Monday, March 24, 2014

New Posts: Sovereignty versus Humanitarianism, Megawati Steps Aside, what Jokowi means for the Youth Vote

Pease enjoy these new posts:

'Asylum Seekers and Imagined Borders: Protecting Sovereignty not People,' By Lauren Gumbs. March 2014.

'The Man who Would be King: Jokowi the man to beat as Megawati makes Long Awaited Nomination,' By Andrew Manners. March 2014.

'A bright future for Indonesia in his hands: the rise and rise of Jokowi,' By Stuart Ranfurlie. March 2014.

Don't forget to read the articles by our astute university students on the student editorials page. They recognise the role that first time voters have to play in this election and how important it is to participate in democratic processes.

And more interesting articles:

Indonesians are becoming more united and vocal against mistreatment of their overseas domestic workers.

But Indonesian laws are lagging...

And in politics (again- yes it's election time):

Not everyone is impressed with Prabowo's campaign hubris, which includes prancing horses.

Meanwhile Bakrie's electability is threatened for other reasons.

Beautiful Lembongan

Photo by Phil Deschamp

A bright future for Indonesia in his hands: the rise and rise of Jokowi

By Stuart Ranfurlie

The formal entry of Jakarta Governor Joko "Jokowi" Widodo (pictured) into this year’s Indonesian presidential race represents not just the rise of a likeable everyman to the forefront of national politics but the emerging influence of a new generation of Indonesian voters who came of age after the downfall of President Suharto in 1998.

Widodo cleared a major obstacle on Friday in his bid to be Indonesia’s seventh president when the chairwoman of his Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), former president Megawati Sukarnoputri, declared that she would not seek the nomination herself and endorsed Widodo to be the party’s standard bearer. Sukarnoputri, a 67-year-old whom opinion polls showed to be vastly less popular than the 52-year-old Widodo, had been under growing pressure to withdraw from the race.

PDI-P had previously declared that it would decide on its candidate for July’s presidential vote after the legislative elections scheduled for April 9. But Sukarnoputri’s candidacy had become increasingly untenable, and having Widodo confirmed as the party’s candidate will serve to strengthen the party’s vote at next month’s election. To nominate a candidate in the presidential ballot set for July 9, a party, or coalition of parties, must amass at least 25% of the legislative vote, or 20% of the legislative seats, meaning a strong performance next month would have been vital to Widodo’s chances.

The announcement serves as a blow to the two other candidates most likely to feature in the presidential race: former military leader Prabowo Subianto (aged 62) and billionaire businessman Aburizal "Ical" Bakrie (67). Both have the party machine across all 34 provinces and deep pockets necessary for a tilt at the presidency, but lack the excitement factor of the younger Widodo.

Both Subianto and Bakrie were significant figures during Suharto’s New Order period -- Subianto (who married Suharto’s daughter) as a military leader, and Bakrie as a powerful tycoon. Their role in the Indonesian psyche is as throwbacks to a bygone era, whereas Widodo represents a modern, cosmopolitan future. Indonesians seem to favour the latter; a December opinion poll from Kompas newspaper put Widodo’s vote at 43.5%, while Subianto’s vote stood at 11.1%.

The rise of Widodo, a small-businessman who served as mayor of the historical Central Java city of Solo before becoming governor of Jakarta province in 2012, says much about the shifting demographics of Indonesia. Much of his support comes from people aged under 40, who can be said to have reached political maturity after the fall of Suharto. Indeed, many of the students of 1998 who were instrumental in Suharto’s downfall are now among the Widodo's biggest supporters. To these people, the greed and patronage of the New Order period represents a dark period in the country’s history, and they are eager to rally around the next generation of leaders.

A glimpse into Indonesia’s youthful demographics reveals why Widodo’s appeal to people under 40 can be enough to propel him to the presidency. Like many developing countries, Indonesia is in the early stages of enjoying a demographic dividend, with many young people entering the workforce. About half of all people eligible to vote are aged under 40. Indonesia's average age stands at 29.2 years, compared to 38.3 in Australia and 36.7 in China. More than half of its population is now considered urban, with the annual increase estimated at 2.5%. Where once older rural citizens were the demographic centre of gravity, now it is urban youth who play that role.

Of course Widodo does enjoy some support among older voters, but many of them are more comfortable with the continuity represented by his rivals.

"Jokowi employs all characteristics of a true leader," Natalia Ratna Yulianti, a 33-year-old academic from Semarang in Central Java, told Crikey. She pointed to his willingness to serve, his adherence to his principles and his humble nature as the qualities that made him an ideal candidate. "I can see a bright future for Indonesia in his hands."

PDI-P campaigners, acting as a proxy for Widodo until this point, have proven extraordinarily skilled at leveraging support on social media. The candidate himself has in the past been a lively tweeter (@jokowi_do2), and his supporters have jumped online to celebrate his no-nonsense approach to modernising the sprawling capital of 10 million people. Indeed, Sukarnoputri’s announcement on Friday was preceded by a tweet from the party in a bid to capture attention.

The use of social media allows Widodo to bypass one of the biggest weaknesses of his campaign: the lack of a national television network in his pocket. With control of tvOne, Bakrie has an easy way to get his campaign message out, while Subianto is also on good terms with proprietors. But in targeting younger voters Widodo’s online campaign will be hard to beat.

Perhaps the best demonstration of the way Widodo represents a leap over the generational divide is a campaign video used in his 2012 bid for the Jakarta governorship. The astonishingly good video, set to the tune of One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful, doesn’t feature the candidate himself but instead shows an easygoing youngster encountering benign indifference from an arrogant public official. Infuriated by the high-handed arrogance of the paper-pusher, our hero teams up with other frustrated citizens to declare they are seeking change, in the form of Widido and his deputy. It’s not hard to see the metaphoric significance of the video’s disgust with a haughty, New Order-style, official ...

But even some of Widodo’s supporters express the view that it is too soon for the governor to run for national office. "I think he can be a great president, but I think this year is too premature for him to run," Citra Savitri, a 31-year-old communications officer for a nongovernmental organisation in Jakarta, told Crikey. "The presidential race is a fierce competition. I sincerely hope he won't be overwhelmed by all the pressure and the politics in play, as our government is known to be very corrupted. I, together with a lot of people, would hate to lose another good, honest person in the battle to create a better government for Indonesia. I am sure he can be more ready, and stronger, if he is running for 2019."

It appears highly unlikely, however, that Widodo will delay his ambitions until the next election.
As for what to expect from Widodo as a candidate, it’s hard to know. In keeping with his pledge thus far to dedicate himself to his work as Jakarta Governor, he has been careful to avoid engaging in national debate. Instead, he has sought to get on with business -- cleaning up the civil service, giving the green light to a monorail and mass rapid transit project, and relocating residents from riverside slum areas and businesses from a chaotic central market. His appeal comes from his attitude rather than any particular policy; where most Indonesian leaders seek to laud their power over the people, Widodo presents himself as a humble servant of the people, rejecting the trappings of office and making himself accessible to his constituents.

For Australians anxious to know what his presidency would mean for the fraught bilateral relationship, it’s hard to know. Widodo has said little about foreign policy thus far, and beyond the involvement of some foreign investors and donors in big municipal projects, he has had little experience of professional international engagement. But given he represents modernity and dynamism in a very traditional society and carries remarkably little baggage, he seems like a leader Australia can engage with.

This article originally appeared 18 March in Crikey.

The Man Who Would be King: Jokowi the man to beat as Megawati makes Long Awaited Nomination

By Andrew Manners

Indonesian opposition leader Megawati Soekarnoputri has finally announced that she will nominate Jakarta’s popular mayor, Joko Widodo, as her party’s candidate for the July presidential election. The PDI-P and Joko, however, must overcome a number of challenges before they can lead the country. 
Former president and leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Megawati Soekarnoputri, has finally declared that she will nominate Jakarta’s hugely popular mayor, Joko Widodo, for the upcoming presidential election in July. The announcement, on 14 March, was shared by the PDI-P via a picture on Twitter. Coming earlier than many expected, the much anticipated news was welcomed by his supporters, with reporters and residents applauding him when he made a low-key visit to North Jakarta. Joko should be the overwhelming favourite in July, with opinion polls giving the 52-year-old a double-digit lead over his nearest rivals. But, with a legislative election and three months still to go, celebrations are being put on hold for now.   
On 14 March, the PDI-P announced that Joko, commonly referred to by his nickname Jokowi, would be its candidate in the upcoming presidential election. The decision ended more than a year of speculation, with some observers previously suggesting that Megawati, having lost three elections already, might make a final run at the top job herself. With those theories now put to rest, the PDI-P can focus on campaigning for the upcoming legislative election in April, which, if all goes to plan, should lay the platform for even greater success in the July presidential vote. 
Indeed, by most accounts, Jokowi should easily win the presidential election on 9 July. Ever since the former furniture-seller came to public attention in 2012, sweeping Jakarta’s elections to become mayor, he has been touted as a possible future president. His hands-on style and informal demeanour have struck a chord with prospective voters, especially in comparison to the usual political style. This has been widely reflected in opinion polls, too; recent surveys put support for Jokowi at over 40 per cent, four times higher than his closest rival, the former military leader, Prabowo Subianto. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that he could win over half the votes, negating the need for a run-off in September.
But, with over three months to go, and with parliamentary elections scheduled for 9 April, there is much to do before Jokowi can lead South-East Asia’s most populous county. First, the PDI-P must do well in the upcoming legislative election. The country’s electoral laws require that it must win at least 25 per cent of the popular vote, or 20 per cent of seats, to nominate Jokowi by itself. If not, it would be forced to form a coalition. Latest polling shows that the opposition party has the support of around 20 per cent of the potential voters, though that will certainly rise following Jokowi’s nomination. So, in theory at least, the party should be able to nominate Jokowi without the support of another party.
With his candidacy now confirmed, however, Jokowi is likely to face much fiercer public scrutiny in the lead up to the election. Voters are well accustomed to his hands-on approach to fixing problems, such as flooding, traffic and housing shortages in Jakarta, but they know little about his political acumen on matters of national or foreign policy. Other parties, including the ruling Democratic Party (Partai Demokrat, or PD) and Aburizal Bakrie’s Golkar party, will try to exploit this unknown factor, arguing that his good record at running a city counts for little compared to running a country almost 25 times its size.
That is a fair point, of course, and now, with Jokowi relieved of his duties in running Indonesia’s capital, he will have to focus on the broader issues that Indonesia faces. He has proved to be a good communicator on policy issues as mayor of Jakarta and the PDI-P will be hoping that he is a fast learner and can quickly grasp broader challenges. But the party may also choose to pair him with an experienced and well-known vice-presidential candidate, in an effort to cover such bases.
The Democratic Party, meanwhile, has said that it will not nominate a candidate until the results of the legislative election are known. With its support dwindling, it will have to form a coalition to contest the July presidential election. Most likely, it will approach Prabowo Subianto and his Great Indonesia Movement Party.  
That would make the presidential election a three-horse race, with Jokowi, Prabowo and Bakrie battling to succeed outgoing president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. With over three months to go until the presidential election, and with Jokowi only receiving his nomination last week, the race may have only just begun and his victory is certainly not assured. But, at this stage at least, few would bet against him. 

Andrew Manners is a research analyst for the Indian Ocean Research Programme. This article originally appeared 19 Wednesday at Future Directions.


Asylum Seekers and Imagined Borders: Protecting Sovereignty not People

By Lauren Gumbs
The refugee is called into being as an essential and unavoidable outcome of a global system of state sovereignty. This is a system based on dichotomy, where states cannot create the concept of the citizen without the oppositional concept of the foreigner. Australia is preoccupied with the rhetoric of "border protection" not because refugees pose a major or easily identifiable threat to Australians but because they pose a threat to sovereignty. Sovereignty is autonomy and control, a powerful abstract concept whose hegemony must be constantly managed. The creation of national identities and bounded territorialised spaces requires the idea of the outsider to reinforce and strengthen the construct of the modern nation state. Furthermore, these identities are managed through the concepts of citizenship and nationalism.

There is no insider without a concomitant outsider. Since refugees can only become refugees by crossing international borders and availing themselves of state legitimacy, they must throw themselves into the gap produced by a territorially grounded states system to escape the tyranny of their state of origin. This is a failure of such a system. Refugees exist outside the norms of state sovereignty, a paradox whereby as an outsider they both reinforce and undermine sovereignty.
Because refugees are deviants in a system where normalcy is rooted in state citizenship, human rights inhabit a vacuum in the no man’s land between state borders. Rights are theoretically guaranteed in a social contract between state and citizen, but when the state absconds from the no-harm principle, it continues as sovereign while its citizens are forced to find refuge by first being at the mercy of recognition in weak international law and then reintegrated into another state system that will hopefully re-establish their rights through citizenship. International rights regimes inevitably yield to sovereignty, showing the immateriality of rights as abstract entitlements unless guaranteed under the protection of statehood.

The problem for today’s refugees is that sovereign states are reluctant to weaken their imagined borders and allow the stateless to pass through lest the whole notion of politically grounded, territorially enclosed space is destabilised.  States undertake elaborate processes to consolidate the outsider as legitimate, through various modes of belonging; temporary, such as protection visas, tourist visas and residency; permanent such as repatriation, resettlement and naturalisation. The maintenance of consent for such a system is reliant upon demarcation of legitimate identity which requires a bureaucratic administration of the citizen. The idea of citizenship reinforces sovereignty by championing shared identity and a territorial basis to political life. The logical other - the outsider - is managed via exclusion and boundaries. The refugee is not just an outsider, but a deviant outsider.

The category ‘refugee’ is not however, the epitome of extreme ambiguity and exclusion. 'Asylum seeker' is a status even more precarious than of the refugee, who at least has some recognition under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and a chance at receiving statehood again. An asylum seeker on the other hand has not been screened and processed and their in-betweeness is at its most profound. It is this in-betweeness, this inhabiting the gaps, that has allowed states like Australia to exploit the idea of deviance to reinforce territorial sovereignty and bar entry despite its obligations under international law. That this deviance could be interwoven with the criminality of people smugglers has proven a double edged sword.

States like Australia are inclined to facilitate sovereignty by deciding who they will protect as a matter of their strategic governance, but they do this over and above the needs of desperate people. It could only ever be legitimate for an Australian prime minister to reject people seeking asylum – by pushing them out to sea - through a system that gives precedence to sovereignty and manipulates the relationship of humans to territory.
Lauren is blog editor of Indonesia Today, she holds a Master of Communications, and is currently a postgraduate Human Rights student.

Monday, March 17, 2014

It was all fun and games until we were transferred into an orange life boat and sent back to shore.

Taking a boat down the famous Musi River in South Sumatera, although I'm not sure if it's famous for being one of the most polluted rivers in Indonesia, or the fact that the entire population of Palembang eat PemPek made out of the strange looking tail-less fish that live in it.

New Posts: the business of ideological state apparatuses in education, wild card democracy, and China making plays for more territory

"Between Teaching and Treachery: the politics of the education business in Indonesia," by Alya Nurshabrina, March 2014. Alya says education is still used to prop up corrupt interests and should be a major electoral platform.

"Indonesia has been the Shining Light, but... Democracy is still a Risky Business," by Ross Taylor and Colin Brown, March 2014. Don't applaud just yet. It could get messy.

"China's SCS Claim Threatens RI Sovereignty," by Veeramallah Anjaiah, March 2014. What's the time Mr Jinping? DINNER TIME! South East Asian nations are learning that each time they turn around Mr Wolf is a step closer.

And there's more:

Our friends at AIYA (Australia Indonesia Youth Association) have a petition that needs signing. Quills at the ready! Or alternatively follow the link and sign online.

Jokowi is officially capres dalam pemilihan 2014! Could Megawati have strung that one out any longer?

AIYA's Luke Dawes explores the historical links between Indigenous Australians and Indonesia.

Between Teaching and Treachery: the politics of the education business in Indonesia

By Alya Nurshabrina

Quite a riveting title up there. Unfortunately the overriding thing that depicts the situation of education in Indonesia is the staggeringly bold line between teaching and treachery. The national education system nowadays isn’t about reinforcing the right to be educated. Nowadays education’s purpose has shifted, because politics and business are embedded in the mixture.

Before today’s political mess emerged we had Dutch Colonialism, and the education system at that time was preoccupied with maintaining the interest of the Dutch authorities. A hierarchical type of education was applied which produced an atmosphere thick with open discrimination. Only the rich and powerful—including the Dutch—received the privilege of education, while the poor and pribumi stood helplessly without a single opportunity for social mobility. Education for Indonesians was seen as a luxurious augmentation of Indonesian workers’ usefulness, as a practical and cheap way to train workers in the basic skills required for servitude.

As movements for Indonesia’s independence started to gain strength, only then people stood a chance. Education gave them the will to survive, and inevitably, they learnt to fight back. Schools were built independently by pejuang. For example, there was SI School, by Tan Malaka; Taman Siswa, by Ki Hajar Dewantara; Ksatriaan Instituut, by Douwes Dekker. But even then, the purpose of educating was politicised. Because Indonesians were preoccupied with freedom from colonialism, schools were built to win people’s voices and to unite them first and foremost in opposition to colonial rule, before the purpose to educate them.

Fast forward a few decades after Independence to the New Order and it was not much different to the colonial era, in terms of the way the bureaucracy controlled every single matter. In the regime’s early years, one of the aftermaths of G30SPKI were the disappearances of many who were suspected communists—plenty of them worked as teachers, lecturers and educators. Suharto used his political rule to constrain these types of people in order to save and preserve his legitimacy as irrefutable. The bureaucracy controlled education and used it as an extension of the political system, ensuring that educational institutions and the practices of teaching were used as channels to implement political mandates.

Today’s education scene is little better. The trust that is given to the government about the usage of 20% from the APBN for improving education has evaporated, like the money itself. The government still sees education as a political commodity, leaving its development severely neglected. For today’s schools, it’s almost the same situation to how the pejuangs built schools decades ago; politicians, political parties, and public figures build (and/or invest in) institutions as channels to consolidate their interests, not for the sake of education. While public schools sell study guides, books, LKS (Lebar Kerja Siswa), and UN sheets as an act of business, private schools use that income to fund political parties, including their campaigns. This is why Aburizal Bakrie, businessman and member of Golongan Karya party, has a stake in every businesses imaginable—including Bakrie University—to keep his profit rotating.

Are students are being lied to? Are they swallowing the lies? If later they learnt how to stand at the other end of the line—perpetuating the lies and the system—it would be safe to call it a vicious cycle and say that education has lost its true meaning. Giving potency back to education’s value and supporting those who carry this value on their shoulders, should be a chief pursuit. Education is not about the technical skills needed to make an earning, but giving people the ability to think rationally, to choose the right paths to follow in life. A functional society is when people are politically aware and understand the importance of education. Even without any help from the government, political parties or wealthy institutions, people can still enrich Indonesian youth just by upholding the essence of education.

Simple things based on respect for the basic right to education would suffice. Donating books for example, doesn’t take much time but can go a long way to help. And if spare time is available, why not make fun, entertaining workshops in villages to teach villagers how to read? The illiterate population rate could be slightly decreased. Significant steps can also be achieved by volunteering to teach at Elementary Schools that are too far for government assistance to reach.

The importance of escalating education onto the political agenda is in the hands of today’s younger generations. The Indonesian people have democracy now, and they can use it to make a difference, to ensure the government runs the education system properly. However, unless people change their lukewarm attitudes to democratic processes, we cannot press for a transparent education system. We have a lot to gain from trouncing treachery.

Alya is a student at Universitas Parahyangan.

Indonesia has been the ‘shining light’ but....Democracy is still a risky business

By Colin Brown and Ross Taylor

The winds of change that swept through the Arab world in 2012 heralded a democratic revolution, the so-called Arab Spring, in North Africa and parts of the Middle East. Egypt’s Mubarak was removed and Libya’s dictator Gaddafi was killed.  A new dawn for two of North Africa’s most influential countries seemed to have arrived as their peoples sought a truly democratic future.

For many in the west, including Australia, the Arab Spring gave reason to hope that Islam and democracy could coexist.

But today, things look very different, particularly in Egypt where a popularly elected government has been overthrown by the army, and the elected President imprisoned. So perhaps the doubters were right: Islam and democracy cannot exist side-by-side.

And yet this conclusion overlooks another example of the overthrow of a long-standing military-backed dictator by a popular uprising in a Muslim-majority country: Indonesia. Here, the picture looks a lot more positive, albeit with some issues of concern as well.

It is now nearly 16 years since long-time Indonesian President Suharto resigned from office, amid massive social unrest and violence, including shootings of demonstrators and mass rapes of ethnic Chinese women in Jakarta, and economic meltdown. At the time, even the most optimistic commentators would have been reluctant to bet on a peaceful transition to democracy.

Yet in the intervening years, much has been achieved. Indonesia has held three sets of national elections, including a ground-breaking direct election of the President, together with innumerable provincial and local government elections and undertaken the massive task of decentralisation of power through the 'Regional Autonomy' program whereby significant parts of government was moved from Jakarta to the regencies (shire and town councils).

Significantly, a president seeking a second term of office has been defeated – and a peaceful transition made to a new president.

In national elections, the proportion of the vote going to Islamic parties – and here we use a fairly loose definition of that term, to include avowedly Islamist parties as well as more liberal Islamic ones – is on the decline. At the last national parliamentary elections held in 2009, Islamic parties picked up about 25% of the vote, compared with 35% in 2004, and 34% in 1999. Although Indonesia is clearly experiencing something of a theological and social revival of Islam, this is clearly not yet translating into the electoral arena.

A massive process of decentralisation has taken place, shifting power away from Jakarta to the provinces, cities and districts. The Indonesian press is the most free in the region. And the military have all but disappeared from the formal political arena.

Interestingly though, while this has been happening in Indonesia, here in Australia we are bringing the military into politics; most obviously General Angus Campbell, Commander of Operation Sovereign Borders,  General Peter Leahy, the Prime Minister’s personal envoy to President Yudhoyono, and also General Peter Cosgrove, the incoming Governor General.

Indonesia’s economy is now talked about in the same breath as the likes of India, South Africa and Mexico. Its annual growth rate for the last couple of years has been second only to China.

And on the social front, whereas during the Suharto era anti-Chinese violence was almost a fact of daily life, since his fall there has been virtually no such outbursts. Indonesians of ethnic Chinese background have played an increasingly important role in national life, including the political. Cabinet ministers of ethnic Chinese descent attract attention according to their performance, rather than their ethnicity.

Civil society remains vibrant and engaged. Indonesia has long had two of the largest voluntary organisations in the world in the Nahdlatul Ulama and the Muhammadiyah: both Islamic-based, with histories going back to the colonial era. Even under the Suharto regime they managed to maintain their independence. Today they are still massive organisations running schools, orphanages, hospitals and the like, though they have perhaps been less adroit in adapting to the new political climate than some other, smaller organisations.

All of this in a country with almost as many Muslims as in the whole of the Middle East. Impressive.

But real as these achievements are, there’s a down side to Indonesia’s recent history as well. Put bluntly, in many respects Indonesia’s progress towards consolidating its democracy is in danger of stalling.

Take the electoral process. There’s no denying that Indonesia today is an electoral democracy: a country with a political system where power rests with those elected to office through reasonably open and free elections.

This year, Indonesia embarks on yet another round of elections, for the national parliament, the Presidency and for nearly 20,000 seats in provincial and local assemblies.

All elections in Indonesia’s post Suharto history have been, in important ways, crucial ones for the consolidation of Indonesian democracy. But those coming up this year are more important than most.

There is a clear feeling amongst many of Indonesia’s estimated 187 million potential voters -- 67 million of whom are first-time voters -- that electoral democracy has not ‘delivered the goods’. The political system has proved very vulnerable to manipulation, especially by those with deep pockets. The main beneficiaries of the political system are seen to be the established political elites, and the political parties they lead.

Thus the crucial question to be asked about the coming elections is not which party will win most votes, but what the voter turnout will be. In 2004 86% of voters cast a ballot in the national parliamentary elections. By 2009 this had fallen to 74% -- still a very respectable figure for a society where voting is not compulsory. But some commentators are suggesting this year; the turnout may be only around 50%.

The nomination by the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) of the Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo (or ‘Jokowi’ as he is affectionately known) as a candidate for president has however, provided hope for many. Jokowi is hugely popular and highly respected despite his lack of national political experience. Polls indicate that as a candidate for the presidency he will win, and win quite easily. The recent floods in Jakarta might have damaged his reputation slightly, but nowhere near enough to threaten his lead.

The only currently viable alternative to Jokowi is Prabowo Subianto, retired Commanding General of the Army’s Special Forces, and a man with war crimes allegations handing over his head.

In terms of the economy, while the macro economy may be doing well, the gap between rich and poor is widening. The same phenomenon besets many rapidly-growing economies, including China, but it is of particular significance in Indonesia when combined with the declining legitimacy of the political system.

Indonesia also faces huge challenges in addressing its massive infrastructure requirements including roads, power, ports and communications, and also driving the need to reform its outdated labour laws and up-skilling of its workforce.

And corruption continues to dominate so much of Indonesian business and political life, contributing further to the sense of frustration and disillusionment among many of its citizens.

But perhaps the most damaging development has been the growth, in recent years, of Islamist extremism. Not to terrorist bombings, which have in fact declined quite significantly, but rather the growth of radical, above-ground Islamist groups.

Organisations such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Islamic Community Forum (FUI) aspire to a more fundamentalist Indonesia and their supporters have been increasingly aggressive in pushing for this goal. Acts of violence, not only against Christian minorities, but also – and perhaps more significantly -- against fellow Muslims such as members of the Shia and Ahmadiyyah communities, have become increasingly common and more brutal.

In almost every case the SBY government has done nothing; choosing to stand back and let the violence and killings proceed unchecked. Simultaneously, a number of convicted terrorists have now been released from jail. This worries many Indonesians. It should also worry their neighbours, including Australia.

So does Indonesia provide a more positive response to the Islam and democracy question than the Middle East with its Arab Spring? Yes it does – but the situation is still fluid. On balance, democracy, in some form or other, will survive in Indonesia and perhaps eventually flourish, alongside a relatively liberal Islam. But the struggle is by no means over.

Democratic consolidation is often harder than ending authoritarian rule.

Colin Brown is an Adjunct Professor at the Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University in Brisbane, and Ross B. Taylor AM is the President of the WA-based Indonesia Institute (Inc.). This article was first published in The West Australian newspaper Saturday March 15.

China’s SCS claim threatens RI Sovereignty

By Veeramalla Anjaiah

Has China abandoned its policy of resolving the contentious South China Sea (SCS) issue through peaceful means? China’s recent big brother behavior and unilateral military measures like naval blockades and xenophobic rhetoric have all given the impression that overconfident China is increasingly shedding its soft-power image in resolving both the East China Sea and SCS disputes.

China — the world’s second largest economy — has already aroused deep suspicions among its neighbors by increasing its defense budget in 2014 by 12 percent to US$132 billion, making it second in the world only to the US’s defense spending of $528 billion.

China’s recent measures such as new fisheries laws, the establishment of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea and, most recently, a naval blockade around Second Thomas Shoal, known in China as the Ren’ai Reef and in the Philippines as Ayungin — which is in the SCS — have aggravated the fears.

In the past, China has resorted to military options to occupy territories that were claimed by other countries. In the second week of March 1988, China deployed its troops to seize the reefs of Co Lin (Collins), Len Dao (Lansdowne) and Gac Ma (Johnson South) in the Spratly archipelago — also known as Truong Sa in Vietnamese — from Vietnam. China refers to Johnson South Reef as Chiguajiao, which is now under the control of Beijing.

Will China now resort to military options again to pursue its unilateral claim of the SCS? Nobody in Asia wants a war but China’s recent words and deeds are not only alarming but are moving in that direction.

“On issues of territory and sovereignty, China’s position is very firm and clear. There is no room for compromise,” China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told the media earlier this month. “We will not take anything that is not ours, but we will defend every inch of territory that belongs to us.”

But the main problem with China is that it claims almost all of the SCS as its own, based on a vague U-shaped line known as the nine-dash line, an assertion that is fiercely contested by Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

Indonesia, which is not a claimant country, is now more worried about China’s unilateral claims and its assertiveness, which could threaten peace and stability in Southeast Asia as well as the unity of ASEAN.

More alarmingly, China, according to an Indonesian defense official, has now included part of Natuna Islands waters — within Indonesia’s Riau Islands province — in its territorial map based on the nine-dash line, which could be a serious threat to Indonesia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

“China has claimed Natuna waters as its territorial waters. This arbitrary claim is related to the dispute over the Spratly and Paracel Islands between China and the Philippines. This dispute will have a large impact on the security of Natuna waters,” said Commodore Fahru Zaini, the assistant deputy (defense strategic
doctrine) to the Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister on Wednesday, as quoted by Antara news agency.

The new map, according to Fahru, has even been included in the new passports of Chinese citizens..

“What China has done is related to the territorial zone of the Unitary [State of the] Republic of Indonesia. Therefore, we have come to Natuna to see the concrete strategies of the main component of our defense, namely the Indonesian Military [TNI],” Fahru added.

The SCS — known in China as the South Sea, in Vietnam as the East Sea and in the Philippines as the West Philippines Sea — is a region rich in fisheries and hydrocarbon reserves, which also provides the shortest route between the Indian and western Pacific oceans. Around $6 trillion worth of global trade flows through this region.

The SCS has four main island groupings: the Paracel Islands (claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan but occupied by China), the Pratas Islands (claimed by China but occupied by Taiwan), the Spratly Islands (claimed in their entirety by Vietnam, China and Taiwan and claimed partially by Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei but partly occupied by China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines) and the Macclesfield Bank/Scarborough Reef (both of which are claimed by China and Taiwan, while just Scarborough Reef is claimed by the Philippines and both are unoccupied).

The problem with the claims of China and Taiwan — both of which are based on the countries’ so-called “indisputable sovereignty” according to the 1947 nine-dash line map — is that the claims are not clear, and the countries also never clarified with other claimant countries what that sovereignty covers. The legality and the precise locations indicated by the nine dashes are not clear.

“Both Beijing and Taipei have declined to explain what the nine bars signify, whether they are meant to claim sovereignty or some kind of maritime jurisdiction over the entire expanse of water that the lines encompass or only over the land features within the interrupted line,” Rodolfo C. Severino, an expert on ASEAN affairs, wrote in a newly published book titled Entering Uncharted Waters? ASEAN and the South China Sea.

Indonesian maritime expert Prof. Hasyim Djalal echoed a similar view. “There was no definition of that dashed line, nor were there any coordinates stated. If you have any historical evidence [regarding the claim], please show us,” Hasyim said recently in Jakarta.

Given the tense situation and lack of convincing evidence from both China and other claimant countries, it would be better if all parties involved adhered to the path of a peaceful resolution to the SCS conflict.

For the time being, until a final solution to the impasse is reached (which is unlikely for a long time), there is a need for a mechanism to prevent conflict and promote cooperation among disagreeing parties. Dialogue is still the best way to solve this long maritime dispute.

Veeramallah is a writer at the Jakarta Post, where this article originally appeared March 17, 2014.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Village Feast!

Could it be South Sumatera without Pempek? I think not. Scrummy village food on Pulau Belida.

New Posts this Week: First time voter cynicism, Megawati the Wayang puppet master, and mutual benefits from realising agriculture opportunities

Please enjoy these new posts:

"Democracy, Gen X Cynicism and the Price of Doing Business," By Stanley Widianto, March 2014. Stanley discusses the situation facing first time voters and encourages people to have their say at the ballot box. He says Indonesian youth want to be involved in democratic processes but suffer disillusion with a system slow to change.

"Three Times a Loser, Indonesia's Megawati is Pivotal in Elections," By Kanupriya Kapoor, March 2014. Megawati is not giving her game away just yet. Will she hang onto the reins or move aside for Jokowi?

"Agricultural Partnerships Offer Huge Opportunities," By Ross B. Taylor, March 2014.
With a change of mindset Australia could implement a more realistic and beneficial agricultural partnership with Indonesia.

Don't miss these articles:

Australian asylum seeker policy is a form of punishment say the authors of a recent study from Curtin University's Centre for Human Rights Education.

Australia isn't who it says it is: a supposed military build up says frenemy not BFF.

Indonesia's educated elites have lived and studied in Australia, gaining important insights into Australian culture and society. Can we say the same?

Democracy, Gen X Cynicism and the Price of Doing Business

By Stanley Widianto

Politicians get bad press for their actions, yet we also need to take responsibility for choosing our leaders. Even if we choose badly. Political optimism is a long shot in a climate of corruption and impunity, however we can change that by becoming informed voters able to direct our support to the right leaders. We do however, have a lot of distractions from this task, for example, poverty, civil unrest or rampant corruption, which can mean elections often only serve as a changing of the guards; something onerous we do every five years.

Writers, critics, and political analysts will argue about the merits of an election, and they’ll argue that candidacy doesn’t necessarily create a leader, that people choose not to vote because of the government’s failure to make direct, or any progress in the everyday lives of millions of people. Are we disillusioned because of this? Are we cynical about democracy’s limits?

In a general sense, platitudes about our flailing democratic system don’t stem from a lack of democratic actions, but from our understanding of how to institute democracy through robust political debate and critical voters. We think that all one needs to do is register their name and follow the prompts. You go to a voting booth, see the candidates, remember the things you think the candidates may have done in the past, think about your parents’ opinions that probably also shaped your own, consider it for about, say, three seconds and then mark the ballot. We are not actually considering what our votes mean. For a country used to deconstructing everything there is to know about Pancasila, and for a country more likely to pick up a civics textbook than a newspaper; a lack of genuine engagement has become ingrained.

There are two significant problems, one is how concerted efforts to raise awareness among first time voters throughout the archipelago might be missing the point. And two is that ‘generation x’ very much play fast and loose with ‘being righteous’ so much so that we’ve given up on common sense reality. I’m sure those who have the final say about our mentality have been first voters once, so we can do without jaded attitudes that point the finger at the younger generations’ cynicism. Politicians are adept at deeming abstention an inexorable sin but they stop short of explaining why it’s still persistent- because they don’t actually care to address voter apathy.

Admittedly there are NGOs, for example, Jari Ungu, the Center for Election and Political Party (CEPP) or Ayo Vote, who out of noble reasons are trying to show young voters across the nation how democracy works. This is a great place to start, but the purpose of these organisations are competing with other unhelpful political rhetoric. For example, the KPU’s statement that demonizes non-voters in this year’s general elections is not only baseless, but morally corrupt coming from the same organisation who refuses to help out the aforementioned NGOs in building public trust; a job, among others, which I personally think belongs to the politicians.

To make matters worse there are some politicians who are trying to provoke participants by claiming that it’s still within our constitutional rights to, in fact, not vote. Rather than cynicism being the cause of a lack of voter participation, it is a lack of good arguments for getting engaged with democratic processes that presents an ongoing problem among young voters. For a slew of first time voters, voting is as dull as paying a speeding ticket. We are nonchalant. Our trust as citizens has been undermined by the trivialization of democratic processes.

Democracy isn’t a long shot if we know how to make it work. For starters, the government could own up to its mistakes. We could hold a nationally televised debate among candidates that targets misconceptions about the importance of exercising the right to vote. We need to become informed voters. Read the newspaper, recognise bias and distortion, and be critical, not cynical.

Our current perceptions towards democratic processes are not constructive, because these days, our participation in building our nation ends after we leave a voting booth. We need to realise that we’re actually complicit in the crimes of our politicians because we are the ones who vote them in. As one of the lynchpins in this ‘system we agreed on’, we millennials haven’t yet got our hands dirty in all this, but we could start by putting some gloves on and getting involved.

Stanley is a student at Universitas Katolik Parahyangan.

Three Times a Loser, Indonesia's Megawati is Pivotal in Elections

By Kanupriya Kapoor

As Indonesia gears up for twin elections this year, the pivotal figure is a woman in her late sixties who has been trounced all three times that she has contested for president.
Megawati Sukarnoputri dominates the opposition party that opinion polls show is likely to top the April 9 parliamentary election. She also has, if she chooses, the candidate whom polls show would sweep aside all other contenders in the presidential election three months later.
But the 67-year-old daughter of the country's founding president is said to want the top job herself, although the chances of her winning it are slim.

It's a dilemma that has brought uncertainty over who will lead Southeast Asia's largest
economy and the nation with the world's biggest Muslim population when President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono retires in October.

Senior officials in Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P) insisted they did not know what her final decision would be.

"It ultimately comes down to her, no matter what anybody feels within the party," said one insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"Whatever Ibu Mega decides, so goes the party," the source said, using her popular name.
Megawati is famously enigmatic. When she filled in as the country's first woman president from 2001-2004, her term was criticised for indecisiveness.

A decision on the PDI-P's presidential candidate is likely to be only after April's legislative election and could be taken as late as mid-May.

Indonesia follows a presidential form of government, although power is shared with parliament. Only parties which win 25 percent of the vote or 20 percent of the 560 seats inthe parliamentary poll will be permitted to name candidates for the July presidential election. PDI-P and perhaps just one or two other parties are likely to qualify.

If the public had a say in the nomination, it would be for Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, a member of PDI-P who is currently the popular governor of the capital Jakarta.

The frontrunner in opinion polls by a wide margin, he is widely seen as representing change in the world's third-largest democracy: a young, clean and competent operator in a system dominated by an ageing, often corrupt elite.

But first, he will have to win the endorsement of his party chief.

As the scion of Indonesia's charismatic founding father Sukarno, Megawati has headed a loyal and growing base of supporters through a decade in opposition.

She has never actually won a presidential election. But she was vice president in 2001 when parliament ousted Abdurrahman Wahid, the man elected president by the legislature in 1999, and installed her in his place. She remained in office for three years.

She then lost Indonesia's first direct presidential election to Yudhoyono in 2004, and again to him in 2009.

Megawati grew up in the Istana Merdeka presidential palace in Jakarta during her father's long rule and dropped out of university to be with him after his fall from grace in 1965.
As strongman Suharto took power, the Sukarno family was pushed to the margins of political and social life. Sukarno died in 1970.

Megawati became a symbol of opposition in the over three decades Suharto was in power and went on to win a following in Indonesia's political turbulence of the late 1990s. She formed the current PDI-P soon after Suharto was forced to step down in 1998.

But she was never able to reproduce her father's popularity, and analysts say that if she does still dream of winning the presidency and creating an enduring Sukarno family legacy, this will be her last chance.

"She has a legacy to live up to and there's a part of her that thinks she belongs back in that presidential palace," said Douglas Ramage, political analyst at Bower Group Asia consultancy.

However, opinion polls suggest she would struggle to beat off likely challengers from other parties: tycoon Aburizal Bakrie and Prabowo Subianto, an ex-general with a dark human rights record.


At the rank and file level of the party, however, Megawati enjoys the support of thousands of self-proclaimed loyalists who believe that the ability to lead the country runs in her blood.
"As a Javanese I believe in natural and mystical forces and so I believe the spirit of Bung Karno still protects our nation," said 40-year-old Dewi Kriswindari, using Sukarno's nickname amidst a murmur of prayer by his grave in Blitar in East Java province, one of the party's traditional strongholds.

"I'm not very political, but Megawati is his daughter and I believe she can guide Indonesia as a leader."

Party insiders say Megawati and the party's ageing senior leadership take this legacy very seriously - not least because they could lose influence if she goes.

The death last year of Megawati's husband Taufik Kiemas, whom she recently called her "sparring partner", meant perhaps the only other prominent and counterbalancing voice in the party is gone, giving her supporters ample room to urge Megawati to run for president again.

Nevertheless, a growing chorus of voices within the party has called on her to instead take on the role of 'Mother of the Nation' to echo her father's legacy and, considering her consistently low popularity ratings, let Jokowi run for the presidency.

"The people want a new figure, and that's Jokowi," said Ali Husein, a PDI-P legislative candidate from Bangka Belitung province who co-chairs a group promoting the Jakarta

"I don't think the PDI-P would be stupid enough for Mega to be the candidate."

In a recent live television interview, she walked out on stage to Frank Sinatra's "My Way" and sat silently or gave typically vague answers as Jokowi watched from the audience.
When asked the inevitable question about the candidacy, Megawati's answer was ambivalent.

"Leaders of the party don't have to be directly related to Sukarno," she said, "But I tell them to remember that there are still many loyal followers of Bung Karno."

(Additional reporting by Jakarta bureau, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

This article originally appeared March 4, in Reuters UK.

Agricultural partnerships offer huge opportunities

By Ross B. Taylor 

(with research and co-contribution from Michael Sheehy, Jakarta)

Australian cattle farmers are finally starting to recover from the fallout following the inept handling of the live cattle ban placed upon Indonesia two years ago, and the outlook is good.

Expectations are that Indonesia will be back towards importing 730,000 head of cattle from Australia this year, and only this week an announcement that a new market from China may soon become a reality with increasing demand for live cattle exports.

But as we enter The Asian Century we need to move beyond what last year I referred to as the ‘We sell; they buy’ mentality to trade in agriculture.

As highlighted at The Global Food Forum recently, Australia talks of becoming the ‘food bowl of Asia’. Realistically, that is unlikely. If we consider that if we could double our current levels of agriculture production in this country we would then supply around only one percent of Asia’s requirements to feed its 4.2 billion people.

Australia faces other major hurdles in its desire to ‘feed the region’ as our agricultural industry continues to shrink in size. Obstacles to reversing this trend include:
A stubbornly high Australian dollar

Diminishing productivity and soaring input costs; particularly energy charges.

Availability and cost of labour is a major constraint to the development of food-based industries.

The distance to markets, particularly from our north, is often too far.

Fear of foreign investment in food growing land and general agriculture.

Impact of climate and poor rainfall.

Agriculture in Indonesia on the other hand is almost four times bigger than Australia, employing over 44 million people who work on about one quarter of the land mass we use. Indonesia enjoys a number of comparative advantages:
Proximity to markets.

 Abundance of cheap and experienced labour.

Incredibly fertile soil; amongst the best in the world.

Regular and widespread rainfall.

 Large and growing domestic market.

What Indonesia – and a number of other large Asian nations - lacks however, is technical knowledge and expertise. Australian farmers, through our agriculture and horticulture industries, are amongst the best in the world. They’ve had to be good at their trade. Virtually no government subsidies combined with a harsh and isolated environment have meant that for our agriculture industry to succeed we have to be very good at what we do. And here lies the opportunity for Australia to diversify away from the sole reliance on resources:

Australia’s agriculture sector has world-class expertise in the areas of:


Water and farm management

Marketing and branding

 Administration and finance planning and management

 Supply chain

These are the things that Indonesia needs desperately to build capacity within their own agriculture sector. A partnership with Australian industry could see the development of significant exports to ‘third party’ countries whereby the strengths of our two countries come together to build new opportunities and dramatically expand trade. The cattle industry should and can be a model for the implementation of such an adding-value program.

Last week the giant Interflour Group’s CEO, Greg Harvey told The West Australian’s Brad Thompson that “..Generally food manufacturing is going to occur (near or) in the market where it is consumed, so why don’t we take our entrepreneurial expertise, our knowledge about supply chains ...and invest in the manufacturing facilities...?.”.

Already we have seen Australian potato growers change tact from trying to compete with major suppliers from the USA and Europe in selling potatoes to Indonesia, to building partnerships with Indonesian potato growers whereby we provide expertise and the training combined with our world-class seed that we export to allow Indonesia to develop its own industry. Already this approach has seen potato yields in East Java increase from 10 to 30 tonne per hectare. Our growers have a captive and developing market and meanwhile the Indonesian farmers love us for it!

Opportunities exist in mangoes, sugar, soybean, rice, other grains and many food-based products.

So why don’t we embrace such an opportunity? Sadly, the Australia-Indonesia relationship, despite all the nice words said between our political leaders, is still dominated by ‘political irritants’ and a ‘Bali and boats’ mindset.

Indonesia will soon overtake Australia in economic size. For the first time we will have a regional neighbour that ‘dominates’ us. It will be a game-changer that will allow Australia enormous opportunities to build closer trade, business, and community ties.

By developing deeper and mutually beneficial relationships such as a major collaboration and partnerships in agriculture, combined with increased youth exchanges, language and people-to-people contacts, both countries can benefit enormously despite the current ‘political bumps’ in the bi-lateral relationship.

Ross Taylor is the President of the Indonesia Institute (Inc.) & former National Vice-President of the Australia-Indonesia Business Council.

Michael Sheehy is a senior advisor in agriculture based in Jakarta, Indonesia.