Indonesia shrugs at rising religious violence: report Michael Bachelard

Indonesia has experienced a “sharp uptick” in religiously motivated violence, with Islamic gangs regularly attacking Christian churches as well as “deviant sects” of their own faith, a strongly worded new report has warned.

The report by Human Rights Watch warns that the Indonesian Government, police and military are “passively, and sometimes actively” condoning these new extremists, in contrast to the way they “wrestled to the ground” the terrorists of Jemaah Islamiah in the past decade.

The organisation accuses Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of responding “weakly” to the threat, with “lofty but empty rhetoric”.

“With JI they saw a clear and present danger,” said Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, Phelim Kine.

“Now, the government is failing to recognise this less spectacular but equally corrosive and dangerous strain of religious intolerance.” Mr Kine said there were “worrying echoes” of Pakistan’s state of siege against minority Islamic sects, and if intolerance and violence continued to increase in Indonesia, “the confidence of investors in the country . . . might not hold”.

The report, In Religion’s Name, says there were 264 violent attacks on religious minorities in 2012, a 20 per cent increase on 2010. It documents violence against the Ahmadiya, a minority sect of Islam which Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Ministry has declared “heretical”, and Shiite Muslims, as well as atheists and moderate Muslims. Since 2005, more than 430 churches have been forced to close.

But Wahyu, a spokesman for Indonesia’s Religious Affairs minister, Suryadharma Ali, denied the thrust of the report, saying Indonesia was “the example, or the laboratory of religious harmony”.

“It has the best religious harmony in the world. We can judge that because . . . we make all big days of the recognised religions in Indonesian holidays,” Wahyu said.

Neither Mr Yudhoyono’s office nor the police would comment before the report was released.

Many acts of violence were committed by a number of hardline groups such as the aggressive Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which emerged from the Sunni Islam majority after the fall of former president Suharto in 1998, the report says.

FPI recruits among the poor and disenfranchised and might be able to field 100,000 supporters. It was allegedly set up by police during unrest in 1998 to attack protesting students. Its official events have since been attended by the former governor of Jakarta, the national police chief and the religious affairs minister.

The country guarantees religious freedom in the constitution, but 156 statutes, regulations, decrees and by-laws subject “minority religions to official discrimination”, They include the 1965 blasphemy law, the 2006 ministerial decree on building houses of worship and the 2008 anti-Ahmadiyah decree.

In recent years the judicial system has often taken a harder line against minorities who are the victims of religious violence than against the perpetrators.

In 2011, when five Ahmadiyah followers were injured and three killed by an Islamist mob, police stood by, smoking and watching. The killers were not charged with murder, but “assault causing death” and were given sentences of six months or less. An Ahmadiya survivor and witness in their prosecution was later charged with provoking the attack and also given a six-month jail sentence.

A professed atheist, Alexander Aan, was last year sentenced to prison after being attacked by a mob, none of whom was punished.

But Wahyu, the spokesman from the Religious Affairs Ministry, one of the best-funded and most powerful ministries in the government, denied that recent controversies signalled a problem.

A Christian church barred by local officials from opening despite a Supreme Court ruling was “not about religious tolerance, it’s a land dispute”; violence against Ahmadiyah was not a religious problem because, “it’s not a religion, it’s a sect”; and a violent attack on a Shiite group in East Java was simply “a personal problem, it’s not about religion”, Wahyu said.

(“The Sydney Morning Herald,” February 28, 2013)

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President Obama’s Speech at University of Indonesia

President Obama’s Speech at University of Indonesia:

“… May our two nations work together, with faith and determination …”

Jakarta, November 10, 2010

 

 

Thank you for this wonderful welcome. Thank you to the people of Jakarta. And thank you to the people of Indonesia.I am so glad that I made it to Indonesia, and that Michelle was able to join me. We had a couple of false starts this year, but I was determined to visit a country that has meant so much to me. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly quick visit, but I look forward to coming back a year from now, when Indonesia hosts the East Asia Summit.

 

Before I go any further, I want to say that our thoughts and prayers are with all of those Indonesians affected by the recent tsunami and volcanic eruptions – particularly those who have lost loved ones, and those who have been displaced. As always, the United States stands with Indonesia in responding to this natural disaster, and we are pleased to be able to help as needed. As neighbors help neighbors and families take in the displaced, I know that the strength and resilience of the Indonesian people will pull you through once more.

 

Let me begin with a simple statement: Indonesia is a part of me. I first came to this country when my mother married an Indonesian man named Lolo Soetoro. As a young boy, I was coming to a different world. But the people of Indonesia quickly made me feel at home.

 

Jakarta looked very different in those days. The city was filled with buildings that were no more than a few stories tall. The Hotel Indonesia was one of the few high rises, and there was just one brand new shopping center called Sarinah. Betchaks outnumbered automobiles in those days, and the highway quickly gave way to unpaved roads and kampongs.

 

We moved to Menteng Dalam, where we lived in a small house with a mango tree out front. I learned to love Indonesia while flying kites, running along paddy fields, catching dragonflies, and buying satay and baso from the street vendors. Most of all, I remember the people – the old men and women who welcomed us with smiles; the children who made a foreigner feel like a neighbor; and the teachers who helped me learn about the wider world.

 

Because Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands, hundreds of languages, and people from scores of regions and ethnic groups, my times here helped me appreciate the common humanity of all people. And while my stepfather, like most Indonesians, was raised a Muslim, he firmly believed that all religions were worthy of respect. In this way, he reflected the spirit of religious tolerance that is enshrined in Indonesia’s Constitution, and that remains one of this country’s defining and inspiring characteristics.

 

I stayed here for four years – a time that helped shape my childhood; a time that saw the birth of my wonderful sister, Maya; and a time that made such an impression on my mother that she kept returning to Indonesia over the next twenty years to live, work and travel – pursuing her passion of promoting opportunity in Indonesia’s villages, particularly for women and girls. For her entire life, my mother held this place and its people close to her heart.

 

So much has changed in the four decades since I boarded a plane to move back to Hawaii. If you asked me – or any of my schoolmates who knew me back then – I don’t think any of us could have anticipated that I would one day come back to Jakarta as President of the United States. And few could have anticipated the remarkable story of Indonesia over these last four decades.

 

The Jakarta that I once knew has grown to a teeming city of nearly ten million, with skyscrapers that dwarf the Hotel Indonesia, and thriving centers of culture and commerce. While my Indonesian friends and I used to run in fields with water buffalo and goats, a new generation of Indonesians is among the most wired in the world – connected through cell phones and social networks. And while Indonesia as a young nation focused inward, a growing Indonesia now plays a key role in the Asia Pacific and the global economy.

 

This change extends to politics. When my step-father was a boy, he watched his own father and older brother leave home to fight and die in the struggle for Indonesian independence. I’m happy to be here on Heroes Day to honor the memory of so many Indonesians who have sacrificed on behalf of this great country.

 

When I moved to Jakarta, it was 1967, a time that followed great suffering and conflict in parts of this country. Even though my step-father had served in the Army, the violence and killing during that time of political upheaval was largely unknown to me because it was unspoken by my Indonesian family and friends. In my household, like so many others across Indonesia, it was an invisible presence. Indonesians had their independence, but fear was not far away.

 

In the years since then, Indonesia has charted its own course through an extraordinary democratic transformation – from the rule of an iron fist to the rule of the people. In recent years, the world has watched with hope and admiration, as Indonesians embraced the peaceful transfer of power and the direct election of leaders. And just as your democracy is symbolized by your elected President and legislature, your democracy is sustained and fortified by its checks and balances: a dynamic civil society; political parties and unions; a vibrant media and engaged citizens who have ensured that – in Indonesia – there will be no turning back.

 

But even as this land of my youth has changed in so many ways, those things that I learned to love about Indonesia – that spirit of tolerance that is written into your Constitution; symbolized in your mosques and churches and temples; and embodied in your people – still lives on. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika – unity in diversity. This is the foundation of Indonesia’s example to the world, and this is why Indonesia will play such an important role in the 21st century.

 

So today, I return to Indonesia as a friend, but also as a President who seeks a deep and enduring partnership between our two countries. Because as vast and diverse countries; as neighbors on either side of the Pacific; and above all as democracies – the United States and Indonesia are bound together by shared interests and shared values.

 

Yesterday, President Yudhoyono and I announced a new, Comprehensive Partnership between the United States and Indonesia. We are increasing ties between our governments in many different areas, and – just as importantly – we are increasing ties among our people. This is a partnership of equals, grounded in mutual interests and mutual respect.

 

With the rest of my time today, I’d like to talk about why the story I just told – the story of Indonesia since the days when I lived here – is so important to the United States, and to the world. I will focus on three areas that are closely related, and fundamental to human progress – development, democracy, and religion.

 

First, the friendship between the United States and Indonesia can advance our mutual interest in development.

When I moved to Indonesia, it would have been hard to imagine a future in which the prosperity of families in Chicago and Jakarta would be connected. But our economies are now global, and Indonesians have experienced both the promise and perils of globalization: from the shock of the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s to the millions lifted out of poverty. What that means – and what we learned in the recent economic crisis – is that we have a stake in each other’s success.

 

America has a stake in an Indonesia that is growing, with prosperity that is broadly shared among the Indonesian people – because a rising middle class here means new markets for our goods, just as America is a market for yours. And so we are investing more in Indonesia, our exports have grown by nearly 50 percent, and we are opening doors for Americans and Indonesians to do business with one another.

 

America has a stake in an Indonesia that plays its rightful role in shaping the global economy. Gone are the days when seven or eight countries could come together to determine the direction of global markets. That is why the G-20 is now the center of international economic cooperation, so that emerging economies like Indonesia have a greater voice and bear greater responsibility. And through its leadership of the G-20’s anti-corruption group, Indonesia should lead on the world stage and by example in embracing transparency and accountability.

 

America has a stake in an Indonesia that pursues sustainable development, because the way we grow will determine the quality of our lives and the health of our planet. That is why we are developing clean energy technologies that can power industry and preserve Indonesia’s precious natural resources – and America welcomes your country’s strong leadership in the global effort to combat climate change.

 

Above all, America has a stake in the success of the Indonesian people. Underneath the headlines of the day, we must build bridges between our peoples, because our future security and prosperity is shared. That is exactly what we are doing – by increased collaboration among our scientists and researchers, and by working together to foster entrepreneurship. And I am especially pleased that we have committed to double the number of American and Indonesian students studying in our respective countries – we want more Indonesian students in our schools, and more American students to come study in this country, so that we can forge new ties that last well into this young century.

 

These are the issues that really matter in our daily lives. Development, after all, is not simply about growth rates and numbers on a balance sheet. It’s about whether a child can learn the skills they need to make it in a changing world. It’s about whether a good idea is allowed to grow into a business, and not be suffocated by corruption. It’s about whether those forces that have transformed the Jakarta that I once knew -technology and trade and the flow of people and goods – translate into a better life for human beings, a life marked by dignity and opportunity.

 

This kind of development is inseparable from the role of democracy.

 

Today, we sometimes hear that democracy stands in the way of economic progress. This is not a new argument. Particularly in times of change and economic uncertainty, some will say that it is easier to take a shortcut to development by trading away the rights of human beings for the power of the state. But that is not what I saw on my trip to India, and that is not what I see in Indonesia. Your achievements demonstrate that democracy and development reinforce one another.

 

Like any democracy, you have known setbacks along the way. America is no different. Our own Constitution spoke of the effort to forge a “more perfect union,” and that is a journey we have travelled ever since, enduring Civil War and struggles to extend rights to all of our citizens. But it is precisely this effort that has allowed us to become stronger and more prosperous, while also becoming a more just and free society.

 

Like other countries that emerged from colonial rule in the last century, Indonesia struggled and sacrificed for the right to determine your destiny. That is what Heroes Day is all about – an Indonesia that belongs to Indonesians. But you also ultimately decided that freedom cannot mean replacing the strong hand of a colonizer with a strongman of your own.

 

Of course, democracy is messy. Not everyone likes the results of every election. You go through ups and downs. But the journey is worthwhile, and it goes beyond casting a ballot. It takes strong institutions to check the concentration of power. It takes open markets that allow individuals to thrive. It takes a free press and an independent justice system to root out abuse and excess, and to insist upon accountability. It takes open society and active citizens to reject inequality and injustice.

 

These are the forces that will propel Indonesia forward. And it will require a refusal to tolerate the corruption that stands in the way of opportunity; a commitment to transparency that gives every Indonesian a stake in their government; and a belief that the freedom that Indonesians have fought for is what holds this great nation together.

 

That is the message of the Indonesians who have advanced this democratic story – from those who fought in the Battle of Surabaya 55 years ago today; to the students who marched peacefully for democracy in the 1990s, to leaders who have embraced the peaceful transition of power in this young century. Because ultimately, it will be the rights of citizens that will stitch together this remarkable Nusantara that stretches from Sabang to Merauke – an insistence that every child born in this country should be treated equally, whether they come from Java or Aceh; Bali or Papua.

 

That effort extends to the example that Indonesia sets abroad. Indonesia took the initiative to establish the Bali Democracy Forum, an open forum for countries to share their experiences and best practices in fostering democracy. Indonesia has also been at the forefront of pushing for more attention to human rights within ASEAN. The nations of Southeast Asia must have the right to determine their own destiny, and the United States will strongly support that right. But the people of Southeast Asia must have the right to determine their own destiny as well. That is why we condemned elections in Burma that were neither free nor fair. That is why we are supporting your vibrant civil society in working with counterparts across this region. Because there is no reason why respect for human rights should stop at the border of any country.

 

Hand in hand, that is what development and democracy are about – the notion that certain values are universal. Prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty. Because there are aspirations that human beings share – the liberty of knowing that your leader is accountable to you, and that you won’t be locked up for disagreeing with them; the opportunity to get an education and to work with dignity; the freedom to practice your faith without fear or restriction.

 

Religion is the final topic that I want to address today, and – like democracy and development – it is fundamental to the Indonesian story.

 

Like the other Asian nations that I am visiting on this trip, Indonesia is steeped in spirituality – a place where people worship God in many different ways. Along with this rich diversity, it is also home to the world’s largest Muslim population – a truth that I came to know as a boy when I heard the call to prayer across Jakarta.

 

Just as individuals are not defined solely by their faith, Indonesia is defined by more than its Muslim population. But we also know that relations between the United States and Muslim communities have frayed over many years. As President, I have made it a priority to begin to repair these relations. As a part of that effort, I went to Cairo last June, and called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world – one that creates a path for us to move beyond our differences.

 

I said then, and I will repeat now, that no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust. But I believed then, and I believe today, that we have a choice. We can choose to be defined by our differences, and give in to a future of suspicion and mistrust. Or we can choose to do the hard work of forging common ground, and commit ourselves to the steady pursuit of progress. And I can promise you – no matter what setbacks may come, the United States is committed to human progress. That is who we are. That is what we have done. That is what we will do.

 

We know well the issues that have caused tensions for many years – issues that I addressed in Cairo. In the 17 months that have passed we have made some progress, but much more work remains to be done.

 

Innocent civilians in America, Indonesia, and across the world are still targeted by violent extremists. I have made it clear that America is not, and never will be, at war with Islam. Instead, all of us must defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates, who have no claim to be leaders of any religion – certainly not a great, world religion like Islam. But those who want to build must not cede ground to terrorists who seek to destroy. This is not a task for America alone. Indeed, here in Indonesia, you have made progress in rooting out terrorists and combating violent extremism.

 

In Afghanistan, we continue to work with a coalition of nations to build the capacity of the Afghan government to secure its future. Our shared interest is in building peace in a war-torn land – a peace that provides no safe-haven for violent extremists, and that provides hope for the Afghan people.

 

Meanwhile, we have made progress on one of our core commitments – our effort to end the war in Iraq. 100,000 American troops have left Iraq. Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their security. And we will continue to support Iraq as it forms an inclusive government and we bring all of our troops home.

 

In the Middle East, we have faced false starts and setbacks, but we have been persistent in our pursuit of peace. Israelis and Palestinians restarted direct talks, but enormous obstacles remain. There should be no illusions that peace and security will come easy. But let there be no doubt: we will spare no effort in working for the outcome that is just, and that is in the interest of all the parties involved: two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

 

The stakes are high in resolving these issues, and the others I have spoken about today. For our world has grown smaller and while those forces that connect us have unleashed opportunity, they also empower those who seek to derail progress. One bomb in a marketplace can obliterate the bustle of daily commerce. One whispered rumor can obscure the truth, and set off violence between communities that once lived in peace. In an age of rapid change and colliding cultures, what we share as human beings can be lost.

 

But I believe that the history of both America and Indonesia gives us hope. It’s a story written into our national mottos. E pluribus unum – out of many, one. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika – unity in diversity. We are two nations, which have travelled different paths. Yet our nations show that hundreds of millions who hold different beliefs can be united in freedom under one flag. And we are now building on that shared humanity – through the young people who will study in each other’s schools; through the entrepreneurs forging ties that can lead to prosperity; and through our embrace of fundamental democratic values and human aspirations..

 

Earlier today, I visited the Istiqlal mosque – a place of worship that was still under construction when I lived in Jakarta. I admired its soaring minaret, imposing dome, and welcoming space. But its name and history also speak to what makes Indonesia great. Istiqlal means independence, and its construction was in part a testament to the nation’s struggle for freedom. Moreover, this house of worship for many thousands of Muslims was designed by a Christian architect.

 

Such is Indonesia’s spirit. Such is the message of Indonesia’s inclusive philosophy, Pancasila. Across an archipelago that contains some of God’s most beautiful creations, islands rising above an ocean named for peace, people choose to worship God as they please. Islam flourishes, but so do other faiths. Development is strengthened by an emerging democracy. Ancient traditions endure, even as a rising power is on the move.

 

That is not to say that Indonesia is without imperfections. No country is. But here can be found the ability to bridge divides of race and region and religion – that ability to see yourself in all individuals. As a child of a different race coming from a distant country, I found this spirit in the greeting that I received upon moving here: Selamat Datang. As a Christian visiting a mosque on this visit, I found it in the words of a leader who was asked about my visit and said, “Muslims are also allowed in churches. We are all God’s followers.”

 

That spark of the divine lies within each of us. We cannot give in to doubt or cynicism or despair. The stories of Indonesia and America tell us that history is on the side of human progress; that unity is more powerful than division; and that the people of this world can live together in peace. May our two nations work together, with faith and determination, to share these truths with all mankind.

West Java: Christians have won a court battle restoring the right to worship in their building in Depok

West Java.: Christians have won a court battle restoring the right to worship in their building in Depok

http://www.charisma mag.com/index. php/news/ 23489-indonesia- church-wins- legal-battle- to-worship- in-building

Christians have won a court battle restoring the right to worship in
their building in Depok City, West Java.

Depok Mayor Nur Mahmudi Ismail on March 27 had revoked the building
permit for a multipurpose building and house of worship for Gereja
Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) church following protests by
Muslims. A court in Bandung on Sept. 17 rescinded the order that
revoked the church building permit, paving the way for congregants to
resume worship there.

Head Judge A. Syaifullah read the decision of the three-judge panel,
which found the mayor’s reasoning for canceling the building permit
inadequate. The mayor had said that most people living near the church
objected to its building in Jalan Pesanggrahan IV, Cinere Area of
Depok City.

“These objections by the local residents should have been raised when
the building permit was going through the approval process, not
protesting afterwards,” said Syaifullah.

Syaifullah added that the mayor also should have taken the views of
church members into consideration.

“In this case, the revocation of the building permit was based upon
the objections of one group in the community without considering those
from the church,” he said.

Construction of the church building had begun in 1998, shortly after
the permit was issued, but halted soon afterward due to a lack of
funds.
When the project began anew in 2007, members of a Muslim group from
the Cinere Area of Depok City and neighboring villages damaged the
boundary hedge and posted protest banners on the walls of the
building. Most of the protestors were not local residents.

The court determined that lawyers for the church successfully
demonstrated that church leaders had followed all Depok City
procedures for the building permit. Betty Sitompul, vice-chair of the
HKBP church building committee, stated that the church court win was a
victory for all Christians.

“We won because we had followed all the procedures and had completed
all the required documents,” she said.

In early June the church had filed suit against the mayor’s action in
a provincial court in Bandung, with church lawyer Junimart Girsang
arguing that the mayor’s revocation of the permit was wrong.

Girsang said that the court had finally sided with justice for all Indonesians.

“The judges made the right decision and had no choice, because all of
the papers for the permit were done properly,” he said.

The church had been meeting in a naval facility located about five
kilometers (nearly three miles) from the church building since the
permit was revoked, causing great inconvenience for church members,
many of whom did not have their own transportation.

In South Sumatra Province, another HKBP church outside the provincial
capital city of Palembang is trying to overcome objections by Muslim
protestors in order to complete construction of its building in Plaju.

Church leaders acknowledge they had not finished the application
process for a permit before beginning construction. They said they
went forward because after they applied to the mayor of Palembang, he
told them to talk with the governor of South Sumatra. After talking
with Gov. Alex Noerdin and securing his approval on Feb. 10, church
leaders began construction on a donated plot of 1,500 square meters
only to face a demonstration by members of several Muslim
organizations on June 27.

The South Sumatra Muslim Forum (FUI Sumsel) organized the
demonstration. Carrying a copy of a mayoral decree dated May 2009
ordering a halt to construction, the protestors gathered outside the
building site, listened to speeches and then destroyed a bridge
leading to it before demanding that the government ban the building
project.

Applications for church permits are often fraught with difficulty in
Indonesia, leaving many congregations no choice but to worship in
private homes, hotels or rented conference facilities. Such gatherings
leave churches open to threats and intimidation from activist groups
such as the Front Pembela Islam (Islamic Defenders Front), in recent
years responsible for the closure of many unregistered churches.

———— –

Indonesia’s quiet revolution bodes well for the relationship

Indonesia’s quiet revolution bodes well for the relationship

Our next door neighbour is booming politically and economically.

  

THIS year, most of the world’s economic growth will take place in China. Much of the rest will be in India. But the third biggest source of global growth will be right next door: Indonesia.

We don’t think of Indonesia as a rising economic power. Its output ranks only 15th in the world (a bit bigger than ours). Its market ranks 18th (a bit smaller than ours). But Indonesia is changing.

Yes, there was a terrorist attack in Jakarta last month, but that was the first in four years. It has just held free elections for president and legislature that gave an emphatic mandate to its modernising moderate leader, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, for a second five-year term. The army no longer rules. The economy is no longer broken. Indonesia, for so long under the heel of dictators, is now what one analyst calls ”the best functioning democracy in South-East Asia”.

A decade ago president B. J. Habibie unexpectedly ended the dictatorship to allow free speech, a free press, independent courts and free elections. While China, Singapore and Malaysia remain in the grip of ruling elites that won’t let power out of their grasp, Indonesia has become a country where people can say what they like without having to check who’s listening.

And as the global financial crisis has flattened most countries, Indonesia has flourished. In this decade, its economy has grown by almost two-thirds. More Indonesians now live in cities than on farms. Per capita incomes have risen almost 25 per cent in five years, almost 50 per cent in a decade. Even on the IMF’s forecasts – seen in Jakarta as unrealistically low – its economy would grow 15 per cent over the three years of this global recession. Only China and India will do better.

Indonesia has no lack of problems. But a month travelling the country has left me with a strong sense that it is moving ahead, that the roots of democracy have grown deep in its decade of freedom, and that its potential importance to us and the world will grow if Yudhoyono’s 10 years as President becomes the bridge between the chaos of old and its emergence as a new world power.

Indonesia never will be a giant on the scale of China and India. Indonesia has 230 million people; they each have well over a billion. But it is moving along very different lines from China. Last year, analysts Andrew MacIntyre and Douglas Ramage published an essay for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute titled provocatively Seeing Indonesia as a normal country. Their thesis was that Indonesia is developing into a middle-income, stable democracy that poses no threat to its neighbours, and solves issues by peaceful, democratic means. At the time I thought their title provocative; a year and two elections later, it looks prescient.

China is much bigger, much mightier. But China is not a normal country. As we have been reminded starkly, it is an authoritarian dictatorship that tries to solve problems by bullying and force: arresting Rio Tinto’s chief in China, trying to bully the Melbourne film festival, and now, according to The Canberra Times, engaging in ”cyber espionage”, with China suspected of having sent Australian diplomats fake emails, designed to give the sender access to DFAT’s computer network.

Indonesia is different. For all the mistaken fears of Australians past and present, it is not a threat to us. In a wise paper for the Lowy Institute, Australia and Indonesia: current problems, future prospects, Professor Jamie Mackie tells how in the turmoil of the 1960s, when the British embassy was burnt to ashes, president Sukarno summoned Australian ambassador Mick Shann to explain why his embassy remained intact. ”You [Australia] are part of our region, and we both have to learn how to live alongside each other.”

And we have. At government level, the relationship is in excellent shape. Indonesia and Australia are working closely on issues from climate change to people smuggling. Indonesia is now the largest destination for Australia’s development aid, receiving almost $500 million a year to build schools, roads and health centres. There are 17 Australian Government departments and agencies with staff working in the Indonesian Government, helping them make government work. (One big success has been the Australian Tax Office helping its Indonesian counterpart make Indonesia’s big companies and rich people pay their taxes.)

People-to-people relationships are improving, if underdeveloped. There are now 15,000 Indonesians studying in Australia. In the year to June, a record 436,000 Australian tourists went to Indonesia, despite the official warning urging them to reconsider.

The commercial relationship, however, could be much bigger. Indonesia still has a widespread hostility to foreign investment, which Yudhoyono’s reforms have not challenged. Yet Australian companies in Indonesia – such as the ANZ, Toll and Thiess – are doing well, and there is the potential for Australia to help modernise Indonesian business as it is helping to modernise government.

Indonesia’s democratic revolution has put down deep roots. Its economic revolution is starting to do the same. Much depends on Yudhoyono’s second term, and how it tackles corruption and reforms to the bureaucracy, the labour market, infrastructure and investment. What will be good for Indonesia will be good for us.

 

Tim Colebatch is economics editor.

Obama: From Anti-war Law Professor to Warmonger in 100 Days

Obama: From Anti-war Law Professor to Warmonger in 100 Days

It didn’t take long for President Barack Obama to swing behind targeted assassinations and bombing raids, says Alexander Cockburn

By Alexander Cockburn

May 21, 2009 “First Post” — How long does it take a mild-mannered, anti-war, black professor of constitutional law, trained as a community organiser on the South Side of Chicago, to become an enthusiastic sponsor of targeted assassinations, ‘decapitation’ strategies and remote-control bombing of mud houses at the far end of the globe?

There’s nothing surprising here. As far back as President Woodrow Wilson, in the early 20th century, American liberalism has been swift to flex its imperial muscle and whistle up the Marines. High-explosive has always been in the hormone shot.

The nearest parallel to Obama in eager deference to the bloodthirsty counsels of his counter-insurgency advisors is John F. Kennedy. It is not surprising that bright young presidents relish quick-fix, ‘outside the box’ scenarios for victory.

Obama’s course is set and his presidency is already stained the familiar blood-red

Whether in Vietnam or Afghanistan the counsel of regular Army generals tends to be drear and unappetising: vast, costly deployments of troops by the hundreds of thousands, mounting casualties, uncertain prospects for any long-term success ­ all adding up to dismaying political costs on the home front.

Amid Camelot’s dawn in 1961, Kennedy swiftly bent an ear to the advice of men like Ed Lansdale, a special ops man who wore rakishly the halo of victory over the Communist guerillas in the Philippines and who promised results in Vietnam.

By the time he himself had become the victim of Lee Harvey Oswald’s ‘decapitation’ strategy, brought to successful conclusion in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, on November 22, 1963, Kennedy had set in motion the secret counter-insurgency operations, complete with programs of assassination and torture, that turned South-East Asia and Latin America into charnel houses for the next 20 years.

Another Democrat who strode into the White House with the word ‘peace’ springing from his lips was Jimmy Carter. It was he who first decreed that ‘freedom’ and the war on terror required a $3.5bn investment in a secret CIA-led war in Afghanistan, plus the deployment of Argentinian torturers to advise US military teams in counter-insurgency ops in El Salvador and Nicaragua.

Obama campaigned on a pledge to ‘decapitate’ al-Qaeda, meaning the assassination of its leaders. It was his short-hand way of advertising that he had the right stuff. Now, like Kennedy, he’s summoned the exponents of unconventional, short-cut paths to success in that mission.

Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal now replaces General David McKiernan as Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan. McChrystal’s expertise is precisely in assassination and ‘decapitation’ . As commander of the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) for nearly five years starting in 2003, McChrystal was in charge of death squad ops, his best advertised success being the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, head of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The phrase ‘sophisticated networks’ tends to crop up in assessments of McChrystal’s Iraq years. Actually there’s nothing fresh or sophisticated in what he did. Programmes of targeted assassination aren’t new in counter-insurgency. The most infamous and best known was the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, designed to identify and eliminate cadres of Vietnam’s National Liberation Front, informally known as the Viet Cong, of whom, on some estimates, at least 40,000 were duly assassinated.

In such enterprises two outcomes are inevitable. Identification of the human targets requires either voluntary informants or captives. In the latter instance torture is certain, whatever rhetorical pledges are proclaimed back home. There may be intelligence officers who rely on patient, non-violent interrogation, as the US officer who elicited the whereabouts of al-Zarqawi claims he did.

But there will be others who will reach for the garden hose and the face towel. (McChrystal, not uncoincidentally, was involved in the prisoner abuse scandal at Baghdad’s Camp Nama. He also played a sordid role in the cover-up of the friendly-fire death of ex-NFL star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman.)

Whatever the technique, a second certainty is the killing of large numbers of civilians in the final ‘targeted assassination’ . At one point in the first war on Saddam Hussein in the early 1990s, a huge component of US air sorties was devoted each day to bombing places where US intelligence had concluded Saddam might be hiding. Time after time, after the mangled bodies of men, women and children had been scrutinised, came the crestfallen tidings that Saddam was not among them.

Already in Afghanistan public opinion has been inflamed by the weekly bulletins of deadly bombardments either by drones or manned bombers. Still in the headlines is the US bombardment of Bala Boluk in Farah province, which yielded 140 dead villagers torn apart by high explosives, including 93 children. Only 22 were male and over 18.

Perhaps ‘sophisticated intelligence’ had identified one of these as an al-Qaeda man, or a Taliban captain, or maybe someone an Afghan informant to the US military just didn’t care for. Maybe electronic eavesdropping simply screwed up the coordinates. If we ever know, it won’t be for a very long time. Obama has managed a terse apology, even as he installs McChrystal, thus ensuring more of the same.

Obama is bidding to be as sure-footed as Bush in trampling on constitutional rights

The logic of targeted assassinations was on display in Gaza even as Obama worked on the uplifting phrases of his inaugural address in January. The Israelis claimed they were targeting only Hamas even as the body counts of women and children methodically refuted these claims and finally extorted from Obama a terse phrase of regret.

He may soon weary of uttering them. His course is set and his presidency already permanently stained the ever-familiar blood-red tint. There’s no short-cut in counter-insurgency. A targeted bombing yields up Bala Boluk, and the incandescent enmity of most Afghans. The war on al-Qaeda mutates into the war on the Taliban, and 850,000 refugees in the Swat Valley in Pakistan.

The mild-mannered professor is bidding to be as sure-footed as Bush and Cheney in trampling on constitutional rights. He’s planning to restore Bush’s kangaroo courts for prisoners at Guantanamo who’ve never even been formally charged with a crime! He’s threatening to hold some prisoners indefinitely in the US without trial.

He’s even been awarded a hearty editorial clap on the back from the Wall Street Journal: “Mr. Obama deserves credit for accepting that civilians courts are largely unsuited for the realities of the war on terror. He has now decided to preserve a tribunal process that will be identical in every material way to the one favoured by Dick Cheney.”

It didn’t take long. But it’s what we’ve got ­ for the rest of Obama-time.

source: thefirstpost.co.uk

Indonesia’s dark-horse candidate

http://www.atimes. com/atimes/ Southeast_ Asia/KC31Ae01. html

Mar 31, 2009

Indonesia’s dark-horse candidate
By Katherine Demopoulos

JAKARTA – Career soldier Prabowo Subianto is still a dark-horse candidate among the 38 different political parties jockeying for position ahead of next month’s legislative elections and a looming presidential race set for July.

A former son-in-law of dictator Suharto, and an alleged mastermind of the violence and abuses that attended East Timor’s break from Indonesia in 1999, he is running a decidedly slick and well-financed campaign that appears to have substantial grassroots resonance.

Although he is trailing incumbent president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and frontrunner Megawati Sukarnoputri in the polls, Prabowo and his political party’s numbers could be pivotal to the formation of the next ruling coalition. His Great Indonesia Movement party, or Gerindra, claims 11.2 million members.

The most recent polls forecast his party to win between 2.6% and 6.23% of the legislative vote, sufficient popular support to cross the 2.5% threshold needed for a party to assume legislative seats. Those figures could rise considering between 9% and 50% of polled voters say they are still undecided.

Political analysts say that if Gerindra wins 6-7% of the legislature, it will be a major player in the coalition building for presidential nominations. A party or coalition needs 20% of seats of parliament or 25% of the popular votes to put forward a presidential candidate.

Political analysts partially credit Prabowo’s and Gerindra’s early success to the financial resources of his brother, Hashim Djojohadikusomo, who last year was ranked by Globe Asia magazine as Indonesia’s 14th richest person with a net worth of just over US$1 billion.

He has helped to bankroll Prabowo’s prime time media barrage, depicting glossy panoramas of Indonesia, peopled with smiling children and hard-working farmers and fishermen. Market research firm Nielson estimates Gerindra has garnered more TV exposure than any other party by positioning its ads around Sikar, the country’s most popular soap opera and most viewed news bulletin.
His campaign has also been burnished by high-profile foreign advisors, including US political communications expert Rob Allyn, who worked for outgoing US president George W Bush‘s successful Texas governor campaign in 1994, and reportedly a German scriptwriter involved in various popular Indonesian soap operas.

“If you were a political actor in Indonesia, you’d have to be looking at him closely and paying attention. There might be a hidden agenda. It might be quite a legitimate tilt at the president or it might be a tilt for 2014, or getting something else he wants,” said Damien Kingsbury, associate professor at Australia’s Deakin University.

Rural sensitivity
By spending much of his campaign time in rural villages, Prabowo has shown a populist touch certain other top candidates have lacked. He has in particular courted farmers and fishermen, demographic groups which make up the majority of the rural population.

He has leveraged his position as chairman of the Indonesian Farmers’ Association, which claims 10 million members nationwide, to build up his grassroots credentials and has lobbied the agriculture ministry on matters of rural concern. He has also vowed to create 36 million new agricultural jobs and double the average per capita income from its current $2,000 to $4,000 per year.

“I haven’t seen any politician who has been so active and so persistent in approaching the farmers down to the village across the archipelago, ” said Aleksius Jemadu, professor at Pelita Harapan University, located on the outskirts of Jakarta.

“He is a military strategist and he has a long-term perspective and he knows what he can do to strengthen his popularity. He used to be known by the public as a general, but knows he has to change his image to [that of] an effective leader,” he added.

Gerindra spokesman Haryanto Taslam echoes that assessment. He said in an interview with Asia Times Online that during a recent village visit Prabowo bought up palm oil stocks – at above the market price – from farmers who had complained about falling prices.

He has also distributed fertilizer directly to farmers and tried to get cheaper rice seed than that on offer from a government-appointe d company, according to Haryanto.

In many ways, Haryanto is central to Prabowo’s image-conscious electoral strategy. As a former democracy activist, Haryanto was kidnapped and held for 40 days during the waning days of the Suharto regime. In his capacity as former Kopassus commander, Prabowo has since personally apologized to him for his detention, Haryanto says.

“The issue is not personal, but [it was] the system at that time,” he said. “Prabowo asked me to join him to fight together to fix Indonesia. And I wanted to join because my political attitude is parallel with Prabowo’s, wanting to give the best for Indonesian people. I think there is no problem working together with him.”

Prabowo has in the past admitted responsibility for kidnapping pro-democracy activists. Speaking recently to foreign journalists, Prabowo said of the government’s past political kidnapping policy: “Under one regime it is preventative detention, then there is regime change and it is called kidnapping.”

Controversial past
Such elliptical wordplay does little to assuage the activists who recall Prabowo’s controversial history. He stands most pointedly accused of organizing thugs who terrorized pro-independence figures in East Timor, as well as involvement in orchestrating the riots that targeted ethnic Chinese Indonesians in 1998.

In a fully embedded democracy, “a candidate like him would not stand a snowball’s chance in hell,” said Kingsbury. “Indonesia is on a reformist political and economic path and Prabowo represents the opposite of that.”

But for most of Indonesia’s rural poor, activists’ kidnappings and communal riots are a world away. Their hardships have not eased in the decade of democracy and among many there is nostalgia for Suharto’s strong leadership and policies that helped to uplift tens of millions out of poverty.

“Some people are harking back to the New Order. I think there has been some re-swinging of the pendulum,” said one Jakarta-based commentator, who requested anonymity. “My fear [of Prabowo’s candidacy] is a reversion to fascism.”

Prabowo’s campaign appeals to the masses through promises to reschedule foreign debt payments and put the cash into education and healthcare. He has also taken a nationalistic line in vowing to stop the sale of strategic state assets to foreigners and review perceived unfavorable existing government contracts.

“The message is so concrete, so real, so relevant with the situation of his audience, especially the farmers, the people at the grassroots … He provides a clear vision to solve all the real problems that they are facing in their everyday life,” added Pelita Harapan University’s Jemadu.

“He’s making some very basic appeals to popular nationalism and populist economics,” said Tim Lindsey at Melbourne University’s Asian Law Center. He warns that if some of Prabowo’s proposed policies were actually implemented, Indonesia would risk being cut off from international credit markets.

Some analysts fear that a Prabowo-led or influenced government could bid to turn back the clock on Indonesian democracy. Prabowo has said he wants to revert to the original form of Indonesia’s constitution, which gives strong powers to the executive and lacks checks and balances. Others, such as Lindsey, believe Indonesia has moved past Suharto’s and his former New Order regime’s legacy.

“The time for New Order leftovers is running out. In 2014, it’s pretty unlikely that we’ll be seeing the same array of politicians. We’re witnessing a generational shift,” said Lindsey. “Young ones are not aware of Prabowo’s record, but it also works against them because the ideas they stand for resonate with fewer people. Rather than being the re-emergence of New Order politicians, perhaps this is their last hurrah.”

Katherine Demopoulos is a journalist based in Jakarta, Indonesia. She works as a freelance reporter for the BBC and Guardian, and also writes extensively on Asian energy markets.

(Copyright 2009 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing)

Indonesian celebrities go for political seats

Indonesian celebrities go for political seats

THE JAKARTA POST – September 03, 2008

Diaz Hendropriyono, Washington, DC

The rise of celebrities in the political arena has created a mixed message. While many are against it, mainly because of their lack of political experience, others are willing to give these actors an opportunity to prove themselves.

At the executive branch, as it is widely known, actors Rano Karno and Dede Yusuf have been democratically elected as the vice regent of Tangerang, Banten, and deputy governor of West Java, respectively.

Currently, Helmi Yahya is running for deputy governor of South Sumatra and Dicky Chandra for vice regent of Garut, West Java. There are at least two “dangdut” singers running for deputy mayor, Syaiful Jamil in Serang, Banten, and Ayu Soraya in Tegal, Central Java.

Additionally, there are indications that Wanda Hamidah, Della Citra and Ikke Nurjanah are eyeing the second-in-command position in the City of Tangerang and the regencies of Serang and Majalengka.

Having celebrities running for a political seat at the executive branch is undoubtedly not a new phenomenon. In the Philippines, actor Joseph Estrada had been the mayor of San Juan before becoming president. Comedian Joey Marquez was the mayor of Paranaque City. The job of chief minister in the Indian provinces of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu was filled by actors N.T. Rama Rao and M.G. Ramachandran, respectively.

Turkish actress Fatma Girik was the mayor of Sisli. Argentine cabaret dancer Isabel Peron replaced her husband as president. Twin child-actors Lech Kaczynski and Jaroslaw Kaczynski were for a year the president and the prime minister of Poland at the same time. And in Russia, actor-comedian Mikhail Yevdokimov was trusted as the governor of the Altai Krai region.

In the United States, actor-producer Sonny Bono, once married to singer Cher, was elected mayor of Palm Springs, California; TV host Jerry Springer was mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio; “Dirty Harry” star Clint Eastwood was mayor of Carmel, California; singer Jimmie Davies was governor of Louisiana and World Wrestling Federation star Jesse Ventura was mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, as well as governor.

As was more popularly known, actor Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California before becoming the U.S. president. And presently, actor-bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger is in his second term as governor of California.

In some cases, celebrities’ popularity is not always enough to get them elected. For example, Filipino actor Fernando Poe, Jr. lost the presidential election to incumbent Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Beverly Hills Cop star Gill Hill failed in his bid to become the mayor of Detroit, Michigan. Italian adult movie star Ilona Staller was unsuccessful in her run for the mayor of Milan. And more recently, TV star Fred Thompson withdrew his candidacy for U.S. president after losing in the primary election.

In Indonesia, running for deputy governor of Banten, Marissa Haque lost the provincial election. Didin Bagito even decided to pull out from his candidacy for deputy mayor of Serang before the election for lack of public support.

Although there are celebrities running for political offices in other countries such as what is found in Indonesia, there is still one notable difference: The majority of Indonesian celebrities seem reluctant to run for local executive head and are more comfortable to be number two. Among the many who participate in the race, only a few run for the first-in-command posts. Although unsuccessful, Gusti Randa ran for mayor of Padang, and Primus Yustisio is now running for the regent of Subang.

The small number of celebrities who run for regional head may create negative impressions. The public may judge that these actors do not have the confidence to manage a government, thus they need to be coupled with someone who has experience in public administration and policy. Doubtless, this will eventually hurt the artists’ reputations.

It should be remembered that there are many actor-politicians who have had some accomplishments during their administration. For instance, although the court found him guilty of plunder before finally being pardoned by the current president, some still consider former president Estrada a success. At least 46 Moro Islamic Liberation Front secessionist camps, including that of Abu Sayyaf, were overrun during his time in office.

California Governor Schwarzenegger recently signed landmark legislation to reduce carbon emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. He also banned the sale of sodas in schools and set a stricter nutritional standard which required more fruits and vegetables in meal planning. And California will be the first state in the nation to ban the use of trans-fat oils in restaurants.

In his first inaugural address, former U.S. president Reagan boldly preached: “Government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem.” During his presidency, he reduced income tax rates, increased GDP by 3.4 percent annually, created more than 16 million new jobs and increased military spending — although at the end, left his government with a huge deficit. Many even think he deserves credit for ending the Cold War.

To forbid Indonesian celebrities from entering politics is to go against the pillars of democracy. Their participation does not violate any law either. Hence, celebrities who take part in district head elections must prove themselves capable of managing a government administration and creating public policies, such as those movie stars in other countries. It is then the public’s duty to evaluate their performance.

However, evaluating their contribution to the public seems difficult when these celebrities are “only” elected as second-in-command. Thus, celebrities must be emboldened to run for, and political parties need to support them as regional heads, not deputies. Only by doing so will the public know whether or not these celebrities can truly govern.


The writer is PhD Candidate at the Center for Public Administration and Policy, Virginia Tech University. He can be reached at d_hendropriyono@ yahoo.com