Friday, February 21, 2014

IBRAHIM ISA'S Selected Indonesian News Items

IBRAHIM ISA'S Selected Indonesian News Items
Saturday, February 15th, 2104 –

--- PAPUA -- The political demography of conflicts

--- Human Rights Violation -- Oscar-Nominated ‘Act of Killing’ Confronts Indonesia’s Dark Past

--- Indonesia-Singapore --When Terrorists in One Country Are, Freedom-Fighting Icons in Another

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Jakarta Post - February 10, 2014
The political demography of conflicts in Papua

Riwanto Tirtosudarmo, Jakarta -- Demography is rearing its ugly head, and as a
result, political development in Papua has become convoluted. This issue was a
major topic during the recent seminar on Papua organized by the Research
Center of Politics at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).

The convolution of demography and politics were exposed in at least two cases
-- the increasing number of non-Papuans and the demographic manipulation in
the creation of new districts. What is worrying is the contribution of a
political demographic nexus to the increasing political and communal conflicts
in Papua.

The perception that in-migration to Papua has resulted in the marginalization
of the indigenous population has been around since the early 1980s, when
Soeharto's New Order government accelerated the relocation of people from Java
and Bali under the transmigration program to Papua. The transmigration policy
was criticized for endangering both the local population and the environment
as new settlements destroyed the surrounding tropical forests. The
transmigration program had practically ceased in the early 1990s as the
financial capacity of the central government began to shrink. Yet, voluntary
migration cannot be stopped, as in-migration continues to be driven by the
process of equalizing economic and human resource gaps between different

The last two decades of the voluntary movement from Java to other islands is
perhaps a major contribution to rapid social transformation in this
archipelago. As the result of 2010 population census showed, the in-migration
rate to Papua and West Papua province was the highest in Indonesia. While the
actual number of people who migrate to Papua might not be as high as the
number of migrants who move to, say, Riau province. However, given the low
population in Papua, the movement consequently has higher social, economic and
political impacts than in Riau.

Since the political problems in former East Timor and Aceh have been resolved,
Papua is now the most politically troubled place in the country. Bitter
decolonization in the early 1960s and its aftermath were followed by
grievances resulting from structural injustices committed by the Indonesian
government in Papua. Papuans continued to be restless while any attempts to
resolve the problem had different responses from different groups of Papuans.

The fragmentation of Papuan society, which stems from the enormous ethnic
heterogeneity, constitutes the underlying factor that significantly
contributed to the divisive nature of political leadership in Papua. The
decentralization policy, the product of the post-Soeharto regimes, granted
regional autonomy to regency and municipal level governments. An initial idea
that autonomy should be given to the province was totally rejected by the
military. The response by the local elites on the locus of regional autonomy
at the regency level, however, is unprecedented. Expectations of fund
disbursements and the opportunity to hold local power have driven the rapid
creation of district governments all over the place, particularly outside

In the case of Papua, apart from the establishment of special autonomy, the
decision to create the second province, West Papua, was originally perceived
as part of Jakarta's rule and divide policy, to weaken the potential
separatist movement in Papua. Yet, as the local elites saw the economic and
political benefits, the drive to create new regencies rapidly accelerated. The
manipulation of demographic statistics to meet the requirements for creating
new districts is therefore, uncontrollable.

The role of local political elites both in the issue of the impact of in-
migration and demographic manipulation in the creation of new districts is
indisputable. In the case of in-migration issues, violence usually occurs in
the form of sporadic attacks by Papuan militia groups against the migrant

In the case of demographic manipulation in the creation of new regencies, a
study by Sidney Jones from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflicts
(IPAC) shows that the direct link with the political mobilization by the local
elites is driven by the need to create new regencies, and the political and
communal violence in several highland districts. Jones, who presented her case
at the LIPI seminar, argued that the conflicts among Papuan elites in the
creation of new regencies indicated that the idea of divide-and-rule from
Jakarta was no longer necessary as Papuans had now divided themselves.

The problems and the dilemmas of initiating a dialogue to find a peaceful
solution for the Papuan conflicts are separate from the extreme prejudice from
Jakarta toward the Papuans. As Muridan Widjojo the leader of the LIPI research
group noted in the seminar, the issues were also clearly based on the fact
that no single authority represented the Papuans. Muridan strongly argued that
the strategy that must be adopted should not simply mirror the way Jakarta
resolved the Aceh conflict. Muridan, who also leads Jaringan Damai Papua
(Papua Peace Network) with Father Neles Tebay, reminded us all that we had to
face a long and tedious process, just to lay the initial foundations for a
dialogue to resolve the conflicts in Papua.
[The writer is a researcher at the Research Center for Society and Culture,

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Oscar-Nominated ‘Act of Killing’ Confronts Indonesia’s Dark Past

By Shaun Tandon on 10:37 am February 15, 2014.
Adi Zulkadry and Anwar Congo, two of the subjects featured in Oscar-nominated documentary ‘The Act of Killing’, being made up for a recreation of one of the 1965 massacres in Medan. (Photo courtesy of Final Cut)
Hong Kong. Anwar Congo makes no secret of the fact that he killed about 1,000 people with his bare hands, boasting about the methods he used to murder alleged communists in 1960s Indonesia.
There were blocks of wood used to cave in skulls; machetes with which he butchered victims, or a simple wire that he says helped achieve quick and effective strangulation.
Congo’s testimony provides the chilling framework for director Joshua Oppenheimer’s Oscar-nominated documentary “The Act of Killing”, which turns its cameras on to the perpetrators of massacres that claimed at least 500,000 lives.
Oppenheimer says that the attention the film has received around the world is forcing Indonesia to address a dark episode in its history, which ushered in the 32-year rule of dictator Suharto.
“I thought I had wandered into Germany 40 years after the Holocaust to find the Nazis were still in power,” Oppenheimer said of the men who feature in his documentary.
“They are very proud of what they did and often told me the stories with smiles on their faces,” he said on the phone from Los Angeles.
In the film the men, who carried out the killings during a purge triggered by a failed coup in late 1965, show little if any remorse.
“What I hope — should we be so lucky as to win the Academy Award — is that it will encourage Indonesians to finally hold their leaders to account for their crimes,” said Oppenheimer.
Some in Indonesia have not welcomed the film, contending the country was already taking its own steps towards coming to terms with the episode — and that such outside interference hinders the process.
The film is nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar. It is also in the running for two Bafta awards — the British equivalent whose ceremony takes place on Sunday.
While Oppenheimer has publicized the film, a number of the Indonesians involved in its production — including the person cited as one of its co-directors — have chosen to stay anonymous in fear for their safety.
‘Imposing denial’
To get the likes of Congo to talk, the film invites those involved in the killings to reenact their past as though they were making a feature film, including musical numbers and even attempts at slapstick humor.
Those involved do not seem aware that the film will cast them in a bad light. It makes for compelling — and disturbing — viewing.
“I was not sure whether it was safe to approach these people at all, but when I did I found they were immediately boastful,” Oppenheimer said.
Army General Suharto blamed the coup attempt on Indonesia’s Communist Party, and the military actively encouraged — and in some cases took part in — the anti-communist killings that erupted in some parts of the country.
Suharto put down the coup and used the episode to muscle out then-president Sukarno and take power, later ruling Indonesia for three decades.
Paramilitary groups such as the one Congo was part of were given license to gather and kill suspected communists, and seize their property and possessions. No action has ever been taken against those responsible for the deaths.
“I suddenly realized that all these men are boasting not because they are proud but because they know what they did is wrong,” said Oppenheimer.
“They are trying to deny that to themselves and impose that denial on the whole society.”
The film was produced by Oscar-winner Errol Morris (“The Fog of War”) and Oscar-nominated Werner Herzog (“Encounters at the End of the World”). It has so far picked up 32 international awards.
Taking sides
“The Act of Killing” was not granted a general release at Indonesian cinemas, with the government raising doubts about the film’s portrayal of history. Beyond special select screenings, the film is available for download.
The killings are not closely examined by school textbooks and were not widely discussed during Suharto’s iron-fisted rule.
However following his fall in 1998, and in recent years, Indonesians have begun to talk about the issue more openly with frequent newspaper stories, academic seminars and published memoirs.
Critics say more needs to be done, and point to the fact the Attorney General’s office has refused to start a probe despite an extensive 2012 report from Indonesia’s official human rights body which claimed to have found extensive evidence of abuse.
Presidential spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said the film “is simplifying a dark, complicated period of history,” and was one-sided.
In a statement issued last week to the Jakarta Globe newspaper, the film’s anonymous co-director denied the charge it had been produced by foreigners out to negatively affect Indonesia’s global reputation.
“A negative image is when unfairness and impunity is being sustained. Negative image is when there was no apology conveyed to the victims and the families of the victims of the crimes against humanity. A negative image is to make the architect of the mass killing a hero,” the co-director’s statement said.
And Oppenheimer, who is working on a follow-up focusing on the victims’ side of the story, is convinced “The Act of Killing” has helped mainstream media in Indonesia address the genocide and open it up further for public debate.
“There’s no stuffing the genie back in the bottle,” he said. “It is opening a space for people to finally acknowledge the most painful and troubling aspect of contemporary Indonesia without fear.”
Agence France-Presse

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When Terrorists in One Country Are Freedom-Fighting Icons in Another

By Johannes Nugroho on 10:25 am February 15, 2014.
Tensions are running high between Indonesia and Singapore over the former’s decision to name a naval vessel after two convicted members of the Indonesian Marine Corps who carried out the bombing of the MacDonald House office building in Singapore on March 10, 1965.
The bone of contention lies in how Harun Said and Usman Ali, the two Indonesian commandos, are seen by both countries.
In Singapore, they are the perpetrators of the bombing of a civilian target, while the Indonesian government sees them as national heroes who carried out their duty during Konfrontasi (1963-1966) with Malaysia.
The disparate labels for the two men are understandable considering Singapore, still part of Malaysia at the time, and Indonesia were locked in a dispute that stemmed from the latter’s objection toward the formation of the federal state of Malaysia encompassing large swaths of territory on the island of Borneo that Indonesia had laid claim to.
But, objectively speaking, were Usman and Harun terrorists or war heroes? Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines terrorism as “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.” By this definition alone what the two men did qualifies as an act of terrorism.
Singaporean police records state that when they were arrested floating at sea, the two men said they were a fisherman and a farmer, before later confessing to the bombing. It was not, however, until later during their trial for murder that the two revealed they were members of the Indonesian Marine Corps with express orders “to cause trouble in Singapore” as part of confrontation with Malaysia.
Apparently the two men chose to reveal their status in the hope of being treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention. When the presiding judge denied them POW status, because “members of enemy armed forces, who are combatants and who come here with the assumption of the semblance of peaceful pursuits divesting themselves of the character or appearance of soldiers and are captured, such persons are not entitled to the privileges of prisoners of war,” Usman and Harun retracted their statements that they were members of the Indonesian military.
Despite lobbying by the government for their release, Usman and Harun were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Yet, when their bodies were brought back to Jakarta after their execution in 1968, the two were interred in the National Heroes Cemetery with full military honors.
It could well be argued that the granting of national hero status to the two men was Indonesia’s way of “saving face” after a failed diplomatic attempt to have the two released.
It was also a delicate time for Indonesia as the new government under then-president Sukarno was trying to extricate itself from the confrontation.
The hero status for both men was also anomalous even by Indonesian standards as people given this recognition are usually those who perished in combat against enemy forces. Usman and Harun never actually met this criteria as never during Konfrontasi did the Indonesian government nor its Malaysian counterpart officially declare war on each other.
So, essentially, both were perpetrators of a state-sponsored act of terrorism. Hence, the adamant position by the Singaporean government that Usman and Harun were terrorists.
By the same token, Indonesians should look at the incident as a lesson in how not to conduct bilateral relations. Sukarno’s accusation that Malaysia was a puppet state of the United Kingdom has never been proved.
To this date, it remains obscure why Sukarno instigated the “unofficial war” against Malaysia in 1963. Some historians have argued that his earlier success in wresting Papua from the Dutch emboldened him to try a similar tactic with the former British Malaya, though Sukarno always publicly denied any territorial ambitions.
Nevertheless, Sukarno’s coveting Malaysia as part of a Greater Indonesia may not have been just a flight of fancy. In many ways, his model for the state of Indonesia was the ancient Majapahit Empire, which encompassed Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and parts of Thailand and Indochina.
Whatever his motives, the border skirmishes and acts of sabotage against Malaysia during Konfrontasi appeared to be designed to provoke the British, who had granted independence to Malaysia in 1957, into declaring war against Indonesia.
Had they done so, Sukarno would certainly have obtained his evidence that Malaysia was simply an extension of British imperial powers.
Johannes Nugroho is a writer and businessman from Surabaya. He can be contacted at

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