Monday, June 12, 2017

Our blog has just been updated on 12th June 2017. Check-out these interesting and informative articles.....

Dear members and friends

We have some really interesting and analytical articles for you to enjoy this months as follows:

"Canning of gay men not necessarily the exception to the Indonesian rule" by Daniel Peterson.

"Dumping a free trade deal", By Duncan Graham

"Indonesian democracy; down but not out", by Aaron Connelly and Matthew Busch.

"Could Indonesia pose a threat to Australia", By Paul Dibb

"Conviction politics:The jailing of Ahok", By Professor Tim Lindsey


Our president of the Indonesia Institute, Ross Taylor, also writes about why Indonesians seldom choose Perth for a holiday.

We hope you enjoys these current and excellent articles and you can access our blog by clicking below or scrolling down:



http://ourindonesiatoday.blogspot.com.au/

With our best regards

Lisa Bentley
Indonesia Institute Inc

12th June 2017

WHY INDONESIANS SELDOM CHOOSE PERTH FOR A HOLIDAY ...

By Ross B. Taylor





The release last week of international visitor arrivals into Perth looked a good news story: Up 9% for the year ended March 2017.

But take a closer look at the number of people coming to WA as tourists (excluding family, student and business visits) and the numbers from Indonesia really are awful. Just compare the number of holidaymakers arriving into Perth in this 12 month period:

  • Malaysia: 71,488
  • Singapore: 62,700
  • Indonesia: 12,500

Our local hotel industry is desperate for more visitors and meanwhile Indonesia has a growing middle-class, approaching 100 million people and air travel for tourism is booming. So why such bad numbers?

1. Visas

Obtaining a visa to visit Australia is finally becoming easier thanks to a lot of work by our embassy in Jakarta and the WA Trade Office. For too long Indonesians have had to queue or complete up to 16 pages of information in order to apply for a visa, whilst their 'mates' in Malaysia and Singapore could apply online. Also, a family of four from Bali (for example) still must pay a non-refundable application fee of $520.00 just to try and get a visa for Australia. It's too expensive.

2. Airlines:

KL in Malaysia and Singapore have numerous flights into and from Perth each day with various airlines, whilst only Garuda Indonesia connects Perth and Jakarta; and that is not even a daily flight. BatikAir commence flights between our two countries this month and they will be a great addition to the travel industry in WA.

3. TourismWA

TourismWA have, I believe, not really developed a clear strategy for Indonesia in the past, preferring to focus on other countries. Like many business people here in Australia, they 'forgot' about the sleeping giant just a few hours to our north.

With TourismWA coming under the control of the Department of State development (DSD) in the near future - as part of the state government's re-structuring of its departments - let's hope we see some positive leadership in getting more Indonesians to visit us.


Perth and our state has much to offer international tourists, including from Indonesia. We just need to articulate what a great experience awaits our neighbors when they get here.

Ross B. Taylor AM is the president of the Indonesia Institute (Inc) that is based in Perth. Ross can be followed on Twitter:

@indorosstaylor

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Caning of gay men in Aceh: not necessarily the exception to Indonesian rule.

By Daniel Peterson


Recent events in Indonesia should dispel any doubt about the rising influence conservative Sunni Islamist sentiment is having on the country’s laws.

Just three weeks ago, Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, popularly known as Ahok, was found guilty of insulting the Qur’an and sentenced to two years in prison. Ahok decided not to appeal the verdict “for the good of the country”, fearing that any attempt to overturn his conviction would divide the nation’s capital even further.

On 30 April and May 21, police raided gay sex parties in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, and Jakarta. Arrests were made in both instances for alleged violations of Indonesia’s anti-pornography law.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia – although it is in the autonomous province of Aceh. Police have said several of the men will be charged under the anti-pornography law.

On May 13, in Aceh’s capital Banda Aceh, two young gay men were caned 83 times before more than 1,000 onlookers. They had been convicted of sodomy.
Distinct from Indonesia’s national criminal code, Aceh’s criminal code, which is known locally as the Qanun Jinayat, prohibits sodomy. Vigilantism is also prohibited and has been denounced by senior public officials. Despite this, the conduct of the vigilante group that arrested the two young men after breaking into their rented room and assaulting them both has not been scrutinised.

“Moral” crimes

The caning temporarily shifted international focus from Ahok’s blasphemy conviction to issues of corporal punishment and the policing of “moral” crimes in Indonesia’s sole autonomous province.
While some may find comfort in the fact that Indonesia’s national criminal code is not as draconian and invasive as Aceh’s, the underlying ideological issue remains the same nationwide: contemporary Indonesia is heading down the path of conservative Sunni Islamism.

Indonesia’s Constitutional Court (Mahkamah Konstitusi) has declared that Islamic law is only one source of law in Indonesia, alongside traditional customary law (adat) and Western law, to name a few. But for many of the country’s Muslim-majority population and judiciary, conservative Sunni Islamic norms are becoming the preferred basis for law and jurisprudence.

Like Indonesia’s blasphemy laws, the Acehnese criminal code has received heavy criticism from human rights groups. The most notable of “moral” offences prohibited under the code include adultery (zina), being in close proximity to a member of the opposite sex out of wedlock (khalwat), lesbian relations (musahaqah) and sodomy (liwath).

The code prescribes a maximum penalty for sodomy of 100 strokes of the cane. Human rights groups have decried the sanctioning and practice of caning in Aceh as “medieval torture”.
Caning does, in fact, violate multiple international human rights conventions. Among these are the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It also contravenes human rights guaranteed in Indonesia’s constitution, including the right not to be tortured or subjected to degrading treatment.

Amnesty International, UN Human Rights – Asia, as well as countless local pro-diversity civil society organisations condemned the decision to cane the two men, aged 20 and 23. They also called on the Indonesian government to uphold its commitment to universal human rights standards.
But these calls will almost certainly go unheeded, because, from a legal perspective, Aceh’s criminal code is not necessarily unconstitutional. What’s more, international human rights guarantees may, in theory, be legally persuasive but enjoy no concrete legal standing in Indonesia.

Women in Aceh were publicly caned for spending time with men who were not their husbands. Reuters/Beawiharta

Constitutionality of Aceh’s criminal code

The authority for the statement that Aceh’s criminal code is not necessarily unconstitutional lies in a 2010 ruling of Indonesia’s Constitutional Court. That court found that Indonesia’s blasphemy law, the same law under which Ahok was sentenced to two years’ prison, is constitutionally valid.

While the ruling received broad criticism from human rights groups, it remains the most definitive and recent authority on the status of individual human rights in Indonesia.
The court made several salient points, all of which help explain the implementation of corporal punishment in Aceh and the discriminatory treatment of homosexuals. These were strongly informed by the concept of religion and its exalted status in Indonesian society.

First, the court noted that Indonesia is neither an Islamic nor secular state. It is, rather, a religious state (negara beragama) based on the principle of One Almighty God (Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa).
The priority assigned to One Almighty God was born out of a constitutional compromise between the drafters of the 1945 constitution, some of whom hoped for a secular Indonesian state and others who envisaged an Islamic state.

As Indonesia is a religious state, the court found that “religious values” inform what makes a law good or bad. They also constitute a legitimate reason, the court said, to diminish individual human rights.
But what are “religious values” and who has the authority to define them?
The court’s interpretation of these values, as guaranteed in the 1945 constitution, may seem dubious to some. Rather than interpreting “religious values” as universal principles of brotherhood and humanity, for example, it read the term to mean the fundamental tenets of a state-recognised religion (pokok-pokok agama), as defined by Indonesia’s Ministry of Religion.
Indonesia’s Constitutional Court argues the country is neither an Islamic nor secular state. Reuters/Darren Whiteside

Shari'a-based values

Aceh’s criminal code arguably reflects the broader view in Acehnese society that corporal punishment is necessary to uphold local shari‘a-based values. And to discourage contradictory “moral” offences, of which homosexuality is one.

Caning also enjoys historical legitimacy. It has featured throughout the Islamic tradition as a form of punishment for both hudud (crimes against Islamic law contained in the Qur’an) and ta’zir (discretionary punishments for crimes against Islamic law administered by the state) offences.

The second crucial point of the ruling was that while religion may be a private matter to some, the Constitutional Court endorsed a concept of religion forming the identity of a community or society.
As critics have argued, the court’s decision prioritised the rights of religious ideas over the rights of individual adherents. It also legitimised the idea that a person’s religious identity is akin to property and may not be infringed upon.

There are few parts of Indonesia, if any, where Islam is considered more a part of one’s identity than in Aceh.

The Constitutional Court also found that upholding “religious values” was necessary to ensure public order. Again, critics have argued that the court conflated the need to maintain public order with the tendency to pander to general public discontent.
On this point, its stance partially explains why the criminal acts of certain vigilante groups continue to go unpunished where religion is concerned. Vigilantism in Aceh is commonly carried out in the name of the shari‘a.

Finally, the court stated that the Indonesian state had no obligation to ensure the domestic application of international human rights conventions. Rather, it held that Indonesia’s respect for various conventions and international law apparatuses, including human rights, must always be based on the philosophy and constitution of the Republic of Indonesia.
In other words, Indonesian “religious values” trump international human rights norms.
There are few parts of Indonesia where Islam is considered more a part of one’s identity than in Aceh. Reuters/Damir Sagolj

The exception or the rule?

Following something as controversial and divisive as the public caning of two citizens for having consensual sex in private, supporters of the LGBT community and opponents of corporal punishment may find it comforting to think of Aceh as the exception to the rule.
The province is, after all, the only one in Indonesia to legislate corporal punishment and to prohibit same-sex relations. But it is not the only one that’s home to radical, often violent, Islamist groups and vigilantes who, at times, appear to enjoy impunity.

Aceh may also not be the only province that prohibits same-sex relations and sex out of wedlock for much longer. In May 2016, a group calling itself the Family Love Alliance (AILA) petitioned the Constitutional Court to conduct a material review of the national criminal code.

While the review is still under way, AILA’s primary argument is that the national criminal code is a relic of colonial rule and does not reflect Indonesia’s traditional “religious values”.

If the court accedes to the petition, both sexual relations out of wedlock and homosexual relations as such may be outlawed across the archipelago. And this may provide sufficient justification for vigilante groups to carry out similar acts of violence across Indonesia.
So while it may be comforting to dismiss the caning as peculiar to Aceh, if Ahok’s blasphemy conviction tells us anything, it’s that it would be foolhardy to assume that other parts of the archipelago aren’t on a similar, albeit slower, trajectory.

Daniel Peterson is a PhD Candidate / Research Assistant, Institute for Religion, Politics and Society, Australian Catholic University


Dumping a free trade deal Indonesia and Australia need to look hard at their protectionist policies

                                                         By Duncan Graham


For the past two years, Australian exporters’ prospects have been jollied along by forecasts of a looming free trade agreement with their giant northern neighbor.

Once in place, grain carriers and beef boats would sail past unconcerned customs officials and into the increasingly hungry ports of the world’s fourth largest nation; Indonesian vegetable and mineral oils will head Down Under to a similar welcome.

Prefacing this nirvana have been big show-and-sell missions to the archipelago, ministerial handshake photo-ops and glowing statements implying negotiations are running briskly and on the same page.
So all being well, the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) should be signed before 2018 dawns.

However, all is not well and that sunrise now seems remote.
The possibilities have been eclipsed - not by nationalist Indonesians fearing floods of foreign goods, but by parochial politics in Australia.

In April, the federal government abruptly announced dumping duties on Indonesian copy paper imports.
“The impact of the decision is potentially lethal,” Australia-Indonesia Business Council President Debneth Guharoy told members. 
“It flies in the face of the visiting president’s pointed request in Sydney for a fair go on paper and palm oil. [In February Indonesian President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo promoted the CEPA in Australia.]
“We unilaterally decide to turn the [asylum seeker] boats around, stop the exports of live cattle, raise hell over the death penalty and now rollback their paper. Each and every time, we expect the Indonesians to bow to our self-promoted higher standards, our much-touted lofty principles.
“Those of us who have lived in, worked in or frequently travel to Asia cringe at the disdain with which these proclamations are treated by our neighbors.”
Indonesia Institute President Ross Taylor, a former national vice-president of the AIBC, warned that the problem should be “handled with subtlety”.

“Otherwise we run the risk of this tariff issue becoming a catalyst - for those who are anti-free trade - to have the CEPA stall or collapse,” he told Strategic Review. “That would be a great disappointment.

“Getting an agreement was always going to be a tough task - Indonesia is really focused on the need for big infrastructure projects that can be funded by North Asian countries.

“However, it can be done with goodwill and considered perseverance by both sides. The decision by Australian officials to impose the tariff at this time was less than helpful; Guharoy is right in that regard and we share his concern, as would Indonesia.”

The head of Indonesia's negotiation team was reported by Fairfax Media claiming the duties would affect discussions.
“We explained to Australia that it [the dumping accusation] is not true, but they insisted just to protect their industry,” Deddy Saleh was quoted as saying.
“So it means there is unfairness. How can we conduct negotiations when we know that our counterpart is not fair? Negotiation takes mutual trust from both sides.”
The duties will please supporters of trade barriers; they argue free trade agreements are an easy way to avoid developing complex policies to stimulate local yields and build food self-sufficiency. Instead, FTAs favor efficient producers like Australian wheat growers who can swamp local markets and put poor farmers out of business
‘Dumping’ means an exporter is selling goods overseas below the homeland price. 
Apart from deliberate attempts to weaken rivals through trade wars, there are two main reasons for dumping: a manufacturer has a surplus it can’t shift at home, or its products are being subsidized by government for local political reasons, such as keeping an unprofitable factory running to save jobs.
The upset started when a private company in Victoria complained to the independent Australian Anti-Dumping Commission that paper manufacturers in Indonesia (and some other countries) were undercutting local prices and threatening profits and jobs. The commission agreed and told the government.
Despite Australian Paper’s nationalistic name, the company is owned by Nippon Paper Industries of Japan.
Its two mills are in Gippsland, a rural area 160 kilometers east of Melbourne. AP is the biggest employer with around 1,300 on the payroll. It makes about 600,000 tones of paper products a year and much is exported.
The unemployment rate in Gippsland is 9.42 per cent against the national average of 5.7 per cent, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.
To stop interest in trade with Indonesia flagging after the latest setback, the AIBC has asked National Development Planning Minister Dr Bambang Brodjonegoro to help buoy the disheartened.
“For the first time ever, a ranking Indonesian minister will visit five of our capital cities [in June] on a whistle-stop tour,” said Guharoy, who claims Indonesia could be the fifth largest economy by 2050, with Australia then ranking 32.
“The mission is to talk about Indonesia's economic outlook, the opportunities they present and against that backdrop, encourage Australian enterprises to engage.”
The AIBC has been pushing local businesses to recognize openings in the Indonesian market, with 250 million consumers and a growth rate of more than five per cent compared with Australia’s 2.4 per cent.
Indonesia is Australia’s 12th largest trade partner, mainly importing wheat, beef and sugar, and selling oil and some manufactured goods. Total two-way business is worth about US $11.4 billion.
An AIBC delegation will appear before a Parliamentary Inquiry on the Trading Relationship with Indonesia in Canberra this month. [May]  “We have an unintelligent relationship with our large neighbor and it does warrant examination,” said Gutharoy. “But I’m not so sure that the politicians will welcome the candor.”
Australia’s dumping duties are likely to be appealed to the Geneva-based World Trade Organization, a body not known for swift decision-making. Unless the Indonesians ignore Australian protectionism and abandon their own, a free trade deal is unlikely anytime soon. 

Duncan Graham is a East Java-based Journalist and writes extensively on issues within the region.

Indonesian democracy: Down, but not out.

By Aaron Connelly and Matthew Busch

Could Indonesia pose a future threat to Australia?

Image courtesy of Flickr user Schristia.

Following last month's decision by an Indonesian court to jail the former governor of Jakarta—Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok)—for two years for blasphemy, we need to ask ourselves whether Indonesia is heading down the path of extreme Islam. There’s little doubt that mob pressure over a supposed insult to Islam has succeeded. The question now is how much further is Indonesia going to slide towards an authoritarian Islamic state?

It’s important not to exaggerate this event, but neither should we sweep it under the carpet as an isolated incident. The fact is that what we understand to be Indonesia’s moderate brand of Islam is now under attack. Dennis Richardson indicated in his farewell address to the National Press Club last Friday that it was too early to say whether extremism was entering into mainstream Indonesian politics. But Richardson acknowledged the question was at ‘the sharp end of what we should be watching.’

Since the overthrow of President Suharto’s authoritarian military regime in 1998 Indonesia has made remarkable progress with its new democracy and the growth of a civil society. We have counted ourselves lucky to have such a moderate form of Islam on our very doorstep.

But the disturbing trends we’ve seen of late, of mob violence and thuggery, threaten the institutions of Indonesian democracy. As Greg Fealy has observed, Indonesia’s democracy is now badly tainted.
We have witnessed Indonesia lurch towards radical extremes before. President Sukarno in the early 1960s ran a regime that was hostile to the West, including Australia. At that time, Indonesia had the third largest communist party in the world after China and the Soviet Union and its policy of Confrontation (Konfrontasi) with Malaysia and Singapore involved armed conflict with those countries, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Sukarno’s Indonesia was being supplied by Moscow with advanced military equipment that was much better than Australia’s. This included 25 Badger bombers, 68 MiG fighters, a Sverdlov cruiser, 15 destroyers and 12 Whisky class submarines.

As a result, Australia made the decision to order the F-111 fighter-bombers that would be capable of bombing missions to Jakarta and back without refuelling from airfields in northern Australia. We also ordered the Oberon class submarines and the Charles F. Adams class guided-missile destroyers.
All of that suddenly changed in 1965 when Sukarno was overthrown by Suharto, who introduced a pro-Western military government. So, from 1965 to 1998 Australia experienced no military threats from Indonesia—an era Paul Keating later claimed as the greatest single strategic benefit ever conferred on Australia. Of course, we had our differences with Jakarta over such issues as East Timor, Irian Jaya and Papua New Guinea, and freedom of navigation through Indonesian straits.

If Indonesia continues along its recent economic growth path, it promises to be somewhere between the fourth or seventh largest economy in the world by mid-century with a population approaching 370 million people. It will become a major regional power.

It’s therefore vital that Indonesia doesn’t slide towards some sort of aggressive Islamic state. Should that occur we could be faced with a strategic challenge of the first order. This is because an Indonesia that became hostile could pose a serious threat to Australia’s fundamental security.
Such a strategic challenge on our doorstep would have grave implications for our defence preparedness and the ADF’s expansion base, as well as the Defence budget. Moreover, as we discovered in Confrontation, it doesn’t follow that America would necessarily come to our defence if it faced a major military threat elsewhere in the region.

None of this is to extrapolate from current worrying trends with regard to violent religious outbursts in Indonesia to that country inevitably becoming our enemy. But what’s known as the butterfly effect in chaos theory is the phenomenon whereby a relatively minor change in circumstances (for example, the violent Islamist demonstrations over Ahok) can cause unpredictably large changes in outcome with disastrous results.

We shouldn’t therefore dismiss the possibility of our Indonesian neighbour lurching into the sort of extreme religious nationalism that we’re seeing elsewhere in the world. Because of its proximity to northern Australia and our vital lines of communication, as well as its size and different cultural make-up, Indonesia will always have the potential attributes of both a good friend and—in the worst of circumstances—a serious adversary.
Historically, neighbouring countries that have markedly different cultures, ethnic compositions and religions have most often gone to war (witness the history of Europe and parts of Asia). Over the last half-century Australia and Indonesia have averted that fate—including over the independence of East Timor—through a combination of good management and some luck.

The decades ahead will probably not see much diminution in the scope for periodic disagreements between our two countries. But prudent Australian defence planning will need to keep an extremely close eye on the direction of Indonesian politics and the implications for our own security of the role of Islamic extremists.

Conviction politics: the jailing of Ahok

By Tim Lindsey

Former Jakarta Governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy on 9 May. Photo by Reno Esnir for Antara.

The conviction for blasphemy last Tuesday of the outgoing governor of Jakarta, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama was not a surprise. It followed a common pattern for blasphemy cases in Indonesia.

When the Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI), the conservative peak body for Islamic scholars in Indonesia, issues a fatwa stating that an accused has committed blasphemy, Indonesian courts almost always agree. In this case, MUI condemned Ahok using a lesser form of opinion, not a fatwa, but that made no difference. It was just as decisive.

The two-year prison sentence Ahok received was also not surprising, if previous blasphemy decisions are taken as a guide. With maximum of five years imprisonment available for the blasphemy, sentences over the last decade have ranged from six months to four years. Two years is mid-range and not an unusual outcome for a conviction under Article 156a of the Criminal Code (the so called Blasphemy Law provision, really a very broad prohibition of religious defamation).

Nor is it unusual that the judges completely ignored the recommendations of prosecutors that Ahok receive a suspended sentence, rather than prison time. In fact, the prosecutors even proposed that Ahok be sentenced under another provision of the Criminal Code that carries a lighter maximum term. Judges in Indonesia are, however, not bound by prosecutors’ sentencing recommendations. They are free to ignore their requests and often do. That’s what happened in this case.

What was surprising was that the judges decided to follow the usual pattern in blasphemy cases when the case before them was so very unusual.

Most blasphemy cases in Indonesia involve small, unorthodox “deviant” religious sects, often Muslim in derivation. Some of those jailed in the past include, for example: a mystic who claimed that whistling was a valid form of Muslim prayer: a cult leader who said he was a new prophet of Islam; a woman who claimed to be reincarnation of the Virgin Mary, in direct communication with the angel Gabriel; and an ex-boxer convert to Islam who earned the ire of MUI by proposing that prayers could be said in Indonesian, not just Arabic.

By contrast, the defendant in this case was prominent politician with a national profile, an established reputation as a committed reformer and effective administrator and a close relationship with President Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”). This is the first time that Indonesia’s Blasphemy Law has been used to pull down a politician, let alone one of Ahok’s stature. And it may well knock him out of politics for good – Indonesians are prohibited from standing for public office once they have been convicted of an offence with a maximum penalty of at least five years.

The reason all this was even possible was, in part, because Ahok was a Christian leading a city that, like Indonesia as a whole, is more than 85 per cent Muslim. But that was not the only problem. After all, Jakarta has had a Christian governor before. It was just as important that Ahok was the first ethnic Chinese in the role. Yes, he was targeted as a Christian for “defaming” Islam but the viciousness of the long campaign against him was fueled by his membership of a tiny ethnic group that have been the target of racial vilification in Indonesia for centuries. Polling before the gubernatorial election that Ahok lost on 19 April showed that opposition to him was motivated as much, if not more, by his ethnicity. The gun was thus loaded and foolish comments he made about interpretation of a particular verse of the Qur’an while campaigning simply pulled the trigger.

This new use of the blasphemy law as a weapon of high politics has polarised opinion in Indonesia. Ahok’s descent from governor’s office to prison cell may be a huge victory for his enemies but it should be remembered that more than 40 per cent of Jakartans voted for him – and they must include many more Muslim “indigenous” Indonesians (or pribumi) than ethnic Chinese or non-Muslims. Religious and ethnic minorities are shocked – and some intimidated – by what happened to him, but many of his other supporters are simply outraged. Losing an election is one thing – it is quite another to be treated with such contempt by a court.

For this reason, many Indonesian and foreign observers predicted the judges would follow the middle path the prosecutors suggested, to soothe his supporters. That they did not says a lot about the extent to which the judges may have felt personally threatened by the Islamist hard-liner protesters who brought well over half a million on to the streets last year to call for Ahok’s imprisonment (and even death). There is also now speculation about whether Facebook posts suggest that one of the judges may have been biased against Ahok from the start.

In any case, it may have seemed easier to the judges to leave the risks to the appeal court that Ahok has already asked to review his conviction. After all, their court had been ringed with police at almost every hearing to fend off the hardliners and others howling outside.

There has thus been no sop offered to Ahok and his supporters by the court. Instead, the judges treated a governor who established a strong reputation for clean and efficient (if tough and blunt) leadership, and one stage enjoyed 70 per cent approval ratings, as if he was the eccentric head of a minor “deviant” cult.

This suggests a fraying of the fabric of Indonesian pluralism. The political openness and tolerance delivered by the post-Soeharto reform era (reformasi) created space for political Islam in Indonesia, just as it did for the ethnic Chinese. It did so by allowing political Islam a place in a broader pluralist system accommodating other social, cultural and political groups, including minorities. It was not intended that these groups would be displaced by political Islam.

This pluralist system has been a fundamental part of the idea of Indonesia constructed by its founders well before independence and taught to every school child since then – even if it is often just lip service and often honoured more in the breach. In any case, one of the clearly articulated aims of reformasi was to give the national motto Bhinneka Tunggal Eka (Unity in Diversity) real meaning, for both Muslims and minorities.

Many Indonesians now see Ahok’s fate as a warning to minorities – particularly the ethnic Chinese – that they have no place in mainstream politics, and that Islamist groups cannot be safely challenged. They feel deeply concerned by Jokowi’s apparent willingness to remain a largely silent bystander as his friend and one-time deputy was thrown to the wolves.

They will see what the appeal court judges do next to Ahok as test of the state of Indonesian pluralism. His Islamist opponents will see it as a test of the judges’ piety.

No pressure.

Tim Lindsey is Malcolm Smith Professor of Asian Law and Director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at the University of Melbourne.