Tuesday, May 7, 2013

*Friday -- 05 April 2013 *


*NB: *

*After seeing the documentary film “THE ACT OF KILLING” (producer: Joshua Oppenheimer) in Stockholm, April 1, 2013, the Indonesian Ambassador gave an intrerview:*

*He claimed that what we saw in the film (the killing of thousands of innocent people), was Indonesia during the “turbulent period” of 1965 (the anti-Left campaign of Gen. Suharto and the successive overthrow of President Sukarno). Now, he said, Indonesia has changed in a democratic country. Indonesia, he said, is now even praised by the world as an example of democracy in practice in that part of the world.*

*Let us follow below what one of the Indonesian newspaper, The Jakarta Post, has to say. * * **

*A lawless nation*

The Jakarta Post | Editorial | Wed, April 03 2013,

Acts of violence are creating an image for the nation that is quite different from that presented in hospitality advertisements to woo foreign tourists. The recent arson attack on the mayor’s office Palopo, South Sulawesi, and raids on several other buildings, including the editorial offices of the Palopo Pos daily, on Sunday were only the latest in a string of attacks that nobody can predict will end.
Over the last few months, brutality has trumped the better angels of our nature across the archipelago, which stretches from Aceh at its westernmost tip to Papua in the east.
People were understandably shocked, given that the violence in Palopo came just after reports of soldiers who burned down a police station in Ogan Komering Ulu, South Sumatra; a mob that killed a police station commander in Simalungun, North Sumatra; the murder of a police officer in Aceh and the murder of suspects inside their cell in a prison in Yogyakarta.

The incident in Palopo was perhaps characteristic of the dynamic nature of the nation’s democracy, particularly due to the high expectations of voters for their candidates to win in free elections. The central government in Jakarta is mulling having regents and mayors elected by regional legislative councils, as was done during the New Order, to prevent unnecessary electoral conflict, damage and fatalities.
In the interim, the government has been looking for scapegoats and scholars have been digging deep to find the root causes of the violence. While many explanations have been offered as to what triggered the incidents, we should take our cue from reports that said that angry people took matters into their own hands due to their distrust of the way the law has been implemented in the nation.

The public’s disgust with law enforcement has not suddenly emerged, but has been built up over time as some people have enjoyed impunity, blatantly contradicting the basic principle of equality before the law.

How can the government encourage people to abide by the law if the young son of a top minister was freed after he was convicted of killing two people in an traffic accident while other less-well-connected defendants were thrown into prison. The public has also been left flabbergasted after prominent tycoons fled the nation just before bans on their overseas travel were imposed.

The notion of equality before the law has quite obviously been tossed out the window when some politicians remain at large after they were declared corruption suspects while those from other parties were immediately detained. Law enforcers may speak at length about their discretion. For the man or woman on the street, however, seeing is believing.

What can we as citizens say about a system that has sentenced people to six months’ imprisonment for murder done in the name of religion?
There are always loopholes, faulty prosecutions and bad verdicts in any nation. However, there are far too many problems in Indonesia. There are the untouchables among us whom law enforcers cannot bring to justice because of their access to power.

Strict and fair law enforcement is all that the nation needs to maintain popular confidence in the legal system and to discourage people from taking the law into their hands. As long as the elite think they have the right to bend the law, the masses will follow suit.
Distrust in the law is a clear signal of a failed state. Perhaps we are headed that way, after all. * * *
When law is neglected
The Jakarta Post | Editorial | Tue, March 26 2013,

The early Saturday morning attack at the Cebongan Penitentiary in Sleman, Yogyakarta, and the subsequent execution of four murder suspects inside the prison cell shocked and infuriated all Indonesians. The incident was a mere display of how the law in this republic has yet again, been neglected.

It is too premature to conclude what party or institution is to be held responsible for the incident, with the police currently investigating the matter. If we talk about the police’s standard investigation procedures, they can start from analysing the motives.

The four killed in the shooting spree were suspects in the murder of army officer First Sgt. Heru Santoso, media reports say that he was a member of the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) Group II in Kartosuro, Central Java; while the commander of the Diponegoro Regional Military Command, which oversees Central Java and Yogyakarta provinces, said Santoso was a member of the Military Command. It is therefore reasonable, based on the police’s investigation technique textbook, that the perpetrators were peers of Santoso who sought revenge for his death.

The police can also analyze the way the perpetrators attacked and killed the four prisoners. Many believe the execution was conducted by a group of highly skilled persons. There are only a few military and police units — or perhaps a very rare civilian terrorist group — with the capacity to carry out such an operation.Another element of evidence, although its validity is slim, is the claim by one of the perpetrators (when they sought entry to the outer prison compound) that they were from the police.

Lastly, the police can also start their investigation by analyzing the 31 bullets found in the bodies of the four murdered suspects and the weapon used to fire the bullets (only one person took the shots). From the bullets and the weapon used, it can be concluded what party or institution was responsible for the acts.

Apart from investigating the perpetrators’ motives, the police’s investigation must also verify why the Yogyakarta Police had twice moved the four murder suspects and eventually decided to “temporarily keep” them at the Cebongan Penitentiary. Such verification is necessary in order to find out whether the Yogyakarta Police had been aware or received information of the possible raid and subsequent killing of the suspects.

All questions surrounding the motives and facts of the prison attack and the killing of the suspects, if they can be addressed by the police’s investigation, will be beneficial in determining what measures to take to tackle its root cause. If the attack and killings on Saturday were merely a revenge act, necessary administrative and legal sanctions must be imposed on the perpetrators — and possibly on their superior(s) if the latter knew of the incident.

A different treatment and solution is needed if the incident, which was preceded by the murder of Sgt. Santoso, was triggered by “security protection” rivalry, which many in the security circle say remains rampant to date. Apart from administrative and legal sanctions against all the perpetrators involved, a review into the civilian-police-military relations is necessary, with clearer laws and regulations needed, particularly on the role and function of the police and the military in maintaining security and order in the country.

Last but not least, successful law enforcement will only be attainable if all crimes or violations against civilian laws — conducted by police and military officers — are tried at a civilian court, separate from the police or military tribunals that are supposed to try professional- or duty-related violations only.All and all, the key is true and fair law enforcement. * * *

 The (un)Democratic Party

The Jakarta Post | Editorial | Mon, April 01 2013,

When you are unable to find anybody you can trust, someone who will always remain loyal to you in leading an institution or an organization, you will turn to those closest to you within your family  — or even resort to  yourself. Such a decision is only human, but its practice is essentially an indication of dictatorship.

And that is exactly what happened at the extraordinary congress of the Democratic Party (PD) on Saturday. Despite all the claims that the process leading up to the “unanimous nomination” of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as the “single candidate” for the party’s chairmanship was democratic, the fact that Yudhoyono also holds two other key party positions that are even more powerful than the post of party chairman is more than enough to say that he is in full control of the Democratic Party.
Prior to being elected party chairman on Saturday, Yudhoyono has been the chairman of the party’s board of patrons and the chairman of the party’s supreme assembly ever since the party was established on Sept. 9, 2001.

In addition to Yudhoyono’s leadership in the three crucial party posts, his total control of the party’s affairs is supplemented by his son, Edhie Baskoro Yudhoyono, who is the party’s secretary-general, the key person in the administrative affairs of the party.

As chairman of the board of patrons, Yudhoyono is indeed a powerful figure in the party as, according to the party’s statutes, every decision or policy made by the party’s board of executives can only be made with his approval as board chairman.

As chairman of the party’s supreme assembly, Yudhoyono has the final say on any party members put forth as candidates in gubernatorial-deputy gubernatorial, regental-deputy regental and mayoral-deputy mayoral elections nationwide.
And as party chairman, Yudhoyono will be the most influential Democratic Party figure in the drafting of the party’s list of candidates for next year’s legislative election and presidential election. According to a regulation of the General Elections Commission (KPU), which organizes the five-yearly legislative elections and subsequent presidential election, the list of legislative candidates and the nomination of presidential-vice presidential candidates are only valid when approved and signed by a party chairman.

Apart from his multiple roles in the Democratic Party, a subject of concern about Yudhoyono’s additional role as the party’s chairman is whether he can fully dedicate himself in his capacity as the country’s top executive. Not only is it ethically unacceptable for him to lead a political party and at the same time the country,  a very rare phenomenon in a democratic country, there is a big question mark regarding his readiness to focus on his main duties as the president.
Admittedly Yudhoyono did say on Saturday that he would delegate the daily affairs of each of his three posts in the party — board of patrons chairman, supreme assembly chairman and party chairman — to a caretaker that he would later appoint. However, as his responsibilities in the three party posts will be retained, the final decisions regarding programs and policies of the three areas within his leadership will still need his approval.

All this  at a time when the deadline to announce legislative candidates is fast approaching (within the next two weeks) and as the next stages of next year’s general election will obviously occupy most of his working time as president. Yudhoyono must remember that he is the president of the Republic of Indonesia, which he should care about more than a political party — which is, after all, only a political vehicle for him to secure the No. 1 post in the country. * * *

 The humiliating truth

The Jakarta Post | Editorial | Fri, April 05 2013,

Six days after Army chief of staff Gen. Pramono Edhie Wibowo said that “elements within the Army” might have been involved in the murder of four prisoners in Cebongan Prison in Yogyakarta, an Army investigation team has confirmed that 11 Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus) commandos were behind the brazen executions.

Such a forthright revelation is extraordinary, given that the investigators come from within the Indonesian Military (TNI), an institution committed to rehabilitating itself — however haltingly — after decades of complicity with Soeharto’s repressive and authoritarian New Order.

The announcement has revealed a truth that has undermined the TNI’s efforts to reform: the brutal prison raid and executions have damaged the image of the TNI as the protector of the nation. It is a damning blow for Kopassus in particular, as the Special Forces have not completely overcome their alleged involvement in the abduction of student and anti-government activists in the waning days of Soeharto’s rule.

The Army’s speedy investigation, which identified the lone executioner of the four suspects as U, deserves praise. It has removed doubts held by members of the general public of the Army’s seriousness, especially since previous incidents have been settled secretly and conspiratorially between “gentlemen”, instead of openly and transparently in court.

However, despite the announcement, the public is waiting to see what steps the Army will take to ensure that the Kopassus are brought to justice in a military court.

A failure to impose strong punishment against those found guilty of raiding the prison and murdering the suspects will only diminish the public’s trust of the TNI in general, and of the Army and Kopassus in particular.

A failure to levy heavy sentences for the prison executions will increase demands for civilian courts to prosecute military personnel. The Cebongan incident will be a test for the TNI, if it wants to preserve its right to implement military justice for its members. * * *

 Week review: Global and local dramas

The Jakarta Post | Editorial | Sun, March 31 2013,

Indonesia has hosted a set of global and local dramas at home in the past week. Both have brought a mixture of pride and shame to us collectively as Indonesia, the world’s fourth-largest nation by population and its third-largest democracy.

Good news came from Bali, as the fourth High Level Panel Meeting on Post-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) concluded on Wednesday with an “ambitious yet achievable” framework ready to be submitted to the UN secretary-general in May.
The co-chairs of the meeting — President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and UK Prime Minister David Cameron — stated that the panel agreed to renew a global partnership that would enable “a transformative, people-centered and planet-sensitive development agenda” to be realized through the equal partnership of all stakeholders. They said that the panel also agreed that financing for the development agenda would be clearly specified.

The agenda would require honoring international, regional and national financing commitments as well as finding innovative sources of finance, such as private investment, public-private partnerships and market mechanisms, they added.
Yudhoyono said that the panel discussed a framework that developed out of the international Rio+20 conference on the environment, where governments agreed to set up an open working group, comprised of 30 government representatives from every regions, to develop a stakeholder engagement plan to build a framework for the so-called Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The past week also saw a positive development in the country’s financial sector. A relatively smooth meeting of the House of Representatives’ Commission XI overseeing the economy and finance eventually endorsed on Tuesday Finance Minister Agus Martowardojo’s nomination by Yudhoyono as the new governor of Bank Indonesia (BI).
Agus, who was selected by a vote following “fit-and-proper” tests, will replace Darmin Nasution, who will soon end his tenure at the central bank. This was the second time that Agus was nominated by Yudhoyono to lead BI. While he failed to pass muster at the House in 2008, his selection on Tuesday proceeded smoothly.

The appointment received a warm welcome from the markets on Wednesday, with the main price index on the local stock exchange rising to a record high. The Jakarta Composite Index (IHSG) reached a record 4,928.10 on Wednesday, while the rupiah rose 0.1 percent to 9,722 per US dollar.
Economists said the positive trend market indicated a high level of confidence in Agus’ capability as the new central bank governor for Southeast Asia’s largest economy.

However, this leaves a huge question mark as to who will be the next finance minister, especially given that Agus won international acclaim for his success in spearheading reform at the once corruption-riddled Finance Ministry. The possible candidates to replace Agus floating around include Deputy Finance Minister Mahendra Siregar, tax chief Fuad Rahmany and Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM) head Chatib Basri.
In contrast to the successful Bali meeting and smooth selection of BI governor, the nation was provided with a controversy by the East Jakarta District Court, which handed down a suspended five-month sentence on Monday on 22-year-old M. Rasyid Amrullah, whose reckless driving led to the deaths of two people.

The verdict was less than the very little asked for by prosecutors, who wanted Rasyid — the youngest son of Coordinating Economic Minister Hatta Rajasa — to be sentenced to eight months in jail and a Rp 12 million (US$1,23) fine.
While Rasyid cooperated during the investigation and the trial and shown remorse of the deaths, the light verdict was unfair and has tarnished justice in the eyes of the public. An average person without Rasyid’s immense wealth or political connections would have faced a substantially harsher sentence.

In another display of the state’s failure to protect the rights of all its citizens, the nation was presented over the past week with the imposition of bans on several Christian church congregations from conducting divine services.

The latest incident occurred on Wednesday, when the Bekasi City administration banned the Indonesian Christian Church in Gembrong (GKI Gembrong) from conducting services at its church in Jatibening Baru subdistrict for lack of a permit.
Marihot Samosir, a spokesman for GKI Gembrong, said on Wednesday that a meeting of church representatives, the district leadership assembly (Muspika) and the Inter-Religious Harmony Forum (FKUB) ordered the church to halt services before the building permit could be obtained.

He said that those at the meeting allowed the congregants to conduct their services — as long as they were able to negotiate with the mob protesting in front of their church on Sundays, including Islam Defenders Front (FPI) members and local residents. GKI Gembrong is the latest target of religious intolerance in Greater Jakarta.

The previous week, the Batak Protestant Church (HKBP) in Taman Sari, Setu district, was demolished by the local administration for lacking a permit. Meanwhile, the HKBP Filadelfia church in Tambun, Bekasi, is experiencing continuous resistance from residents and Islamic organizations, despite having the required permit.* — Imanuddin Razak * * **

 ‘Ruko’ churches and the issue of Islamization

Khairil Azhar, Jakarta | Opinion | Fri, April 05 2013,

Not more than one 200 meters from our house, there are more than two ruko (shop houses) that for as long as I can remember have been used as places of worship every Sunday. During walks with my children in the morning or while wandering alone looking for daily needs in the nearby minimarts, we can spot our Christian neighbors going to their simple places of worship.

Thank God, so far, the availability of these “temporary churches” has not incited any violence. In fact, we know that in the housing complex where the rukos are situated, there are some hard-line Islamic organizations, which allegedly often provoke mass attacks on unofficial non-Muslim places of worship.

Many assume that the “temporary churches” will be safe as long as they are just as they are now.
Even some hard-liners whom I know well pay less attention to the ruko churches than to their wish to radicalize mainstream Muslims with focused religious services often called liqa.

However, the situation raises the question, “Will those Christians perform their prayers that way forever as it is too difficult to just get a building permit?”
Amid the smokescreen of legalities and political expediency, we also should ask another question, “Will the peace we have been so far enjoying last amid the ebb and flow of Muslim and non-Muslim relationships?”
In West Java, especially, where temporary churches might be the most prevalent — there is no exact number — religious violence related to the issue of places of worship and Muslim minorities (Shiites and Ahmadis) has most frequently occurred in recent years. And sadly, we have seen no significant efforts from the authorities to change this.
The bulldozing of a church in Setu, Bekasi, a district in West Java, on March 22, was therefore the foreseeable result of the local authority plumping for one side and abandoning the other instead of trying to stand in between.

We could see clearly that the issue of legality was just a cover for political expediency.
And the people in the administration do not understand that they are actually raising snakes in the grass. Potential conflicts should not be resolved through one side winning and leaving the other in misery. Sooner or later, new forms of conflict will arise since the underlying issues are only papered over instead of being resolved.

An Indonesianist, MC Ricklefs, based on his apprehension of what is going on in Indonesia, dedicated his latest book Islamization and its opponents in Java (2012), “to those who, over the centuries, have lost their livelihoods, their homes, their friends, their loved ones, their dignity, their dreams, their health, their freedom and their lives, because of conflicts over what people believe.”

To avoid bias or misunderstanding, Islamization here should be understood in the context of other cases of proselytization, such as Christianization, Buddhistization and so on. The point is how people try to improperly change others’ beliefs related to the way they understand their religion or practice their religiosity.
Beside efforts to make an individual or a group of people convert, it also includes any endeavors which make someone or a group feel uncomfortable or threatened
to the extent of changing his or their minds and following the demands of the propagators, either partially or thoroughly. For the propagators themselves, it is usually done in the hope of gaining a godly reward as well as communal praise and benefits.

Looking at the present day, therefore, if one feels uncomfortable or threatened because of propagation or the way someone or a milieu looks at one related to one’s beliefs, it can be said that there is a tolerance problem.
And Ricklefs, after decades of studying Indonesia, senses the problem. In other words, scientifically, he would like to say that Indonesia is now facing a big challenge over the quality of religious tolerance.

Certainly, someone’s changing of a belief or the way he or she chooses to dress is actually a privilege. Whether all citizens of a country are Muslim or Christian is also not the point.
The point is whether someone or a group of people deprives others of their rights or interferes with those rights. If communal peace and harmony are really sought it is surely a must that problems be resolved both locally and nationally.

Back to the above story, in the current political and legal uncertainty, our Christian fellow citizens with their ruko places of worship are actually like people submerged up to their necks. Once the water ripples or a small wave comes, they will sink and we will see bloodshed or the loss of lives.
The places of worship will be there as long as a police or an army car is parked in front of them. Or, the congregations will feel secure as long as the local police are looked after and the security racketeers get their share. But, as long as they are still worshipping in the rukos, the quality of their “security” will not be as good as what their Muslim fellow neighbors enjoy. * * *

/The writer is a researcher at Paramadina Foundation, Jakarta/

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