Papuans plan to boycott Indonesian elections, say independence activists

Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua spokesperson Surya Anta (centre) speaking at LBH Jakarta last week. Image: CNN Indonesia

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

West Papuan people will not take part in Indonesia’s 2019 presidential and legislative elections, say the Indonesian People’s Front for West Papua (FRI-WP) and the Papuan Student Alliance (AMP).

This is because they accuse the Indonesian government of illegal political practices in Papua, of failing to uphold the rights of the Papuan people and because both presidential candidates have a bad track record on Papua.

“Indonesia is a state which since the declaration of the Trikora operation on December 19, 1961, has conducted illegal political activities in the territory”, said FRI-WP spokesperson Surya Anta at the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta) offices in Central Jakarta last week.

READ MORE: Surprise at no mention of Papua in presidential hopefuls’ speeches

“Because of this we are taking a position and declaring that we will not take part in the 2019 presidential or legislative elections,” he said.

Anta explained that what they mean by the territory of West Papua was an area extending from Numbai to Merauke, Raja Ampat to Baliem and Biak Island to Adi Island.


The groups also believe that the contestants in the 2019 election on April 17 are the same as those in previous elections where candidates are only interested in gathering votes from the Papuan people.

However, there has been no effort by the legislative, presidential or vice-presidential candidates to uphold the rights of the West Papuan people, they say.

Maintaining colonialism
Speaking in the same vein, Student Struggle Center for National Liberation (Pembebasan) national collective secretary-general Samsi Mahmud said that the Papuan people were not interested in the 2019 elections.

Aside from Indonesia’s illegal political activities, according to Mahmud none of the political parties are articulating the wishes of the Papuan people and the elections are only aimed at maintaining the practice of colonialism.

“[The elections] are a tool for the colonial government to put local power holders in place to safeguard their interests”, said Mahmud.

AMP member Erepul Sama said there was no difference between the two presidential candidates, incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Prabowo Subianto, particularly in their handling of human rights violations.

“Prabowo himself has a bad track record in Papua such as the Mapenduma incident. But this doesn’t mean that Jokowi is any better”, said Sama.

“Jokowi has allowed human rights violations to occur again and again, for example in the bloody Paniai case which has still not been resolved”, he added.

Aside from declaring that they will not take part in the 2019 elections, the FRP-WP and the AMP made three other demands:

  • West Papuans be given the right to self-determination,
  • All organic and non-organic troops be withdrawn from Papua, and
  • Journalists be given free access to Papua.

Operation Trikora was declared by Indonesian founding President Sukarno in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta on December 19, 1961.

It was an Indonesian military operation aimed at harassing and forcing the Dutch out of Netherlands New Guinea in 1961-62 rather than one intended to suppress a nascent independence movement.

The Mapenduma operation was a botched rescue operation in the remote Mapenduma area of West Papua led by then Kopassus commander Prabowo Subianto in 1996 to secure the release of World Wildlife Fund researches taken hostage by the Free Papua Movement.

The attempt ended in a military attack on Geselema village resulting in the death of up to eight civilians.

On December 8, 2014, barely two months after Widodo was sworn in as president, five students were killed and 17 others seriously injured when police and military opened fire on a group of protesters and local residents in the town of Enarotali, Paniai regency.

Shortly after the incident, Widodo personally pledged to resolve the case but four years into his presidency no one has been held accountable for the shootings.

Translated by James Balowski for the Indo-Left News Service. The original title of the article was “Golput, Aktivis West Papua Tuding Jokowi Prabowo Sama Saja”.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Jokowi plays it tough, accusing Prabowo of ‘outbursts of lies’

Presidential candidates Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (left) and Ma’ruf Amin make statements during the first candidate debate on January 18. Image: Dhoni Setiawan/Jakarta Post

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo appears to have gone on the offensive against his challenger in the upcoming presidential election Prabowo Subianto as the second presidential debate draws nearer, reports The Jakarta Post.

Over the weekend, Jokowi made strong remarks slamming his rival in his speeches, ranging from criticising Prabowo’s statement that Indonesia could become extinct to accusing the rival camp of using foreign consultants to prepare themselves for the election.

The incumbent also defended Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati against Prabowo’s statement that described her as a “debt-printing minister” in relation to swelling government debt, as Widodo implied that the former military general did not understand macroeconomic issues.

READ MORE: Facebook, Twitter try to safeguard Indonesian elections

“I can only convey [the facts] as they are. How can I stay silent and continue to remain patient? I will not,” President Widodo said in Jakarta on Sunday, “I can [play rough] once in a while.”

The statement came two weeks before the second election debate, in which Jokowi and Prabowo are expected to trade blows on issues surrounding food, energy, natural resources, the environment and infrastructure, reports The Jakarta Post.


During his 2019 presidential campaign event in Semarang, Central Java, President Widodo said the most important thing was that he conveyed facts and data in his statements.

“What’s important is [we] don’t produce outbursts of lies […] and hoaxes,” he said on Sunday, in an apparent jab at Prabowo supporters who have been implicated in spreading misinformation.

Hate speech
Last week, musician Ahmad Dhani was sentenced to imprisonment for hate speech and violating the Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) Law.

Dhani was found guilty for hate speech in connection with a tweet he posted that incited people to attack supporters of former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama.

Fellow opposition activist Ratna Sarumpaet, a former member of the Prabowo-Sandiaga campaign team, is currently in police custody awaiting trial for violation of the same law, after falsely claiming that she had been assaulted by three unknown assailants last September.

She later admitted that the bruises on her face were the result of cosmetic surgery.

President Widodo’s recent remarks, however, are not the first time that the incumbent has taken the offensive against political attacks that have targeted his administration over the last four years.

In the past few months, the incumbent fumed over accusations that he was affiliated to the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), a rumor which started during his 2014 presidential election campaign.

He has also refuted allegations that he is a foreign puppet, pointing out that Indonesia had officially become the majority owner of PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI) with 51.23 percent of ownership during his tenure.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Vanuatu plans first ever referendum over political reform laws

Graphic: Vanuatu Daily Post

By Glenda Willie in Port Vila

Voters in Vanuatu will be given the opportunity to vote for political reform laws in the country’s first ever referendum in June this year.

The Chairman of the Task Force on the Constitutional Review, Minister Ralph Regenvanu explained that the voting process would be similar to the general elections.

All eligible voters will vote in the existing polling stations. According to the Task Force Chairman, on voting day which is June 4, 2019, a question in relation to the reform will be asked.

READ MORE: Public consultation on Vanuatu political reforms

Referendum planned for June 4. – Vanuatu Daily Post

“Those who agree with the question will indicate their answer with a green card and those who disagree with a red card,” he told the Vanuatu Daily Post.

Minister Regenvanu confirmed a budget had been secured for the national referendum.


There is also a budget for mass national awareness into this historic event.

“This week the government will commence with the consultations with national institutions such as the Vanuatu National Council of Women (VNCW), Vanuatu Christian Council (VCC) and all the provincial centers prior to the final national consultation on Political Parties Bill which is scheduled to take place at the Chiefs’ Nakamal on February 22, 2019,” he said.

‘Mass awareness’
Regenvanu further stated that based on the outcome of the final consultation, the bill and constitutional amendment would be taken before Parliament in March to be passed.

“Once it’s passed, we will organise the national mass awareness ahead of the referendum. The awareness will take place in April and May.”

A timetable has been prepared on the consultations schedules of all the respective provincial centers. The consultation in Shefa Province will be held on January 31 at the Shefa Provincial Headquarter.

Minister Regenvanu is currently conducting consultations on this proposed political reform law in his capacity as a Member of Parliament for the Port Vila Constituency.

Prime Minister Charlot Salwai initially asked all MPs to consult with their constituencies and obtain their views regarding the proposed package when he introduced the proposed political reform package in Parliament last December.

This is part of the government’s efforts to introduce laws for the purpose of reducing political instability and enhancing the integrity of Parliament and its members.

The proposed political reform package consists of one new law, an amendment to the Constitution, and amendments to two existing laws.

The four proposed Bills are:

  1. A new law, the Bill for the Political Parties (Regulation) Act
  2. An amendment to the Constitution, The Constitution (Seventh)(Amendment) Act
  3. Bill for the Representation of the People (Amendment) Act
  4. Bill for the Charitable Associations (Incorporation)(Amendment) Act

Glenda Willie is a Vanuatu Daily Post journalist. This article is republished with permission.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Could John Tamihere “make Auckland great again”?

Political Roundup: Could John Tamihere “make Auckland great again”? 

by Dr Bryce Edwards

Get ready for a more lively local government contest in New Zealand’s biggest city this year. Recent local election campaigns have been relatively dull affairs. In fact, at the last elections in 2016, voter turnout slumped to the lowest level for some time – with only about 38 per cent bothering to turn out. But this year’s Auckland mayoralty contest looks set to be the most colourful in a while.

Auckland City, the backbone to New Zealand economy.

The contest is shaping up to be between two very different centrist politicians: Phil Goff, the grey technocrat, versus John Tamihere the wild post-political populist.

A red-blue double act of “post-political” unity

Launching his campaign in the weekend, Tamihere surprised many with the campaign he has constructed, which involves big political players from across the political spectrum. In particular, by including Christine Fletcher as his running mate for deputy mayor, Tamihere’s campaign could be seen as a very clever attempt to put forward a “post-political” option for Auckland voters. It’s being sold as a team that is putting its ideological backgrounds and loyalties aside for the good of the wider city. This will have some immediate appeal in our anti-political age.

Auckland Stuff journalist Todd Niall has been covering the recent developments well, and refers to the Tamihere/Fletcher ticket as “a red-blue double act”, but says it isn’t yet clear if the combo is “a stroke of genius, or a strike-out” – see his column today: Which John Tamihere will run for Auckland mayor?

Niall explains the logic behind the red-blue council ticket: “The winners of Auckland’s three previous mayoral contests – Len Brown twice and Phil Goff once –have cleaned up not only in their Labour-heritage heartlands of the west and south, but also done well in blue areas across Pakuranga, Howick and the isthmus. Victory has been about broad appeal”.

But Niall isn’t yet convinced it’s a winning formula, asking the following questions: “Can Tamihere achieve the crossover needed to get election-winning support, and if not can Fletcher’s presence persuade blue voters to “come on in, the water’s fine” ? Can he deliver his strong views on social housing, in a way that doesn’t suggest a conflict of interest with Waipareira? For both Tamihere and Fletcher, can their pairing with a running-mate some might consider a polar opposite, enhance rather than damage their own support bases?”

Nevertheless, Niall also argues that the Tamihere/Fletcher campaign “could be the most intriguing bid yet in four elections in the Super City.” In fact, writing prior to the announcement, he also argued that the campaign was shaping up to be interesting: This year’s race could be the most interesting since the inaugural ‘clash of the titans’ duel of 2010, in which Len Brown beat former National and Act party MP John Banks” – see: The summer of Auckland mayoral wannabees.

In this article, Niall draws attention to the centrist political operating styles of both Goff and Brown as mayors. But he says that a Tamihere-Fletcher combo would be the first campaign to “feature a US Presidential-style running mate”. This “would provide plenty for voters to get their heads around, trying to figure out the direction the pair would take.”

The New Zealand Herald’s editorial on this development in the Auckland mayoral race also says that it “should make for a lively start to local body election year” – see: John Tamihere offers a shake-up to mayoralty but he could be vulnerable to attack .

The Herald explains why the Tamihere/Fletcher combo is strategically clever: “The Labour Party would classify Tamihere on the right too but he will probably have more appeal to many in Labour’s constituency, especially Māori, than to conservative or business-minded voters. It is probably to appeal to the latter constituency that Tamihere is running on a ticket with Christine Fletcher, a former mayor and still a councillor. Fletcher stands to be Deputy Mayor and gives the ticket an element of local body experience that Tamihere lacks.”

The logic of this left-right unity strategy is also put forward by leftwing blogger Martyn Bradbury: “that’s important because the fundamental changes Tamihere is seeking in forcing Central Government to pay for Auckland’s growth and the vast increase in social housing he is proposing will demand across the spectrum support. If elected, Tamihere would be Auckland’s first ever Māori Mayor, something that won’t go unnoticed in the South and West Auckland voting bloc. Tamihere’s attack against the large vested corporate interests of Auckland has been part of his previous attack on Goff and his ‘Auckland for us not them’ narrative will be heard across the city” – see: Tamihere brings together left-right coalition to defeat Goff.

Tamihere’s anti-establishment populism

There’s more than a hint of anti-Establishment politics to Tamihere’s campaign. Everything from his five-point plan, which includes the populist promise to “Clean the house” through to the main slogan of “Shake it up and sort it out” is vintage populist politics, and even reminiscent of some of Donald Trump’s successful 2016 campaign. There’s a very clear theme amongst Tamihere’s campaign, so far, about the need to “take back control”.

Some of this can be seen in TVNZ’s coverage: John Tamihere announces bid for Auckland mayor, crosses party line for running mate. This article reports Tamihere’s “promise to ‘open the books and clean the house’ at Auckland council, ensuring a thorough audit of where taxpayer money is being spent.”

According to TVNZ, Tamihere “said he wants control of the city to go back to the people instead of ‘faceless managers in central Auckland’. Other issues Mr Tamihere has pledged to address include social housing, homelessness, the regional fuel tax and council spending. Key themes of his campaign are integrity, efficiency, democracy and leaving a better legacy for the children of our generation.”

Some of this will resonate widely, especially for those who believe Phil Goff hasn’t been active enough as mayor. See, for example, the Herald’s editorial comments on Tamihere’s pitch, pointing out that Goff hasn’t delivered: “the shake-up he promised for the council last time has hardly happened. The council still seems detached from the needs and concerns of citizens and may need a new broom.”

Tamihere’s running-mate is also channeling a more outspoken style. Bernard Orsman reports: “Christine Fletcher has unleashed an extraordinary attack on Phil Goff, accusing the mayor of weak leadership and failing to make Wellington sit up and listen by holding their feet to the fire” – see: Christine Fletcher calls Phil Goff a weak leader who has failed Auckland.

Amongst many criticisms of Goff, the article points out “Fletcher was one of nine councillors to sign a letter to Goff last year saying he runs a ‘non-inclusive style of leadership’ and trust and transparency at council is getting worse. As deputy designate on a mayoral ticket with Tamihere, Fletcher said Goff works alone behind closed doors with bureaucrats, commissioning expensive reports from consultants that only come to light for councillors under the Official Information Act.”

Phil Goff has responded to some of this criticism, especially about the so-called “Goff gas tax”, pointing out that Fletcher actually voting in favour of it – see RNZ’s Phil Goff fires back: Dumping ‘Goff’s gas tax’ would create $4.3b revenue gap, Auckland mayor says.

Goff adds: “Before anybody criticises a form of revenue, they’ve got to say how they’d fill the revenue gap of $4.3 billion if they were to do away with it, and if you don’t do that there’s a real question of credibility.”

Tamihere’s past 

Tamihere’s possibility of success might hinge on whether Auckland voters care about his past controversies – which are very well covered in Scott Palmer’s John Tamihere’s most controversial moments.

Will people hold past misdemeanours against him? As Grant Duncan of Massey University comments, “Possibly people are prepared to put that in the past. But people I’m sure will start to drag up some of those old stories as the campaign goes forward” – see Newshub’s ‘Old stories’ may derail John Tamihere’s mayoralty bid – expert.

Duncan also says: “One thing you can’t accuse Mr Tamihere of is political correctness. He is entertaining and an outspoken person, and it will be interesting to see how he gets along with Christine Fletcher.”

Todd Niall has also dealt with this, reporting from the Tamihere/Fletcher announcement: “His running-mate Christine Fletcher said at their campaign launch that Tamihere had ‘matured and moved on’ since the episode in which he’d described women as ‘frontbums’. Tamihere’s demeanour went steely when his past was raised, obliquely asking in return whether anyone had not learned from mistakes.”

Tamihere was also interviewed this morning on RNZ’s Morning Report, and responded to a question about his past controversies, saying “Here’s the thing, my name is JT not JC. I’m not totally in control of the whole shooting match all the time, I make mistakes. I’ve indicated I own them, what do you want me to do – jump off the Harbour Bridge?” – see: Tamihere bids for Auckland mayoralty: ‘My name’s JT, not JC’.

It’s possible that raising these controversies might even work in Tamihere’s favour. As with the 2016 attacks on Donald Trump – especially by Hillary Clinton and her supporters – sometimes this can actually play into the hands of those under fire. Martyn Bradbury has put the case for this: “I think a woke attack by Goff could be terribly counter productive. Many Aucklanders stuck in traffic every day are furious at smug pronouncements from woke activists on cycling, and if the attack against Tamihere are seen as coming from that part of the political spectrum, Tamihere could throw caution to wind, assume he has nothing to lose… and come out with some populist attack on cycle lanes and reap the vast angry chunk of Auckland’s gridlocked voter block.”

Finally, for the most in-depth and recent examination of Tamihere’s past and present orientation to various controversies, as well as how he plans to take Auckland forward, see Simon Wilson’s John Tamihere on Roast Busters, front bums and running for Auckland mayoralty.

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

At least 20 killed as two bomb blasts hit Jolo Cathedral in Philippines

Bombs minutes apart tore through a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, in the southern Philippines region of Mindanao at the weekend. Video: Philippine Daily Inquirer

By Rambo Talabong and Mara Cepeda in Jolo, Philippines

At least 20 people were killed as two explosions rocked the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Jolo, Sulu, yesterday, just days after the historic Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was ratified paving the way for self-rule by the Muslim majority region.

This revised death toll, sent to reporters last night, comes hours after Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police Chief Superintendent Graciano Mijares earlier reported a death toll of 27.

In his latest update, Mijares said the following died in yesterday’s Jolo Cathedral bombing:

  • 14 civilians
  • 5 from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)
  • 1 from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG)

READ MORE: Military will ‘crush’ Jolo attackers

Soldiers and civilians are among the dead and wounded in twin explosions that rocked the cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, on Sunday. Image: PTV Twitter

Mijares also said at least 111 individuals were wounded:

  • 90 civilians
  • 17 from the AFP
  • 2 from the PCG
  • 2 from the Philippine National Police (PNP)


Casualties evacuated
The ARMM regional police said casualties “were immediately evacuated” as the AFP and the PNP secured the area.

The PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) earlier said two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were used to bomb the cathedral.

According to the ARMM regional police, one IED exploded inside the cathedral, and another at the entrance.

PNP spokesperson Senior Superintendent Bernard Banac said that the second explosion happened as AFP personnel responded to the first explosion.

The people of Sulu province, which includes the city of Jolo, narrowly voted against the Bamsamoro law, although it was supported by 85 percent of the vote overall in the provinces and districts taking part in the referendum.

Malacañang and top government officials condemned the twin bombings.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo vowed that the military would “crush” the perpetrators of the bombing and several politicians also extended their condolences to the victims’ families and called for justice to be served.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police are already on heightened alert and have vowed to “thoroughly investigate” the bloody incident.

Rambo Talabong and Mara Cepeda report for Rappler news portal.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Jakarta Post: Free radical cleric linked to Bali bombing – why now?

Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir … controversy over presidential plan for his early release. Image: YouTube still

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Indonesian President Joko Widodo says a radical Muslim cleric linked to the 2002 Bali bombings would only be released from jail if he pledged loyalty to the state and its ideology, following news he would be freed unconditionally sparked criticism – including a stinging editorial in the country’s national English language daily.

President Widodo had declared last week that Abu Bakar Bashir, 81, would be freed on humanitarian grounds, citing his age and poor health.

But a presidential statement said yesterday it would be a “conditional release”.

READ MORE: Indonesia backtracks on ‘unconditional’ release of Bashir

Condemning the release decision, The Jakarta Post said: “The timing and circumstances of the President’s decision are so suspicious that one wonders whether his health condition was a factor at all.”

Bashir was convicted in 2010 under anti-terrorism laws for links to militant training camps in Aceh province and jailed for 15 years.


Although linked to the Bali attacks and a bombing at Jakarta’s Marriott Hotel in 2003, Bashir was never convicted for them and denied those ties.

The Jakarta Post’s editorial board published the following opinion article:

‘Wrong on so many levels’
“There is nothing wrong with granting an old and ailing felon conditional release or even a pardon on humanitarian grounds. But President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s decision to approve the early release of 81-year-old terror convict and firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir is wrong on so many levels.

“It is not impossible to pardon the ailing cleric on humanitarian grounds, but the timing and circumstances of the President’s decision are so suspicious that one wonders whether his health condition was a factor at all.

“The call came only months before the April presidential election in which Jokowi will square off against his old rival, Prabowo Subianto, in a bid to secure a second term.

“Prabowo has been touted as the more Islamic candidate by hardline Islamists, while Jokowi is struggling to convince voters he is not a communist, even after naming the leader of the nation’s most influential Islamic institution as his running mate.

“Given the political backdrop, it is too easy to believe the move was just another attempt by Jokowi to win Muslim votes.

“Yusril Ihza Mahendra, the lawyer for the Jokowi-Ma’ruf Amin campaign, has dismissed such speculation. Mahendradatta, Bashir lawyer, has also claimed that his client’s release has nothing to do with politics, that it is not a ‘political gift’ from Jokowi.

“The claim is hardly convincing. Bashir’s lawyers had long cited Bashir’s deteriorating health as the primary reason for his release, or him being put under house arrest. The government had ignored the request. So why the change now?

“Moreover, the Jokowi administration has been far from transparent in explaining the legal basis for Bashir’s release.

“Days after the decision was made public, officials said it was unclear if Bashir was pardoned or granted conditional release. It is hard to say which.

Presidential pardon not sought
“Neither the cleric nor his lawyer have ever sought presidential pardon. The cleric is neither eligible for conditional release, despite having served two thirds of his prison sentence, because he refused to sign a letter of loyalty to the state ideology Pancasila — a requirement for all terror convicts.

“Yusril argued Jokowi could just change or ‘ignore’ the policy, as it is only stipulated in a ministerial regulation, not a law. While it is possible to tweak the regulation, one wonders why Jokowi needs to go through all that for Bashir.

“This leads to another issue: fairness.

“The President has often pledged to not interfere with the law. Only recently, Jokowi cited the exact argument to reject calls for him to grant clemency to a housewife jailed for inadvertently exposing the man accused of sexually abusing her.

“Jokowi is also merciless to drug convicts. Last July, a terminally ill Pakistani drug convict on death row died in prison. The man claimed innocence and Jokowi refused to free him despite his health condition and plea for justice.

“The President has the prerogative to pardon convicts, but he is obliged to justify his action before citizens. His decision on Bashir was poorly timed, legally flawed and insensitive. It sent all the wrong messages to many of his supporters as well as the international community.”

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media