Friday, December 1, 2017

Welcome to our December 2017 blog

Dear members and friends

Released: Friday 1st December  2017

Welcome to our December Blog where we focus this month on a number current  issues plus an insight to Jakarta's Corruption Commission and the elite who seek its destruction.

Here is what to read...

 "The elite's war on the Anti-Corrution Commission: Can the Speaker escape again?", By Professor Tim Lindsey.

"The Mt Agung eruption has a deeper significance for the people of Bali", By Graeme MacRae.

"A Leap of faith", By John McBeth

"Indonesia development dilemma: Green v budget pressures", By David Robie

"Unpacking Indonesia's civil-military relations under Jokowi", By Evan Laksmana

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

With our best regards

Lisa Bentley
Indonesia Institute Inc

1st December  2017

Will Indonesia’s fugitive Speaker escape again? The elite’s war on the Anti-Corruption Commission continues.

By Prof. Tim Lindsey

 Indonesians have been riveted for the last two weeks by a bizarre series of events that finally led to the arrest late last week of Setya Novanto, the speaker of the DPR, Indonesia’s national legislature.  
The saga began on the evening of 16 November when Novanto was booked into Jakarta’s Medika Permata Hijau hospital, claimed to be suffering concussion and vertigo after crashing his car into a utility pole.
Questions were raised when it emerged that Novanto had been named a fugitive by the national Anti-Corruption Commission (Komisi Pemberantas Korupsi, KPK). It soon became clear that there was little damage to the car or the pole, and even less evidence that Novanto had suffered any injury at all.
The episode was made all the more galling by the fact that it had happened before. About two months earlier, the Speaker repeatedly ignored KPK summons for questioning, claiming that been hospitalised for illness.
But he became a social media laughing stock when photos released to prove his dire medical condition showed he was connected to medical equipment that was not even plugged in. Novanto has since reported dozens of social media users to the police, and it seems likely they will face prosecution for memes of Novanto malingering that quickly went viral.
Netizens seem unfazed by this, however, and some were even inspired anew by Novanto’s recent car crash to pump out still more memes. Most are grouped under the hashtag #savetianglistrik (“#save the electricity pole”), and depict the pole being rushed to emergency or recovering in hospital. One social media user with too much time on his or her hands even created a smartphone game, the goal of which was to “collide with electricity poles to be admitted to the emergency department”.
The KPK finally said what most Indonesians already thought was the case: that Novanto had, in fact, staged the whole episode to avoid arrest for his alleged role in causing state losses of $225 million linked to a national electronic identity card scheme. This is a major national corruption scandal that has implicated at least 37 DPR legislators in addition to Novanto.
Novanto’s failure to answer a KPK summons for questioning about the ID card case on 15 November was at least the 11th time he had been a no-show and it was this that finally triggered the issue of a warrant for his arrest. Novanto obviously knew this was coming, because hours before the warrant was actually issued, he lodged a pre-trial application with the notorious South Jakarta District Court, challenging the KPK’s designation of him as a suspect.
Later that day, the KPK arrived at Novanto’s home to arrest him., but he was nowhere to be found. They declared him a fugitive the next day and Vice President Jusuf Kalla publicly called for Novanto to turn himself in. It was later that evening that Novanto’s car gently bumped into the utility pole (leaving a small fender dent, without the airbags inflating or the headlights cracking), and his driver took him to the hospital.
By 17 November, Novanto had been moved to another hospital, RS Cipto Mangkusomo, where he underwent tests. By 18 November, however, the game was up, with the medical director announcing that Novanto did not require hospitalisation. The KPK finally hauled him off to its cells in Jakarta’s Cipinang Prison.
But this may not be the end of the famously slippery Novanto, a powerful politician who as well as being Speaker is also chair of Golkar, the political party originally established by President Soeharto, and now the second largest party in the country.
For years, Novanto has repeatedly beaten allegations of criminal behaviour, with seemingly few scruples about how he does it. The pre-trial application he lodged before his car hit the pole may be his way out of this particular mess. Certainly it is a method he has used before.
In late September this year, the South Jakarta District Court upheld an earlier pre-trial application by Novanto, striking down the first declaration by the KPK that he was a suspect in the ID card case. This decision was highly controversial at the time and many suspected that Novanto had somehow been able to influence the court.
Pre-trial hearings were originally intended only to allow the validity of arrest or detention before trial. In 2015, however, the courts re-interpreted the law to allow pre-trial hearings to also decide whether a person had been validly designated a suspect. Since then, they have become an effective way for corruption suspects like Novanto to stymie investigations at an early stage.
That is not enough to stop the KPK, however. Supreme Court and Constitutional Court rulings allow it to re-designate a person a suspect if sufficient evidence exists, and this is what the KPK has now done.
Novanto will obviously be hoping for another decision in his favour when his latest pre-trial application is heard on 30 November. But to do that, he has to prevent his trial for corruption actually beginning by then, because once that happens, the pre-trial process falls away. This may be why he is reportedly delaying KPK investigators by repeatedly “falling asleep” during questioning, making it very difficult for them to get answers from him.
And just as insurance, he has also reported the head of the KPK to the police for forgery and filed a challenge with the Constitutional Court calling on it to strike out the statute establishing the KPK.
This absurd chain of events should be pure comedy, but unfortunately it has a very dark side. It is just the latest skirmish in the long war between Indonesia’s political elite and the skilful and courageous investigators linked to the KPK.
One of the few things most of Indonesia’s divided and fractious politicians and senior public servants agree on is that they loathe and fear the KPK. They have made repeated efforts to pass laws to close it down or strip it of its powers, and are often effective in using legal mechanisms and pliant judges to halt investigations. Senior staff have been framed with corruption charges and one investigator was even partially blinded in an acid attack.
In fact, the only thing standing between the KPK and oblivion is its huge public popularity. With Indonesia’s deeply institutionalised corruption a daily problem for ordinary citizens, and an election pending in 2019, President Joko Widodo and his advisors know that his support would be badly eroded if the KPK went under on his watch.
But that is not something that bothers Indonesia’s Houdini, Setya Novanto, one little bit.
Professor Tim Lindsey is director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at the University of Melbourne.  
(This article was originally published by John Menadue on 28th November 2017)

Mt Agung eruption: Deeper significance for Balinese.

By Graeme MacRae

According to international media coverage, the main problem with Gunung Agung’s eruption  is that the airport is closed and tourists cannot get in or out.
The people of East Bali are largely invisible in these reports, but they too are worried about getting home. While they are well aware of the physical danger, for them, the mountain also represents spiritual elevation and power. It embodies a god and its rumbles are a sign of the god’s displeasure.
While Balinese are nominally Hindu, their most immediate spiritual relationships are with their ancestors and a host of other invisible beings related to the landscape and forces of nature.

Moving out of harm’s way

A month ago, people close to Mt Agung were told to evacuate, but they gradually drifted back to their homes and livelihoods. Now, they can see the glow of lava reflected in the night sky and local rivers running grey with cold lahar – all signs reminiscent of the last eruption in 1963.
The alert has been raised back to the highest level of 4 and a 10km evacuation zone has been re-established around the crater, affecting about 150,000 people.
Nobody wants to evacuate. It means abandoning homes, crops, animals and livelihoods, for an unknown time and an uncertain future. But people are doing it not just because the government is telling them to, but also because of what happened last time.
The volcano and the god it embodies feature in most stories about the origins of Balinese culture, religion and political order. While not many people remember Mt Agung’s last eruption, there are stories and physical traces in the form of deep lava fields and the fertility of soils that have maintained some of the most productive rice fields in the world for at least a millennium.

The wrath of the great mountain

Gunung Agung means “great mountain”. It is the tallest of a cluster of volcanoes across the island, part of a much longer chain that extends through Java to the west and Lombok to the east. Thousands of people live on its slopes, tens of thousands around the foot of it and hundreds of thousands within the zone of previous lava flows and ash falls.
Lahar from Mount Agung flowing down the Yeh Sah River. AAP Image/NEWZULU/Muhammad Fauzy Chaniago, CC BY-ND
Mount Agung is what geologists call a stratovolcano. They do not erupt often but when they do it is usually in violent explosions. They often create lethal combinations: rains of heated rock and ash, poisonous gases, and massive, fast moving flows of lava supercharged with gases and other materials (known as pyroclastic flows).
These kill, destroy and bury. Vesuvius in Italy (79 AD and 1631), Tambora (1815) and Krakatoa (1883) in Indonesia and Mt Tarawera in New Zealand (1886) are famous examples. Pinatubo in the Philippines (1991) was the biggest of the 20th century but Agung’s 1963 explosion was not far behind. It killed many more people.
The official Agung death toll in 1963 was around 1500, but the reality was more like 2000. Most were killed by pyroclastic flows, which buried whole valleys and villages. Some people fled but others saw the eruption as the work of the gods and stayed and prayed as the lava advanced. Some survived, most did not.
Anna Mathew’s little known book The Night of Purnama, observed and written from a village high on the slopes, tells of a build-up eerily similar to what is happening now, culminating in a series of massive eruptions with a catastrophic aftermath. The falling ash destroyed crops across the eastern half of the island. Widespread hunger and dislocation followed. People ate the trunks of banana trees to survive and young men took to the roads in search of work and food.

Mt Agung’s last eruption

Indonesia in 1963 was not a happy place. After 16 years of independence, it had serious economic problems, fragile food security and growing political instability. Sukarno, the first president, retained a fragile grip on power, but was threatened by the growing strength of a huge communist party, asserting the rights of landless farmers and sharecroppers.
The previous year a plague of rats had decimated the rice crop, proving that the gods were offended and more disasters would follow. Religious leaders and scholars debated whether the time had come for the Eka Dasa Rudra, the greatest island-wide ritual of purification and re-establishment of order. It is normally held at the turn of a (Balinese) century but may also be held in times of crisis to avert greater disasters.
Meanwhile Sukarno was casting around for sources of foreign exchange, and eyeing the lucrative growth of tourism in countries such as Thailand. He decided to promote tourism, with the dazzling religious and artistic culture of Bali as its centrepiece. He invited the Pacific Asia Travel Association to hold their convention in Bali and timed it to coincide with the Eka Dasa Rudra.
The ceremony is held at Besakih, a major temple of island-wide significance perched high on the southern slope of Gunung Agung. During the preparations the mountain began doing what it is doing now. The previous eruption had been 120 years earlier, so there were no living memories to go by. Balinese leaders interpreted this as a warning from the gods that something was wrong. They called for postponement, but were overruled.
The ceremony began amid smoke and falling ash. As it proceeded, the real eruption began, blasting molten rock high into the air and pouring lava down its sides. Besakih survived, but the ceremonial gateway built to honour Sukarno was the first casualty of the gods’ displeasure. The catastrophic outcome and aftermath were seen as clear evidence of Sukarno’s loss of favour with the gods. He was deposed two years later.
Mount Agung spewing hot volcanic ash as high as three kilometers into the atmosphere. EPA/MADE NAGI, CC BY-ND

Ritual response

Since 1963, population and density in Indonesia have more than doubled. More people live on the slopes of the mountain and higher up. On the other hand, most people are less dependent on local subsistence crops and infrastructure for delivery of food relief. Escape has also improved enormously. Likewise the evacuations should reduce the immediate impact on life and health.
If this eruption continues to follow the pattern of 1963, the consequences for tourism, agriculture and livelihoods in general are likely to be greater than those of the terrorist bombs in 2002 and 2005. Most Balinese will agree that it is the doing of the gods, but there will be different interpretations of their reasons, ranging from violations of the sacred mountain by tourists and sand mining, to broader reflections on the direction of development and its social and environmental consequences.
But the solution will be the same as after the bombs - ritual, bigger and better than ever, which will address the supernatural causes and attract the tourists back at the same time.
If the big eruption doesn’t happen, the ash clouds will drift away, the planes will fly again, everyone will return to business as usual. It will all be forgotten, along with the evacuees, until next time.

This article originally appeared in The Conversation on 30 November 2017

A leap for faith in Indonesia.

A high court decision gives state recognition to some 245 traditional faiths, a small but overdue victory for religious freedom

 JAKARTA, NOVEMBER 22, 2017 4:59 PM (UTC+8)
Balinese Hindus pray to celebrate the religious festival Galungan at the Jagat Natha temple in Denpasar on Indonesia's Bali island on November 1, 2017. Balinese Hindu adherents celebrate Galungan Day or the Earth's celebration to thank God for the creation of the Earth and its content. Photo: AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka
Balinese Hindus pray to celebrate the religious festival Galungan at the Jagat Natha temple in Denpasar on Indonesia's Bali island on November 1, 2017. Balinese Hindu adherents celebrate Galungan Day or the Earth's celebration to thank God for the creation of the Earth and its content. Photo: AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

Indonesia’s development dilemmas – a green info gap and budget pressure

Crucial to how Indonesia’s news outlets cover the environment – and its destruction – is the ownership and vested interests of the media landscape.  Video: Al Jazeera
In May, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo of Indonesia raised eyebrows across the archipelago when he inspected the Trans-Papua highway while trail blazing with a motorbike.
Tempo magazine, Indonesia’s most authoritative news magazine, remarked that he did this while “wearing only a thick jacket without a bullet proof vest”. Mentioning this lack of a flack jacket was tacit acknowledgement of the uncertain situation given an exponential rise of pro-independence sentiment in Indonesia’s two most eastern-most provinces of Papua and West Papua.
But Jokowi’s unconventional style of launching infrastructure projects didn’t just end there. Earlier this month he cruised along in a four-wheel drive vehicle on the recently completed Becakayu toll road, which had been languishing uncompleted for 18 years until his presidency gave the project a hurry up.
Last month, while giving a speech at Diponegoro University’s 60th Dies Natalis in Semarang, Central Java, Jokowi declared that infrastructure development was vitally important for the future in Indonesia. He wanted the country to become more competitive than its neighbours, such as Malaysia and Singapore.
President Jokowi Widodo checking out progress on the Trans-Papua Highway in May. Image: Repub of Indonesia
“Why is our infrastructure being built?,” he asked rhetorically about the rapid pace and emphasis that he and Vice-President Jusuf Kalla have given the strategy – a marked contrast with other presidencies.
“The answer is that we want our competiveness to be better than other countries. Our global competiveness must be improved,” he said. “This year is pretty good as we have soared from 41st to 36th among 137 countries.”
Tempo magazine: “Infrastructure projects: The devil in the details.”
The latest edition of Tempo magazine has devoted 38 pages to its cover story on infrastructure projects, headlining the fairly comprehensive report “Devil in the details”.
Few environmental reports
But absent from the range of quality articles was any serious report on the state of the environment in Indonesia — or environmental journalism, given that 2000 of the country’s 17,000 islands and 42 million households in a population of 261 million are at risk of “drowning” by 2050, according to a Listening Post report on Al Jazeera last month.
As Al Jazeera reported, “when you look at the [Indonesian] mainstream media, it is hard to find stories that go beyond catastrophes like forest fires or mudslides, examining who and what is behind them.”
A leading environmental journalism advocate has blamed lack of climate change and environmental reporting skills in Indonesian newsrooms for the lack of coverage.
“It is easier for journalists to cover sports or the economy, because they have scores and numbers,” Harry Surjadi, head of the Indonesian Society of Environmental Journalists, told Listening Post. “Those stories are much easier to write than environmental stories, where journalists have to understand biology, ecology, waste and chemistry.”
Nevertheless, Jokowi was praised by The Jakarta Post in a recent editorial for both his development policies and his concern for the poor of the country with his popularity  climbing.
“His overwhelming attention to the basic needs of the people has made him rather obsessive with the objective of keeping the prices of food and other basic necessities stable, thereby keeping inflation below 4 percent,” the Post noted.
However, in its special development edition, Tempo said in an editorial that the Widodo administration was “racing against time” after three years in government to complete its raft of planned infrastructure projects costing an estimated RP4,197 trillion (NZ$415 billion) between 2014 and 2019.
Many ambitious projects with an emphasis on developing the regions, especially eastern Indonesia — including Papua, are being worked on at the same time.
Projects’ sustainability
“All these activities spark public excitement, but also raise questions about the projects’ sustainability,” the magazine said.
“Jokowi’s choice to develop infrastructure is certainly not misplaced. Several studies show that infrastructure development in Indonesia was relatively backward in comparison with neighbours. Even worse: previous administrations spent more on fuel subsidies compared to physical construction,” Tempo commented.
In his Semarang speech, Jokowi said: “Why must we build? Because our country is an archipelago state, the marine foundation base is a must. Airport development was equally important as many islands could not be serviced by ship.
“So, on the remote islands of Natuna, Miangas, we are building an airport. This is just one example because we are building lots of small airports,” Jokowi added.
Natuna, Miangas … a new airport typical of remote location developments. Image: Tribun News
Tempo seemed to agree with this view by stating in its editorial: “In order to reach a healthy and growing economy, Indonesia needs new roads, bridges, power stations, airports and ports. This in turn requires massive funding.”
Some 42 percent of the required funding — the budget from the 2017 year has been almost tripled from RP177 trillion in Jokowi’s first year in office in 2014 to RP 4011 trillion this year — depends on allocations from the state budget, the magazine noted, plus money from state-owned businesses and private partnerships.
Tempo praised Jokowi for cutting back on energy subsidies, saying this was the right move to make – especially over fuel costs.
Sounding a warning
While also complimenting Jokowi on the boost for several jumbo projects that had stalled in recent years to ensure they get completed, Tempo also sounded a warning.
“Jokowi is racing against time. Infrastructure construction generally takes a while, and its economic benefits are only felt three to five years after construction begins: a time span which does not align with our five-year political cycle,” the magazine said.
“The government should avoid giving the impression that it is impatient to reap its rewards from the projects, especially once the cycle of political succession comes around. Good governance must not be abused for the sake of earning points for the next general elections [in 2019].”
Infrastructure development in Indonesia is a “matter of equality and justice” across the nation, says President Widodo. Image: Al Jazeera
Infrastructure highlights:National: RP1,320 trillion (two programmes and 12 projects).
Bali and Nus Tenggara: RP11 trillion (15 projects, including the North Timor border crossing and supporting facilities).
Java Island: RP1,065 trillion (903 projects, including the 81km Serang-Panimbang toll road, MRT underground in Jakarta and public trains/railway).
Kalimantan: RP564 trillion (24 projects, including border crossings and facilities and the Serang-Balikpapan-Samarinda toll road).
Maluku and Papua: RP444 trillion (13 projects, including development of the Tangguh Train 3 LNG plant and the Palapa ring broadband).
Sulawesi: RP155 trillion (27 projects, including the Manado-Bitung toll road).
Sumatra: RP638 trillion (61 projects, including five sections of the Trans-Sumatra toll road).
The Jakarta MRT … among the infrastructure projects. Image: Repub of Indonesia
According to a breakdown chart published by Tempo, partnerships with private companies would provide more than half the projected budget – 57.5 percent, with SOEs providing 30 percent and the balance of 12.5 percent from the state budget.
In a four-page interview with the magazine, Jokowi said that after touring across the country, from Sabang to Merauke, “I saw for myself how grave the inequality was”, and he was convinced that an expanded infrastructure would help reduce the gap.
“This is a matter of equality and justice. Besides, our infrastructure development has lagged far behind our neighbours,” he said.
“Infrastructure is a foundation for tackling the problem of inequality. If we want it easy, we just have to allocate the budget for subsidies and increased social assistance, so purchasing power will increase and the public is happy.
“But do we want to continue this kind of strategy? I took the risk by not resorting to this kind of political move, and instead diverted resources to infrastructure development.”
Yet surprisingly nothing in this otherwise comprehensive report addressed climate change and environmental issues, a critical component of sustainable development in Indonesia.
Devastating forest fires in Indonesia in 2015 were caused by a massive burn-off for palm oil plantations. Image: Al Jazeera
Forest fire devastation
Al Jazeera’s Listening Post report stressed how in 2015 huge fires swept through Indonesia’s rainforests. About 2.6 million hectares of forest was set ablaze to make way for palm oil plantations.
“The fires produced – in just three weeks – more greenhouse gases than Germany does in an entire year,” Listening Post said.
“Forest fires have become an annual occurrence in Indonesia, and still, the country’s media seldom devote the column centimetres and airtime needed to explore the causes behind them.”
Merah Ismail, campaign manager for the mining advocacy network JATAM, was quoted as saying: “When [the media] do cover forest fires or the effects of mining, they leave out “subjects like ‘water poisoned due to toxic waste or air pollution’ because they don’t know enough about those subjects”.
While Jokowi had announced in September 2015 that Indonesia would cut the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 29 percent by 2030, the nation’s news media have reported little on the progress, or lack of it, over this pledge — even with global debate on climate change at COP23 ongoing in Bonn this month.
With little media exposure or debate, the issue of the future of the rainforests has been framed as a tough choice – between the economy and the environment.