Asia in Review Archive (2019)

Indonesia

Date of AiR edition

News summary

12 November 2019

U.S.-Indonesian defense relations under Prabowo

(nj) With Prabowo Subianto as Indonesia’s new Defense Minister, doubts have arisen over U.S.-Indonesian defense relations. The former Army lieutenant General was dismissed from the military for being allegedly involved in the kidnapping and torture of pro-democracy activists and atrocities during the occupation of East-Timor. As a consequence, it remains uncertain if Prabowo is eligible to enter the U.S. or not. In 2000, Prabowo wanted to travel to the U.S. to attend his son´s graduation in Boston, but he was denied a visa. [South China Morning Post]

Meanwhile, China has emphasized its interest in Indonesian maritime territory and abundant resources and aims to further deepen bilateral relations. [Antara News]

 

 

12 November 2019

Indonesia: Two reporters killed over palm oil land dispute

(ls) Two Indonesian journalists have been found dead with multiple stab wounds near a plantation in Sumatra. They were mediating a land dispute between a palm oil company and residents. A local police chief said that investigators had found indications that the reporters’ deaths were related to their activism. The police arrested an oil palm plantation owner believed to be the mastermind behind the murder. [Voice of America] [Jakarta Post]

 

 

 

12 November 2019

Indonesia: Free-KPK passes put anti-corruption body’s authority in doubt

(nj) Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo and several high-ranking politicians are to be excluded from future corruption investigations. They obtained a “free pass” providing this exemption under the revised anti-corruption law. The Constitutional Court is still reviewing the new legislation. Meanwhile, Widodo appears prepared to select the five members of the Anti-Corruption Commission (KPK) supervisory council. The council is empowered to decide which cases the KPK will pursue and which it should drop. Many see the regulation as highly controversial since effective prosecution of corruption cases against government linked people could not be possible anymore. [The Jakarta Post]

The new law weakening the country’s anti-corruption body sparked months-long student violent protests across Indonesia. [AiR No. 40, October/2019, 1]

 

 

12 November 2019

Indonesia and Laos to cooperate more closely on anti-drugs and human trafficking

(ls) Indonesia and Laos have signed an agreement to cooperate in the fight against transnational organized crimes, including drug smuggling and human trafficking. Both countries also commenced a joint capacity building and training program on transnational crimes and extradition. [Jakarta Globe]

 

 

5 November 2019

Human rights groups criticise East Asia Summit for not including human rights issues

(jk) Rights groups criticised the state of human rights protection in Southeast Asia in particular over the weekend as they pointed out that the big summits, such as the East Asia Summit, do not include official discussions or statements on the deteriorating human rights situation in the region.

Human rights watch and other organisation expressed grave concern over the fact the Rohingya crisis, the war on drugs in the Philippines, the punishment of the LGBT community or enforced disappearances of activists were largely ignored throughout the summit. [Bangkok Post]

The Rohingya refugee crisis, although not in these terms, was mentioned at length in the final statement of the 35th ASEAN Summit however. ASEAN leaders noted their desire to

facilitate the safe, secure and dignified return displaced persons currently in Bangladesh to

Rakhine State from which they fled. [Chairman’s Statement Of The 35th ASEAN Summit] At the same time, they commended the work of AICHR, the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights [for background on AICHR, see this article in CPG’s COM Online Magazine 4/2019]

 

5 November 2019

RCEP: 15 countries (RCEP minus India) declare they have agreed and will sign in 2020

(jk) During the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) summit in Bangkok on Monday, 15 countries (The ASEAN-ten, Korea, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand) agreed to all 20 chapters of the RCEP and stated that they were “willing to sign” the deal in 2020.

All participating countries agreed to make efforts to resolve the remaining issues surrounding India’s concerns, so it too, can participate. [The Korea Herald]

Despite the positive spin on this development, it will remain a disappointment that RCEP could not be completed and signed by the end of this year as it was initially (if very optimistically) stated.

This disappointing if not entirely unexpected outcome was underscored by the US decision to downgrade US representation at the East Asia Summit, also held in Bangkok this past weekend. It was the first time since the EAS was established in 2005, that a country at the summit was represented by an official below the rank of foreign minister. Instead the US sent the new National Security Advisor, Robert O’Brien, as the Special Envoy to the upcoming EAS and the US-ASEAN Summit. [ISEAS Commentary]

5 November 2019

Indonesia: man flogged 28 times for adultery 

(nj) An Indonesian man was flogged 28 times for having an affair with a married woman. The punishment had been carried out in Aceh province, the only region in Indonesia that imposes Islamic law. The man found guilty of adultery helped to draft the law outlawing consumption of alcohol, gay or premarital sex and adultery. [The Guardian] [BBC]

29 October 2019

Indonesia: Violent clashes as Widodo visits Papua

(ls/nj) Three people have been killed in clashes between police and rebels in Indonesia’s Papua region. The violence erupted as President Joko Widodo was visiting the restive region. However, the incident appeared unrelated to weeks of unrest that saw dozens killed when riots broke out in the region’s Wamena city last month, with some victims burned alive when buildings were set on fire. Since mid-August, Papua has been hit by waves of mass protests and violence over claims of racism and calls for self-rule. [Star Online]

29 October 2019

Indonesia: President Widodo appoints Prabowo Subianto as his Defence Minister

(ls) Indonesian President Joko Widodo unveiled his new 38-member Cabinet, which contains politicians from across the aisle as well as professionals. More than a third of the ministers are from his previous government. The new Defence Minister is Prabowo Subianto, the former army general and chairman of the opposition Gerindra party who challenged Widodo in the 2014 and 2019 presidential elections. After the election, Prabowo first rejected the results and asked for a constitutional court ruling, which ruled in Widodo’s favor. [Straits Times]

Prabowo’s appointment has met with criticism from human rights groups and others who have questioned his fitness to lead a ministry that should be spearheading military reforms. As commander of the Army’s special forces, Kopassus, Prabowo was allegedly involved in the forced disappearance of prodemocracy activists between 1997 and 1998. He has also been accused of being involved in other human-rights abuses, including during the Army’s East Timor counter-insurgency operations in the 1970s. Prabowo has repeatedly denied all such allegations. [Jakarta Post]

It appears that Widodo’s strategy favors compromise over confrontation. Some observers note that, on the one hand, there is a risk is that tensions between Jokowi and Prabowo will not subside and that the choice could pave the way for the politicization of the armed forces and police. On the other hand, the choice could bring political stability after five years of heated rivalry. [BBC]

29 October 2019

The role of social media companies in shaping political discourse in Indonesia

(ls) The New Mandala has published a piece by Aldila Irsyad who argues that social media companies have more control than the government of Indonesia in limiting the freedom of expression of its citizens. Irsyad discusses the question to what extent they will control the political discourse in Indonesia. [New Mandala]

22 October 2019

Indonesia: Update on President Widodo’s plans to move the country´s capital from Jakarta to Borneo 

(nj) Plans to move Indonesia´s capital from Jakarta to East Kalimantan – located on the island of Borneo will cost the country about US$ 33 billion. According to East Kalimantan governor the project depends on the financial support from China and other countries, like Japan, to provide a solid infrastructure. With a relocation from Jakarta to Kalimantan, Widodo is looking to escape the environmental challenges the capital is facing right now. Whereas Jakarta suffers from high air pollution, East Kalimantan is rich in natural resources like oil, gas, timber and oil palms. Furthermore, Jakarta is more susceptible to floods and is among the world’s fastest sinking capitals.

Beijing already invested a little over US$ 60 million for highway constructions. In return, Chinese manufacturing companies seek to compete on Indonesian markets but local suppliers fear a fast developing monopoly of Chinese. [The South China Morning Post]

 

22 October 2019

PNG: Bougainville independence vote to go ahead

(jk) The vote in Papua New Guinea’s autonomous region of Bougainville, which is feared to trigger separation negotiations to create a new nation, will go ahead as per the agreement between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government despite having been delayed twice over funding issues. The vote, now to be held later next month and in December, is not binding and the final say on independence will remain with the Government of Papua New Guinea. To overcome a funding gap, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, added around US$2 million to the US$5+ million  that PNG has contributed.

The widely expected outcome of the referendum is that the people of Bougainville will vote for some form of independence by a large margin, its anticipated success as an independent nation state however is widely disputed.  [Reuters] [Lowy Institute for background]

 

22 October 2019

Indonesia increases security measures for Jokowi`s second term of presidency

(jk/nj) With the presidential second term starting October 20, Indonesia remained on high alert around Joko Widodo´s inauguration. Tensions remain high following heavy protests referring to the passing of controversial bills into laws as reported previously, as well as the recent stabbing attack on chief security minister Wiranto. [The Star]  [The Straits Times]. The stabbing prompted the arrest of 36 suspects by the police, all with alleged links to the local terrorist group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD).  [The Jakarta Post] [Antara News]

The protests that happened across Indonesia in September saw thousands of people demanding to stop any efforts which could weaken the country’s anti-corruption body, the KPK, as well as efforts to introduce a new criminal code that includes penalizing extramarital sex and insulting the president. During the protests police used teargas and water cannons leading to hundreds of injuries and the death of three students. Activists claim that at least one student died from a gunshot fired by police. As a result, people now demand to introduce independent investigations concerning the police´s involvement by Indonesian President Widodo. [South China Morning Post]

For an assessment on Jokowi’s second-term Priorities and Challenges based on an interview with the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, see [ISEAS]

 

22 October 2019

Maritime terrorism in Asia: An assessment 

(ls) A paper published by the Observer Research Foundation evaluates the possibility of an increase in maritime terrorist violence in Asia. Based on an analysis of recent incidents, it argues that the vulnerability of high seas shipping to criminal acts of violence and the weak and inconsistent nature of maritime governance raises the possibility of a terrorist strike in the Asian littorals. [ORF]

 

22 October 2019

Indonesia Launches $212M International Development Aid Fund

(jk) Albeit very small in scale, particularly compared to major projects such as the BRI, the Indonesian government has launched the Indonesian Agency for International Development, to “help reduce poverty and social inequality around the world.” [Jakarta Globe]

15 October 2019

Indonesia: Chief security minister attacked by suspected terrorist sympathizer

(ls/nj) Indonesia’s Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto was attacked with a knife by a man suspected to be a sympathizer of the local terrorist group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) on Thursday during a visit to a town on the island of Java. Wiranto has been designated by President Joko Widodo as the person in-charge with the handling of the unrest in the country’s West Papua region. He had been previously accused of committing atrocities during Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor but was not found guilty. [Al Jazeera] [Jakarta Post]

8 October 2019

Indonesia: Sukarno heir elected as Indonesia’s first female House speaker

(td) The Indonesian parliament elected its first female house speaker, Puan Maharani Nakshatra Kusyala, granddaughter of the country’s first president and daughter of former president Megawati Sukarnoputri.

The 46-year-old politician was coordinating minister for human development and cultural affairs in President Joko Widodo’s Cabinet, before she resigned to take up her seat in parliament. Maharani is a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, which is led by her mother and is the largest party in parliament. (Aljazeera)

8 October 2019

Indonesia: More than 16,000 flee unrest in Indonesia’s Papua region

(jk) Due to the ongoing unrests in Indonesia’s Papua region, the military said on Monday that more than 16,000 residents have fled from the violence in Wamena. [Al Jazeera] Human Rights Watch called for an independent investigation into 33 deaths during the Wamena riots which ought to be led by the country’s National Commission on Human Rights. [Human Rights Watch]

1 October 2019

Indonesia: Indonesian police arrest hundreds linked to forest fires

(td) Indonesian police arrested 230 people on suspicion of starting some of the fires which have spread health-damaging haze across a large part of Southeast Asia. Those arrested could be prosecuted under an environmental protection law that provides for a maximum 10-year prison sentence for setting fires to clear land. [The Independent]

1 October 2019

Indonesia: New unrest in Papua as new joint defense commands take shape

(ls) New unrest has erupted in Indonesia’s Papua region. More than 30 people were killed and dozens injured in riots, with some victims burned to death in buildings set ablaze by protesters. 16 people died in Wamena city where hundreds demonstrated and burned down a government office and other buildings. Papua, on the western half of New Guinea island, has seen weeks of violent protests ueled by anger over racism and calls for self-rule. [The Star]

Residents of Wamena city have been fleeing the city amid rumors that there will be a military deployment to prevent further turbulence in the area. The Papua Police said the unrest was triggered by “baseless information” about a teacher who allegedly used a racial slur against a student. [Jakarta Post]

Meanwhile, the Indonesian government has appointed the chiefs for three new joint defense commands (Kogabwilhan). They are equipped with naval, air and army assets. Each Kogabwilhan will be responsible either for the country’s western, central or eastern parts. One of the three command centers is established in Biak, Papua. The eastern command in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, is expected to support Indonesian efforts to assert its sovereignty over an area north of the Natuna Islands following encroachments by Chinese and Vietnamese vessels. [Straits Times]

1 October 2019

Indonesia: Massive student protests against draft criminal code and new KPK legislation

(ls/td) In Jakarta and other Indonesian cities, thousands of students have taken to the streets and occupied local parliaments to protest against the draft criminal code that would include outlawing extramarital sex and a controversial new law that could weaken the nation’s anti-corruption body. It was the biggest student protest in decades. Police fired teargas and water cannon to disperse the demonstrators. One student died in Kendari city on Sulawesi island, where the local parliament was torched. Passage of the controversial changes has now been delayed. [New Straits Times]

Updating Indonesia’s Dutch colonial-era criminal code has been debated for decades and appeared set to pass in 2018 before momentum dried out. Among a series of contentious articles are those that would outlaw adultery, unmarried couples living together, as well as make insulting the president a criminal offence that could carry a jail sentence. [The Guardian]

In response to the protests, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said on Thursday he was considering revoking the new law governing the country’s Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). The law creates a committee to oversee the agency and limits the agency’s freedom to wiretap suspects. The KPK has prosecuted hundreds of politicians, officials and businessmen since its formation in 2002, becoming one of the country’s most respected agencies. [Channel News Asia]

24 September 2019

Continuing violence in West Papua, dozens confirmed dead and wounded 

(jk) According to latest reports, at least 26 West Papuan demonstrators as well as an Indonesian soldier have been killed and wounded in clashes in the regional capital of Jayapura and in Wamena [Straits Times]. According to footage that surfaced on social media, the protesters, among them many students, clashed with pro-Jakarta forces who are taking an exceedingly tough and violent approach with several demonstrators suffering from bullet wounds. In Wamena, protesters set ablaze government offices. Amidst the new outbreak of violence, the administration in Jakarta has reinforced its claim that everything is under control. [ABC] [SBS]

24 September 2019

Couples in Indonesia’s Aceh whipped over public displays of affection

(jk) Charged with breaking local Islamic law by publicly displaying affection, three couples have been publicly caned in Indonesia’s Aceh province last week. The six men and women were struck between 20 and 22 times by a masked sharia officer. [South China Morning Post]

24 September 2019

Indonesia’s President Halts Bill That Would Ban Sex Outside Marriage (law)

(td) On Sep 21 Indonesia’s president Joko Widodo pushed back a legislation that would have criminalized sex between unmarried people, including gays and lesbians, days before it had been expected to pass. The provision intends a punishment of up to one year in prison.

The measure, aimed at overhauling Indonesia’s penal code, had appeared likely to win approval on Sep 24 from the country’s outgoing Parliament.

But after an outpouring of opposition to many of its provisions from rights activists, women’s groups, legal experts and others, President Widodo announced that he had asked lawmakers to drop the legislation and leave the matter for the next Parliament, which will be seated in October.

Many of the wide-ranging bill’s provisions — it had 628 articles — mirrored elements of Shariah, the Islamic legal code. It would have restricted access to contraception for minors, outlawed cohabitation without marriage, restricted freedom of speech, reduced the rights of religious minorities and imposed harsh punishment for insulting the dignity of the president. (New York Times) (Straits Times)

24 September 2019

Indonesia raises minimum age for brides to end child marriage

(td) Indonesia’s parliament has revised the country’s marriage law to lift the minimum age at which women can marry by three years to 19, a move welcomed by campaigners as a step toward curbing child marriage in the world’s biggest Muslim majority-country. (Reuters)

All factions in parliament agreed the revision at a plenary session on Sep 16, according to a statement on its website. Indonesia is among the 10 countries in the world with the highest number of child brides. One in four girls is married before they turn 18.

Indonesia previously allowed girls of 16 to get married or younger – with no minimum age – if their parents requested it. Indonesia’s Constitutional Court ruled in December that it was discriminatory to have a lower marriage age for women than for men, who could legally marry at 19.

Child marriage in Indonesia has been blamed for causing maternal and infant deaths, as well as encouraging child labor, Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Minister said in a statement. (Channel News Asia) (Straits Times)

17 September 2019

Indonesia: Arrests in Papua as Widodo meets with representatives

(td/ls) Indonesian Police in Papua have arrested 85 suspects since ethnic unrest erupted in the country’s easternmost region in mid-August. At least four people have been killed in the political violence following protests over perceived racial and ethnic discrimination, spread over two weeks in a string of Papuan towns. Some protesters have demanded a referendum on independence, something the government has ruled out. In Jakarta, President Joko Widodo met with Papuan leaders and students at the presidential palace a bid to soothe tensions. An internet blackout had been lifted for most parts of Papua after three weeks, though it remained in place for major cities like Jayapura, Manokwari and Sorong. [Channel News Asia]

In an RSIS commentary on the recent violent riots in Indonesia’s Papua and West Papua provinces, the author describes who Papua’s problems are more complex than just isolation and economic poverty. It is argued that, although Jokowi’s focus on welfare and development-oriented policy in Papua is important, money is not enough. The author points out that the government does not recognize the political and historical grievances of the conflicts, leaving the Papuans in constant unrest over the years, undermining the efforts to make Papuans feel like the government is serious about their welfare. [RSIS]

17 September 2019

Indonesia: Former president Habibie dies at 83

(ls) Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie, who as president of Indonesia ushered in an era of democracy that ended the rule of Haji Mohamed Suharto, whose 32-year dictatorship was one of the most brutal and corrupt of the 20th century, died on Wednesday at a hospital in Jakarta at the age of 83. He received a state funeral with military honors on Thursday. The New York Times has published an obituary. [New York Times]

Habibie, who was Indonesia’s president for only 17 months in 1998-99, allowed democratic reforms and an independence referendum for East Timor following the ouster of Suharto. An engineer educated in Indonesia and Germany, Habibie spent nearly two decades working for German aircraft maker Messerschmitt-Boelkow-Blohm, rising to the position of vice-president and director of applied technology. In 1974, he became the science and technology minister under Suharto. [South China Morning Post]

10 September 2019

Indonesia restores internet access in parts of restive Papua region 

(td) Indonesia has partially lifted an internet blackout imposed following civil unrest in the country’s easternmost region of Papua, but is yet to restore access in areas where the most violent protests erupted. These include  places where protesters torched buildings, such as the capital of Papua province Jayapura and the capital of West Papua province of Manokwari. 

The government had throttled internet speeds in the region for a few days before cutting off access entirely in the two provinces in the region from Aug 21. [Channel News Asia] [The Straits Times]

The region of Papua has suffered the most serious civil unrest in years since mid-August over perceived racial and ethnic discrimination. Some protesters have also demanded an independence referendum, something Jakarta has ruled out. About 6,000 police and military personnel have been flown in to Papua, reinforcing a heavy military presence in a region that has endured decades of mostly low-level separatist conflict. [AiR 36, September/2019, 1]

03 September 2019

Disinformation, violence, and anti-Chinese sentiment in Indonesia’s 2019 elections

(ls) An interesting piece from ISEAS takes a look at the violence that broke out in Indonesia on 21-23 May 2019, which, according to the author, marks the world’s first instance of online disinformation leading to election-related riots. The author describes how a disinformation cascade followed the opposition’s claim that the election had been stolen by incumbent president Jokowi. Framed by this narrative, social media platforms saw a large spike in the volume of anti-Chinese disinformation. [ISEAS]

03 September 2019

Indonesia: Jakarta sends more security forces as violence continues in Papua

(ls/td) Indonesia’s Papua and West Papua provinces continue to grapple with incidents of violent unrest. In Papua’s provincial capital Jayapura, protesters torched a local parliament office, a building housing the offices of a state-controlled telecoms firm and cars parked on the street. More than 1,000 people took part in the protest. On Monday, one student was killed. Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda called for the United Nations to act on the crisis. [The Guardian] [Straits Times 1]

At least two civilians and one soldier have been killed in the remote district of Deiyai. However, information coming from the region is difficult to gather as an internet blackout remains in place. The government claims this is to stop the spread of misinformation and “hoaxes”. [ABC News]

The Indonesian government has sent 2,500 police officers and soldiers to confront the violence and restore order in Jayapura. 1,500 security forces had already been deployed in West Papua, which is the neighbouring province to Papua, the week before. [Straits Times 2]

For about two weeks, thousands of people have taken to the streets across Indonesia’s easternmost territory for protests believed to have been initially sparked by racist comments made towards Papuan students in Surabaya over allegations of a damaged flagpole. [AiR No. 35, August/2019, 4]

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16 July 2019

Indonesia: President Widodo promises economic reforms and “millennials” as ministers

(ls/kj) After having won the presidential election earlier this year, Indonesian President Joko Widodo vowed to implement a wave of reforms to attract foreign investment. He announced to quickly lower corporate taxes, ease stringent labor laws and lift curbs on foreign ownership in more industries. Indonesia’s economy grew about 5% in recent years, short of the 7% the president targeted ahead of his first term. Widodo apparently tries to reassure investors as the election aftermath saw the deadliest political violence in Jakarta in two decades after runner-up Prabowo Subianto’s supporters took to the streets to protest. [Bloomberg]

Last week, Widodo and Prabowo Subianto also publicly put their differences aside and sought reconciliation. They met on a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) train, which was newly inaugurated in Jakarta. [BBC]

Widodo also announced his intentions to involve young people in key governmental positions. The plan is a specimen of the international trend of millennials increasingly being appointed to governmental roles. Malaysia, for example, has appointed 25-year-old Syed Saddiq for its Youth and Sports Minister. [Channel News Asia] [The Jakarta Post]

9 July 2019

Indonesia’ environment: Country rejects to be turned in a dumping ground/Jakarta residents sue government over air pollution

(cl/jk) Indonesian officials announced to crack down on trash imported from the world’s richest countries after an increase of toxic waste ‘exported’ to the country. Port authorities have boosted checks after a random inspection in May led to the discovery of more than 80 containers containing illegal waste from the US, Australia and Europe, with the US being the worst offender. [Bloomberg] Now, tougher counter measures are planned. China’s restrictions and bans on imports on environmental grounds led the Indonesian authorities tighten their monitoring process. [World News]

Indonesia’s more stringent environmental policies follow a trend among neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia. Last month, Malaysia announced to send back more than 3,000 tonnes of scrap plastics back to countries including Australia, Japan, and China followed in June by the Philippines returning dozens of illegal containers of waste back to Canada. [Independent] [Guardian]

Environmental standards in Jakarta remain, however, in the spotlight. Now, residents filed a lawsuit against the government over the toxic levels of air pollution. [CNN News] Jakarta has been shrouded in hazardous smog for much of the past month with air quality readings recording high concentrations of harmful microscopic particles. As a response, the head of Jakarta’s environment agency denied that Jakarta had the world’s worst air pollution citing lower government figures that used a different methodology of measurement. [Guardian]

Several times last month, Jakarta was ranked as the most polluted city in the world, sparking a storm of social media criticism. [Aljazeera] Air Visual, an independent online air quality index monitor, pegged the air in Jakarta at the “very unhealthy” level of 231 on some days in June, higher than notoriously polluted cities like New Delhi and Beijing. Environment groups blame the air pollution on vehicle fumes, smoke and emissions from coal-fired power plants that ring greater Jakarta. [The Daily Star]

9 July 2019

Indonesia’s Supreme Court upholds jail sentence for woman who reported sexual harassment

(cl) Indonesia’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal and jailed a woman who tried to report her employer for alleged sexual harassment, finding her guilty of violating the strict anti-pornography laws and overturning her acquittal by a lower court. [The Washington Post] The woman had complained of getting lewd phone calls from the principal of a high school where she worked, resulting in the principal losing his job. Subsequently, in 2015, the principal reported her to the police, leading to her conviction. The ruling is criticized for opening wide a door for perpetrators of sexual violence to criminalise their victims. [BBC News] [Jakarta Post]

The woman’s legal team can hope now only for an amnesty from the president after having exhausted all other legal avenues. Although President Joko Widodo previously suggested the woman could seek clemency from him if she did not find justice through the judicial channels, a spokesman for the President’s office now declined to comment on the ruling. [New Straits Times]

2 July 2019

Terrorism: Attack at Philippine military base; arrests in Indonesia

(cl/ls) According to the Philippines Army, the bomb that killed eight people at a military base in southern Philippines on Friday was likely a suicide bombing. [Arab News] The prime suspect is Abu Sayyaf, a militant group that President Duterte had vowed to crush after decades of banditry, kidnapping and countless attacks on civilian and military targets. Radical factions of Abu Sayyaf have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, who through its news agency, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying its fighters had infiltrated the base. [Rappler]

If these suspicions are confirmed, this would be the Philippines’ third suicide bombing in a year, which all occurred in Abu Sayyaf’s stronghold and includes a twin bombing of a church in January. In response, the director has stepped up security and policing efforts in Metro Manila, placing the entire region under a “full alert status” despite detecting no threats within the national capital. [Philippine Star]

In Indonesia, a man believed to be the top leader of the Southeast Asia terror group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) was arrested in a West Java province after a 16-year long hunt. [Straits Times] The JI network is affiliated with Al-Qaeda. The network was behind Indonesia’s most deadly attack in Bali in 2002 and the 2009 attacks on the JW Marriot and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta. [The Diplomat]

Although the group was initially believed to have been decimated in Indonesia following a series of operations by security agencies, counter-terrorism experts had warned that young militants were being recruited and hat the JI network in the country may have expanded to become a 200-strong force.

Moreover, Indonesian police have arrested a member of the Muslim Cyber Army, a self-proclaimed cyber-jihadist network, for spreading fake news and hate speech via social media. [South China Morning Post]

2 July 2019

Indonesia: Constitutional Court upholds President Widodo’s victory over Prabowo in April election

(cl/ls) Prabowo Subianto lost his bid to overturn the result of the presidential election after the nation’s Constitutional Court on Thursday unanimously rejected allegations of “systematic electoral fraud”. [New York Times] In the nine-hour session, the nine-judge panel described many of the allegations – including vote buying and that biased civil servants favoured “Jokowi” – as baseless. The court further questioned the credibility of witnesses and quality of evidence, stating that Prabowo’s legal team’s submissions comprised mostly photographs and scans of vote tally forms from unclear sources. [Bloomberg]

In a speech following the ruling, the president called for all Indonesians to unite, regardless of their different political preferences, to advance the country. While Prabowo stated that he accepts the outcome, he has expressed his intention to search for more options by consulting his legal team on “whether there are still other legal and constitutional steps [he] might be able to take”. [The Guardian]

With the court’s final and binding decision, the president and his vice-president are set to take office in October. Prabowo has said that he is open to striking a deal with the president to ensure that his party becomes part of the government, and has also flagged that he might be running for presidency again in 2024. [South China Morning Post]

A day before the Constitutional Court’s ruling, the Supreme Court had alreacy rejected a lawsuit by Prabowo’s campaign team against the Elections Supervisory Agency’s (Bawaslu) ruling on alleged election campaign violations. [Jakarta Post]

 

11 June 2019

Alleged hitman names former Indonesian army general as mastermind of assassination plot

(cl) A hitman allegedly hired to assassinate four high-profile state officials during riots in Jakarta last month has named former army general as the mastermind of the plot. One of the suspects apprehended said the murder plot was hatched during a casual discussion at a restaurant in North Jakarta. In response, the former army general has denied the accusation. He is, however, in custody for offences over illegal arms and treason in conjunction with rallies held last month to call for the Indonesian President Widodo to be disqualified from the presidential race. [Tempo]

The alleged plot, aimed at destabilising the country, was first exposed by the national police on May 27th after they arrested 6 suspects who they said were linked to the riots. The unrest followed the announcement on May 21st by the elections commission that Mr Widodo had won the April 17th election over his old rival. 8 people died and more than 700 injured. The national police said that the street violence was a deliberate and coordinated strike, planned through WhatsApp. [The Jakarta Post]

11 June 2019

Failed suicide attack in Indonesia

(cl) An Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) sympathiser carrying explosives around his waist was the only casualty of a failed suicide bombing outside a police post in the Indonesian province of Central Java. The attacker is thought to be a lone-wolf terrorist, and there were no indications yet that he was working with a terror cell or network. [The Jakarta Post]

However, the blast occurred on Monday, just two days ahead of Hari Raya, and bears striking similarities to a series of attacks that had occurred during public holidays. On the eve of Hari Raya in 2016, a suicide bomber attacked a police station in Central Java, killing himself and injuring an officer. On the first day of Hari Raya in 2017, a policeman on sentry duty was stabbed to death by two assailants. In 2018, four men reportedly preparing for terror attacks during Ramadan and Hari Raya were shot dead in West Java by counter-terrorism troops. Since these attacks, National Police chief has called on officers on duty during the long holiday period to remain vigilant to prevent terrorist attacks. [Straits Times]

4 June 2019

Indonesia hopes to revive army special unit’s training in US

(cl) The US Defence Secretary met with Indonesian Defence Minister last week, with the latter expressing hope that the Indonesian army’s special forces unit can be trained again in the United States in the near future. [Jakarta Post] The US had previously suspended cooperation with the Indonesia military in 1998 following reports of beatings, kidnappings and other abuses committed by it. The 1997 Leahy Law prohibits U.S. military assistance to the security forces of a foreign country that commits gross violations of human rights. In 2005, the US lifted the ban on cooperation with Indonesian military units except its army’s special forces unit, which has been accused by multiple international human rights organisations of many human rights abuses, including the anti-Chinese rioting that led to the fall of former President Suharto. During the conference, US Defence Secretary stated that the US has agreed to help Indonesia counter terrorism and radicalism. [Kyodo News]

4 June 2019

Indonesia: Jakarta’s residences sue government for better air quality

(cl) Grouped under the Capital Advocacy Team and represented by the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), residents are set to file a citizen lawsuit against the government to the Central Jakarta District Court for the polluted air in Jakarta. A representative stated that they would like to push the government to take action to address air pollution by creating stricter policies that have a significant impact on reducing air pollution in the capital. [The Jakarta Post] This is especially as the government had been using the outdated 1999 regulation on air pollution, which has to be updated with new stipulations given the worsening of air pollution, according to Greenpeace Indonesia climate and energy campaigners. Citing Article 28H of the 1945 Constitution about the right to live in a healthy environment, another plaintiff commented that the proliferation of PM2.5 particles, above the World’s Health Organisation’s safe limit, could cause various illnesses such as acute respiratory infections. [The Straits Times]

28 May 2019

Indonesia: Post-election riots in Jakarta and Papua

(ls) Six people died and more than 700 were injured over several days in Jakarta after protesters clashed with security forces in riots triggered by mass protests against the re-election of incumbent President Joko Widodo, who triumphed over rival Prabowo Subianto after securing 55.5 per cent of the vote. Thousands gathered at Indonesia’s election supervisory agency on Wednesday, protesting against what they claimed was widespread fraud in the 17 April presidential poll. Nearly 60,000 security personnel were deployed on to the streets on Thursday. [The Guardian] [South China Morning Post 1]

Prabowo has lodged a legal challenge against the result at the Constitutional Court, alleging widespread fraud and claiming Widodo should have been disqualified. The Election Commission has said there was no evidence of systematic cheating and independent observers have said the poll was free and fair. The Constitutional Court must make a ruling on any challenge 14 days after it considers the plaintiff has provided sufficient documentation and the Election Commission should resolve the dispute by June 15. [Al Jazeera]

More than 300 supporters of a legislative candidate in Papua who claimed he should have won the seat in the local council attacked a district office. As a result, four people were shot dead by police during the riot. [South China Morning Post 2]

The recent election appears to have polarized Indonesia even more, reviving old divisions in an atmosphere of renewed anxiety about ethnic and religious identity. Moreover, after the fall of Jakarta’s governor “Ahok” in 2017, some of the Muslim organizations that had formed a movement to remove him began targeting Jokowi. In response, Jokowi has taken tough measures against them, including giving himself new powers to ban civil society groups. Many Islamist conservatives who reject Jokowi have since lined up behind Prabowo. [The Conversation]

During the protests, anti-Chinese images and messages spread rapidly, leading the government to temporarily block or slow the sharing of photos and videos onto Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, to halt the spread of false information. Chinese Indonesians living in Jakarta said they were worried they would once again be a target of mob violence similar to the one in 1998, where mobs attacked Chinese-owned shops, homes and individuals, leaving more than 1,000 people dead. [South China Morning Post 3]

19 March 2019

Indonesia: Key political ally of president Jokowi arrested on corruption charges

(ls) The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), Indonesia’s anti-corruption agency, detained the chief of a political party backing President Joko Widodo’s bid for a second term, just weeks before the nation goes to the polls. The suspect is the Chairman of the United Development Party, an Islamic party which is among the 10 parties backing Widodo’s bid for re-election in the April 17 election. [Bloomberg]

19 March 2019

Indonesia: Anti-terrorism operations on the rise

(ls) The wife of an arrested Indonesian militant detonated a bomb that killed herself and her children on Wednesday in North Sumatra inside a house besieged by the police including the Detachment 88 anti terror squad. Figures from the Indonesian police showed that last year Detachment 88 killed or detained 396 militants, a record number and a sharp jump from the 176 in 2017. In May last year, a family of six carried out suicide bombings at three churches in Surabaya in Indonesia’s East Java province during Sunday mass, killing 13 people. [Straits Times]

19 March 2019

Malaysian court releases Indonesian woman charged with killing Kim Jong-nam – Vietnamese suspect stays in custody

(ls) In an unexpected decision, a Malaysian court has dropped the case against one of two women charged with the murder of Kim Jong-nam, the estranged brother of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in Kuala Lumpur airport in February 2017. The Indonesian national Siti Aisyah was released from custody and flew home to Indonesia after the decision. Prosecutors, who had withdrawn the charges, did not give any reason for the retreat in their case against Siti. However, the court rejected her lawyer’s request for a full acquittal, as it said that the trial had already established a prima facie case and she could be recalled if fresh evidence emerged. [The Guardian]

Malaysia’s attorney-general on Thursday rejected Vietnam’s request to free the second suspect, the Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong, and a court set April 1 for her trial to resume. Vietnam’s foreign ministry said it regretted the Malaysian court’s decision not to immediately free Huong. Indonesia’s government said Siti’s release was the result of its continual high-level lobbying. [Reuters]

The women were accused of smearing the toxic nerve agent VX on his face as he waited to board a flight to Macau. He died within 20 minutes. Defense lawyers have maintained the women were pawns in an assassination orchestrated by North Korean agents. Kim Jong Nam was living in exile in Macau before the killing, having fled his homeland after his half-brother Kim Jong Un became North Korea’s leader in 2011 following their father’s death.

19 March 2019

Indonesia’s ‘Red scare’ revived ahead of elections

(ls) Ahead of April’s national elections, the Indonesian police is currently engaged in raiding bookshops and confiscating books suspected of having communist content. These actions have reminded some of the 1960s, when more than half a million leftists were massacred across the Southeast Asian nation, a bloody spectacle that ushered in the long rule of dictator Suharto, whose fervent anti-communist stance remains decades on. In 2017, declassified US diplomatic documents revealed that a communist-fearing White House was well aware of the bloody purges, which one diplomat described as a “widespread slaughter”. [Straits Times]

11 March 2019

Indonesia ranked 2nd most dangerous place for women in Asia-Pacific

(cc) According to the findings of a research company based in Singapore, Indonesia is the second most dangerous country for women in Asia and the Pacific. Following the rape and murder of a 14 year-old in 2016, a bill on sexual violence is in discussion in Parliament but religious conservatives oppose strong resistance, notably on the definition of rape and the criminalization of marital rape. [Straitstimes]

11 March 2019

Indonesia: Deaths after violence in Papua

(jk) In a clash last week between Indonesian soldiers and a separatist group, three of the soldiers and between seven and ten rebels were killed. The attack on the soldiers is thought to have been conducted by the National Liberation Army of West Papua, which also claimed responsibility for an attack on construction workers at a jungle camp last year. [Channel News Asia]

11 March 2019

Indonesia: Amnesty International’s activist arrested for insulting the military

(cc/jk) Last week a board member of Amnesty International Indonesia was arrested by the Indonesian police for comparing a plan by the government to allow senior military officers to hold civilian positions in government institutions with the New Order Era under former President Suharto. He could face up to 18 months imprisonment for intentionally insult a public institution. For Amnesty International, his arrest is “not only a clear threat to the freedom of speech and expression in Indonesia, but also poses a threat for human rights activists in general”. [Straitstimes]

The plan was alleged to be a regression towards the military’s dual function doctrine which saw military influence in the government institutionalized. So far, it is supported by President Jokowi and would allow underemployed military personnel to take jobs in ministerial and civilian institutions. The legislation is still only in the early stages of discussion. [ATimes]

11 March 2019

Implications of a Ma’ruf Amin Vice-Presidency in Indonesia

(jk) Indonesian President Joko Widodo has last year decided to make 75-year-old Islamic scholar Ma’ruf Amin his running mate for next year’s presidential election. Amin is the head of the Indonesian Ulema Council, the top Muslim clerical body in Indonesia and was heavily involved in the scandal and subsequent prison sentence of ethnic Chinese Christian candidate “Ahok” who lost to Anies Baswedan in a bid to become governor of Jakarta in 2017. Making Amin his running mate for 2019 is largely viewed as an effort to make sure Jokowi appeals to the traditional Muslim vote for the presidential elections this year. With recent polls indicating the duo has a comfortable lead, this piece looks at the possible implications of this particular vice-presidency and in particular at possible further “islamization” of the Indonesian society. [ISEAS]