker actually felt too ill to work. However, in such cases, the woman must be examined by her supervisor before the leave is granted.

"In most cases, a company usually persuades workers not to take time off by offering them a certain amount of money as compensation," said Eko Bambang Subiyantoro, the workshop coordinator.

He added that some companies just sent women to medical clinics where they would be given pain medication and told to resume work.

Head of Human Resources at PT. Benoli Inti Karya, Sunaryo, confirmed the report by saying that at his company there were checks on women workers to determine whether they were menstruating.

"We do the checks because there are many cases where women tend to abuse their menstruation leave by taking it near a weekend in order to have a longer holiday," said Sunaryo.

He added that only 5 percent of women workers at his company took regular menstruation leave, the rest were satisfied with the compensation money.

Sunaryo added that menstruation leave was not an issue anymore because modern pain medication was now available, and they could work normally.

Besides pregnancy and menstruation leave in the survey, other factors such as sexual harassment and other gender issues are still neglected by several companies employing women workers in the country.

Razed firm closes, hundreds jobless

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2004

ID Nugroho and Indra Harsaputra, Surabaya -- Hundreds of workers are taking indefinite vacations after fire destroyed a petrochemical plant in Gresik, East Java, while police continued to probe the cause of the accident.

Employees said on Tuesday that PT Petrowidada (not Petro Widodo as reported here earlier), a subsidiary of PT Petrokimia Gresik, would be closed indefinitely after Tuesday's fire that killed two workers and injured over 50 others, mostly with burns.

Petrowidada executives at the scene refused to comment on the accident as dozens of police officers stood guard at the plant among the scattered wrecks of trucks, cars and motorcycles.

East Java Police said they had questioned at least 31 witnesses about the cause of the accident. A preliminary investigation showed high temperatures at the production machine caused the explosions and resulting fire, they said.

"We have questioned Agus, an employee under Nur Samsi (the plant and production director and one of the two dead). He said the explosions came from the refinery machine," Surabaya Police chief Sr. Comr. Ade Rahardja said on Thursday.

An investigation was also being conducted by the East Java provincial police. "We will find who is to blame for the fire and its exact cause," East Java Police detective chief Sr. Comr. Sutarman, said, promising to complete the probe soon.

If there were found to be procedural errors or negligence on the part of company management it could be charged with Article 359 and 360 of the Criminal Code, which carried a maximum penalty of five years in prison, he said.

The police were also investigating if the fire had caused environmental damage to the nearby river. They would also monitor any adverse affects the fire had on the health of neighboring residents, Sutarman added.

Zainal Arifin, the director-general of the Ministry of Trade and Industry's chemicals department, said he believed the fire was an indictment on the poor security and safety systems of chemical companies across Indonesia.

Asked if he believed PT Petrowidada was to blame for the fire, he said, "I can't rule on that. Let the police inquiry decide".

East Java police dispatched a team to carry out a forensic investigation at the scene and to check there were no further bodies. There have been no reports of missing persons since the fire.

Meanwhile, residents from at least four neighboring villages affected by the fire demanded that PT Petrowidada compensate them over the incident.

Residents said the fire spread to several houses in the villages of Maduran, Tlogo Pojok, Pepen and Romo, situated some 100 meters from the company, after burning particles flew from exploding gas tanks. Some particles also polluted wells in the area, they said.

Munir, a resident, saw his house on Jl. Raya Maduran destroyed after fire spread to it from the Petrowidada factory following the explosions.

The fire cost him about Rp 320 million (US$38,095), he said. He was now forced to live in a rented home nearby.

"We demand that the [the company] compensate us for the damages," Munir said.

Another resident, Rumiati, voiced similar complaints, saying other houses were damaged by the explosions from the company. "I have not yet calculated my losses," Rumiati said.

Lawyer Shoinuddin Umar from the local Legal Aid Institute (LBH) said his office would help the victims force the company to respond to their demands.

Other neighbors complained the nearby river was contaminated after the fire engulfed the company. "Its water used to be clearer and after the fire we see white foam there. Sometimes the water looks like it is boiling," Luluk, a villager, said.

PT Petrokimia president Arifin Tasrif said his company had not yet decided whether to pay compensation demands, pending a meeting with other directors.

"We now are concentrating on the process of security and evacuating victims," he argued.

Arifin said the major accident with PT Petrowidada would not disrupt this year's fertilizer production of the holding company located at the same compound.

 Neo-liberal globalisation

Indonesia's Dita among star speakers at world forum

Jakarta Post - January 20, 2004

Evi Mariani, Mumbai, India -- Indonesian labor activist Dita Sari became one of the stars of the World Social Forum on Monday when she addressed a packed conference on globalization, and economic and social security, along with US Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz and Egyptian Neo-Marxian thinker Samir Amin.

Dita, an activist from the National Federation of Indonesian Labor Unions (FNPBI), spoke confidently right after Samir Amin, urging solidarity from public pressure groups in the industrialized countries to support labor movements in developing countries.

She emphasized that as globalization gathered pace, workers in advanced and developing countries were facing increasing insecurity as they could be fired at any time without proper compensation. Meanwhile, the privatization of state enterprises, as championed by global organizations like the World Bank, was also shrinking employment opportunities.

The winner of Asia's version of the Nobel prizes, the Ramon Magsaysay awards, then appealed for massive international pressure to protect workers. "The US stopped the Vietnam war because millions of people in the US opposed the war," she said, highlighting the power of pressure groups.

Stiglitz reiterated his opposition to the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) economic reform programs because of their adverse effects on social and economic security. He also criticized the World Bank and World Trade Organization (WTO), which he described as being responsible for hurting the interests of millions of workers, including those who lived in the rich countries like the United States.

"The WTO should not push for capital market globalization because that will increase insecurity. And that will not be the answer for economic growth in the developing countries," said Stiglitz.

While Stiglitz proposed a reformed agenda for the WTO, Amin, voiced a more radical opinion, saying he did not see the need for multilateral organizations. "The IMF is a collective ministry of propaganda, the WTO is a collective ministry of colonialism," said Amin.

The boiling heat and swirling dust burned the spirit of the more than 100,000 participants at the forum on the fourth day of the six-day annual summit. The streets of the city, whose name was changed from Bombay to Mumbai in 1996, were full of protesters from around the globe to protest against war, big business, unfair global trade and the gender and caste oppression.

Up to 260 large and small seminars and workshops were held to discuss a vast range of topics ranging from technology to the rights of indigenous people.

A number of Indonesian activists like Yanuar Nugroho from Business Watch Indonesia, Longgena Ginting from the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi), Bonnie Setiawan from the Institute for Global Justice, Wardah Hafidz from the Urban Poor Consortium and Henry Saragih from the Federation of Indonesian Peasant Unions were also scheduled to give their insights later on Monday evening.

This is the first time the annual "anti-imperialist" meeting is being held in Asia. The previous three forums were held in Brazil. The forum is regarded as a counterpoint to the annual World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland. The five-day Davos meeting will start on Wednesday, on the same day the Mumbi meeting ends.

Meanwhile, anti-globalization activists called on Monday for an end to discrimination against minority communities such as the Dalits in India. "We have rights, too," read a placard carried by a group of Dalits, also known as untouchables, who occupy the lowest rung in the Hindu caste system that was outlawed in 1955 but is still prevalent across India.

The Dalits, with their feet chained to symbolize oppression, marched through the streets of India's financial capital Bombay -- the venue of the six-day forum. "Treat us like people. Give us dignity," they shouted, as quoted by the Associated Press.

In separate meetings, war survivors, including those from Iraq and Afghanistan, recounted their experiences and said that women, children and minority communities were the worst hit by conflicts.

 Government & politics

'Bloated' civil service set to grow by 1 million

Financial Times - January 22, 2004 Shawn Donnan, Jakarta -- Indonesia is planning to hire 1 million new civil servants over the next three years despite concerns expressed by foreign investors, donors and institutions such as the World Bank that it already has a bloated government bureaucracy.

The plan, announced this week by three government ministers, would see the new civil servants hired primarily for the ailing health and education sectors.

In comments reported in the local press yesterday and confirmed by aides, the ministers argued the move would be in line with Indonesia's population growth. The archipelago of 18,000 islands has a population of almost 220m people, making it the world's fourth most populous nation.

The country's current 3.5 million civil servants account for only about 1.6 per cent of its population, the ministers argued, putting it far below the ratio in neighbouring countries such as Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore.

"We want to increase the number [of civil servants] to at least 2 per cent of the total population in the next three years," Feisal Tamin, minister for administrative reform, was quoted as saying by the English-language Jakarta Post.

However, most foreign investors see Indonesia's bureaucracy as a bloated barrier to business. More foreign investment is vital if Indonesia is to return to the 6-7 per cent growth it needs to absorb millions of new entrants to the labour force.

Dominated by survivors from the Suharto era, the public service is seen as the source of much of the rampant corruption that regularly puts Indonesia at the bottom of watchdog Transparency International's annual rankings.

Experts say the last thing Indonesia needs is more civil servants. Government schools and clinics suffer from high rates of absenteeism. The average first-grade teacher attends school for less than three hours a day, a World Bank survey found last year, while government doctors had an "astounding" absenteeism rate of 42 per cent.

[Additional reporting by Taufan Hidayat.]

 2004 elections

KPU to decide cases of candidates involved in PKI

Antara - January 24, 2004

Yogyakarta -- A senior minister said here on Saturday the General Elections Commission (KPU) had the authority to decide regarding indications of legislative candidates' involvement in the former Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

"If there is indeed a candidate who was involved in PKI, I think the KPU must be able to make a case of it because it is against the law and put it in a wider context such as legal domain," Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Susilo Bambang Yudhyono said after a seminar on the late General Soedirman.

He said the KPU had to examine the administrative requirements of legislative candidates to see if legal violations had been committed by the candidates concerned.

Indonesia military helps shape elections

Associated Press - January 22, 2004

Slobodan Lekic, Jakarta -- Indonesian generals, on the defensive since the ouster of the dictatorship they supported for 32 years, are becoming kingmakers again as the campaign for presidential and parliamentary elections heats up.

And despite the danger that Indonesia's young democracy is being undercut by its inability to rein in the military, candidates and political parties are courting the brass for endorsements.

"The military is definitely back in a big way," said Dede Oetomo, a professor at Airlangga University in Surabaya.

Top commanders stress their troops will stay out of the fray. "The Indonesian military will remain neutral and not side or give support to any political party or to any presidential candidate, even if they have a military background or are retired military officers," commander-in-chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto promised.

Still, analysts say that it's almost inconceivable that the generals will not maneuver behind the scenes to prop up President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who helped them regain a political role and is running for re-election in July.

The military, long known for human rights abuses, has found a new path to legitimacy and influence via the war on terrorism.

The US administration, and particularly Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a former ambassador to Jakarta, see the armed forces as a bulwark against Muslim radicalism in Southeast Asia.

"The two entities most responsible for reinvigorating military influence in Indonesian society since the fall of [former dictator Suharto] are Megawati and the US government," said Jeffrey Winters, a professor and Indonesia specialist at Northwestern University.

Wolfowitz and other administration officials have pressed for lifting a congressional ban on military ties. These were broken off by the Clinton administration after a bloody rampage by troops in East Timor in 1999.

"The generals quickly figured out that since 9/11 the United States is willing to be more forgiving of human rights abuses in exchange for the kind of security they can deliver," Winters said.

During his bloody dictatorship, brought down in 1998 amid pro- democracy protests, Suharto -- himself a five-star general -- used the armed forces to brutally repress any opposition. In exchange, the army got to meddle in the workings of government, and loyal officers were appointed to key government posts and the rubber-stamp legislature.

All that changed under Suharto's immediate successors, B.J. Habibie and Abdurrahman Wahid. They publicly blamed the military for instigating human rights abuses in East Timor, Aceh and West Papua. Wahid ordered the army out of politics, and accused pro- Suharto generals of sparking religious conflicts to destabilize his reforms and undermine civilian rule.

So in 2001, the army backed Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri in her successful bid to replace him.

Aware that all four of her predecessors -- including her own father, founding President Sukarno -- were deposed after losing the generals' support, Megawati quickly reversed Wahid's attempts to reform the armed forces.

She then gave the generals free rein to crack down on separatists in the northwestern province of Aceh. About 1,500 people have died since May, when the military ended a six-month cease-fire.

"The conflict in Aceh is basically the problem of politics in Indonesia -- an inability of Indonesia to transform itself into a more democratic, less militaristic state," said Agus Wandi, a researcher with the Indonesian Human Rights Campaign.

Although Megawati's ties to the generals earned her sharp rebuke from reformers in her own party, she is likely to again join forces with them in her re-election bid.

But analysts note that tactics such as intimidating voters or using intelligence information to discredit her opponents could easily backfire by alienating voters.

Nonetheless, other parties are also vying for the generals' support, even fielding retired military officers as candidates in the presidential race and the April parliamentary elections in April. The most prominent is Gen. Wiranto, a former commander indicted by UN prosecutors for war crimes in East Timor. He is seeking the nomination of Suharto's former Golkar Party.

"Even parties that count themselves as progressive now feel they cannot do without retired generals and admirals as their candidates," Oetomo said.

Posperous Justice Party vows to promote pluralism

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2004

M. Taufiqurrahman, Jakarta -- Everywhere they go, leaders of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) find themselves repeatedly having to convince people of their friendly ideals for the country.

While their rallies are massive and peaceful, and their politicians are known to be clean compared to others, non-Muslims and Muslims who do not consider themselves devout are turned off by the party's strong Islamic image -- female attendants are all wearing head scarves and men and women are clearly separated. What would become of the rest of us if they gained power? In a visit to The Jakarta Post on Friday, PKS leader Hidayat Nur Wahid stressed that PKS focuses on Islam's universal values and how they should not be neglected and abused at the individual level -- and also that the party aims, in time, to be inclusive. Thousands of Christians from South Maluku have already requested to become members, party leaders say.

"We no longer have any problem coexisting with people of different religions, races or ethnic groups. The Islamic teaching that we promote is one that provides protection for minority groups and freedom to exercise their rights," Hidayat said.

Islamic values include honesty and virtue, said Zulkiflimansyah, who heads the party's economic policy department. These values should form the base of all economic activities, he said. The United Kingdom-educated economist briefly explained the party's vision that would appeal to proponents of the mainstream economy: A strong industrial-based competitiveness, which should be boosted given the opportunity provided by liberalization.

If the local industry thrives, it would generate much needed income and employment, he added.

To that end, the government must push toward a conducive climate for industry by wiping out "invisible costs". Meanwhile the party should work toward a community that is committed to the above values, he said.

Hidayat also denies the exclusive image of the party -- the PKS combines the communities of "the mosque, the pesantren (Islamic traditional schools), and the campus" including the "little people".

He said PKS has taken a different path from other Islamic-leaning parties such as the Crescent Star Party (PBB) with regards to the incorporation of the Jakarta Charter (a term referring to an additional seven words requiring Muslims to abide by Islamic law) in the amended 1945 Constitution.

Although straying from the course taken by leading parties to block any amendment to Article 29 of the 1945 Constitution, Hidayat said PKS promoted the adoption of an Indonesian version of the "Medina Charter" (not the Jakarta Charter as reported earlier), a document from the era of the Prophet Muhammad, wherein subscribers of all faiths, including Jews, were given freedom to exercise their beliefs.

The Medina Charter was the answer to two main fears raised by the Jakarta Charter -- discrimination against non-Muslims and eventual disintegration, Hidayat said.

He added that the party has also built a good relationship with other religious organizations in the country.

"During the buildup to the US-led war in Iraq, we staged a peaceful rally with members of the Indonesian Communion of Churches (PWI), the Bishop's Council of Indonesia (PGI) ...". Hidayat added that in the wake of the Christmas bombings in 2000, he took part in a peace campaign along with priests Franz Magnis Suseno and Mudji Sutrisno. The fact that most PKS members were university graduates also helps in shedding the image of a medieval Islam. "Our core party members are former student activists who are used to differences," Hidayat said.

Zulkiflimansyah said the bulk of educated members would easily come to terms with people of different faith.

Currently, the Indonesian Muslim Students Action Front (KAMMI), with branches across Java, is the party's strongest arm.

PKS also claims to be true to its ideals of a corruption-free society. "In a society where corruption is deeply rooted, it is almost impossible for a legislator to stand up against corruption, but we can proudly say that our members are among those few," he said.

Hidayat said PKS in the 2004 general elections will capitalize on its anticorruption stance and quality membership to reach the target of between 5 percent and 7 percent of votes, a significant increase of 1.4 percent in the 1999 election.

Panwaslu vows to get tough action on early campaigners

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2004

Kurniawan Hari, Jakarta -- The Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) vowed on Friday to report to police any political parties displaying logos or election numbers during public gatherings, saying that any violation of the election campaign regulations should be dealt with firmly.

Panwaslu chairman Komaruddin Hidayat told a discussion that political activities organized before the official campaign period could be categorized as disguised election campaigning.

"If there are political activities that can be considered as early campaigning, Panwaslu will report to the national police," he said.

The official campaign period for legislative elections scheduled for April 5 would run from March 11 through April 1.

Komaruddin said the 24 parties contesting the 2004 elections have to abide by guidelines issued by KPU if they want to avoid being accused of violating campaign regulations when organizing political activities.

According to KPU guidelines, political activities organized before the official election campaign period should be strictly attended by party members, must not display party logos and must not disturb public order.

According to Komaruddin, political parties have exploited flaws in campaign regulations for disguised campaigns.

"They [political parties] often try to make use of the gray areas," said Komaruddin without elaborating.

At least three political parties -- the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), the United Development Party (PPP) and the National Awakening Party (PKB) had been reported to police for violating KPU recommendations.

PKB Secretary General Syaifullah Yusuf, who also addressed the discussion, said that his party would make no attempt to stop any legal process against the party for violating election regulations.

He also said his party would continue taking advantage of many loopholes in campaign regulations. "Yes, the political parties will definitely take advantage of the flaws," he said without going into detail.

Meanwhile, Endin Soefihara of PPP acknowledged that his party had been using the party's youth wing for campaigning.

Since the youth wing was not an actual election contestant, he surmised, there should be no problem if they displayed banners in public places.

"Fortunately, the logo of the youth group is similar to that of the PPP," he said during the discussion.

In the discussion, Komaruddin also revealed that the Rectors' Forum had promised to deploy 160,000 students across the country to help Panwaslu carry out its job.

The participation of those students, Komaruddin said, would be very helpful given the fact that Panwaslu did not have staff in remote villages.

Panwaslu has nine members on its central board, seven at provincial chapters, five at regency offices, and three at district levels.

Justice Party likely to show improved performance

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2004

Rais Hidayat, Jakarta -- If there is something new in Indonesia's current political outlook, it is the persistent growth in influence of a new party that has virtually no roots in the country's political history: The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

Despite being a newcomer to the political sphere, its presence is perceived as an alternative power source in the making. Its capability to carry out massive, but peaceful demonstrations, its clean, high-quality membership of the legislature and the absence of internal conflict within the party have drawn much attention and empathy.

These attributes are indeed highly marketable amid reports of corrupt and incompetent politicians, especially to young, educated, Muslim urbanites.

Therefore, a better performance in this coming 2004 election seems quite likely. Several large cities in Java such as Jakarta, Bandung and Bogor will see a growing attachment of young people to this party.

First-time Muslim voters in these cities seem to be the party's main potential asset, but older voters disillusioned with secular and other Muslim parties are also a possibility.

The growing influence, however, leads many people to question its real identity. The answer will likely determine the extent to which it can secure wider political influence in the future. Its sustained peaceful character and the extent of its respect for plurality are among major concerns that await assurance.

In an interview with a journal, the Asia Program Special Report, then party president Hidayat Nurwahid, now a presidential candidate for the 2004 election, makes it clear that nonviolent change is its long-term commitment. With this, the party clearly distinguishes itself from movements like Darul Islam (the Islamic State Movement), which was associated with violence in West Java and South Sulawesi from 1950 to 1960.

In terms of moral scruples and solidity, Nurwahid denies that these characteristics are present simply by virtue of being a small party. He points out that other small parties have been rife with internal conflicts and moral degradation. He says the key for the party is how to be patient and content with slow, gradual growth.

For this gradual growth, this party does not even need a charismatic leader to ensure it. What it takes great lengths to prepare is the strong commitment of the membership to its vision, which is supported by educational and training programs. This is in contrast with other parties, where over-reliance on charismatic leaders is a perceived requirement.

On plurality, however, PKS is still different from other major Muslim-based parties that are trying to be inclusive. Its official document says Islamism is its ideology and the fight for Islam as a solution to the country's problems is its mission.

Its manifestation is clear. In August 2000, PKS, which at that time was PK (the Justice Party), pressured the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) to incorporate the Jakarta Charter (a term referring to an additional seven words requiring Muslims to abide by Islamic law) into the amended 1945 Constitution.

In this sense, PKS is still the equal of the Crescent Star Party (PBB). While its method looks moderate, its political goal is substantially radical.

This outlook might have to be attributed to its historical path. PKS originated from a dakwah kampus (campus propagation) movement, which developed as an alternative in the 1970s in the absence of quality political discourse under New Order control. Its orientation is modernist, adhering to what it sees as an interpretation of Islam that is not mixed with traditional beliefs and rites -- although its connection to Muhammadiyah, the largest and long-established modernist Muslim organization, is remarkable for its absence.

This disconnection explains much of the distinctiveness of PKS. It has stuck to its original concept, while Muhammadiyah has seen changes; at least the latter is no longer perceived as rigid, as before, on matters of tradition. And while other minor modernist groups rooted in the past are rife with internal conflicts, PKS has none.

This disconnection opened the way for direct Middle East influence, the main center being the Salman mosque of the Bandung Institute of Technology. Radical color from that region was imported, and the Iranian revolution in 1979 provided further inspiration.

At present, the Indonesian Muslim Students Action Front (KAMMI), with branches in many campuses in Java, is its strongest arm. It is well-organized and known to be a leading movement on international issues like perceived anti-Israel and anti-US arbitrariness. Domestic issues like the fight against corruption are also at the top of their campaign agenda.

The culture of being well-ordered has, for both PKS and KAMMI, provided a sound basis for building a strong organization. Thus, while the party's target of 10 percent of votes in 2004 might be too upbeat, a significant increase on PK's achievement of 1.4 percent in the 1999 election is not an unreasonable expectation.

Such a performance would still be consistent with a fundamental principle of PKS, as described by one of its executives: A journey of a thousand steps. The next elections is just the second step through which more experience can solidify its foundations.

US predicts peaceful elections in Indonesia

Jakarta Post - January 23, 2004

Fabiola Desy Unidjaja, Jakarta -- The United States had confidence this year's elections in Indonesia would run as safely, freely and fairly as the previous polls in 1999, Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce said this week.

"Everybody saw what happened in 1999 and that is a good experience to build from," Boyce said after the state of union address from President George W. Bush aired live from Washington on Wednesday.

Like the US, which would also hold a presidential poll this year, Indonesia would pass its landmark direct elections with flying colors, he said.

"I have every confidence the Indonesian people will be able to stage an election that is free, fair and peaceful." Boyce said the existing travel warning to US citizens coming to Indonesia would not stop Americans traveling here during the elections. "It is not a ban ... Americans are coming in and out of Indonesia all the time," Boyce said.

Military leaders here have warned of the possibility of chaos before and during the elections and have vowed to deploy troops if events turned bloody.

Politicians and analysts have dismissed the warning with some accusing the military of meddling with political affairs, an act which was against the national consensus to end the military's political influence.

"During [the] 2004 [elections], the situation will remain stable as civil society has grown strong," Arief Budiman, a staunch critic of former dictator Soeharto, told a seminar this week.

Boyce said Indonesia's democratization was one of the success stories of the new millennium. There was no reason to doubt the ongoing preparations for the elections, he said.

He admitted in some countries the transition period to democracy had led them back to the old dictatorial style but he was certain Indonesia was not in that category.

Boyce expected to see US observers join with international volunteers to watch over all stages of the elections. "We welcome the open invitation from the Indonesian government to allow in international observers. I am sure the US will be an active participant."

There will be 24 political parties contesting the elections, half the number of parties which took part in the 1999 polls. The election of legislative members will take place on April 5, while the first round of presidential elections will be held on July 5, with a run-off scheduled for September 20.

TNI vows to stay neutral in general election

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2004

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, Jakarta -- The Indonesia Military (TNI) pledged on Thursday to maintain its neutrality in this year's elections in accordance with its professed intention to get out of politics for good.

"The year 2004 will be very important for the TNI in showing the nation that its decision to leave the political arena is not merely rhetoric," TNI Commander Gen. Endriartono Sutarto said.

Endriartono was speaking during a press conference after the first day of a leadership meeting at the TNI headquarters in Cilangkap, East Jakarta. During the plenary meeting, the TNI's top brass sought a common vision in facing the elections.

Navy Chief of Staff Gen. Bernard Kent Sondakh, Air Force Chief of Staff Marshall Chappy Hakim, TNI Deputy Chief of General Affairs Gen. Djamari Chaniago, and Deputy Army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Djoko Santoso were present at the meeting. Army chief Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu skipped the leadership meeting, but no explanation was given regarding his absence.

Early last year Ryamizard sparked controversy with a statement indicating that the TNI wished to regain its power. Another controversial statement came in October when he asked the families of TNI members to vote for parties or politicians who favored the interests of the TNI.

Endriartono asserted on Wednesday that TNI headquarters had ordered all TNI personnel and their commanders to refrain expressing support for any particular political party or presidential hopeful. "Those who defy the order will be punished severely," he said.

In the past, the TNI was the loyal supporter of former president Soeharto and his party Golkar. Soeharto was an Army general who adorned himself with five stars in 1997.

TNI spokesman Maj. Gen. Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin called on the public to report any soldier who violated the TNI chief's order to their direct commanders. Sjafrie said a violation of the order would carry a maximum penalty of discharge from the armed forces.

"So as to demonstrate its neutrality, the TNI does not want to see even a minor violation. Violations will cost the TNI the people's trust, and we cannot not afford that," he told reporters.

Endriartono said the TNI intended to remain neutral in the elections, and not support any presidential candidate. "This year, we have decided to waive our right to vote because as we have done so for years and do not want to break our promise of remaining neutral. Perhaps, we will exercise this right in the next general election," he said.

In 2000, the People's Consultative Assembly scrapped the TNI's role in politics with its decision to abolish the military's seats in both the House of Representatives and the Assembly starting in 2004. The military also had to return its security role to the police and focus on defense affairs.

With its membership never in excess of 500,000, the TNI has been allocated ample House seats without the need to contest elections since 1971.

Endriartono hoped the public would encourage the TNI to focus on defense and not to tempt the military to return to politics.

After the meeting, Endriartono said that the TNI top brass had also talked about the military's responsibility to help the police maintain order during the elections.

He said the military would focus on providing security in conflict-prone areas like Aceh, Papua, Maluku, North Maluku and Poso "to prevent possible acts of sabotage and terror that could lead to the failure of elections".

The TNI leadership meeting will conclude on Friday.

Indonesia is expected to stage a legislative election in April and its first direct presidential election in July.

Police start training for elections

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2004

Jakarta -- The Jakarta Police began a two-day training program on Wednesday for 90,000 city-employed community unit guards on how to handle possible disturbances at polling booths leading up to the general elections.

"This is to show community unit guards how to handle troublemakers in the field. Instructors will be sent to each district to explain the procedures and train the guards," said Jakarta Police general crimes chief Sr. Comr. Mathius Salempang.

Each police subprecinct chief will be responsible for the training programs and will be assisted by instructors from the city police.

"We will continue with the training on Friday [after Thursday's national holiday] and hope they can master the procedure by the end of the day," Salempang said.

There will be 44,792 polling booths in Jakarta and each booth will be guarded by two community unit guards. The police said earlier they had prepared 11,499 personnel to secure the general elections in Greater Jakarta.

Foreign observers invited to monitor elections

Antara - January 21, 2004

Jakarta -- Indonesia's General Elections Commission (KPU) will open registration on Wednesday for international observers wishing to monitor the implementation of the general elections this year, the commission's deputy chief said.

Ramlan Surbakti said the KPU had already sent an invitation to all foreign embassies that wished to send observers.

According to regulations, all observers have to register with the KPU if they wish to monitor the elections. In their application they are also asked to mention among others their number and areas they plan to monitor, he said.

"If the applications are approved, the KPU will give them accreditation," he said. While monitoring the general elections, all observers are obliged to adhere to all regulations already determined by the KPU.

KPU releases lists of legislative candidates

Antara - January 20, 2004

Jakarta -- Indonesia's General Elections Commission (KPU) yesterday released lists of legislative candidates from 24 electoral contestants.

"Even though we are not required to publicize the lists of legislative candidates, the public is entitled to know them," chairman of the KPU's working committee for scrutinizing legislative candidates, Anas Urbaningrum, said yesterday.

Twenty-four electoral contestants submitted their lists of legislative candidates to the KPU on December 29 last year.

He said although the lists had been announced, there was still the possibility that a number of legislative candidates in the lists would have their ranking changed in the definitive lists to be made public on January 27.

The commission gave electoral contestants until 4.00 p.m. yesterday to complete the requirements of their legislative candidates, thereby causing the lists to change, he said.

The change would likely concern the replacement of unqualified candidates with qualified ones, and the addition of female candidates in the lists, he said.

He said the commission would not extend the deadline for the electoral contestants to complete the requirements of their legislative candidates because under the elections law they only had a maximum of 14 days starting on January 6 to complete the requirements.

He said the commission could not announce the number of qualified legislative candidates until January 26 when it had completed the scrutiny of legislative candidates.

"One thing is clear, three legislative candidates from the Social Democratic Labor Party have been disqualified because they failed to meet the age requirements," he said.

He said the commission had so far not found any legislative candidate with a bogus diploma.

"If any of them is found to have falsified his or her diploma, he/she certainly does not meet the requirements and will be disqualified accordingly," he said.

He also said none of the 24 electoral contestants had announced its presidential and vice presidential candidates.

"Under Law No.23/2003 on Presidential Election, a political party or a coalition of political parties had the chance to announce its presidential and vice presidential candidates before the official schedule, namely after the legislative election on April 5, 2004," he said.

Indonesia says militants could attack vote rallies

Reuters - January 20, 2004 Muklis Ali, Jakarta -- Militant groups may be planning to disrupt Indonesian elections this year with attacks on political rallies, police said on Tuesday. Indonesia is due to hold parliamentary polls in April and its first direct presidential election in July. Campaigning will begin in March.

"In every mass gathering, there is a chance of chaos. They can infiltrate people who can use the situation," national police chief Da'i Bachtiar said when asked about preparations for the elections.

Election campaigns in Indonesia, where there are 145 million eligible voters, are often marked by rowdy and sometimes violent rallies.

Bachtiar said political parties had to work with police to avert trouble. "It will be very precarious if they use explosions. That's why all political parties and other groups should cooperate with us so that the opportunity for infiltration by terrorist groups can be tackled early," he said.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, has suffered a series of attacks in recent years blamed on Islamic militants from the al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah group. The worst was the bombing of a nightclub on the tourist island of Bali in October 2002 that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

Indonesian authorities say Jemaah Islamiah has been fragmented after dozens of arrests and convictions of members since the Bali blasts. But police say several key JI members, including a master bomb-maker, remain at large.

42 legislative Yogyakarta candidates linked to PKI: KPU

Jakarta Post - January 21, 2004

Slamet Susanto and Ruslan Sangadji, Yogyakarta/Palu -- Forty-two legislative candidates in Yogyakarta are believed to have been linked with the outlawed and now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), a poll official said on Tuesday.

The Yogyakarta General Election Commission (KPU) would soon verify the report. If it was proved to be true, the commission would ban the 42 candidates from contesting the upcoming elections, local KPU chairman Suparman Marzuki said.

"[The KPU] obtained this information from the Yogyakarta Military command and the Body for Unity, Public Order and People's Protection in Yogyakarta," Suparman said. None of the names of the 42 candidates had yet been released to the public, he said.

They are contesting legislative seats in the Yogyakarta provincial council, Bantul, Kulonprogo, Sleman and Gunung Kidul regency councils and the Yogyakarta mayoralty council.

According to general election rules, candidates found to be previously involved with the communist movement are banned from contesting in the general election.

Supraman said the Yogyakarta KPU would confine investigations to those legislative candidates allegedly linked to the PKI who were competing for seats on the Yogyakarta Legislative Council. The remaining candidates at regency levels would be summoned and probed by the regental KPUs, respectively.

Panwaslu commits to uphold election rules

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2004

Kurniawan Hari, Jakarta -- Taking the 1999 general elections as a lesson, the Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) has promised to improve supervision of the election process and follow up on any reports of offenses and pass them on to the National Police.

Panwaslu member Didik Supriyanto said supervision would play a pivotal role to ensure a fair and honest election. "Supervision will help improve the people's trust in the results of the elections," he said during a discussion organized by the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) here on Saturday.

He said of the 4,290 cases of election rules violations reported to Panwaslu in 1999, only 26 of them were brought to court. Just four of those cases resulted in a guilty verdict.

The 1999 general election received world recognition as the most democratic polls the country had organized since 1955. Despite the weak law enforcement, people generally were accepting of the results in 1999, because most could understand that it was all prepared in a very brief time, Didik said.

He said, however, that the country had ample time to prepare for this year's elections. Therefore without proper law enforcement, people would not trust the results of the elections. "That is why Panwaslu must prove its commitment," he said.

The presence of police personnel and prosecutors in the Panwaslu was expected to help improve the performance of the supervisory committee.

Didik, an editor with detikcom news portal, disclosed that Panwaslu in regional chapters had reported numerous violations to the local police.

Fake diplomas submitted by legislative candidates, alleged support by current mayors or regents of certain political parties and early campaigns were the most prevalent of the violations reported to Panwaslu, according to Didik.

"There are reports of favoritism toward certain parties in Central Java because, of the 34 regents and mayors in the province only seven are non-partisan," he said.

Political analyst Arbi Sanit, who also spoke at the discussion, expressed his optimism that the upcoming elections would not only run peacefully but also produce quality leaders.

He admitted, though, that he had neither data nor other concrete reasons to convince people about his optimistic forecast.

"Of course I believe the elections will bring advantages to the country. The election must produce solutions to the many crises the nation is facing," Arbi of the University of Indonesia (UI) said.

He said only people who have integrity, capability, managerial skills, vision and leadership could lead the country and bring about recovery. "Vision will help leaders implement any solutions or policies in the right context," he said.

Elections to be make-or-break for PAN and chairman Rais

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2004

Frans Surdiasis, Jakarta -- The late Elvis Presley's song It's now or never, perfectly depicts the situation faced by Amien Rais and his National Mandate Party (PAN) in confronting this year's general election. Many people say that this year is plausibly the last chance for Amien Rais to achieve his ambition of becoming the country's president.

Amien, who was born in Solo, Central Java, on April 26, 1944, was one of four civilians who championed the fall of Soeharto in May 1998.

If the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) speaker fails to be elected president in July's elections, it would be very hard for him to contest the 2009 general election.

Co-founded by Amien in 1998, this year's elections will also determine the future direction of the Muslim-based PAN. The party expects to double the number of votes it gained in the 1999 elections to about 15 percent in this April's legislative election.

Of the four reformist figures, practically only Amien has not had the chance to lead the country. Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid became the country's fourth president in October 1999. The then vice president Megawati Soekarnoputri replaced Gus Dur in July 2001. The third person, Yogyakarta Governor Sultan Hamengkubuwono X, is a respected figure, but regarded more as a respected national figure.

'Amien Rais Yes, PAN No'

This slogan reflects the attitude of the members of Muhammadiyah -- the country's second-largest Muslim organization after the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) -- in the 1999 elections. This may also be their attitude in the upcoming elections. Amien was formerly chairman of Muhammadiyah and the organization was PAN's backbone. The 15-percent target is too optimistic for this party.

The party has tried to maintain its platform as an open party with a strong commitment to Islam but this only resulted in less support from Muhammadiyah.

When PAN was declared a party on August 23, 1998, it claimed to be an open party that tried to accommodate Indonesians of all groups and backgrounds.

Initially, PAN was perceived as an alternative party, bringing new hope to a political system strongly bound to its roots.

Though supported at the grass roots, mainly by Muhammadiyah members and other Muslim modernists, PAN at a national level is a non-religious party with a nationalist and populist agenda. Its leadership includes many prominent Christians and secular activists and intellectuals.

The party won 7.3 percent of the votes in 1999. But with Amien Rais as the party's central figure, many people questioned these results. With Muhammadiyah's membership standing at about 30 million, PAN was expected to secure at least 12 percent of the votes.

What's wrong with PAN's performance?

Hypotheses abound as to why PAN performed as it did. Some speculate that Amien's background in Islamic organizations and his sometimes-strident pro-Muslim views in the past, alienated non-Muslims, the attraction of which would have been the key to PAN's assertion of itself as a new political party. Analysis of poll data suggests that this is correct.

For some voters, the party was too Islamic, and for others not Islamic enough.

PAN's performance in the 1999 elections posed a serious challenge for the party in determining its future. It was crucial to decide whether to be a totally open party or to rely on Muhammadiyah's support. In its first congress of 2000, the debate divided the party's top executives.

One camp, represented by top party official A.M. Fatwa, wanted the party's platform to be more explicitly in favor of Islamic values. Another camp, led by its former secretary-general Faisal Basri, insisted that the party should remain inclusive and open. But Faisal resigned from the party.

Taking the last poll results into consideration, we can theorize that Muhammadiyah's voters have stronger emotional ties to Amien rather than to PAN.

First, contrary to the National Awakening Party (PKB), which was formally declared the country's biggest Muslim organization by the Central Board of Nahdlatul Ulama, PAN was quite independent from the beginning.

Second, PAN does not explicitly favor Islamic values. This makes PAN unattractive to those who tend to link themselves with parties explicitly bearing Islamic symbols.

Third, the political aspirations of Muhammadiyah's members have been channeled among many parties.

West Sumatra, one of Muhammadiyah's strongholds, may be an interesting case to look at. In the 1999 elections people here preferred Golkar to PAN.

Taking PAN back to Muhammadiyah's corridor is a pragmatic way to increase the party's supporters, but this is not without risk.

How to achieve the target?

Increasing support from Muhammadiyah might be a core strategy for PAN. But making the party more Islamic could also cost the party non-Muslim voters.

An alternative step would be to reach out to non-Muslim voters. The party's stance on anti-discrimination, in terms of both religion and ethnicity, could also draw non-Muslim voters.

Five years of Amien's PAN have passed and its performance has improved. PAN has extended its network and is more consolidated now than before. But the question remains as to whether PAN should be an "open" party or once again rely on Muhammadiyah's support.

PAN supporters threaten exodus over legislative candidate

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2004

Ruslan Sangadji and Irvan NR, Palu -- Local members of the National Mandate Party (PAN) here objected on Saturday to the central board's selection of politicians to top the party's list of legislative candidates representing Central Sulawesi, as the candidates are not native to the province.

Deputy chairman of PAN's Central Sulawesi chapter Baso Rustham Effendi told a media conference the party's local supporters would move to rival parties if Jakarta refused to revise the list.

"The central board's refusal to make changes in the roster will result in an exodus of PAN supporters here and will cost the party a huge loss of support for its presidential candidate Amien Rais," Effendi, better known as Abang, said.

PAN's central board of executives has submitted its list of House of Representatives candidates to the General Elections Commission (KPU), which saw Nurhadi Musawir head the list in Central Sulawesi, ahead of local candidates Nadjamudin Ramli and Tjatjo Thaha who are second and third respectively. Nurhadi is a native of Yogyakarta.

The KPU has given only until January 19 for the parties to make any changes to their list of candidates.

The upcoming general election will adopt a new system in which a voter will be asked to punch a party's logo and a candidate's name, but a ballot paper will be considered valid even if only the party's symbol is punched. As a result of the ruling, candidates placed at the top of the list stand a greater chance of winning legislative seats than those listed below.

Despite claims from political parties that selection of legislative candidates started from the local party branches, it was the central boards that had the final say.

PAN did not win any seat in the House from Central Sulawesi and managed only to secure one seat in the provincial legislature in the 1999 general election.

Separately, dozens of students grouped under the Alliance of Banggai-Saluan Youths and Students (Babasal) rallied at the Provincial Elections Commission (KPUD) in Palu to reject the nomination of outsiders by some political parties as legislative candidates representing Banggai-Bangkep regency.

"They [outsiders] do not know the character of the people they will represent and have not proven their contribution to development in our regency. How can they channel our aspirations?" the group's chairman Irfan Bungaadjim said.

He said there were many native candidates who were more competent than the outsiders. "We need local figures, not strangers," he told KPUD officials.

Central Sulawesi KPUD chairman Zainuddin Bolong asserted that the unitary state of Indonesia did not recognize the dichotomy between native and non-native figures. "The demand indicates that nationalism has faded among the younger generation while the nation is facing the threat of disintegration," Zainuddin said.

The students dispersed peacefully after the dialog with KPUD officials.

Loosely-united Islamic parties pose weak threat

Straits Times - January 19, 2004

Derwin Pereira, Jakarta -- Islamic parties in Indonesia are facing a crisis of leadership.

Torn apart by personal ambition and ideological differences, they have not been able to unite behind a single presidential ticket to challenge President Megawati Sukarnoputri and the secular nationalist bloc in this year's elections.

Thus far, none of the five major Muslim parties -- the United Development Party (PPP), the Nation Awakening Party (PKB), the National Mandate Party (PAN), the Crescent Star Party (PBB) and the Justice Party (PK) -- are willing to rally around a single political figure.

None of the leading Muslim contenders such as Vice-President Hamzah Haz, National Assembly chairman Amien Rais and former president Abdurrahman Wahid, has suggested that they could work together.

Mr Hamzah, who is the PPP chairman, has indicated that he would be more inclined to be Ms Megawati's No 2 than work in the shadows of National Assembly (MPR) chairman Amien Rais.

Dr Amien, who leads PAN and is at the forefront of cobbling together a Muslim coalition ahead of presidential polls, has his own grand design. He wants the presidency for himself -- just like former Indonesian leader Abdurrahman Wahid who is being backed by the PKB.

Political analyst Meidyatama Suryodiningrat of the Jakarta-based Van Zorge consultancy believes that parties such as the PPP, the PKB and PAN, which are led by powerful, high-profile individuals, are trapped in an irony.

"They have strong party chiefs who can attract a large number of voters. But it is the very stature of these individuals that diminishes the likelihood of other high-profile candidates running on the same ticket." He said smaller Islamic parties such as the PBB and PK, who are led by politicians with limited popular appeal, are looking outside the Muslim bloc for national-level leaders like security czar Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. There is little chance of them supporting a presidential candidate from one of the big three Islamic parties.

Underlying the rivalry are deep historical ideological differences between two of the largest Muslim groups in Indonesia -- the Nadhlatul Ulama (NU) and the Muhammadiyah. Consequently, the two have not been able to present a united Islamic platform on issues such as the Syariah, or the Islamic state.

Most parties gravitate either to the NU or the Muhammadiyah in search of support, but with the two Muslim groups differing on ideology, it becomes even more difficult to forge a common stand on issues in the country.

Even if these parties were to unite in the parliamentary and presidential elections this year, Indonesian mainstream voters -- the bulk of whom are secular -- are unlikely to veer towards them.

Against a backdrop of terrorist attacks in the country, support for these parties could weaken further amid concerns that backing Islamic politicians could pave the way for hardliners to come to power.

They are unlikely to capture voters from the mainstream supporters, for they will vote for the PDI-P and Golkar. Observers believe that any gains made by one of the five Islamic parties will come at the expense of the other.

Bereft of clear leadership and mass support, Islamic parties -- on their own or as a coalition -- are unlikely to produce a winning presidential ticket. They will, instead, play the role of coalition partners.

But it would be interesting to find out how many votes they will be able to mobilise. If they are able to muster 10 to 15 million votes, the Muslim parties could use it to extract concessions from Ms Megawati, before agreeing to join hands.

The dagger they are pointing at her might not be as sharp as it was in 1999 when they blocked her bid for the presidency. But it is still sharp enough to make sure that the interests of the Islamic camp remain on the cards of any future government.

Mega challenges

Straits Times - January 19, 2004

Derwin Pereira, Jakarta -- The old New Order appears to be on the rise again in Indonesia.

With just three months to go before the parliamentary elections, surveys show Golkar, the party of former president Suharto, has a very strong chance of winning.

Granted, political polling is in its infancy in Indonesia. But the most credible survey, carried out by the International Foundation for Election System (IFES), indicates that Indonesians have lost confidence in the major parties.

Mistrust of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party -- Struggle (PDI-P) of President Megawati Sukarnoputri has almost doubled over the last two years. Golkar, by contrast, has lost less support than any other party.

To cash in on the rising nostalgia among millions for the wong cilik or little people scheme which spelt cheap rice and stability during the New Order regime years, Golkar is attempting to reform itself.

For one, it is serious about adopting a bottom-up philosophy to develop the party. Over the past two years, it recruited and trained one million party cadres to build grassroots support.

Golkar has also introduced a party convention system to elect its presidential candidate. This process, open to party insiders and outsiders, is a deliberate tactic aimed at distancing Golkar from the one-man rule, cronyism and election rigging of the Suharto era -- even if it appears to be more form than substance.

Golkar's new found nerve is just one of several daggers pointing at the heart of the incumbent President's ambitions as 140 million Indonesians get ready to vote this year.

Ms Megawati also faces threats from Muslim parties and an ad hoc coalition of anti-establishment figures. The most serious challenge to her rule, however, could come from within her party.

In recent months, she has lashed out against PDI-P cadres, accusing them of corruption and calling them "thugs" who were out of touch with voters. Ms Megawati's message is aimed at restoring PDI-P's battered image.

Clearly, public dissatisfaction with her party is growing. Critics blame that on her failure to keep her promises to curb graft and bring economic benefits to the poor since she took office two years ago.

Ms Megawati knows that a bad showing by the PDI-P in the parliamentary election could hurt her chances in July's presidential vote.

A massive turnover of cadres is taking place in the provinces to steer the party back on course. Old members are being axed and new ones are being recruited.

But one should not write off the PDI-P. It is still riding on Ms Megawati's symbolic appeal and grassroots reach.

In 1999, the PDI-P won the majority of the votes cast in 13 provinces: North Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, Bengkulu, South Sumatra, Lampung, West Java, Jakarta, Yogyakarta, Bali, Central Kalimantan and East Kalimantan.

The party is unlikely to have problems winning in those provinces again although its popularity might dip in some.

Significantly for the PDI-P, the election of the president and vice-president will no longer be carried out in the national assembly where it can be prone to golden handshakes and manipulation.

Under the terms of the newly amended Constitution, the voters will choose between ready-made presidential tickets featuring a presidential and a vice-presidential candidate who would have been nominated by a political party or alliance of parties.

To push its sponsored tickets first past the post in the presidential election, the PDI-P still needs to ally itself with another strong party or an alliance of parties.

Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung told The Straits Times that "the ideal scenario was for both parties to join forces". "It is going to be a very close fight between Golkar and PDI-P. The margin of difference in the election between both parties will be very small," he said.

His suggestion is not as far-fetched as it might seem. There are 24 parties contesting the parliamentary elections this year with PDI-P and Golkar being the frontrunners.

Clearly, the single biggest threat to the PDI-P is Golkar, given its grassroots reach and well-oiled infrastructure. But at the same time, it represents the most natural ally for Ms Megawati's party.

The two parties represent the political mainstream, and have the most acceptable ideological platform -- secular nationalism -- for the majority of Indonesians.

According to a Cabinet minister, if Ms Megawati were to forge an alliance with Golkar, she would prefer that her running mate be Coordinating Minister for Welfare Jusuf Kalla, rather than Mr Akbar, who is facing damning corruption charges.

Failing that, she is believed to be considering her Vice- President and leader of the Muslim-based United Development Party (PPP) Hamzah Haz, security czar Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the leader of the Nadhlatul Ulama, Mr Hasyim Muzadi.

Golkar, meanwhile, is also targeting Mr Yudhoyono and Mr Muzadi, if it does not join forces with the PDI-P.

The backroom dealings have already begun. The President's husband Taufik Kiemas has been cultivating Golkar and the all-important Muslim camp.

The palace is pursuing a "containment strategy" of fending off challenges from these two blocs. Mr Akbar, for his part, is hoping to strike a deal, accepting the number two position in return for the authorities dropping the charges against him that could see him go to jail.

That is easier said than done. Party pressures -- especially if Golkar wins the general election -- could prevent him from making any such deals. In that scenario, Golkar executives would want to go for the jugular, by possibly joining forces with the Muslim camp or with groups opposed to Ms Megawati.

As the polls loom, the biggest challenge for the President is to whip her own party into shape and contain the threat of Golkar.

PRD: All of the political parties are rotten - January 24, 2004

Djoko Tjiptono, Jakarta -- The 2004 general elections will not be able to provide a solution to the various problems which are being faced by the Indonesian people. This is because in terms of the political parties' programs, the majority are rotten.

This was explained by the general chairperson of the People's Democratic Party (PRD), Yusuf Lakaseng, when contacted by by telephone on Saturday January 24.

Lakaseng explained that a good political party is one which is has the capacity to present solutions to the four problems which are facing the nation. The four problems are the welfare of the people, the elimination of corruption, problems of democracy and militarism along with the oppression of women.

"The studies which we have conducted indicate that not one of the large political parties which are in power at the moment, [has the capacity] to provide hope to [the nation to] escape from these problems. This shows that they are all rotten political parties", said Lakaseng.

Lakaseng explained that the credibility of the political parties is closely linked with the politicians or the elite from the political parties themselves. If a political party is rotten then the political elite from that party are also rotten."Because they use these political party as a vehicle to advance their goals", explained Lakaseng.

It is understood that the political parties being referred to by Lakaseng are the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the United Development Party (PPP), the National Mandate Party (PAN), the National Awakening Party (PKB), the Star Crescent Party (PBB) and the Golkar Party. The political elite of these parties are therefore [President] Megawati Sukarnoputri, [Vice- president Hamzah Haz], [People's Consultative Assembly speaker] Amin Rais, [former foreign minister] Alwi Shihab, [justice and human rights minister] Yusril Ihza Mahendra and [People's Representative Assembly speaker] Akbar Tandjung respectively.

"If they want to bring charges against us we are ready. Furthermore, we are ready to hold a programmatic debate [with them] if they so wish", explained Lakaseng. (djo)

[Translated by James Balowski.]

TNI denies issuing order to collect data on ex-PKI members - January 20, 2004

Iin Yumiyanti, Jakarta -- TNI (armed forces) headquarters has denied that it issued an order to collect data on ex-members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in the lead up to the 2004 elections. If there has been an order to collect this kind of data it diverges from the duties of the TNI.

This was stated by the head of public information department of the TNI headquarters, Dj Nachrowi when contacted by on Monday January 21.

"There has been no special instruction concerning the collection of data on members of banned organisations anywhere in Indonesia", said Nachrowi.

The statement was made in response to an order which was issued by Dandim (district military command) Simalungun/0207 commander Lieutenant Colonel Marwan Saragih for his officers to collect data on ex-PKI members. Dandim said that such data collection is vitally important in relation to maintaining security during the elections.

According to Nachrowi, collecting data on the population is not part of the TNI's territorial duties but is the role of the respective local government. As well as this, data on ex-members of banned organisations is usually held by government departments.

"This [collection of data] is not [one of] the TNI's territorial duties. But as the territorial institution, [of course] they want to know about [ex-PKI members], that's natural", he said.

TNI headquarters will seek clarification on the validity of the order first. "[First we will check whether it is] true or not. If it is true that we let [such an order] slip out, we will request clarification from the relevant [party], said Nachrowi. (iy)

[Translated by James Balowski.]


The losing fight against graft

Asia Times - January 21, 2004

Bill Guerin, Jakarta -- As Indonesia prepares for an April general election and its first-ever direct presidential election in July, the government is busy trying to establish policy credibility in the eyes of the market.

Political rivalry has heated up ahead of April 25, when more than 145 million eligible voters will go to the polls to cast their votes for a new government and a new variation on the theme of reform.

Though campaign platforms have not emerged, it is unlikely that any of the would-be presidential candidates will stand up for the fight against corruption.

Macroeconomic indicators show that the economic team, coordinating Minister for the Economy Dorodjatun Kuntjoro-Jakti, Minister of State Enterprises Laksamana Sukardi, Minister for National Development Kwik Kwan Gie and Finance Minister Boedionio has, by hook or by crook, achieved a modicum of success.

Interest rates continued to fall last year and inflation was contained in a band peaking at an annualized rate of less than 6 percent. The rupiah gained strongly against the US dollar, and in spite of the diminishing current account, surplus foreign- exchange reserves continued to increase and pushed stock prices well up.

But increasing macroeconomic stability has had little impact on growth. Growth has been mainly driven by consumption and, as exports have weakened, a slowdown in manufacturing growth continues to drag down overall growth.

Revenues need to rise and spending needs to be cut to push growth higher. Investment is needed to generate jobs. Official figures put the number of unemployed at 42.7 million, a level that social experts have described as a "time bomb". An estimated 2.5 million young people need jobs every year, but current growth levels of about 4 percent will sustain, at best, only 1.2 million jobs, leaving 1.3 million to join the ranks of the unemployed.

Furthermore, with foreign direct investment just 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the economy remains too weak to provide capital to embark on strong growth.

The massive unemployment levels threaten political stability and raise the specter of even more social unrest. The World Bank warned last week that unemployment had reached an "alarming level", with country director Andrew Steer pushing the government to recognize the need to focus economic policy on creating urgently needed jobs and to move fast before the problem increases.

Sofjan Wanandi, head of the Indonesian Employers Association, put it more starkly. "Without first addressing unemployment, we will not be able to address any issue, including national security and political instability," warned Wanandi.

Pressure from nationalists forced a withdrawal from the International Monetary Fund's structural adjustment program at the end of last month. Though the 30 bilateral and multilateral donors grouped in the Consultative Group on Indonesia, came to the rescue by pledging US$3.4 billion in new loans and grants for this year, the disbursement of at least $1 billion of the amount pledged will depend on progress on the policy agenda.

Much of the borrowing will go toward beefing up the state budget, heavily burdened with payment of existing debts. Foreign debt stands at $77.1 billion. Domestic borrowers owe almost as much, Rp619.7 trillion ($70 billion). Rp131.2 trillion -- about one- third of the estimated revenue -- has been earmarked to repay domestic and foreign debts.

The government is banking on the sale of some 14 state-owned enterprises to meet its Rp5 trillion ($580 million) privatization target and help cover the budget deficit, which for this year has been set at Rp24.4 trillion, or 1.2 percent of GDP.

The privatization program is supposed to develop transparency, efficiency and professionalism in state-owned enterprises, most of which have been criticized for their inefficiency and corrupt culture. Vested interests and political bickering have dogged privatization from the outset and stalled progress in a number of cases.

The early excesses of regional autonomy, when in the public sector and the bureaucracy power moved sharply from central to local government, showed that decentralization had given birth to a demon.

The mood of reformasi was everywhere in local communities and they assumed a mandate to demonstrate and pressure local legislatures, where state enterprises are mainly based, though this was often based on little more than an idea of their right to protest.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri put this all down to growing pains. The problems, she said, were related to the country's "statehood and nationhood".

The most noteworthy casualty of the political complications in the regions has been the world's third-largest cement maker, Cemex SA. There are strong rumors that the Mexican giant may wind up business operations in Indonesia unless it gets "a convincing proposal" from Jakarta that would allow the company to have a majority stake in state-owned PT Semen Gresik, Indonesia's largest cement maker.

Cemex SA has already taken the government to arbitration proceedings at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes and asked that Jakarta pay for the vast expenses it incurred during continual political complications of its investment plans.

But corruption has taken the heaviest toll on the economy. Speaking in 1949, the late vice president Muhammed Hatta lamented that corruption had become an "Indonesian way of life". For those not overly familiar with the country, it may be difficult to grasp just how corruption pervades every stratum of society.

The giving of presents, and reciprocal personal favors through protection, special treatment, and the favors of women are integral to the Javanese code of normal conduct and social behavior. This, after all, is former president Suharto's legacy, an accepted natural order of things where his family, his ministers or, for that matter, the holder of any powerful office enriched himself in the course of executing his duties.

High government officials demand "special payments". Other such illegal payments are generally expected throughout lower levels of government in the form of bribes connected with import and export licenses, exchange controls, tax assessments, police protection, or loan applications.

A survey last month by the Regional Autonomy Watch showed just how widespread the practice is. The survey covered 5,140 companies, both regional and national, and included foreign companies. Of the illegal fees, 13.1 percent were paid to court officials, 11.5 percent to security officers, 8.5 percent to community groups and 6.1 percent to thugs.

This may be all par for the course in Indonesia but, of course, it greatly hinders economic development and results in not only reduced levels of investment but also overblown government expenditure. It also distorts the ratios of government expenditure, so that education, health, and infrastructure maintenance lose out to less efficient but more easily manipulated public projects.

For most of Suharto's New Order era, industrialization of the country saw grand-scale conversion of rice fields to factories, golf courses and swanky real-estate complexes. Infrastructure development has not kept pace. Only about 34 percent of the urban population (or 14 percent of the total population) is served directly by water utilities. Less than 3 percent of the population has access to a basic telephone service in their homes. Only 1.3 percent of the total population has access to network sewerage, while 73 percent of urban households are estimated to have only septic tanks.

Little, if any, money is going into roads and highways. In many parts of outlying provinces, such as Papua and Sumatra, farmers cannot take the rice they grow to the nearest port, because there are no of roads and transport. Many outer island regions also suffer regular power outages. Only about half the population is connected to the national grid. A World Bank draft infrastructure report entitled "Averting an Infrastructure Crisis: A Framework for Policy and Action" warns that infrastructure is critical for Indonesia's growth and poverty reduction and should now be made a national priority. It says private investors are not ready to invest because of inconsistent policy and regulatory environment. Corruption, the bank says, affects infrastructure particularly severely.

Corruption has also cost the government revenue from the huge amount of tax arrears by compromising its ability to collect taxes and tariffs. Concern over this has spurred a revision of the tax laws. Under the proposed new law, due to be debated in the House next month, the tax office will have greater powers to detain major tax evaders without trial and to apprehend those suspected of committing tax crimes.

Giving the taxman authority to confiscate assets and bank accounts owned by "uncooperative taxpayers", without the consent or involvement of the police, may seem a tough measure, but taking the police out of the equation is likely to encourage corruption further in the form of extortion and collusion between unscrupulous tax officials and taxpayers.

Understanding how widely Suharto's patriarchal style was accepted as normal behavior helps to highlight the difficulties for any president of Indonesia to generate an approach to "clean governance".

Institutional reforms currently being implemented are aimed at improving the lack of government and corporate transparency. Four key institutions at the forefront of accountability monitoring, Bank Indonesia, the Election Commission, the Supreme Audit Agency and the Supreme Court need to be greatly strengthened, warns the World Bank.

Other political factors giving rise to concern vis-a-vis the economy are centered on the ability of legislators to claim some sort of sovereign right to interfere in the technical processes consequent on decisions made by the Indonesian Bank Restructuring Agency and the ministers with economic portfolios. The Chandra Asri deal and the sale of Bank Central Asia and the Salim plantations were striking examples of such untoward political interference during this administration and showed that the legislature could now overrule decisions by the executive.

Such political considerations that put politics before the interests of the country have hindered the momentum for reform and continue to create a high degree of uncertainty, the worst enemy of business.

A World Bank report in late October warned Indonesia was at a critical juncture in the fight against corruption. Though convicted corruption felon Akbar Tanjung continues to lead the House of Representatives, the report stopped short of directly criticizing Megawati for tolerating corruption, though it pointed out that corrupt officials from the Suharto regime remain entrenched in the civil service, judiciary and law-enforcement agencies.

The report, titled "Combating Corruption in Indonesia: Enhancing Accountability for Development", argues that the nature of Indonesia's current transition makes it very difficult to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to fight corruption.

Vested interests remain powerful, law-enforcement institutions are weak, and the ability of the state to implement an integrated program of anti-corruption measures is limited. Conflicts of interest among the political elite make it difficult for the government to make good on its frequent promises to accelerate reforms.

The parliamentary-geared political system and uncertainty over the outcome of the election and the likely make-up of the next government and parliament may severely restrain progress.

The level of political corruption such as vote-buying and legal or illegal campaign contributions by the wealthy and other special-interest groups to influence laws and regulations is likely to increase rather than subside in the run-up to the elections. The World Bank report says the high cost and weak regulation of campaign finance will continue to drive corruption.

A concerted war on such corruption is one of the long-overdue reform measures, but Megawati has said simply that with the recent establishment of the Corruption Eradication Commission, the nation should hope for an end to graft.

She seeks re-election through the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, challenging other presidential candidates such as People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais, former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, ex-military chief General (retired) Wiranto and others. But Megawati has drawn flak from her own supporters and many others who are unimpressed with her performance and leadership in running the country. It is this lack of leadership that raises concerns that reform measures may be sidelined by the need to advance populist measures to gain voter support at the expense of the long-term health of the economy.

The World Bank report concludes that the war on corruption is "too important to be left solely to government to fight" and will require strong leadership. The choices facing Indonesia's leaders are stark, it says, warning that failure to act now could have severe consequences for long-term stability.

Every question and every possible answer touches on the need to build an economy that will deliver sustainable growth to a country where 40 percent of the workforce is unemployed and whose population is expected to reach 250 million by 2020.

Hard-won gains in macroeconomic stability could disappear if the election fails to bring to power a coalition strongly determined to launch a full frontal attack on corruption and build up good governance. This is a battle from which Indonesia cannot afford to run.

Indonesian Islamic leaders vow to fight corruption

Straits Times - January 19, 2004

Robert Go, Jakarta -- Indonesia's Islamic leaders have declared a national war against corruption in politics.

Anti-graft activists have long been complaining that as many as 70 per cent of the country's MPs are "tainted" and do not deserve to be re-elected into office, and now the Muslim leaders have decided to lend their support to the anti-corruption campaign.

The group, which called last week for voters to start blacklisting corrupt candidates, included Mr Salahuddin Wahid, the brother of former president Abdurrahman Wahid. He is also a leader of the 40-million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama, the country's biggest Muslim organisation.

The coming elections, Mr Salahuddin said, must produce "clean and honourable leaders" who can effect change in Indonesia.

Mr Din Syamsuddin, a vice-chairman of 30-million-member Muhammadiyah, also endorsed the initiative, saying Muslim communities had to be "more active in monitoring and reporting corrupt politicians to the authorities".

These and other voices suggest corruption is taking centre stage in Indonesia ahead of legislative elections in April and the country's first direct presidential polls in July.

The list of public officials who have been linked to graft scandals is extensive. But few have faced prosecution, and fewer still have served jail time, even after being convicted.

Parliamentary Speaker Akbar Tandjung is a target of activists' criticisms at this time, given that he remains a free man and keeps both his government and Golkar party leader jobs despite a three-year jail sentence for graft that dates back to last year.

NU and Muhammadiyah leaders said their organisations had started internal programmes to clean up and it was time to extend such measures to the larger society.

Now, activists have secured what has been described as "moral backing" from religious leaders and they expect voters to pay more attention to candidates' graft track record as they head for the polls.

Mr Teten Masduki, head of the Indonesian Corruption Watch, said: "The religious leaders' backing will be crucial. We hope more voters will now take the need to review politicians based on their links to graft as a responsibility." This current "war against corruption" exists as a loose coalition of religious and anti-graft groups, but Mr Teten said there were several things it could do to combat graft more effectively .

There is hope now that regular Indonesians will be more willing to act as whistleblowers and to help the police with investigations. As well, activists have decided to compile profiles of candidates and politicians and to disseminate the information freely to voters ahead of elections.

Ms Emmy Hafild, head of Transparency International in Indonesia, said: "It is not too late, but Indonesian voters have to start acting on this type of information. Otherwise, the country's leaders will remain corrupt."

 Media/press freedom

Libel judgment shakes Indonesian press

Wahington Post - January 22, 2004

Alan Sipress, Jakarta -- An Indonesian court has handed down a record libel judgment against one of the country's most prominent newspapers, ordering Koran Tempo on Tuesday to pay $1 million in damages to an Indonesian businessman for reporting last year that he had planned to open a casino despite laws banning gambling. The case is one of a series of libel suits by businessmen, politicians and senior military officers that news media and human rights advocates said were creating a chilling atmosphere and threatening to roll back some of the gains made by Indonesia's press after the end of the dictatorship of Suharto in 1998.

With strict censorship lifted, newspapers and magazines have proliferated over the last six years, while competing television and radio stations now crowd the airwaves.

The government still restricts reporting about a few subjects, in particular the separatist conflict in the western province of Aceh, but investigative journalism has taken root and the country's institutions, widely criticized for corruption, are subjected to a degree of scrutiny once unthinkable.

Over the last year, some of Indonesia's most popular publications have been staggered by a series of lawsuits, with some legal experts complaining that the courts were unduly swayed by the money and political influence of the high-profile plaintiffs.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri sued the editor of the tabloid Rakyat Merdeka for criminal defamation under colonial-era laws over insulting headlines, including two that compared her to a cannibal and a leech. The speaker of the House of Representatives, who has been convicted of corruption, sued another Rakyat Merdeka editor after being depicted in a political cartoon as bare-chested and dripping with sweat. Both editors were found guilty and given suspended prison sentences. Koran Tempo and its affiliated magazine are publications with a much more distinguished pedigree.

The weekly Tempo magazine had stubbornly advocated democratic freedoms during Suharto's 32-year rule before being banned by the government in 1994. The magazine returned as part of the reform movement that followed Suharto's ouster and quickly became one of Indonesia's most respected publications.

Last March, Tempo published allegations that Tomy Winata, a banking and property mogul, stood to profit from a fire a month earlier that destroyed a mammoth textile market in Jakarta, and it suggested he may have been behind the incident. Winata filed civil and criminal charges. That case is pending. Several Tempo journalists were roughed up after at least 100 Winata supporters besieged the magazine's offices following the article's publication.

Soon after, Winata filed another lawsuit, claiming Koran Tempo had separately libeled him in the article discussing alleged plans for a casino. He argued that it was part of a campaign by the newspaper and its sister magazine to ruin his reputation.

As part of the judgment, the court ordered Koran Tempo to publish apologies in domestic and international media outlets. Winata's attorney said Wednesday that his client would be satisfied with the court ruling this week only if it prompts Koran Tempo to clear his name by formally apologizing.

"Tomy Winata wants righteousness," said Desmond J. Mahesa, the defense attorney. "He wants his name to be rehabilitated." But Bambang Harymurti, Koran Tempo's editor in chief, said the newspaper stood by the article. Harymurti, who was found guilty along with the reporter who wrote the disputed article, said they would not apologize and had no intention of agreeing to the $1 million judgment, which media experts said is the largest libel award ever against an Indonesian publication. "We can't pay it and even if we could, we wouldn't. It will set a bad precedent. It is the result of the misuse of law," he said.

Harymurti said Koran Tempo would appeal the decision, aiming ultimately to bring the case before the Indonesian Supreme Court. He predicted that the Supreme Court justices would be more sympathetic to the role of the press in a democratic society. But even if the newspaper eventually prevails, he said, the court case is already having the effect of intimidating other publications. "This is a stifling environment for journalists," he said.

Moreover, he said, the court had failed to take into account the public interest served by the media and had ignored a special Indonesian law meant to regulate the press, instead rendering the verdict under less favorable terms of ordinary civil law.

"We have big space for a liberal press but, on the other hand, we face a consolidation of the old powers that want to control the press like before," said Nezar Patria, secretary general of the Alliance of Independent Journalists. "The media is becoming afraid to publish some articles because they could face court charges."

Tempo ordered to pay $1.7 million to tycoon for libel

Straits Times - January 21, 2004

Devi Asmarani, Jakarta -- The leading Koran Tempo daily yesterday lost the first of a series of legal battles against businessman Tomy Winata and was ordered to pay the powerful tycoon US$1 million (S$1.7 million) in a defamation suit.

The judges in the South Jakarta District Court found the daily guilty of running a libellous news story on February 6, in which it reported rumours that Mr Tomy was planning to run gambling businesses in south-east Sulawesi.

The court also ordered Koran Tempo, which is the sister company of the leading Tempo newsmagazine, to make an apology in national electronic and printed media for three consecutive days. "The accused have violated the law and defamed the plaintiffs," Judge Zoeber Djajadi told the court.

Mr Tomy had demanded compensation of 21 billion rupiah (S$4.3 million) from the daily's chief editor Bambang Harymurti, reporter Dedy Kurniawan and publishing company PT Tempo Inti Media Harian for publishing the article.

Although the article printed Sulawesi Governor Ali Mazi's denial about the rumours that Mr Tomy was planning to run gambling businesses in the province, the businessman said it had tarnished his good image. Editor-in-chief Bambang Harymurti told reporters after the trial that the daily would consider filing an appeal.

In December, the same court ruled in favour of textile tycoon Marimutu Sinivasan in a defamation suit he had filed against the daily. Koran Tempo was spared having to pay compensation sought, but had to apologise to his ailing Texmaco group in several media. The daily had filed an appeal on that ruling.

Press Council member Leo Batubara said there was no indication that the daily had broken any law, judging from the story headline that favoured the businessman.

He also said that Koran Tempo was not the first media that had linked Mr Tomy, who is known for his strong political connections, to illegal gambling businesses in the country.

"There were at least 20 other publications that had written stories in the past linking him to gambling. Why haven't the other 20 been sued?" he asked. "Frankly, I think Tempo, as the leading local media in investigative journalism, has angered many people," he told The Straits Times.

"And it is being punished as a warning for the rest of the Indonesian media organisations of what would happen to them if they continue to be critical."

In the past year, media figures and observers have warned that the press freedom enjoyed after the 1998 fall of the Suharto regime was under growing threat by lawsuits and physical threats on journalists and their media organisations.

Tempo's newsroom was last year occupied by Mr Tomy's people after the weekly published an article accusing the businessman of being behind the massive fire in Tanah Abang in Jakarta.

The magazine's editors and journalists were physically harassed during the attack and police did little to stop the attackers, who were later freed from any charge. Mr Tomy has also filed several other lawsuits against Tempo regarding the March article on the Tanah Abang fire.

Other media organisations have been embroiled in lawsuits as well. Late last year, the Rakyat Merdeka daily was found guilty in separate suits filed by Parliament Speaker Akbar Tandjung and President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Its editors were sentenced to five and six months' jail terms in the respective cases.

 Regional/communal conflicts

Sectarian clash claims one life in Central Sulawesi

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2004

Ruslan Sangadji, Palu -- Sectarian fighting erupted in Donggala regency, Central Sulawesi, leaving one person dead, two others seriously injured and four houses burned.

The clash took place on Wednesday evening between residents from two rival villages in Sigi Biromaru, about 260 kilometers from Poso regency, where some 2,000 people were killed in two years of religious fighting until 2002.

However, tension still engulfed the two villages of Maranatha, mainly populated by Christians, and Sidondo, where Muslims are dominant.

Dozens of police officers were deployed from Donggala to the scene to prevent further clashes in the religiously divided villages, while many local residents fled to safer areas and others guarded the location, brandishing spears, arrows and other sharp weapons.

The dead person was identified as Samuel Malatinggi, 56, from Maranatha, who was shot in the right leg with a homemade gun, police said.

The two severely wounded were Lamborongan, 56, from Maranatha, shot in the head and chest, and Tengge, 42, from Sidondo, who sustained gunshot injuries to the right arm.

Samuel was buried on Thursday after an autopsy at Undatu general hospital, while the injured victims are receiving medical treatment at separate hospitals.

Residents at Maranatha said the clash was triggered by the alleged beating of a farmer from Maranatha by a man from Sidondo.

The victim later reported the case to other villagers in Maranatha, who then formed a guard in their area. However, a mob from Sidondo stormed Maranatha and burned houses there.

At the time, Samuel Malatinggi, chairman of the Maranatha representatives board, tried to stop the arson but was suddenly shot dead.

Meanwhile, Jiwa Laulasa, 70, from Sidondo, said he had been stopped on January 18 by a group of armed men from Maranatha, who then stabbed his right arm without good reason.

Others believed the fighting was sparked by a long-standing need for revenge.

In 2002, Maranatha residents clashed with their rivals from Kotapulu, another mainly Muslim village, in which two houses were set alight.

It was not clear if the clash was linked to fighting in Poso, which was often hit by sporadic attacks by unknown people after a peace accord in February 2002.

On Wednesday, a joint police and military team found 47 rounds of ammunition hidden in a cacao plantation in Tojo Una-Una regency, a day after the team uncovered 27 bombs and several guns on a plantation in neighboring Poso.

The bullets reportedly came from the Army's weapons manufacturer, PT Pusat Industri Angkatan Darat (PT Pindad).

The two discoveries indicate that there are still many civilians in possession of firearms, bullets and bombs in Poso, said team spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Agil Assegaf.

"In order to find more firearms and bombs, the police and military will intensify sweeps of those places where these items are allegedly being stored," he said.

The team was questioning the owner of the plantation in Tojo subdistrict.

Agil said the police and military were carrying out the weapons sweeps as part of a security operation in Poso, which began in early January.

He said the joint operation would focus on several districts where much of the violence of the past several years was centered, including Poso Pesisir, Poso Kota, Pamona Utara and Ampana.

Security authorities in Poso regency suspect that Ampana had become the base for groups organizing attacks in Poso. Most of the perpetrators of an attack on Beteleme village last year came from the district. "Ninety percent of the perpetrators of the attack were from Ampana," Agil said.

Police find dozens of bombs in Poso district

Agence France Presse - January 21, 2004

Indonesian police say they have found almost 30 bombs plus guns and ammunition in a district where Muslims and Christians have battled in recent years.

The bombs and weapons were found on cocoa plantations in the Poso district of Central Sulawesi on Monday, said Police Sergeant Major Pangeran.

He said 27 bombs, one rifle and a number of bullets were found at a plantation in Ratulene and two home-made handguns were found at Tabalu. An invesigation was under way to trace the owners.

Poso district police chief, Abdi Dharma, told the state Antara news agency he believed the bombs and weapons had been put there for the police to find.

He said some residents wanted to hand over weapons to police, who have been conducting a drive to disarm the district, but did not have the courage to do so.

Up to 1,000 people were killed in Muslim-Christian battles after sectarian violence broke out in Poso in 2000. The government brokered a shaky peace deal in December 2001 but sporadic violence continues.

In the worst bloodshed in 2003, gunmen in October killed 10 people in attacks on mainly Christian villages. A senior security official has blamed the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah terror group for those killings.

A small bomb was discovered on a bridge in the district capital of Poso on Monday. A bomb blast marred New Year's eve in Poso but caused no casualties.

Police examine links between Palopo blast and other bombings

Agence France Presse - January 19, 2004

Indonesian police are investigating whether a bombing which killed four people in South Sulawesi province this month is linked to previous blasts.

National police chief General Da'i Bachtiar said: "For the Palopo bombing, we are currently studying it, whether it was done by the actors of the Bali blast or the JW Marriott or a local network in Makassar or Poso." Police are looking for two men suspected of placing the bomb under a table at a cafe at Palopo in South Sulawesi on January 10.

Early Monday three hooded men threw a petrol bomb into a house in the Lamasi area 20 kilometers north of Palopo, injuring one man.

"The three men were on motorcycles and threw the petrol bomb after the owner of the house directed a torch beam onto their faces. The bomb hit the leg of the owner's son, causing burn injuries," said a police officer, Sergeant Rataba. He could not give a possible motive for the attack.

The al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah is blamed for bombings in Bali which killed 202 people in October 2002, the Marriott hotel blast last August which killed 12 people, and a string of other attacks in recent years. A bomb at a McDonald's restaurant at Makassar in South Sulawesi in December 2002 killed three people.

The Poso district in Central Sulawesi has suffered intermittent bombings during Christian-Muslim violence which began in 2000 and continues sporadically.

Bachtiar, quoted by Detikcom online news service, also said police were investigating whether recent bombings including Palopo may be linked to two fugitive Malaysians called Azahari Husin and Noordin Mohammad Top. The pair are being hunted for both the Bali blasts and the Marriott bombing.

"The police have also hunted the perpetrators of several bombings in various places and will determine whether those acts are linked to Azahari and Noordin or to local people," Bachtiar said.

 Local & community issues

Fishermen strike over abductions

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2004

Apriadi Gunawan, Medan -- Thousands of fishermen from Tanjung Balai regency, North Sumatra, have gone on strike for five days in a protest against abductions by unidentified gunmen operating in waters off the eastern coast of Asahan.

They said on Friday that they would continue striking indefinitely until they felt it was safe to go fishing again.

The strike has caused the price of fish to soar in traditional markets due to a shortage of supply.

S. Silalahi, a fisherman working at the Mawar Saritama fish storage facility in Tanjung Balai, said the decision was unanimously agreed by local fishermen.

He said that many fishermen had to cancel trips to sea as they were afraid of being held hostage by armed men.

Hamdan, the Tanjung Balai Indonesian Fishermen's Association chairman, said the mass sit-in was inevitable because abductions in Asahan waters had continued to increase.

He said he received reports that fishing boats were released after they paid ransoms to unknown abductors who had firearms.

"At least two fishing boats were seized by bandits this month; after receiving money, they usually freed the vessels," said Hamdan.

North Sumatra Indonesian Fishermen's Association head Nurdin Harahap confirmed reports of rampant abductions in waters off Asahan.

It was quite difficult for fishermen to resist the hostage- takers, he said.

Quoting information from several victims, Nurdin said the bandits were usually armed with pistols and rifles and that their identities remained unknown.

"Who they are is not clear. Whether fishermen themselves were acting as abductors or other groups were is still a mystery -- we just don't know. If it's clear, we'll hunt them down," Nurdin told The Jakarta Post.

According to fishermen's association records, abductions have taken place hundreds of times over the years.

Nurdin said the Malacca Strait was one of the areas most prone to abductions.

"Of around 150,000 fishermen in North Sumatra, many have been killed thus far, but the problem has never been overcome," he said.

Nurdin demanded that the relevant authorities intensify security operations in the Malacca Strait to put an end to hostage-taking there.

 Human rights/law

Indonesian courts create unemployment

Jakarta Post -- January 26, 2004

Sebastiaan Pompe, Jakarta -- It is accepted theory that reliable law enforcement and legal certainty are critical for investment recovery. This has been a mantra of international donor organizations for almost a decade.

For Indonesia, it was reiterated recently by prominent international journals such as the Asia Wall Street Journal and The Economist, which in a recent issue says that "the culture of legal confusion ... is by far the biggest obstacle to investment".

It seems that this accepted theory of international agencies is not shared by the Indonesian judiciary. In a recent debate, some senior judges took the view that courts do not play a role in this "legal confusion", and share no responsibility for economic recovery or employment.

In their view, economic recovery and employment are a matter of economics, or politics perhaps. To the extent that the law is involved at all, it is the legal system broadly speaking, the statutory framework, the administration, legal professions and so on. The courts have a passive role at best and basically just confirm the situation as they find it, so the judges argued.

Indeed, some judges said that the judiciary in reality actually protects employment where it can, such as in bankruptcy cases. They argued that since bankruptcy causes unemployment, courts therefore should apply bankruptcy law restrictively.

If judges grant bankruptcy petitions, and courts act effectively in liquidating bankrupt companies (or even in debt restructuring), they stimulate unemployment, and hence go against the national interest, it is said.

This view is misguided. Judges play an important part in strengthening the economic climate and conversely, court failure boosts unemployment. Let me set out some points here, specifically in relation to bankruptcy.

First, effective bankruptcy law helps improve employment. Assuredly, bankruptcy cannot be described as a pleasant affair for the individual company. It involves a liquidation of assets, which is a legal euphemism for a process by which estates are broken up, assets are divided and sold off, and employees are laid off.

For the individual company, the individual manager or shareholder, and notably the individual employee, bankruptcy can be a nightmare. It is important to keep that in mind, particularly for courts, and not to rush into bankruptcy imprudently, or grant spurious claims.

Yet it also is important to lift the perspective beyond the individual case, and consider how bankruptcy impacts on economic structures generally. In this broader economic sense bankruptcy is a form of re-distributing assets.

It is the mechanism by which assets are released from dead-ends, which allows them to be invested elsewhere in more profitable undertakings. This orderly redistribution of assets stimulates economic activity, and supports employment. Effective bankruptcy therefore is a critical ingredient to an efficient economy in which employment is maximized.

This helps explain why in countries such as the US, Japan or in Europe, economic growth and bankruptcy are not mutually exclusive. Even a small country such as the Netherlands has on average 630 court-imposed bankruptcies monthly. The Dutch figures are more than 20 times the annual case load in Indonesia. The Indonesian bankruptcy figures are quite outrageous, and point at significant institutional and economic inefficiencies.

Second, there is in fact a major demand for bankruptcy services in Indonesia. Some Indonesian judges, pointing at the very small number of bankruptcy cases filed in 2003, argue that their services are no longer required, that they have basically completed their job. Some of them even say that the commercial court has outlived its usefulness. This misreads the situation entirely.

The argument ignores official figures that show that a very large number of Indonesian companies collapse outside bankruptcy. According to the official statistic bureau (BPS) more than 1600 officially registered Indonesian companies (10 percent of the total) either scaled down operations dramatically or closed their doors entirely in 2002. (These are officially registered companies, the figure of unofficial unregistered companies is much higher.) In the slow-motion and often incomplete collapse of these 1600 companies, their capital more often than not remains tied up in the company one way or the other. Until it is freed, it cannot be reinvested elsewhere; and it cannot serve to create new employment.

The inability of these 1600 companies to go through an orderly liquidation impairs the recovery of capital through for new, more profitable investment. Employment recovery is handicapped accordingly. Thus, BPS reported that the 2002 company collapse caused an additional official registered unemployment of 145,000 persons; plus possibly half a million indirectly unemployed.

Unlike asserted by some Indonesian judges, BPS figures demonstrate that there is in fact a major demand for bankruptcy in Indonesia. The question is why such cases are not brought to court. This has everything to do with the failure of the courts to give a reliable, efficient and effective service. The judges are wrong to hold that the problem is out there and that to the extent that it affects them, they have solved it. In reality, the problem is with the judges themselves.

Third, unreliable courts boost unemployment. Courts that are unreliable, inefficient, and ineffective will encourage bad behavior in society. The worse courts are, the worse debtors will be also. They will not pay their debts in time, they will default intentionally, and will refuse to discuss alternative ways of resolving disputes -- all because it is so easy and there is no effective sanction. This is damaging to an economy, and to employment. It is damaging on society at large.

The European Union some time ago completed a study on the impact of court efficiency and intentional defaults on employment. It demonstrates that as court inefficiency increases, so do the number of intentional defaults, resulting in increased company collapses and increased unemployment figures.

This is very much the story of Indonesia in recent years, namely of how court ineffectiveness has boosted intentional default beyond all proportions, and unemployment is shooting off the charts as a result.

The misguided judicial focus on protecting debtor companies fails to grasp that this in reality is a damaging and counterproductive approach: It undermines the enforceability of contracts, and ends up damaging the entire market. Sound Indonesian companies or Indonesian banks have been dying because outstanding debts are not repaid. As these cannot be recovered through the court system, intentional defaults multiply, and employment dies.

Despite the large number of company collapses in Indonesia over past years, bankruptcy is little used in Indonesia. The reason is that the courts are unreliable, inefficient and ineffective. Capital remains tied down in dead-ends as a result.

Because it cannot be reinvested elsewhere, the resulting economic inefficiency increases unemployment. Court unreliability, inefficiency and ineffectiveness encourage intentional defaults, which boost unemployment further. In sum, courts directly contribute to unemployment in Indonesia.

The views expressed in this article are his own and do not in any way reflect those of the IMF.

[Sebastiaan Pompe is an IMF Resident Legal Advisor.]

Komnas has preliminary evidence against Soeharto

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2004

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, Jakarta -- The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) says it has found preliminary evidence of human rights violations by former president Soeharto during his 32-years of iron-fisted leadership, but has yet to decide whether or not to recommend prosecution.

M.M. Billah, who leads a Komnas HAM team investigating Soeharto's rights violations, said on Friday that the team was focusing on five major cases, including the detention without trial of alleged members of the Indonesian Communists Party (PKI) on Buru island following an aborted coup d'etat attempt in 1965.

Four other cases were the mysterious murders of criminals known as Petrus in the early 1980s, the Tanjung Priok massacre in early 1984, the imposition of military operation region (DOM) in Aceh from 1989 through 1998, and the July 27 attack on the Indonesia Democratic Party (PDI-P) headquarters in 1996.

The five had been recognized as the worst rights-violations cases by Soeharto's New Order, which had earned a reputation for using military support to suppress its political opponents.

"The Komnas HAM plenary meeting concluded that there were widespread and systematic attacks against a big number of civilians," he told a group called the Beware of Soeharto Committee (Tewas Soeharto).

Billah, however, admitted that there was no guarantee that Komnas HAM would set up an ad hoc team to investigate Soeharto's alleged rights violations.

"I think there will be a lot of hot debate over this issue. Komnas HAM has many members, each has a different position," he said.

Komnas HAM is expected to meet next week to discuss the issue.

Members of the state-sanctioned rights body have different backgrounds. Some are rights activists, others are former police officers, former military officers, lecturers and religious figures.

Komnas HAM established the investigation team last year to examine possible rights abuses by Soeharto, who ruled the world's fourth most-populated country up until May 1998.

The team is led by Billah, another Komnas HAM member Achmad Ali, and lawyer Nursyahbani Katjasungkana. Team members include historian Asvi Warman Adam, lawyer Luhut M. Pangaribuan, as well as rights activists Munir, Karlina Supelli, and Ita F. Nadia.

Billah said Komnas HAM may either decide to set up an ad hoc team for the preparation of prosecution or an investigative team to examine the case only.

"It depends on the results of the meeting next week. But, whatever our recommendation is, it will be up to the government, whether they take the case to court or not," he said.

Komnas HAM had earlier investigated possible rights abuses in the 1998 shooting of students of Trisakti university and submitted the results of its investigation to the Attorney General's Office (AGO) for prosecution. The AGO, however, is yet to instigate criminal proceedings.

Indonesia has managed to bring to court rights cases in East Timor and the Tanjung Priok massacre. Both the House and the government agreed to prosecute the East Timor rights abuses following international pressure. The prosecution ended with only five of 18 defendants convicted of the crimes. Most of those who escaped convictions were military generals.

The 82-year old Soeharto successfully escaped prosecution for alleged graft in 2000, despite calls to eradicate corruption. His lawyers have managed to convince authorities not to try him due to his "permanent brain damage".

Light sentences urged for policemen in campus killings

Associated Press - January 21, 2004

Medan -- Indonesian prosecutors on Wednesday demanded prison terms ranging from four months to 30 months for 18 police officers allegedly involved in the killing of two students in 2000, officials said.

Chief prosecutor Lt. Col. Purnomo said he sought a 30-month sentence for one non-commissioned officer who allegedly shot a student during an attack at Medan's Nomensen University.

Purnomo demanded prison terms of four to six months for the 17 others for their roles in the attack. He said it was not possible to determine who killed the second victim.

"The defendants are guilty of using violence against the students," he said at a military tribunal in the provincial capital Medan, about 1,400 kilometers northwest of the capital, Jakarta. Judges said the trial would resume on Tuesday.

On May 1, 2000, students rallied at the North Sumatra police headquarters demanding the release of a student who was arrested for gambling. The protest turned violent and several students were arrested. Their colleagues then took two officers hostage, and dozens of policemen attacked the university, killing the two students.

 Focus on Jakarta

'Traffic jams at night now normal'

Jakarta Post -- January 26, 2004

Starting on Monday, the police will begin enforcing the extended three-in-one traffic policy, with offenders facing sentences of up to a month in jail and a fine of Rp 1 million (US$119). The city administration enacted the new policy to clear the way for the Trans-Jakarta busway, which will begin full operation on Feb. 1. However, some residents The Jakarta Post spoke with doubt the three-in-one policy will be effective in reducing the number of private cars on the road.

Andi, 35, works in an office on Jl. Thamrin in Central akarta: The three-in-one traffic policy will interfere with our daily business activities as we have to leave the office at all times to meet with clients and business partners. And it certainly will not be efficient to send at least three people (to meetings) just to comply with the traffic policy.

We usually send our office drivers to deliver documents. You know that no one likes delays, and we don't want to disappoint our partners just because of this traffic policy.

We still don't know how to deal with this. We hope the administration will find a more acceptable mechanism to control the number of private cars (on the road).

Yu Yan, 28, works in Kuningan, South Jakarta. She lives with her parents in Jembatan Lima, West Jakarta: I have no problem with the three-in-one policy. I've complied with the policy since the first day it was announced.

But I don't think it will be effective in reducing traffic because motorists will just look for alternative routes.

Marcus Alimin, 35, is a manager at a private bank in Sudirman, Central Jakarta. He lives with his wife in Kelapa Gading, North Jakarta: I thought the three-in-one policy had already started last month. I didn't know it was just a trial period.

It is a pain in the neck, though, as I have to take alternative routes to avoid the policy. What's worse is that the alternative routes are now even more congested than ever.

The most ridiculous thing is that the three-in-one rule is also effective from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. It just delays the traffic jams that used to start at 5 p.m. by two hours. Now I have to stay at the office until at least 8 p.m. to avoid the traffic.

Can you believe it? Traffic jams at night? It could only happen here in this crazy city.

Future of evicted residents still uncertain

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2004

Bambang Nurbianto, Jakarta -- After four months of taking refuge at the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) compound, more than 200 evictees say they have nowhere else to go.

"We don't know how long we'll have to stay here. It appears that Komnas HAM is doing nothing for us," said Saifuddin, 50, who was evicted from Cengkareng Timur, West Jakarta.

Saifuddin told The Jakarta Post recently that he had no money or job with which to support his two children, aged two and four, and his pregnant wife, who is expected to give birth early February.

Saifuddin lived in Cengkareng Timur for five years and worked there as a small vendor until the West Jakarta municipality administration demolished his home, along with some 1,500 other homes, on Sept. 17, as requested by the land owner, state housing company Perum Perumnas. "My only hope is that there will be donors who want to help my family," he said.

Saifuddin and other evicted people are sheltering in the Komnas HAM office's back yard close to a parking lot. They sleep on mattresses and reed mats. They were evicted from areas in West Jakarta last year, such as Cengkareng Timur, Jembatan Besi and Tanjung Duren.

Toni Safari, also from Cengkareng Timur, said many of them were getting fed up. "We came here in the first place to seek help from Komnas HAM, but I don't see the commission doing anything for us except letting us stay here," Toni told the Post.

Aid, particularly food, is running low, he added. According to Toni, many of their children had been forced to become beggars or street singers to earn money to buy food.

Toni said he had not paid his child's fees for the private senior high school he attended. "I heard there was assistance for our children from the city administration, but I have not received any," he added. He was referring to the administration's assistance for students whose parents are victims of eviction. The assistance was delivered through the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak).

Meanwhile, Solahuddin Wahid, a Komnas HAM deputy chairman, said the commission could do nothing to help the evictees as it had no power to force any parties to offer a solution, not even the city administration whose eviction policy had created the residents' plight.

"We can't allot money from our budget to prepare them daily meals. However, some commission members often distribute aid to the evictees individually," he told the Post.

According to non-governmental organization Urban Poor Consortium, 8,715 families were evicted in 2003, and this year alone, more than 8,500 other families will be evicted from homes built on state and disputed land.

 News & issues

Chinese New Year euphoria and political trauma

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2004

Frans H. Winarta, Jakarta -- Indonesians, and especially those of Chinese descent, have just celebrated Chinese New Year. Chinese- Indonesians who, for over 30 years during the New Order regime, were forced to celebrate this event behind closed doors, are now free once again to celebrate it publicly.

Whereas during the 300 years of Dutch colonial subjugation this event could be celebrated freely, in an independent Indonesia under the Soeharto regime, ironically, basic cultural, religious and language rights were severely restricted. Citizens of Chinese descent were even required to change their names and could not attend Chinese schools.

It is true that now many of the cultural rights of the ethnic Chinese have been restored. In actuality, however, the government is still far from going all the way in recognizing the human rights of our ethnic Chinese population. Many of their political rights are still limited, and as human rights are universal, to grant some cultural rights and to deny others is simply wrong.

Acknowledging the cultural rights of the Chinese does not give the government an excuse to forget about the recognition of other rights. Human rights are something that cannot be abolished or limited in any way. For 30 years under the New Order regime, the political rights of ethnic Chinese citizens were violated and completely ignored -- a fact that, to the present day, causes unease and trepidation among Chinese communities throughout Indonesia.

Such restrictively encompassing political pressure as suffered by Chinese-Indonesians during the Soeharto regime has caused a section of the Indonesian community to lose their identity. Many ethnic Chinese have tried to deny their identity in various ways due to this political pressure that, at times, associated their "Chineseness" with Communism, betrayal, disloyalty, insularism, with their ancestral country and various other undesirable attributes that added to the political pressure and stigma weighted against them.

The result is that the Chinese community is still afraid to become engaged in or even talk about politics, let alone, become politicians themselves. There are few communities in the world as apolitical as Chinese-Indonesians.

It is difficult to convince them that, in order to struggle for equality in political rights and equality before the law, they must link up with other democratic forces in Indonesia. Ethnic Chinese are passengers in this ship we call Indonesia, and what is experienced by some passengers will also be experienced by others.

What must be fought for is the destiny of Indonesia as a whole -- the struggle for democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. If these things can be achieved, then discrimination against the ethnic Chinese will surely be eradicated.

The discriminative legal system inherited from the Dutch and propagated by the New Order regime through political segregation must be abolished in its entirety, because it creates different classes of citizens based on ethnicity.

Already from birth, citizens are classified according to race and ethnicity. The state gazette on civil registration must be replaced with a national law on civil registration that is more humane and respects equality before the law. The Constitution must also guarantee democracy, respect for human rights and adherence to the ideal of rule of law.

This is the second year in which Chinese New Year has been celebrated as a national holiday. There is a kind of euphoria about marking Chinese New Year, but the rights of ethnic Chinese -- like other human rights conditions in this country -- are still far from perfect due to violations by power-holders who do not respect law and human rights.

For instance, the anti-Chinese riots of May 1998 are still yet to be investigated properly and those responsible held accountable for their crimes. This increases the possibility that such tragedies can recur. It is ironic that Chinese New Year is being celebrated as a national holiday just five years after the tragedy of May 1998.

The struggle to abolish discrimination is still a long one, because discriminative laws against ethnic Chinese still exist and the DPR and the government show no political will to abolish them. Although the government has annulled the Indonesian Citizenship Certificate required solely by ethnic Chinese (SBKRI), in practice it is still often required in day-to-day administrative processes.

The SBKRI requirement has been perpetuated through a new citizenship law, although the original intent was to provide proof that a foreigner had been naturalized as an Indonesian citizen. Worse still, Karawang and Bekasi still issue national identity cards that specify keturunan, which indicates persons of Chinese descent). This may have occurred through ignorance, stupidity or because the official was racist -- nevertheless, the discriminative mentality is evident.

According to the principles of human rights, all human beings are equal and must not be discriminated against based on race, religion, skin color, socio-economic status, cultural identity, political belief or ethnicity. Indonesia has signed the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination and therefore must be consistent in implementing this in its legal, political, cultural and economic spheres.

There is euphoria now as we celebrate Chinese New Year; but the actual struggle for equality before the law is only begun and it may be some time before real equality can be achieved. Ethnic Chinese youth need to get involved in politics and join in the reform struggle with other democratic forces.

In this struggle, we must eradicate the fears of the past and look forward to a new day when democracy, human rights and the rule of law are respected. Ethnic Chinese must enter fields like public administration, law, national defense, policing, the judiciary and education in order to develop Indonesia in the right direction in partnership with other ethnic groups of this great and diverse nation.

At the same time, the government and legislature need to open up to Chinese-Indonesians so that they, too, can contribute fully to national development.

[Frans H. Winarta is a member of the Advisory Board of the IBA Human Rights Institute, Jakarta.]

Megawati celebrates birthday with workers, students

Antara - January 23, 2004

Jakarta -- President Megawati Soekarnoputri joked about her age as she celebrated her birthday on Friday with hundreds of workers at the Jababeka industrial zone in Bekasi, West Java, some 40 kilometers east of Jakarta, as well as local university students and residents. "I have yet to turn 57. I am only 27 plus," she quipped.

Among those attending the occasion were State Minister for State Enterprises Laksamana Sukardi and Minister of Manpower Jacob Nuwa Wea. The President handed out presents to 5,000 industrial zone workers and children from nearby orphanages.

Born in Yogyakarta on January 23, 1947, the president, whose full name is Diah Permata Megawati Setiawati Soekarnoputri, is the second daughter of Indonesia's founding president Sukarno. She succeeded Abdurrahman Wahid as the country's fifth president on July 23, 2001. She was Wahid's vice president before his ouster.

Although she failed to complete her agricultural degree at Padjadjaran University in Bandung or her psychology degree at the University of Indonesia, Megawati received an honorary degree from Japan's Waseda University in 2001 and another from a Russian university in 2003.

She is married to Taufik Kiemas, with whom she has a daughter. She has two sons from a previous marriage to an Air Force officer, who died while on duty in Biak, Papua, in 1971.

Nurcholish meets Sultan

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2004

Yogyakarta -- Muslim scholar and presidential hopeful Nurcholish Madjid held a closed-door meeting with Sultan Hamengkubuwono X late on Tuesday night.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting that lasted for almost five hours until early Wednesday, Nurcholish, or Cak Nur, as he is popularly known, said that there were a lot of ideas discussed during the meeting.

"I learned a lot from the Sultan, especially regarding the current governance crisis," said Cak Nur, adding that as one of the Ciganjur Declaration leaders, the Sultan felt morally responsible in guarding the course of the reform.

Cak Nur also said that the Sultan seemed to indicate during the meeting that a new president was needed in the next government, arguing that the current government had failed to implement the reform movement's mandate. One of the indicators, he said, was the weakness of the current government in handling corruption, nepotism and collusion cases. Cak Nur also said that he and the Sultan agreed that it was not necessary to stop President Megawati Soekarnoputri from competing in the upcoming presidential election. "It entirely depends on the people's [voter's] judgment," he said.

Both also agreed that whoever won the presidential election should be treated as the one who had the right to govern the country. "We have to accept whoever wins the election, good or bad," he said.

Indonesia will hold its first-ever direct presidential election on July 5, 2004. Megawati, chairperson of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), plans to run for reelection.

Plan to expand BIN risky

Jakarta Post opinion - January 19, 2004

Ardimas Sasdi -- Like a body blow to many people who are longing for peace and order after a great dearth of positive news, the government has announced a controversial plan to expand the authority and reach of the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) within the country.

State Minister for Administrative Reforms Feisal Tamin said recently that President Megawati Soekarnoputri had signed a presidential decree on a plan to open BIN offices in all provinces, regencies and municipalities throughout the country.

However, on the following day chief security minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the plan, expected to have far-reaching implications on the life of many people, still needed approval from the Cabinet. Rarely does a presidential decree require approval from the Cabinet.

It was not clear who was right or wrong as each version has its own explanation.

Feisal, logically, would not issue a sloppy statement taking into account his meritorious experience as a former government spokesman, while Susilo would not dare contradict his Cabinet colleague if he did not have strong grounds to do so.

However, one thing is for sure: The government plans to build an extensive network of BIN all over the country. BIN's expansion, if the plan is carried out, could be very risky as history has shown that the ruling government tends to exploit the intelligence agency inside the country to achieve one goal or another by harassing and detaining political opponents or those perceived to be.

Many Indonesians still remember all too well the experiences during the era of former president Soeharto, who often used the intelligent apparatus as a tool to monitor, torture and arrest government critics. This bitter experience is so oppressive in the minds of the victims, their relatives and society that many, many people are ultra-sensitive toward anything which smacks of more power to the domestic intelligence community. For Indonesians, BIN and its predecessor -- the National Coordinating Intelligence Agency (BAKIN) -- are the same "ghost".

So bad was the reputation of BAKIN that the government of former President Abdurrahman Wahid completely overhauled the agency in 2000, and changed its name to BIN after curtailing much of its authority.

But in October 2002, the same month as the Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, Megawati's administration reinstated the authority of BIN as a coordinator of intelligence agencies. Besides BIN there are intelligence bodies under the Indonesian Military, the police force and Attorney General's Office.

Politicians, experts and activists from non-governmental organizations (NGO) agreed with the government on a need for an effective and efficient intelligence agency to curb terror attacks, but they criticized a plan to expand BIN, saying that this policy would have wide-ranging ramifications on the nation's economy, society and politics.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Akbar Tandjung said the government's plan to strengthen BIN was understandable as an intelligence agency should have a network at every level of the government, but he still queried the plan as a means to institutionalize the agency at the district level.

Political analyst Indria Samego of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said the plan to open intelligence offices in regencies was excessive and prone to abuse, while his colleague at LIPI Hermawan Sulistiyo said that BIN should instead improve its coordination capabilities and quality of its agents.

The most serious threat behind the plan to expand BIN, according to lawyer Munir from the NGO Imparsial, is that this plan could turn Indonesia back into a police state, where almost all activities and movements of people would be monitored by intelligence agents. Also in southeast Asia, strict monitoring of people's activities is known to happen in Myanmar, where violations of people's basic civil rights are common.

In short, the questions being raised by opponents of the BIN plan are:

First, is the planned expansion of BIN the best answer to curb terrorism? This question arose amid the relative success of the police in arresting many of the suspects in the Bali and Marriott attacks. This achievement is spectacular by any standard in the world.

Second, how long will the fight against terrorism last? If the answer is uncertain or as long as there is terrorism threat, the question is do people have to live with fear during the whole of this period, and tolerate their civil rights being trampled on by BIN agents? And who will bear the financial burden of the operations of so many BIN offices?.

Third, is there a guarantee that BIN's expansion, which will also entail employment of hundreds or even thousands of agents, will not lead to abuse of civil liberties.

In a developing country like Indonesia, where checks and balances are not yet in place, the potential for violations of civil rights of the people by an agency such as BIN is great. Indonesia must learn from the black history of Myanmar, where a small number of military elite in conjunction with a strong spy agency can maintain their power. In Myanmar, activities of the people are strictly monitored, letters and Internet messages are screened by military agents and a gathering of more than four people is illegal.

So the danger behind this controversial plan lies in the simplification of a fight against terrorism as if terror will be solved once BIN is expanded, and that this logic also does not take into account possible infringement of people's civil rights. If this happens, the ongoing democratization process, including some press freedoms, will suffer.

[The writer is a scholar at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.]

New year to be celebrated but Chinese face same old woes

Agence France Presse - January 19, 2004

After decades of official supression, Indonesia's ethnic Chinese minority is now able to openly celebrate the Lunar New Year but discrimination remains for the rest of the time.

In the spirit of reforms that followed the resignation of Indonesia's autocratic president Suharto in May 1998, the government revoked a ban on the public display of Chinese culture and religion that had been in place since 1967.

The red, gold and orange colors of the Chinese New Year festival festoon major commercial districts of cities across the archipelago while congratulatory messages fill newspapers, television and radio as the new year approaches.

Accounting for about three to four percent of the some 214 millions inhabitants of the world's largest Muslim nation, ethnic Chinese have remained practically aliens in a country where their ancestors had settled generations ago.

"Under the Dutch civil registry law, we were labelled "eastern foreigners" and as the Indonesian republic took on the laws of the Dutch, this official, legal segregation has remained," said senior rights lawyer Frans Hendra Winarta, himself of Chinese descent.

He said this "state-sanctioned discrimination" was reflected in the de facto obligation of ethnic Chinese to possess the "Letter Proving the Citizenship of the Republic of Indonesia" (SKBRI).

It is needed to apply for various official documents such as identity cards, passports and marriage papers.

Suharto, who imposed the ban on Chinese culture but was not adverse to using ethnic Chinese to enrich his coffers, scrapped the document in 1996, a move reinforced by President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid in 1999.

"But in the real world, the SKBRI is still being required for various purposes in the formal and informal bureaucracy," Winarta said. More than 50 laws and regulations remain that discriminate against ethnic Chinese, he said.

Thung Yu Lan, a social researcher at the state Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI), has kept her Chinese name despite the pressure to adopt an Indonesian-sounding one during the decades under founding president Sukarno and Suharto. She said the problem was not just about discriminatory laws.

"One can issue thousands of new laws and rules, or revoke an equal number of laws, nothing would change much. It is a matter of rearrangging our nation building," Thung said.

She said that the more privileged status of ethnic Chinese under the Dutch, and the economic success of the community, has only strengthened jealousy.

The government, Thung said, has also preferred to avoid the sensitive issues of ethnic groups and religions. "Both ethnicity and religions are major elements of the life of the society and as long as theses are not touched, do not expect much change in discriminatory attitudes and practices," she said.

Thung still welcome the government decision to make the Chinese new year a public holiday. "It is, in the least, a recognition of the existance of the ethnic Chinese community in the country." But she said that attitudes towards ethnic Chinese remained basically unchanged, forged into the nation's psyche by decades or even centuries of segregational policies under the Dutch colonial administration and the following Indonesian governments. "The difference may only be that while before it [the discrimination] tended to be vulgar, now it is softer," she said.


Fire at petrochemicals plant blamed for serious pollution

Jakarta Post - January 24, 2004

ID Nugroho and Indra Harsaputra, Surabaya -- Tuesday's devastating fire at a petrochemical plant in Gresik, East Java, in which two people were killed and more than 50 others injured, also appears to have caused serious environmental damage to neighboring areas.

The Jakarta Post observed the Roomo river in Manyar subdistrict which had previously been quite clean had pitch-black water after the fire, which engulfed PT Petrowidada a manufacturer of plastic raw materials -- phthalic anhydride and maleic anhydride.

White foam was seen on the surface of the river, which at times almost looked like it was boiling.

Trees on the riverbanks were also burned by the fire and others may die, after being exposed to chemical pollution.

Residents from Roomo village complained that the water in their wells -- which they relied on for cooking and bathing -- had been contaminated.

"I don't know why, but the water is red," said Subazir, a villager who lives five-meters-away from the river.

His neighbor, M. Yasir, said his family was temporarily staying in the house of his relative in another village.

"We will take refuge there because the air here has been polluted," he told The Jakarta Post.

Gresik health officials visited the location of the fire on Friday to investigate, but they refused to comment on the pollution of the area surrounding PT Petrowidada.

Separately, an inspector from the local nuclear supervisory board, Mulyono Samsunar, said he feared that the fire had resulted from an explosion of equipment at the factory.

If that was the case, the pollution could cause serious skin problems for local people, he added.

The equipment contained Calcium 137 which is particularly hazardous for the health of those who come into contact with it, Mulyono argued while visiting the company's premises.

Meanwhile, dozens of students and local people staged a demonstration against the company over the fire.

They accused the government and the company's management of only taking profit into account and ignoring the safety of local people.

"The fire has caused pollution like this, but the company does not want to be responsible," a protester shouted.

In another development, a number of plastic companies in East Java said the fire had not yet affected the supply of raw materials to their factories.

"So far there are no reports that plastic companies have complained about a lack of supplies after the fire razed PT Petrowidada," said Erlangga Satriagung, chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (Kadin) for East Java.

He said the companies that had previously received supplies from the firm had begun to make orders from suppliers in Tangerang, Banten province, and Bekasi in West Java province.

"Some of them will import raw materials from other countries," he added.

However, PT Petrowidada director Yudianto said that despite the fire, his company would still be able to continue producing Phthalic Anhydride (PA) III, despite its capacity of only 70,000 tons per year.

Before the fire, it had produced a total of 150,000 tons per year, he added.

Yudianto said PT Petrowidada had supplied raw materials to at least 20 companies in East Java.

Governors warned not to cut reforestation fund

Antara - January 22, 2004

Banjarmasin -- President Megawati Soekarnoputri has warned all the governors not to slash the fund allocated for the forest and land rehabilitation program (RHL) in an attempt to prevent dry and parched land in Indonesia from expanding.

Conveyed in a televisized event through satellite here on Wednesday, the head of state stressed that the money for forest preservation provided to those in charge of growing plants under the reforestation program should not be cut midway.

According to Megawati, the reforestation of arid land was necessary for revitalizing the function of forests. Therefore such an all-out movement of the community for reforestation should certainly be made.

Greenpeace on a campaign to save Indonesia forest

Reuters - January 21, 2004

Jakarta -- Greenpeace is sending its flagship, the "Rainbow Warrior," on a campaign to stop illegal logging in Indonesia, the environmental pressure group said on Wednesday.

Steve Campbell, a campaigner for the group, said the ship, which arrived in Jakarta Tuesday, was on an Asia-Pacific environmental campaign and would sail for unspecified waters in Indonesia Saturday. But Campbell declined to give details of the campaign or how long it would last. "Greenpeace never would say whether or not we would take direct action. That would spoil it, really," Campbell told a news a conference at Jakarta's main port of Tanjung Priok where the ship docked.

"We do of course reserve the right to take direct action if we feel that is an important thing to do." In the past the "Rainbow Warrior" has been known for such tactics as attempting to block vessels carrying merchandise Greenpeace deemed to have been improperly processed environmentally.

Local environmental group Walhi said it would join in the Greenpeace effort against illegal logging in Indonesia.

"Walhi ...will work with Greenpeace to communicate to the world the dire state of Indonesian forests and the need for world support to save what's left of them," it said in a statement.

Most analysts rank deforestation as the most serious environmental threat facing Indonesia, home to the world's third largest tropical forests after Brazil and the Congo.

Local and international activists estimate the extent of Indonesia's tropical forest at roughly 100 million hectares.

Indonesia began to exploit its forests in earnest in the early 1970s, with the development of wood-processing industries.

Today it is a significant producer of tropical hardwood logs and sawn wood, plywood and other boards, and pulp for paper.

Petrochemical plant fire caused tens of millions in damage

Agence France Presse - January 21, 2004

A fire which destroyed an Indonesian petrochemical plant, killed two people and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage, officials said.

Police had earlier put the death toll as rising to four after the blaze at the Petro Widada complex in the town of Gresik in East Java.

But Dr Iswando, of the Dr Sutomo Hospital in Surabaya, later told AFP that two victims whom police thought had died remained in critical condition at the hospital. They were among five critically hurt victims, he said.

Sudibyo, chief of the Gresik police criminal investigation bureau, said about 50 officers were examining the scene and searching for any additional victims.

He said the plant was "99 percent" destroyed in the blaze, which appeared to be accidental.

An executive of the insurance firm Tugu Pratama told Indosiar television the company had prepared for a payout in the tens of millions of dollars.

"So far, after making summary checks, we have an exposure of some 75 million dollars in the area," said the executive, Muhaimin Iqbal.

Dedi Mawardi, a spokesman for state-owned Petrokimia Gresik which has a minority stake in Petro Widada, said the blaze destroyed two plants. A third newly-built plant had not yet been brought into production, he said.

Sudibyo said 48 people were injured. Police reports immediately after the fire broke out cited 68 injured but further checks with hospitals showed the number to be lower, he said.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation but there was no sign of criminal activity, Sudibyo said.

Indonesia's top detective, Erwin Mappaseng, said the blaze was ignited by "a leak" and initial investigations point to an accident.

Sudibyo said a machine at the plant overheated Tuesday, leading to the fire which Haji Samsi, the production manager, asked an employee to extinguish with water.

But the fire spread, killing Samsi as it engulfed the compound and sent huge clouds of dark grey smoke billowing across the surrounding residential area.

Some residents fled their homes but returned after the fire was extinguished at 11:30 pm (1630 GMT) Tuesday, about eight hours after it began. East Java police chief, Inspector General Firman Gani, said the plant's alarm system had failed to function properly.

"We will seek who has to bear the responsibility, why the alarm system did not function or whether the alarm system exists but was not used or cannot be used," Gani told reporters.

He said police would also check whether the company provided adequate fire drills and training for its workers at the plant, which made phthalic anhydride and maleic anhydride for use in making plastics.

Petro Widada is a joint venture between six companies, with Royal Petrochemie and Eterindo Wahanatama holding the largest percentage of shares.

The Jakarta Stock Exchange suspended trading of Eterindo Wahanatama shares Wednesday following the fire. It asked Eterindo to disclose the impact of the fire on its operational and financial performance.

 Health & education

Students urge government to provide sex education

Jakarta Post - January 19, 2004

Eva C. Komandjaja, Jakarta -- Learning from the increase in the number HIV/AIDS cases, especially among teenagers, students have urged the government to provide sex education classes where they can also learn about the hazards of injecting drugs.

The students questioned on Saturday why parents and teachers were still hesitant to educate their children and students about sex despite the current openness toward sex.

"We're already living in the year of 2004 now. Parents should be more open with us and stop thinking that sex is taboo," Jessica, a student from St. Ursula junior high school in Jakarta told a discussion titled: Teenagers talk about HIV/AIDS, sex and drugs.

Jessica said teenagers demanded that their right to access to information about sex and drugs be recognized.

The latest Central Statistic Agency (BPS) report reveals that approximately 30 percent of high school students in Jakarta have used drugs and were sexually active. The data also shows there are 65,000 people in Indonesia who are living with HIV/AIDS, most of them are teenagers.

Nafsiah Mboi of the Committee for AIDS prevention agreed with the students, saying sex education classes would be effective to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among teenagers. However, the government has been facing many obstacles in providing sex education in schools, especially in junior and senior high schools.

Eddy Hasmi of the National Family Planning Coordinating Board (BKKBN) said the government had only allocated approximately Rp 3 billion (US$353,000) to provide sex education for around 40 million teenagers across the country.

Another BKKBN official, Siswanto Agus Wilopo, said the lack of funds reflected the government's scant attention to sex education for students. "The government, in this case the Ministry of Education, somehow deems sex education less important compared to other subjects in the school curriculum," said Siswanto.

He said most teachers had little knowledge about HIV/AIDS and its connection with sex education. Therefore he urged the government to provide training for school teachers as well.

 International relations

US denies travel ban on Wiranto

Jakarta Post - January 21, 2004

Jakarta -- The United States has denied that it issued a travel ban against Gen. (ret) Wiranto, as was reported in The Washington Post.

"We have no policy to ban anyone ... I don't know why the reports were exaggerated," US Ambassador to Indonesia Ralph L. Boyce said here on Wednesday during a discussion after US President George W. Bush's State of the Union address to Congress.

Boyce refused to comment further on the alleged ban or The Washington Post report which quoted unidentified sources as saying the US had a list of people, including Wiranto, who would not be permitted to enter the country because of their human rights records.

"I want to say, everyone can apply for a visa .... Banning people is not our policy," Boyce said. He also said that Wiranto himself had denied in the press that he had been banned by the US, "so there is no reason to dramatize the reports", he said as quoted by Antara.

The Washington Post recently reported that six current generals and a former Indonesian general had been banned by the US from entering the country because they were linked to human rights abuses in East Timor in 1999. The newspaper did not name the generals except for Wiranto.

 Military ties

US ban on military training for Indonesia stays

Asia Times - January 24, 2004

Brooklyn, New York -- The US Congress on Thursday restored a ban on International Military Education and Training (IMET) for Indonesia, just months after President George W Bush cited a "changed attitude" among legislators that would permit further military cooperation.

The Consolidated Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2004, HR 2673, bans IMET until the State Department determines that the Indonesian military (TNI) and government are cooperating with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation's investigation into an ambush that killed two US citizens and an Indonesian in Papua. The Indonesian military is implicated in the attack in the mining operations area of Louisiana-based Freeport-McMoRan, which also wounded 11 people, including a six-year-old child.

"Congress must carefully monitor the progress of any investigations and press for credible prosecution and punishment of those responsible for these killings," said John M Miller, spokesperson for the East Timor Action Network (ETAN). "The Bush administration has claimed in the past that the Indonesian military was cooperating when clearly it was not. Saying there is cooperation won't make it so."

The bill continues the ban on foreign military financing of weapons sales and licenses for the export of lethal defense articles to Indonesia until a range of conditions are met, including extradition of those indicted by the joint United Nations-East Timor Serious Crimes Unit, a public audit of TNI funds, and prosecution of TNI members "who have been credibly alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights, or to have aided or abetted militia groups", and punishment of those found guilty.

"Congress should insist that IMET not be renewed until the investigation is successfully completed and the perpetrators punished," said Patsy Spier, a survivor of the Papua attack. "I expect Congress to request a detailed justification from the State Department should it determine that there is genuine cooperation from the Indonesian government and the armed forces in respect to the investigation into the August 31, 2002, murders of my husband Rick Spier, Ted Burgon, and Bambang Riwanto."

Karen Orenstein, ETAN's Washington coordinator, said: "Congress, after more than a year of TNI's own 'investigation', clearly remains disturbed by the lack of progress in resolving these horrific killings in Papua. "History demonstrates that providing training only emboldens the Indonesian military to violate human rights and block accountability for past injustices."

While praising the restoration of the IMET ban, ETAN urged Congress to expand the conditions on resumption of IMET and extend conditionality to counter-terrorism training.

"Indonesia has yet to fulfill congressional conditions previously placed on IMET, including accountability for rights violations in East Timor and Indonesia and transparency in the military budget," said Orenstein. "There is no justification for the removal of these conditions. Now, a massive military assault is being perpetrated against the people of Aceh -- replete with extrajudicial executions, torture, rape and displacement -- utilizing US-supplied weapons. All assistance to the Indonesian military must be terminated, including counter-terrorism assistance."

Miller said: "The Bush administration is giving the TNI far more assistance for counter-terrorism than for IMET. But the TNI continues to terrorize Indonesia's residents; the military's human-rights record remains atrocious. The administration chooses to ignore evidence that the TNI works with the fundamentalist militia Laskar Jihad, which has caused tremendous conflict in Maluku and now in Papua. Who are the real terrorists here?"

Background A 2002 study for the US Naval Postgraduate School noted that the Indonesian army had become "a major facilitator of terrorism" because of "the radical Muslim militias they had organized, trained, and financed" (Dr Gaye Christoffersen, "Strategic Insight: The War on Terrorism in Southeast Asia", Center for Contemporary Conflict, National Security Affairs Department, Naval Postgraduate School, March 2002).

The appropriations bill states: "The managers remain troubled by the situation in Aceh and the ongoing conflict that has killed, injured and displaced thousands of innocent civilians. The managers.continue to believe that this conflict will only be resolved through a political process."

Congress first voted to restrict Indonesia from receiving IMET, which brings foreign military officers to the United States for training, in response to the November 12, 1991, Santa Cruz massacre of more than 270 civilians in East Timor. All military ties with Indonesia were severed in September 1999 as the Indonesian military and its militia proxies razed East Timor after its vote for independence.

Congress originally approved US$400,000 for IMET in FY03, but Indonesia's participation in the program was ultimately limited to Expanded IMET, which involves limited classroom training.

In an interview prior to his October visit to Indonesia, Bush stated, "Congress has changed their attitude" and was ready to provide further military assistance "because of the cooperation of the government on the killings of two US citizens".

The State Department is believed to have recently placed on its visa watch list the highest-ranking personnel indicted for crimes against humanity by the joint UN-East Timor Special Crimes Unit, including former military chief General Wiranto, a leading presidential candidate in Indonesia. Others on the list are General Zacky Anwar Makarim, Major-General Kiki Syahnakri, General Adam Damiri, Colonel Tono Suratman, Colonel Mohammad Noer Muis, Lieutenant-Colonel Yayat Sudrajat, and former East Timor governor Abilio Jose Osorio Soares.

Congress reinstates ban on military training

ETAN Press Release - January 22, 2004

Congress today restored a ban on International Military Education and Training (IMET) for Indonesia, just months after President Bush cited a "changed attitude" among legislators that would permit further military cooperation.

The Consolidated Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2004, H.R. 2673, bans IMET until the State Department determines that the Indonesian military (TNI) and government are cooperating with the FBI's investigation into an ambush which killed two US citizens and an Indonesian in Papua. The Indonesian military is implicated in the attack in the mining operations area of Louisiana-based Freeport-McMoRan, which also wounded 11 people, including a six- year-old child.

"Congress must carefully monitor the progress of any investigations and press for credible prosecution and punishment of those responsible for these killings. The Bush administration has claimed in the past that the Indonesian military was cooperating when clearly it was not. Saying there is cooperation won't make it so," said John M. Miller, spokesperson for the East Timor Action Network (ETAN).

The bill continues the ban on foreign military financing of weapons sales and licenses for the export of lethal defense articles to Indonesia until a range of conditions are met, including extradition of those indicted by the joint UN-East Timor Serious Crimes Unit, a public audit of TNI funds, and prosecution of TNI members "who have been credibly alleged to have committed gross violations of human rights, or to have aided or abetted militia groups" and punishment of those found guilty.

"Congress should insist that IMET not be renewed until the investigation is successfully completed and the perpetrators punished. I expect Congress to request a detailed justification from the State Department should it determine that there is genuine cooperation from the Indonesian government and the armed forces in respect to the investigation into the August 31, 2002, murders of my husband Rick Spier, Ted Burgon, and Bambang Riwanto," said Patsy Spier, a survivor of the attack.

"Congress, after more than a year of TNI's own 'investigation,' clearly remains disturbed by the lack of progress in resolving these horrific killings in Papua," said Karen Orenstein, ETAN's Washington Coordinator. "History demonstrates that providing training only emboldens the Indonesian military to violate human rights and block accountability for past injustices."

While praising the restoration of the IMET ban, ETAN urged Congress to expand the conditions on resumption of IMET and extend conditionality to counter-terrorism training.

"Indonesia has yet to fulfill Congressional conditions previously placed on IMET, including accountability for rights violations in East Timor and Indonesia and transparency in the military budget," said Orenstein. "There is no justification for the removal of these conditions. Now, a massive military assault is being perpetrated against the people of Aceh -- replete with extra-judicial executions, torture, rape and displacement -- utilizing US-supplied weapons. All assistance to the Indonesian military must be terminated, including counter-terrorism assistance."

"The Bush administration is giving the TNI far more assistance for counter-terrorism than for IMET. But the TNI continues to terrorize Indonesia's residents; the military's human rights record remains atrocious. The administration chooses to ignore evidence that the TNI works with the fundamentalist militia Laskar Jihad, which has caused tremendous conflict in Maluku and now in Papua. Who are the real terrorists here?" asked Miller.

 Economy & investment

Bank Indonesia sees slower growth in bank lending

Jakarta Post - January 23, 2004

Leony Aurora, Jakarta -- The country's commercial banks are expected to see slower growth in time deposits and savings this year due to continuing declines in interest rates and other factors, according to a senior official of the central bank.

Bank Indonesia director for banking supervision and information Siti Fadjriah also said that bank lending would remain slow during this general election year, especially in the light of high-profile reports of loan fraud cases.

"Alongside the decline in the [Bank Indonesia] benchmark interest rate, deposit interest rates will also fall," Siti said during a discussion on Indonesia's banking prospects.

The central bank has been aggressively cutting its benchmark interest rate over the past couple of years amid a benign inflationary environment.

The interest rate on one-month Bank Indonesia SBI promissory notes is currently at an historic low of 8.06 percent, compared to more than 13 percent earlier last year.

Meanwhile, interest rates on time deposit are around 6 percent, which means that depositors will only receive interest of between 4.8-4.9 percent after tax. But if the current inflation rate of about 5 percent is taken into account, the real interest rate will be negative, which has discouraged many people from putting their money in the banks.

Indeed, according to the Bank Indonesia report, depositors have withdrawing their money from banks since February 2003. While the figure for one-month time deposits totaled Rp 213 trillion during the month, this had dropped to Rp 191 trillion by October 2003.

Experts have said that in addition to the lower interest rate, people had transferred some of their money into mutual fund products, which were still free of tax. Others had invested in the local stock market, which has recently been one of the top performing stock markets in the world.

Siti said another factor that would put the brakes on time deposit growth in commercial banks was the recent controversial edict issued by the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI), which declared that interest was haram (prohibited) according to Islamic Law.

The MUI further urged Muslims not to use the services of conventional banks, except when there were no sharia banks in their areas. The edict is not yet final as it still needs the approval of the MUI board of executives before taking effect.

Aside from money coming in, the brakes have also been put on money going out in the form of loans after loan scandals hit Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI) and Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) recently. "The credit risk remains high," she said. "Many banks are also over-liquid and prefer to retain funds." Total bank lending as of September last year only amounted to Rp 454.2 trillion, giving a loan to deposit ratio of 52.5 percent.

The central bank had initially hoped that the lower benchmark interest rate would push banks to lend more money to the corporate sector to help accelerate economic growth.

But bankers say that they still see huge risks in the corporate sector due to the slow progress made so far in the restructuring of corporate debt.

The upcoming general election is also seen as a factor increasing the jitters among bankers as regards boosting lending.

But bankers say, nevertheless, that are ready to channel more money into the retail and consumer sectors despite the upcoming election.

 Opinion & analysis

Press freedom in danger

Jakarta Post Editorial - January 24, 2004

Defying common sense, the South Jakarta District Court chose to denominate the damages in US currency rather than rupiah in its verdict on Tuesday. The court's panel of judges ordered Koran Tempo daily to pay US$1 million to business tycoon Tomy Winata after it found the newspaper guilty of libeling Tomy by citing rumors in its report that he intended to open a casino in Southeast Sulawesi.

What makes it more absurd is that in the same decision the judges have used rupiah in their verdict that the daily should be fined Rp 10 million (US$1,190) per day if it fails to comply with the court's ruling. It is clear that the judges had no respect for their own country's currency -- and that they merely wanted to please the plaintiff, who demanded compensation in greenbacks.

The currency issue merely indicates the poor awareness of the judges in enforcing the law. The verdict also shows how law enforcers, once again, have ignored the principle of lex specialis derogat lex generalis (the application of a specific, rather than a general, law): The court accepted the plaintiff's demand to penalize the defendant based on the Criminal Code, instead of applying the press law.

The judges can no doubt cite any number of legal justifications in defence of their decision, but it only worsens the image of the South Jakarta District Court, which has reached many controversial verdicts over the years.

We do not wish to say that the press is free from mistakes, nor is it our intention to claim that the press is untouchable and can use its freedom as it wants, without restriction.

Former president Soeharto's fall in May 1998 also ended the government's oppression of the media. Press freedom is back on the right track but, of course, not without negative excess. It is the obligation of the media to stick to its code of ethics and obey the law.

However, we also note a very worrying development, in which government officials, powerful politicians and businesspeople seem to have deliberately used legal means to silence their strongest critics, the media. It is a much more sophisticated and respected means and thus politically safer, rather than being accused of condoning mass rallies by supporters. The press also acknowledges that using legal means is preferable to cracking down and jailing journalists, as occurred during Soeharto's era.

But with the country's glaringly corrupt judicial system it is very hard to believe that the above legal treatment of the media is purely in the interests of law enforcement alone.

Members of the elite, from President Megawati Soekarnoputri and Golkar chairman Akbar Tandjung to Tomy Winata, now prefer to use the courts to punish those who highlight something negative about them. This is despite much campaigning about resorting to various types of out-of-court settlement such as complaining first to the Press Council.

In the case of Koran Tempo, if the high court and Supreme Court simply uphold the South Jakarta District Court's verdict without considering the higher public interest -- that press freedom is a basic pillar of democracy -- we could easily conclude that the daily would have to pay up and close down. Should that precedent be established, more and more media organizations would be driven to bankruptcy.

Indeed, for narrow-minded people who do not like the presence of a strong press, the bankruptcy of more media means that they no longer need to worry about public scrutiny. For them a weakened national press would mean they had more freedom to do anything they wanted to without outside interference.

The nation will never be able to reach its eventual goal of the creation of a strong and sustainable civil society without the presence of a free, impartial and, of course, responsible media.

We do respect the rights of people who think that they have been victimized by the press and thus take their cases to court. The media must also prepare itself to face this development.

But it is our duty to remind everyone that it would be too costly for the nation to let its press be silenced by those who use their power to crack down on their critics, using the law to achieve that end.

The South Jakarta District Court has done nothing to dispel the perception that the verdict against Koran Tempo has merely increased public dissatisfaction in how the law is enforced.