Sunday, October 21, 2007





PLURALISM IN IDUL FITRI, -- The Jakarta Post Editorial, 12 oct 2007





PLURALISM IN IDUL 'FITRI , - The Jakarta Post Editorial, 12 oct 2007

Once again, it is looking like Muslims in Indonesia are divided as to when to celebrate Idul Fitri. Some will mark it on Friday, others will fast the entire 30 days and celebrate the end of Ramadhan on Saturday. Going by past years' celebrations, the mood should remain both festive and spiritual.

The differences will inevitably be a topic of discussion as relatives and friends visit and greet each other on Idul Fitri Day. "Do you celebrate it on Friday or Saturday?" will be one of the most frequently asked questions over this long extended weekend.

Indonesians have become so accustomed to this difference over when Ramadhan begins and when it ends to know that it's nothing to get upset about.

Muslims in Indonesia have come to accept this difference, and, by and large, they have come to respect the decision of others who mark Idul Fitri on a different day. It is not unusual to find the members of an extended family celebrating it on different days.

In no other country, perhaps, is Idul Fitri celebrated on two different days almost every year.

Some government officials (Vice President Jusuf Kalla, for one), as well as Muslim leaders, have lamented the inability of the country's two largest Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, to agree on when Idul Fitri Day falls. They decry the fact that Indonesian Muslims are unable to overcome such a minor difference.

We beg to differ.

Shame on those who fail to see the existence and beauty of differences in interpreting the religion. The different days on which Idul Fitri is celebrated is a testament that pluralism is very much alive in Indonesia, even among Muslims.

If this debate happens only in Indonesia, so be it. Indonesia is, after all, the country with the world's largest Muslim population. It is only natural that there may be differences in interpretation.

And thank God that, unlike in most other countries, the state does not interfere in matters of faith, including in deciding when Ramadhan begins and ends. This is left to the religious organizations to decide, and to the discretion of the individuals to follow whichever approach suits them.

Indonesia is also a country that has long prided itself on its strong sense of tolerance towards people of other races, ethnicities and faiths. This principle of tolerance and respect for the other should also be extended to Muslims who follow different strains or sects, or who simply have different interpretations of Muslim teachings.

Shiites and Sunnis should respect one another, and followers of the Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah should also respect one another. The list goes on and on.

This kind of courtesy should be extended to all other religions and Muslim sects that exist in this country. It's not only that this is mandated by the national Constitution, but it is also taught by Islam.

Two verses may be recited here that underpin the pluralism of Islam: "There shall be no coercion in matters of faith," and "Unto me, my religion, unto you, your religion." These verses essentially urge Muslims not only to be tolerant to people who have different beliefs, but also to respect their rights.

While we laud Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama for showing that pluralism is widely observed and respected, we also lament the decision of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) last week to declare Al Qiyadah al-Islamiyah a deviant sect that is stirring up unrest in society.

The MUI announcement, which goes against the two Islamic tenets cited above, typically prompted the police to take action and to stop the activities of the group at its headquarters in Puncak, West Java, just one week before Idul Fitri.

We have seen this calamity happen before, to the Ahmaddiyah and other smaller Islamic sects that the MUI declared heretic.

As we mark Idul Fitri this year on two different days, we should celebrate the beauty of pluralism in this country. But also spare a thought for those who cannot celebrate the end of Ramadhan -- the followers of al-Qiyadan and Ahmaddiyah among them -- in the open and free from fear because the MUI fails to live up to the Islamic teachings that tell us to respect the beliefs of other people. Pluralism is alive but not yet perfect.

In keeping with the Idul Fitri spirit, this is the appropriate time for everyone to seek and give pardon.

Happy Idul Fitri.



Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The House of Representatives has asked the government to take action over continued immigration raids against Indonesians in Malaysia.

A group of government volunteers has been rounding up Indonesians in Malaysia, taking them to police stations and checking their work permits. The wife of the Indonesian ambassador was recently caught in such a raid.

A number of politicians asked the House to file a strong protest through the national media and urged the government to withdraw the Indonesian ambassador in Kuala Lumpur and suspend sending migrant workers to Malaysia.

Interrupting the plenary session that closed the House's fourth sitting period here Wednesday, Dradjad Wibowo of the National Mandate Party and Permadi of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle said the Malaysian's ongoing operation to sweep Indonesian citizens was no longer tolerable and was "strong evidence" that Malaysia was "looking down on" Indonesia.

Permadi also criticized the government, saying it had remained silent and had done nothing to retaliate over its citizens' uncivilized treatment.

"The government should not stay calm but take concrete action, including withdrawing our ambassador and suspending sending migrant workers in revenge against the Malaysian operation," he said, while insisting that the protest be included in the plenary session's conclusion.

Outside the plenary session, Sutradara Gintings of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle and Yuddy Chrisnandi of the Golkar Party, similarly asked the government to withdraw the Indonesian ambassador to Malaysia within three days as a signal to Kuala Lumpur that Jakarta was against its treatment of Indonesian citizens.

Sutradara also said that the House should ask the government to halt the two countries' annual joint military exercises as this could jeopardize Indonesia's defense strategy.

Meanwhile, Yuddy warned that Malaysia would interfere in Indonesia's internal affairs unless no action was taken.

Manpower Minister Erman Suparno, however, said that the government was unlikely to stop sending workers to Malaysia.

"We would do so if there was a ruling regulating such a mechanism. After all, it is the right of every Indonesian to get a job and decent life as guaranteed in the 1945 Constitution," Erman told reporters Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda warned the House in a hearing with Commission I on defense, information and foreign affairs here earlier this week that sensitive issues such as illegal logging, human trafficking and labor export were considered crucial to the two countries' good ties.

House Speaker Agung Laksono said in a press meeting after the House's plenary session that the two countries' leaders should meet immediately to settle the sensitive issues in a civilized manner.

He said Indonesia should eliminate anti-Malaysian sentiments at home while Malaysia should treat Indonesian citizens humanely.



Urip Hudiono, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Despite a number of improvements over the years, the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) says that significant irregularities are still commonplace in the management of public funds, and that the government is slow to take follow-up action on its findings.

In its latest audit report presented Wednesday to a House of Representatives plenary session, the BPK revealed six cases where there was clear evidence of malfeasance during this year's first half, involving a total of Rp 779.7 billion (US$86 million) in taxpayer funds.

During the same period last year, the BPK found only four cases of malfeasance involving Rp 123 billion in potential losses to the taxpayer. Meanwhile, in the second semester, the BPK found only one case of malfeasance, which involved the reporting of non-tax state receipts worth Rp 24 trillion. This paucity of cases over the last two years compares to thousands of cases of malfeasance involving at least Rp 48 trillion in 2005.

The findings for this year's first semester, however, still give a total of 36,009 cases of financial irregularities uncovered since 2004, with less than a quarter of them having been followed up on, BPK chairman Anwar Nasution said.

Of the 5,717 cases that resulted in actual losses to the state, full recovery had been achieved in only 860 of these.

"We would, therefore, urge the government to issue a regulation as soon as possible to allow for the transparent recovery of taxpayer losses as provided for by the State Treasury Law," Anwar said.

"The government must also continuously improve its accounting systems and capabilities."

The BPK's latest semiannual report was compiled based on the audits it conducted between January and June 2007 on the accounts of 82 ministries, state institutions (including the central bank), 362 local governments, nine state-owned enterprises, and three local government-owned firms.

Also included were the BPK's audit findings on the government's 2006 annual accounts, which were once again given a disclaimer due to a disagreement over auditing of the tax service.

Among the significant cases reported was a financing scheme cooked up by Bank Indonesia's investment house, PT Bahana Pembina Usaha Indonesia (BPUI), for Credit Asia Finance worth Rp 212.8 billion and $34.8 million.

The BPK also highlighted an aircraft leasing deal worth Rp 27.2 billion between PT Merpati Nusantara Airlines and AF Aerospace, and the government's ineffective Rp 75 million injection of capital into the state-owned carrier.

Problems in local government accounts, meanwhile, included a suspicious Rp 106.6 billion shortfall in East Aceh regency's budget, Rp 11.8 billion in fictitious procurements in Purwakarta regency, and a Rp 33 billion loss due to an overdue land-leasing deal in Cilacap regency.

More irregularities could yet surface this year as the BPK has so far only managed to audit the budgets of 362 out of 467 local governments.

The BPK has also been involved in a row with the Supreme Court over the way it accounts for court fees. The dispute was recently resolved when the nation's highest court finally opened its doors to BPK auditors.

Regarding BPK audits of the tax service, Anwar said he expected the Finance Ministry and the BPK to arrive at a similar resolution soon so that audits could be conducted without compromising confidentiality.

"We will carry out the audits as we do at the central bank and state banks. Has anyone heard of the personal data of any customers being leaked by the BPK?" Anwar asked.


REMEMBERING BALI BOMB VICTIMS , The Jakarta Posts 12 oct 2007

On Oct. 12 five years ago, 202 people from 22 countries, including 88 Australians, were killed in Kuta, Bali, when a group of terrorists abused Islamic teachings as a pretext to butcher others. The pain and trauma of this barbaric act continue to be felt by those who lost loved ones and the survivors of the bombing.

The Supreme Court has rejected the appeals of three of the convicted terrorists -- Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Ali Gufron -- and they may soon face the firing squad. But even after these three have been executed, the pain and suffering of the victims' families will very likely remain. For some the anguish will never go away.

However, many Indonesians still find it difficult to accept that Muslims, in the name of their religion, commit terrorist attacks out of hatred for other people.

We should not forget that after the 2002 bombing, terrorists continued to strike. On Aug. 5, 2003, terrorists killed 14 people when they bombed the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta. A year later, on Sept. 9, 11 lives were lost outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. On Oct. 1, 2005, three suicide bombers killed 20 people in Kuta and Jimbaran, Bali.

It is clear that Islam is a peaceful and tolerant religion, as has been proven by Muslims here and around the world. There is no doubt that Islam should not be linked with acts of terror committed by those who happen to be Muslim. Terrorism has been perpetrated by people from other religions, and by many states against their own citizens.

But it is very clear, too, that something has gone wrong in our society that there are people -- no matter how few in number -- willing to commit such terrible crimes in the name of religion. As long as we remain in denial, we will never be able to cure this disease.

The roots of terrorism must be uncovered and addressed. There is no magic cure for this social disease. But when society reaches agreement that something is wrong, it will be easier to work together to fight terrorism.

Tomorrow, let us pray for the victims and survivors of the Bali bombing, and their loved ones. They need to know they are not alone in their grief. Let us also pray for those who have worked tirelessly to help the victims and for everyone who has helped discover the truth behind the carnage.

It is also the right time to ask ourselves: What have we contributed to preventing people who think God sent them to execute others? Preventing terrorism is not the sole responsibility of the government, but of every element in society and the international community.

For the last two years the country has been relatively peaceful thanks in large part to the work of our security forces, especially the National Police with the assistance of foreign countries.

But it is just a matter of time before the nation suffers another horror if we are unable to eradicate the roots of terrorism.

The image of Islam has been severely damaged by those who claim the religion allows them to kill the so-called enemies of Allah.

Muslims around the world need to work together to prove Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. The international community, too, must work together to combat terrorism.

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