Sunday, March 16, 2008





Indonesia in dilemma over Kosovo independence
House knocks back new mudflow report
Question the judges, KPK told
House of Representatives adopts parliamentary threshold
Sharia controversy
Kalimantan town comes together for Cap Go Meh
Press bodies to request judicial reviews


RI in dilemma over Kosovo independence

Abdul Khalik and Desy Nurhayati, The Jakarta Post,
JakartaIndonesia has delayed its decision on whether to recognize or reject Kosovo's independence until it can settle differences at home and be sure of the international voicePresident Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Monday Indonesia was closely following developments in Kosovo and monitoring views at the national level and at the United Nations before issuing the right decision on Kosovo.

"In time we will convey our best position for Kosovo. If Kosovo's independence is the best for Kosovo and other nations in the world then we will be in the position to support it. "In accordance with our traditions, we will consult our parliament to be able to have a position on certain world issues," Yudhoyono told reporters during a joint press conference with visiting Finnish President Tarja Halonen at the State Palace. Indonesia's indecisiveness has been apparently caused by dissenting opinions among domestic stakeholders, with the country's largest party, Golkar, and several Islamic-related parties, notably the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), the United Development Party (PPP) and the National Mandate Party (PAN) supporting Kosovo's independence while the second largest party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and several minor parties rejecting it.

Golkar's senior lawmaker Theo Sambuaga urged the government to quickly recognize and support Kosovo's independence, underlining the fact that Indonesia is a pro-independence nation and all Kosovo people support the declaration. "Our recognition to Kosovo doesn't mean that we encourage separatism movements within our territory because we have a different history from Kosovo, which is part of the former Yugoslavia. If other former Yugoslavian territories can separate, why can't Kosovo?" he told /The Jakarta Post/. Like Kosovo, Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim territory. The PKS said Indonesia's recognition of Kosovo's independence should be made through the UN. "Indonesia should push for international recognition through the UN General Assembly to put more weight on the recognition," Mutammimul Ula of the PKS told the Post. Indonesia is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

But fear of flourishing separatist movements, including Papua and Aceh, as a result of Indonesia's recognition of Kosovo's independence haunt the nationalist-oriented PDI-P. "We should be very careful. Territorial integrity is guaranteed by the UN Charter and our Constitution. Kosovo's independence will set a bad precedent that a territory can just secede even without the UN's consent," senior lawmaker Sidharto Danubroto of PDI-P told the /Post/. Several analysts have expressed concerns that the Kosovo issue would provide some parties with ammunition to petition for another move to question the President in the House of Representatives to win the public's hearts ahead of the 2009 elections.

House knocks back new mudflow report

The Jakarta Post*, Jakarta, Sidoarjo - 20 .02 .08The House of Representatives unanimously dismissed Tuesday a report from its own special team concluding that the devastating mudflow in East Java was a natural phenomenon.The report apparently sided with Lapindo Brantas Inc., widely blamed for the disaster that began on May 29, 2006, lawmakers told a plenary meeting on the mudflow. "The report seems to have been written by Lapindo's public affairs division," legislator Permadi of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said. He said the report clearly defended Lapindo, linked to the family of chief welfare minister Aburizal Bakrie, since it failed to cite the role of Lapindo in causing the mudflow in Sidoarjo regency. The plenary session created confusion over whether it had also decided to continue with the House's plan to question senior officials, including President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, about the government's commitment to victims of the disaster. House Deputy Speaker Soetardjo Soerjogoeritno, who presided over the session, confirmed the plan.

However, some members of the special team held a press conference shortly after the plenary session to say the meeting concluded that the team had to continue its investigation. "We have already clarified this with /Mbah/ Tardjo (Soetardjo) and what he decided was to prolong this team's work," said Priyo Budi Santoso, a Golkar Party legislator with the team. Permadi said if the special team failed to complete its task to the satisfaction of the House, it would be followed with a plan to summons the government. "The team must be disbanded and the House will continue with the interpellation plan," Permadi added. Last September a number of lawmakers proposed the House use its right to summon President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to explain the matter.

But the House could not reach an agreement on the issue and instead decided to establish a special team to examine the government's effort to handle the mudflow and its impacts. Team member Tjahjo Kumulo, who read out the report during Tuesday's plenary meeting, said the House had no authority to determine whether the mudflow was natural or man-made. "That is the expert's authority," said Tjahjo, who is also from the PDI-P faction. Despite this statement however, the report repeatedly cited information supporting the theory that the mudflow was an "uncontrollable natural disaster".

It quoted geologists as saying the mudflow was caused by an underground mud volcano that had nothing to do with human activities. The report also cited the South Jakarta District Court's verdict that ruled the mudflow was a purely natural phenomenon. Dradjad Wibowo of the National Mandate Party (PAN) said such a report might have budget implications for the state. "If the disaster is perceived as a natural phenomenon, PT Lapindo may use that to sue the government to return all Rp 1.3 trillion they have disbursed for the victims," he said. In Sidoarjo, some 3,000 victims of the mudflow were angered by the team's conclusion and took to the streets to protest. They barricaded the Porong highway and railway tracks next to the mud volcano site, triggering heavy traffic. The protesters, from five badly affected hamlets, demanded that Lapindo Brantas pay them compensation as soon as possible.

Question the judges, KPK told

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta - 18 feb 2008The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) should not stop at questioning officials and lawmakers, but must summon prosecutors and judges implicated in the alleged swindle of Rp 100 billion (US$10.81 million) of Bank Indonesia funds, activists said."KPK must investigate all people implicated in the graft case, including prosecutors and judges -- if there is enough preliminary evidence, and we will support them," Ganjar Pranowo of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) told /The Jakarta Post/ on Sunday.

A letter from the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) to the KPK in November 2006, a copy of which was sent to /The Jakarta Post/, named lawyers, prosecutors and judges handling cases of BI officials implicated in billions of dollars of the Bank Indonesia Liquidity Assistance (BLBI) graft cases. The BPK's letter said misappropriation of the Rp 100 billion fund saw money disbursed from the Indonesian Banking Development Foundation between 2003 and 2004.

Out of the fund, Rp 68.5 billion was used to help resolve BLBI cases and Rp 31.5 billion was allegedly distributed to House members with the financial affairs commission during the amendment of the BI law. The letter alleged Rp 68.5 billion of the funds was submitted to law enforcement officials at the Attorney General's Office in bribes to stop cases that had implicated former BI governors and directors, including J. Soedrajad Djiwandono, Iwan R. Prawiranata, Heru Supraptomo, Hendrobudianto and Paul Sutopo.

"It was found later that investigations into Soedrajat and Iwan were dropped by the Attorney General's Office," the letter read. The letter said Heru, Hendrobudiyanto and Paul were only given 1.5 years in prison after going through the district court, high court and Supreme Court with Court Justice Bagir Manan presiding all of the supreme court trials.

KPK has announced BI Governor Burhanudin Abdullah, along with BI legal affairs director Oey Hoey Tiong and former head of BI's communication bureau Rusli Simanjuntak, as suspects in the case. The anti-graft body has detained Oey and Rusli and questioned more than 12 other BI officials as witnesses, including former deputy governor Aulia Pohan, father-in-law to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's son. Last week, all named BI officials were banned from traveling abroad. Lawmaker Hamka Yamdhu and former House member Anthony Zeidar Abidin were also interrogated by KPK. "The case shows a full circle of corruption that involves executives, legislative and judicial personnel," Golkar Party lawmaker Hari Azhar Azis said. "But KPK should continue probing law enforcement officials to avoid discrimination."

Ibrahim Fahmi of the Indonesian Corruption Watch also urged KPK to investigate all those mentioned in the BPK's report to prove case investigations were not politically-motivated to prevent Burhanudin from re-running for BI governor. "In fact, we suggest that KPK stop investigating other cases for several months to be able to put all its resources to this crucial case," he told the /Post/.

House of Representatives adopts parliamentary threshold
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The House of Representatives has agreed to adopt a parliamentary threshold system for political parties to obtain seats in the legislature following the 2009 elections. However, lawmakers are still debating the percentage of the threshold for parties to be eligible to have representatives at the House. "We are still discussing the percentage of the threshold, but right now it looks like it will be either 1.5 percent or 2 percent (of the House seats) for the 2009 elections," said legislator Andi Yuliani Paris with the House special committee deliberating the draft election law.

Under the current election law, a party that wins even one seat at the House is allowed to have a representative at the House, but it must merge with a major party or other small parties to establish a legislative faction. The current law also applies an electoral threshold system, barring parties that won less than 3 percent of House seats in the 2004 elections from contesting the 2009 polls, unless they establish a new party. For the 2014 general elections, Andi said the House would adopt a parliamentary threshold system. "The House has agreed to make 2 percent of House seats the parliamentary threshold for the 2014 elections," she said. This system could have an impact on the total number of seats in the House, as some seats might be lost when parties fail to reach the threshold.

"We are still discussing what to do with the remaining seats," said Andi. She said the House could simply annul those seats or distribute them to other parties that met the threshold. "If we decide to distribute the remaining seats, we need to figure out how to do that," she said. Andi said the House special committee was also discussing other electoral issues including the number of seats to be contested in each electoral area. The committee said the new legislation would make it tougher for violators of election regulations.

Ignatius Mulyono of the committee said the new election law would allow police or prosecutors to summon lawmakers accused of election crimes without presidential permission. "Law enforcers will not need the president's consent to question lawmakers committing election-related crimes," he said. Currently, state officials including lawmakers cannot be summoned for criminal questioning without presidential approval.

The bill also requires law enforcers to resolve all election-related criminal complaints five days before the General Elections Commission releases poll results. The House committee is also divided over the issue of legislative candidates who have been implicated in criminal acts. "The Golkar Party wants the new legislation to stipulate that candidates must not be criminal suspects only when running for legislative seats. "But the nine other factions in the House demand that candidates must never have been charged or jailed for crimes," said Andi. Ferry Mursyidan Baldan, head of the special committee, said the team has finished deliberating 95 percent of the election bill. "All the factions are still lobbying each other over several issues and the House leaders will have a final lobbying with the government on Sunday night," he said.

The House is scheduled to pass the bill into law during a plenary session next Tuesday. *(alf)*


Sharia controvers

The government has decided not to revoke the much-criticized sharia-inspired bylaws. What do you have to say about the decision not to revoke the bylaws? Do you agree or disagree with the government's position? Send your thoughts via SMS to +62 811 187 2772. Please include your name and city.

Kalimantan town comes together for Cap Go Meh

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Sungai Pinyuh, West Kalimantan

Thousands of people hit the streets of Sungai Piyuh, about 60 kilometers north of Pontianak, West Kalimantan, on Thursday evening to see the longest /barongsai/ (dragon dance) ever performed in the area.Old and young people from all ethnic groups living in the area, including Chinese, Dayak, Malay, Bugis, Madurese and Javanese, gathered along the roads. When the dragon dancers emerged from Tri Dharma Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in town, a roar of excitement erupted. Two smaller dragons and a huge phoenix appeared among the crowd to join the celebration, as firecrackers were shot into the evening sky, a sign that the celebration of Cap Go Meh had begun.

Cap Go Meh is the closing of 15 days of activities to celebrate the Chinese New Year. "It is my third year. I love to be part of the show every year, and people love us," 17-year-old /barongsai/ dancer Syamsul Hadi, a Muslim from a Malay-Bugis family, said as he wiped the sweat from his face during a break. His friend, Akiu, a 16-year-old Catholic-Chinese, nodded and smiled in agreement. Both looked confused when asked whether their parents objected to them taking part in the show. "Of course not, what's wrong with it? In fact, they are very proud of me," Syamsul said, adding that while the majority of the performers were ethnic Chinese, the /barongsai/ troupes included Dayaks, Javanese, Bugis and Maduranese.

Sungai Piyuh is located at the crossroads of most of the large towns in Pontianak, including Singkawang, Sambas and Entekong, which has a border gate with the Malaysian city Kuching. "As a result, you can find almost all the country's ethnic groups here. They have been living here peacefully for a long time and we embrace each other's cultures and customs as our own," one of the town's leading figures, Hartono "Ahang" Salim, said. He said all of the ethnic groups in the area performed their special songs and dances during the Cap Go Meh celebrations. "It's just like when we have Idul Fitri, all the Chinese people in town help us make a huge celebration. And when Christmas and New Year arrive, we are also busy preparing the festivities for our Christian friends," Edi Ahmad, a Malay Muslim, said.

West Kalimantan was in the news several years ago when a series of ethnic conflicts between the Dayak, helped by Malays, and the Maduranese claimed thousands of life. Pictures of Dayaks carrying the severed heads of Maduranese were broadcast around the world, raising questions about ethnic harmony in the archipelago. Minor ethnic tensions continue to plaque the province until today. "Our town stayed out of the conflict. We were the last oasis of ethnic peace during the conflict. All ethnic groups guard the town against outside violence, but we accept any refugees seeking protection on the condition that they obey our rules and do not make any problems," Edi said.

Edi and Ahang said the willingness of residents to embrace differences and respect other cultures and customs was the key to the continued peace. "Celebrating Cap Go Meh together like this will strengthen our realization that living in peace will benefit all of us," Ahang said.


Press bodies to request judicial reviews

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, 22.02.08

Press organizations will request the Constitutional Court to review defamation articles in the Criminal Code, following the district court's conviction of senior journalist Bersihar Lubis.

The Depok District Court sentenced Bersihar to one month in prison Wednesday, before suspending his sentence and requiring three month's probation. Bersihar was put on trial for insulting the Attorney General's Office (AGO) with his opinion article in Koran Tempo daily newspaper, titled /Kisah Interogator yang Dungu/ (The Story of Stupid Interrogators).

The court found him guilty, saying he violated article 207 of the Criminal Code on insulting public institutions. Presiding judge Suwidya said while Bersihar was an opinion writer, he should be accountable for the content of his work. Press Legal Aid executive director Hendrayana said the organization would ask for judicial reviews of the Criminal Code articles, including article 207, which had violated the freedom of the press.

"We will appeal for the review of some articles, including 207, 310 and 316 in mid March," he told /The Jakarta Post/ on Thursday. Hendrayana said the organization would coordinate the appeal for Bersihar and journalist Risang Bima Wijaya, the former general manager of /Radar Yogyakarta/ daily, who was sentenced to six months in prison. Sleman District Court, Yogyakarta, found Risang guilty of insulting /Kedaulatan Rakyat/ daily owner Soemadi M. Wonohito. Risang has been in prison since January this year. Indonesian Press Council head Ichlasul Amal said the organization had long planned to request judicial reviews of several articles.

"The problem is that appeals must be requested by those who are directly affected by the articles, not us," Amal told the /Post/. He said the council would discuss the matters at a plenary session Feb. 29. "We will call on those who have been 'victimized' by the articles to request the reviews with us."

Alliance of Independent Journalists head Heru Hendratmoko said the organization would support Bersihar in the judicial review. "The articles are no longer relevant for a democratic country like Indonesia," he said. Heru said he was hopeful the court would void those articles. "There is a high possibility the articles will be annulled, because the Constitutional Court has already scrapped three other articles of defamation on the President and Vice President," he said.

In December 2006, the Constitutional Court made history by scrapping articles 134, 136 and 137 of the Criminal Code, which ruled that burning pictures of the President and Vice President and mocking them in public were insults.

The court reviewed the code as requested by lawyer Eggi Sudjana and activist Pandapotan Lubis. Pandapotan was arrested after insulting the President at a rally, while Eggi was charged with defaming President Susilo Yudhoyono with his statement that Yudhoyono and his son had received Jaguar sedans from businessman Hary Tanoesudibjo. The report turned out to be fabricated. The three articles made it difficult for people to criticize the President and his deputy, Court chief Jimly Asshiddiqie said during the hearing.

The articles undermined the country's process toward democracy by causing confusion as they were open to subjective interpretation, he said.

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