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.

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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.

Background
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”.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Indonesian smear campaigns target Jokowi ahead of presidential election

By Ainur Rohmah in Jakarta

Fake news and hate speech are inundating Indonesia on and offline with the country’s general election just two months away and with presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto and incumbent Joko Widodo locked in a contest for the top spot.

Jokowi, as the president is known, remains clearly in the lead with as much as 20 percent of the voters picking him despite his being the target of torrents of fake news, according to several recent surveys.

The Prabowo team claims the race is closer based on internal surveys – which they decline to share.

READ MORE: Meet the fake news trolls who influenced the US and Indonesian polls for money

A survey by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI) shows Jokowi and his partner, Islamic leader Ma’ruf Amin, with voter approval at 54.8 percent, while Prabowo and his running mate, businessman Sandiaga Uno, are well behind at 31.0 percent.

But in an example of the depth of misleading advertising, survey results of the Indonesian Telematics Society (Mastel) say nearly 45 percent of 1,116 respondents surveyed said they receive fake news and hoaxes every day.

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Unfortunately, 30.3 percent of respondents say they have difficulty checking the truth of such reports, with more than 75 percent of respondents agreeing that false news can disrupt community harmony.

Political issues dominate the fake news transmissions, according to the survey, followed by misleading reports on religion and health.

Chat applications
They can take the form of photos, videos, and narratives, and are mostly distributed via social media (Facebook and Twitter) and chat applications such as Whatsapp.

Among Indonesia’s 265.4 million population, fully half or 132.7 million are internet users, based on research conducted by We Are Social, with almost all of them – 130 million – active social media users.

At least 192 million voters will select the president and their representatives in parliament simultaneously across the country on April 17.

The latest research by the social media monitoring site PoliticaWave found that hoaxes mostly target Jokowi.

“From the presidential elections in 2014 to 2019, it appears that Jokowi is a victim of political hoaxes,” said executive director PoliticaWave Jose Rizal at a press conference in Jakarta.

PoliticaWave also found that the numbers of hoax issues have been rising. The 10 biggest hoax issues relating to the 2019 election include a fake attack on activist Ratna Sarumpaet, who first accused the Jokowi camp of being behind it.

She later switched her allegiance to the president. Others deal with reports of very large government debt; allegations that several containers filled with ballots had been discovered as already cast for Jokowi; toll electronic transactions associated with debt to China; and fake e-KTPs from China.

Many accusations
Jokowi has been accused of being a member of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), of being a closet Christian, of using foreign consultants and of having a fake high school certificate.

Others include that 10 million workers from China have entered Indonesia; and that vice presidential candidate Ma’ruf Amin will be replaced by the former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaya Purnama, who was arrested on trumped up blasphemy charges that played an integral role in his defeat.

“The ten biggest hoax issues are aimed at attacking Jokowi,” said Yose.

Claiming that he was fed up with accusations and hoaxes against him, Jokowi in recent speeches has sought to clarify the various negative allegations and to go after his political opponents.

In early February, he hinted – without mentioning specifically – a campaign team that carried out so-called “Russian propaganda,” a name that has gained increased currency with spectacular charges over Russian interference in the 2016 US election.

The term is construed as an accusation against Prabowo’s camp.

“The problem is that there is a campaign team that prepares Russian propaganda which is (marked) at any time to issue a blast of slander and hoax,” Jokowi said while addressing thousands of supporters in the city of Surabaya.

Foreign consultants
Jokowi accused the Prabowo camp of hiring foreign consultants, who he said were only oriented to victory without considering that their strategy could potentially divide society. He also criticised the opposition for often accusing him of being pro-foreigners even though they themselves used the services of foreigners.

“Their consultants are foreign consultants,” he said. “Then who is the foreign stooge? Do not let us be treated continuously by lies. Our people are smart, whether in the city or in the village,” he said.

Gerindra deputy chairman Fadli Zon denied the allegations.

“We do not use foreign consultants. We can’t afford to pay (foreign consultants),” he said.

Prabowo’s team responded by accusing Jokowi himself of using the services of a foreign consultant named Stanley Greenberg. The accusation was based on an article on a website stating that Stanley had been a consultant to Jokowi.

“A note for all these inquiries,” Greenberg responded publicly. “I have never worked for Mr Widodo in any way. The website you mention is not accurate nor affiliated with me in any capacity.

“Accurate information on our past clients is listed on my official website,” Greenberg wrote through his Twitter account @stangreenberg, attaching his official website.

‘Russian propaganda’
The controversy about “Russian propaganda” also provoked the Russian Embassy in Jakarta to comment.

“We underline that Russia’s principal position is not to intervene in domestic affairs and electoral processes in foreign countries, including Indonesia which is our close friend and important partner,” wrote the Russian Embassy through its official Twitter account @RusEmbJakarta.

But Jokowi’s special team of Cakra 19 said it was convinced that “Russian propaganda” was now being applied in Indonesia, by adopting what is known as “firehoses of falsehoods,” an operation used by Russian hackers between 2012-2017 in the Crimea crisis, the Ukrainian conflict and the civil war in Syria.

“In Russia, this modus operandi has emerged as long ago as the 1870s through the Narodniki movement. This movement was used to bring down the Russian Czar by continually raising negative issues,” said the chairperson of the Cakra 19 team, Andi Widjajanto in a written statement.

“Operation blast of slander aims to make lies defeat the truth. This operation wants to destroy public trust in political authorities, including the media,” said the former Cabinet Secretary and defense expert.

Prabowo’s campaign team, known as the National Winning Agency (BPN), has launched allegations that the Jokowi government has used legal means to get rid of political opponents ahead of the upcoming election.

“Now people who have the potential to gain votes in the BPN circle have begun to be crushed one by one,” Gerindra Party general secretary Ahmad Muzani said.

Hate speech
He charged that a musician-turned politician, Ahmad Dhani, and a cleric leading the Movement 212 – a group of conservative Muslims who held a series of demonstrations against former Jakarta governor Basuki – named Slamet Ma’arif had been the target of what he called “criminalisation”.

Dhani was sentenced to 18 months in prison at the end of January on a charge of hate speech. Ma’arif members are now suspected of a series of alleged campaign violations.

Several other names in Prabowo’s camp were also involved in legal cases or even jailed. Muzani claimed the police were quick to investigate cases involving Prabowo’s sympathizers but not with cases involving or suspected of involving Jokowi’s supporters.

“We have submitted many reports (to the police), but it seems that there is not enough evidence. Whereas when our party was reported, (it was said) there was enough evidence. This is no longer inequality, it is bias,” Muzani said.

Presidential Chief of Staff Moeldoko denied Muzani’s allegations, emphasizing that the government did not intervene in the legal process.

“That there are (BPN members) who are entangled in legal matters, look to yourselves. It may be something that is wrong (with themselves). So don’t always blame the government,” Said Moeldoko as quoted by kompas.com

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Jakarta media activist threatens to sue Facebook for shutting accounts

Facebook announced last week that it had taken down hundreds of pages, groups and accounts with ties to Saracen, an online syndicate believed to have been involved in creating hoaxes for money. Image: Panchenko Vladimir/Jakarta Post/Shutterstock

By Marguerite Afra Sapiie in Jakarta

Indonesian social media activist Permadi Arya has threatened to file a Rp 1 trillion (NZ$107 million) lawsuit against Facebook after the tech giant shut down his account in a crackdown on fake news in Indonesia.

Permadi, also known as Abu Janda, said Facebook had made serious allegations by accusing him of being part of fake news group Saracen and shutting down his Facebook pages and accounts.

In a video posted to his Twitter account @permadiaktivis, the activist said his lawyers had sent a legal notice to Facebook demanding that the company clear his name and restore all his pages and accounts.

“Otherwise we will take this to the court and sue Facebook for Rp 1 trillion for immaterial damages,” said Permadi, who chairs an organisation called Cyber Indonesia.

Permadi is known as a supporter of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, while the Saracen group is believed to have produced fake news and hate speech that attacked the sitting president.

“I am a well-known antiterrorism activist at the forefront of battling fake news. I am not a part of fake news. So obviously Facebook has made a great mistake,” he said, adding that his reputation was tarnished and freedom threatened.

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Facebook announced last week that it had taken down hundreds of pages, groups and accounts with ties to Saracen, an online syndicate believed to have been involved in creating hoaxes for money, systematically engaging in “deceptive behaviour” and manipulating public debate within the platform.

The tech giant removed a total of 207 Facebook pages, 800 accounts, 546 groups and 208 Instagram accounts believed to be linked to Saracen, one of which was Permadi Arya’s Facebook page.

According to Facebook, the Saracen-linked networks worked together to manage fake accounts and mislead others about “who they are and what they are doing”. The company also removed all ways of accessing accounts related to the network.

Permadi also threatened to report Facebook to the police for allegedly violating the Electronic Information and Transactions Law.

Marguerite Afra Sapiie is media affairs writer of The Jakarta Post.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Police use snake to interrogate Papuan, apologise for ‘racist’ torture

A still from a video showing Indonesian police interrogating a man suspected of theft in Wamena, Papua. Image: Jakarta Post

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Indonesian police have apologised for wrapping a snake around an indigenous Papuan they suspected of theft, reports The Jakarta Post.

A video of the incident, which took place while the police were interrogating the suspect, has been circulating on social media.

The officers involved in the incident are currently being investigated for ethical violations, said police spokesman Ahmad Mustofa Kamal.

“We apologise for that incident,” he said in a statement on Friday quoted by kompas.com.

Jannus P. Siregar, who heads the Papua Police’s internal affairs division (Propam), said the officers were using the snake to intimidate the suspect so that he would confess to the crime.

The incident reportedly took place in Wamena, Jayawijaya.

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Jayawijaya Police chief Adjutant Senior Commander Tonny Ananda Swadaya promised that his men would work professionally.

Netizen criticism
“We have taken action against the officers who did the misconduct. We are moving them to other places,” he said.

The video has sparked criticism from netizens.

Human rights lawyer Veronica Koman wrote on her Twitter account @VeronicaKoman that the suspect should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise and should not be tortured to force an admission to a crime, regardless of whether the charges leveled against him were true.

“Given the context of the persecution in Papua, this torture has features of racism,” she wrote.

Some locals, however, appeared to support the police’s actions.

Hengki Heselo, a leader in Jayawijaya regency, said the community supported the police’s stern measures to curb crime, including the use of snakes to threaten suspected criminals.

“We have felt the effects of recent police actions. The number of drunk people who carry machetes is decreasing,” he said quoted by kompas.com.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

No progress on press freedom, impunity under Jokowi’s watch

By Dieqy Hasbi Widhana in Jakarta

Indonesia’s National Press Day (HPN), which falls on February 9 – yesterday, is a reminder of the murder of Radar Bali journalist Anak Agung Gede Prabangsa in 2009.

Based on the results of an investigation by the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), which was later published under the title “The Bloody Trail After News, Prabangsa was murdered because he wrote at least three articles on the manipulation of project budgets valued at around 40 billion rupiah (NZ$47 billion) in Bangli regency, Bali.

The three reports were titled, “Supervision after a Project is Running”, “Sharing the Bangli Education Office P1 Project” and “Agency Head’s Document Deemed Flawed”.

READ MORE: The Bloody Trail After News [Bahasa Indonesian]

The mastermind behind Prabangsa’s murder was Susrama, a contractor who routinely handled contract and procurement tenders for several government offices and agencies in Bangli, Bali.

Susrama is also the younger brother of Bangli Regent I Nengah Arnawa, who at the time was an Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) legislative candidate in the 2009 elections, and was then elected as a member of the Bangli Regional House of Representatives (DPRD). Susrama was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment for Prabangsa’s murder.

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The irony, however, is that Susrama’s life sentenced has been commuted by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Through a sentence remission contained in Presidential Decree Number 29/2018, Widodo reduced Susrama’s sentence from life to 20 years imprisonment. Susrama was the 94th in a list of 115 convicts who received sentence remissions.

Convict profiling
Legal Aid Institute for the Press (LBH Pers) executive director Ade Wahyudin says that the Susrama’s remission failed to consider a variety of aspects.

“What was missed in the convict profiling study, was what were the case details, the social effect of a case such as this”, Wahyudin told Tirto.

In the same vein as Wahyudin, AJI chairperson Abdul Manan said that Widodo’s decision was very disappointing because the remission given to Susrama completely ignored the public’s sense of justice.

On Friday afternoon, Wahyudin and Manan met with the Director-General for Correctional Institutions at the Ministry for Justice and Human Rights (Kemenkum HAM), Sri Puguh Budi Utami.

Accompanied by a representative from the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute (YLBHI), the two conveyed their complaints over the remission and handed over a petition put together by AJ, the LBH Pres and YLBHI.

“We asked that the remission for Prabangsa’s murder be revoked,” said Manan explaining the demands they took to the president.

Poor press freedom ranking
According to Manan, using the standards set by Paris-based global media freedom agency Reporters Without Borders, the state of press freedom in Indonesia is indeed very dim. Indonesia’s ranking is 124th out of 180 countries, lower even that Timor-Leste.

“It’s below 100, that’s in the underdog league, right. Categorised very bad,” said Manan.

Widodo has indeed routinely appeared at annual celebrations of National Press Day organised by the Indonesian Journalists Association (PWI). However, explained Manan, this has not automatically translated into efforts to strengthen press freedom in Indonesia.

“The February event commemorated by PWI was largely ceremonial. Totally inadequate to show that he sides [with journalists]”, he said.

There are many things that Widodo should be able to do rather than just taking part in ceremonial National Press Day commemorations. For example, said Manan, asking the Kemenkum HAM to look at the proposed revisions to the Criminal Code (KUHP), specifically the new on “contempt of court”.

The current formulation is problematic because journalists can be sentenced to five years jail if their journalistic work influences a judges’ verdict.

In addition to this, there is Article 494 on revealing confidential information. Likewise, Article 309 Paragraph (1) which has the potential for multiple interpretations and is susceptible to being used to criminalise journalists.

Articles too vague
“He should, if he wants to defend the press, [be able] to initiate the creation of regulations that support a climate of press freedom. Annul the articles which endanger the independence of the press because they are too vague,” he said.

The need to revise these problematic articles is becoming more urgent bearing in mind that in the last year there have been two efforts to criminalise journalists.

Those who have fallen victim were the former editor of Serat.id, Zakki Amali and Manan himself. The two were criminalised for investigating alleged plagiarism by Semarang State University (Unnes) rector Fathur Rokhman and the IndonesiaLeaks “red book” scandal allegedly involving National Police Chief (Kapolri) General Tito Karnavian.

“The Serat.id case was clearly just a press dispute. Police should be very careful in handling this. Ideally, pushing for the case not to be handled as a criminal case, so that it can be resolved though the mechanisms of the UU Pers (Press Law), namely by asking Unnes to submit a complaint with the Press Council”, explained Manan.

“Meanwhile the IndonesiaLeaks case is very clear cut and if they want to make an issue out of reports which were carried by five different media outlets, it’s inappropriate it to deal with it as a crime. The party that feels injured, if that’s Kapolri, should set an example by dealing with the case through mechanisms which are already provided for by the UU Pers”.

Still lots of homework
There is lots of homework that Widodo which needs to prioritise in order to protect press freedom in Indonesia.

Take for example his vision, mission and action program when he first ran as a presidential candidate in the 2014 presidential election. Widodo pledge to reorganise the ownership of broadcast frequencies in the hope of preventing monopolies by groups of people or broadcasting industry cartels.

According to doctoral research by Ros Tapsell from the Australian National University which was publish as a book titled “Media Power in Indonesia” (2017), there are eight media conglomerates that monopolise the public broadcast frequencies.

Aside from the problem of media conglomerates, Widodo also needs to fix the problem of the clearing house, a mechanism aimed at screening requests for permits by foreign journalists wanting to report on Papua.

The clearing house involves 19 working unit from 12 different ministries and is known for being convoluted and time consuming.

When he attended the great harvest in Marauke regency in Papua on May 10, 2015, Widodo asserted that these procedures would be abolished. Widodo declared that there should be a transparent mechanism with objective standards used to evaluate foreign journalist permit requests to report on Papua.

Journalists spied on
“Journalists find it difficult to obtain permits to report [on Papua], they are even spied on. In other cases their fixers are intimidated”, he said.

The other no less important problem is intimidation. Based AJI’s advocacy team’s records, during Widodo term in office new patterns of violence against journalists have emerged in the form of harassment and releasing private information through social media.

In 2018 there were three cases of journalists being persecuted in the online media. The victims were journalists from kumparan.com and detik.com. Their private data was publically released after they reported on the “211 Defend Islam Action” by a group who objected to the reports that they wrote.

“No legal action is ever taken in case journalists being persecuted. But, several cases of persecution where the victims were not journalists have been pursued legally. The president must show a clearer commitment to press freedom, particularly in its real application,” he said.

Wahyudin also raised the issue of poor protection for journalists under Widodo’s watch.

“There has been absolutely no progress. He’s been exactly same as the SBY [Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] era, Jokowi. He hasn’t given attention to press freedom. Perhaps he thinks it’s already safe or resolved. Yet every year there are [incidents] of violence against journalists,” said Wahyudin.

Concrete steps
The government’s role, said Wahyudin, should be to guarantee that press freedom is protected. Yet Widodo has not fully realised this.

“It’s not enough. The government must take concrete steps in resolving murder cases. [Otherwise] the effect of ignoring cases of murder and valence will just be mushrooming impunity. Our democracy [itself] will become sick,” he said.

“In general terms, Widodo’s [new] vision and mission does not address press freedom. It more prioritises infrastructure but the aspect of civil freedoms are still very lacking.”

Translated by James Balowski for the Indo-Left News Service in partnership with the Pacific Media Centre. The original title of the article was “Hari Pers Nasional: Tak Ada Progres Kebebasan Pers di Era Jokowi“.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

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.

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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.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

‘Don’t be afraid’ – give Bougainville, West Papua freedom, says Parkop

Port Moresby’s Governor Powes Parkop with the West Papuan Morning Star flag … strong backing for Bougainville and West Papuan self-determination and independence. Image: Filbert Simeon

By Clifford Faiparik in Port Moresby

National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop is pushing for Bougainville and West Papua to gain independence from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia respectively.

Parkop said this in no uncertain terms during a West Papua forum in Port Moresby yesterday.

Northern Governor Gary Juffa, who was also present, expressed similar sentiments.

READ MORE: Campaign for West Papuan independence

“The government must give political independence to Bougainville,” Parkop said. “Likewise, the Indonesian government should also give political independence to the West Papua provinces.

“Both of these people have struggled bitterly for independence for a long time, resulting in widespread deaths. The governments of both countries should not deny these respective people’s rights.”

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Parkop said Bougainvilleans would be given the opportunity to determine whether they wanted to remain as part of PNG, or go separate.

“We are not afraid and I’m not afraid,” he said. “If Bougainville chooses independence, they will not move the island of Bougainville to Europe or another place in the world.

‘Still be there’
“They will still be there. We are all inter-married now. There are family and tribal relationships been bonded already.

“We might have a better future because if you look at the history of PNG, because of Bougainville, we were political and economically shaped.”

Parkop said the same message must be told to Indonesia.

“Indonesia must know that if West Papua becomes independent, they will not move the land to the United States,” he said.

“They will still stay there. The people speak Bahasa. Intermarriages have already been forged and established with people from other parts of Indonesia.

“Economically, they can be integrated. Socially, they can still move around in Indonesia. I don’t think the West Papua freedom movement will remove Indonesian investments.

The Indonesians must overcome their fear.”

Clifford Faiparik is a journalist with The National daily newspaper.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Precarious politics pose threats to world’s three biggest rainforests

By Sara Stefanini

Political uncertainty hangs over large swathes of the world’s tropical forests this year, raising the risk of more destruction and carbon emissions.

Recent leadership changes in Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and presidential elections in Indonesia in April, are fuelling concerns that politics could side with industries such as palm oil, timber, mining and agriculture in the world’s three biggest rainforest countries.

Brazil’s new right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro campaigned on promises to open the Amazon up to development. In his first foray on the international stage last week, he called on international businesses to invest in the country’s natural resources.

READ MORE: France aims to ban deforestation imports by 2030

The DRC’s peaceful presidential election of Felix Tshisekedi last month was the first democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960 – although the African Union and European Union questioned the results and The Financial Times reported “massive electoral fraud”.

It now remains to be seen whether Tshisekedi’s government curbs forest clearing and cracks down on the corruption that undermines conservation efforts. He gave little indication during the campaign.

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Meanwhile in Indonesia, the two presidential candidates – incumbent Joko “Jokowi” Widodo  and ex-army officer Prabowo Subianto – have given vague promises of environmental protection but few details. That said, Jokowi, who won as an outsider populist in 2014, has done more than some expected to tackle deforestation.

As of 2015, Brazil was home to 12 percent of total forest global cover, the DRC nearly 4 percent and Indonesia 2 percent, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. But tree cover in all three nations continues to shrink.

Worst effects
The actions of the new governments could determine the world’s ability to avoid some of the worst effects of climate change.

“Forests could provide about a third of the solution to climate change, but at the moment they’re more part of the problem because of deforestation,” said Tim Christophersen, head of UN Environment’s freshwater, land and climate branch in Kenya.

“If that was stopped and we could restore forests at a large scale, we could probably close about a third of the current emissions gap.”

For now, efforts to stem deforestation have mostly failed to make a dent. The tropics lost an area the size of Vietnam over 2016 and 2017, when tree cover shrunk by record levels, according to the data and monitoring website Global Forest Watch.

Brazil’s deforestation in 2017 was equivalent to 365 million tonnes of CO2 and jumped by almost 50 percent over the three months of campaigning before Bolsonaro was elected last year. The DRC’s tree cover loss was equivalent to 158Mt last year and Indonesia’s to 125Mt.

Environmentalists are particularly concerned about Brazil. In his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Bolsonaro stressed Brazil’s history of environmental protection while touting its economic opportunities.

But the “wave of forest destruction and violence” started when Bolsonaro immediately removed environmental and human rights safeguards, said Christian Poirier, programme director at the NGO Amazon Watch.

Reckless moves
“These reckless moves, tailored to serve Brazil’s agribusiness and extractive industries, undermine fundamental constitutional protections that preserve forests and assure the safety of the indigenous and traditional communities who call them home,” he said.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, deforestation remains relatively high and driven by clearing for agriculture, the use of wood for energy, timber and mining, said Christophersen.

The UN’s REDD+ programme, which pays developing countries to reduce their deforestation, is starting to work in some places. But it was forced to freeze payments to the government last year amid concerns over the awarding of new logging concessions to Chinese companies. Peatlands across the Congo Basin could release huge stocks of carbon if developed for mining and fossil fuels, Christophersen added.

There is more optimism around Indonesia, although environmentalists are still wary.

Jokowi initially raised concerns that he would not follow through on his predecessor’s commitments on forestry, but then made progressive moves such as creating a new peatland restoration agency and extending a 2011 moratorium on licenses in forest and peatland, said Frances Seymour, distinguished senior fellow at the World Resources Institute.

Still, it will be up to the next president to cement that ban and push Indonesia’s large palm oil industry to become more sustainable, said Panut Hadisiswoyo, founding director of the Orangutan Information Centre in Indonesia. The country has around 69 percent of its natural forest intact, he said.

“I worry that with the current visions of the presidential candidates, they have no specific calls for the protection of this remaining forest,” Hadisiswoyo said. “This natural forest is the last limit for sustaining our biodiversity. I worry that this forest will have no guarantee to strive, to be kept as forest.”

Good signs
There are some good signs. Costa Rica’s tree cover grew from 20 perecent to around 50 percent over 30 years, Christophersen noted. And Indonesia’s loss dropped by 60 percent year-on-year in 2017, which Global Forest Watch attributed in part to a 2016 moratorium on peat drainage, educational campaigns and stronger enforcement.

“Without political leadership, we would not see with those kinds of successes,” Christophersen said.

However the potential for more damage remains strong – especially at a time of more nationalistic populist leaders such as Bolsonaro.

“A cross-cutting issue is how this global wave of populism plays out in the climate change debate, and in these countries how it plays out with respect to land use in particular,” said Seymour.

  • France intends to stop importing soy, palm oil, beef, wood and other products linked to deforestation and unsustainable agriculture by 2030, shooting ahead of the rest of the European Union, reports Climate Change News.

The new national strategy to combat imported deforestation, released by the environment ministry late last year, will use trade to help decouple economic development from tree-cutting and unsustainable agriculture in poorer countries.

Sara Stefanini is a senior journalist with Climate Change News.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Time for US, Australia to change policy on West Papua or risk major setback

By Ben Bohane

Reports of the Indonesian military using white phosphorous munitions on West Papuan civilians last month are only the latest horror in a decades-old jungle war forgotten by the world. But new geopolitical maneuvering may soon change the balance of power here, prompting regional concern about an intensifying battle for this rich remote province of Indonesia.

It is time for the United States and Australia to change policy, complementing Pacific island diplomacy, or risk a major strategic setback at the crossroads of Asia and the Pacific.

Once again, Papuan highlanders have fled their villages into the bush where they are starving and being hunted by Indonesian security forces.

Fighting between OPM (Free Papua Movement) guerrillas and the Indonesian military has increased in recent months, creating a fresh humanitarian crisis in a region cut off from the world: Indonesia prevents all foreign media and NGOs from operating here.

This makes West Papua perhaps the only territory besides North Korea that is so inaccessible to the international community.

For years West Papuans have claimed that Jakarta has been building up its forces, including local militias, ready to unleash just as they did in East Timor before its bloody birth in 1999. Different to East Timor however, is the presence of jihadi groups too, something the OPM has warned about for some time.

-Partners-

Alarming quote
Recent comments reported by Associated Press by Indonesia’s Security Minister General Wiranto, who oversaw the death and destruction during East Timor’s transition to independence in 1999, are alarming:

Earlier this week, security minister Wiranto, who uses one name, said there would be no compromise with an organization the government has labeled a criminal group.

“They are not a country, but a group of people who are heretical,” he said.”

Heretical?

This is significant – by using the word “heretical” rather than “treasonous” is Wiranto signalling a coming jihad against the West Papuans?

A low level insurgency waged by the OPM guerrillas has for decades sought independence for the mostly Christian, Melanesian population. Church groups and NGOs claim more than 300,000 Papuans have perished under Indonesian occupation since Indonesia formally annexed “Dutch New Guinea” via a UN referendum in 1969 known as the “Act of Free Choice”.

Farcical vote
It was the UN’s first decolonisation mission and it was a farce – the UN allowed a handpicked group of 1025 Papuans to vote from a population estimated at the time to be close to one million. Just in case they didn’t get the message, Indonesia’s Brig General Ali Murtopo flew in and warned:

“This is what will happen to anyone who votes against Indonesia. Their accursed tongues will be torn out. Their full mouths will be wrenched open. Upon them will fall the vengeance of the Indonesian people. I will myself shoot them on the spot.”

The UN’s own envoy overseeing the plebicite, Chakravarty Narasimihan, former UN Under secretary general in charge of the “Act of free Choice” said:

“It was just a whitewash. The mood at the United Nations was to get rid of this problem as quickly as possible. Nobody gave a thought to the fact that there were a million people there who had their fundamental human rights trampled. Suharto was a terrible dictator. How could anyone have seriously believed that all voters unanimously decided to join his regime? Unanimity like that is unknown in democracies.”

The fix was in and had US blessing; Washington arm-twisted Australia and Holland to back Indonesia’s annexation of West Papua, despite the position of both nations to have West Papua prepared for independence by 1970.

Australia would go on to deliver independence to the eastern half of New Guinea island, known as Papua New Guinea (PNG) in 1975.

For decades Australia’s first line of defence was considered to be the rugged 800 km border that separates PNG from Indonesia. Long before the recent rise of China, Australia’s chief strategic concern was Indonesia, especially during times of direct conflict such as the Konfrontasi period of the 1960s and more recently when Australia led an international intervention force that secured East Timor’s independence in 1999.

Pushing east
Since the 1960s Indonesia has been pushing east, with then President Sukarno taking “West Irian” (West Papua) by force while at the same time calling PNG “East Irian” and Australia “South Irian”.

It remains one of the great “what ifs” of Australian strategic history – if Australia and Holland had ignored US pressure and continued to support West Papuan independence, it would have prevented the long running civil war there and may well have stopped Indonesia’s subsequent invasion of East Timor in 1975.

Instead, Australia reluctantly agreed to the US “New York Agreement” of 1962 and found itself being dragged into the US war in Vietnam.

It fought the wrong war.

In the decades since, Australia has sought to manage its often turbulent relationship with Indonesia, recognising its size and importance within southeast Asia, by studiously ignoring the ongoing “slow-genocide” happening in West Papua.

Not only has Australia never provided material support for its rebels or refugees, it continues to arm and train Indonesia’s elite anti-terrorism unit Densus 88, which has been accused of “mission creep” in extending its operations to take out not just Islamic terrorists post 9/11, post Bali attacks, but Papuan nationalists too.

This has resulted in a lose-lose policy for Australia; after East Timor, no amount of Australian assurances of Indonesian sovereignty will ever convince Jakarta’s generals that Australia does not have designs on West Papua; at the same time Australia has lost much moral and strategic credibility among its Pacific island neighbours who all support West Papuan independence and question why their two big brothers in the Pacific – the US and Australia – continue to “throw the West Papuans to the wolves”.

But while they may have been able to ignore West Papua’s independence movement for decades, new geopolitical manouverings have emerged in the past year which signal a need to re-assess long running policy.

Social media explosion
The explosion of social media in recent years has taken this hidden war out of the shadows for good. Pacific diplomacy is isolating ANZUS policy and the West Papuan struggle will not remain a bow-and-arrow affair for much longer.

It is only a matter of time before China begins offering substantial material support and training – they are already in discussions with the West Papuan leadership. Nor are they the only player getting involved.

In December 2017, Russian Tu-95 nuclear bombers made sorties from bases on Biak island in West Papua probing the air space between Australia and Papua. It was the first time Russian nuclear bombers have operated in the South Pacific, prompting Australia to scramble fighter jets from RAAF Tindal for the first time in many years.

Jakarta has likely invited Russia to display a show of force as a warning to Australian and US forces stationed in Darwin – as well as China – lest they show any inclination to support West Papuan independence.

But can Jakarta trust Russia? Although there is considerable military co-operation between the two, Russia may have its own agenda in West Papua, recognising its resource wealth and strategic position due south of Vladivostok.

West Papuan leaders speak of Russia’s sense of having been betrayed by Indonesia in the 1960s. After Khrushchev met with Sukarno at their historic Bali summit in 1960, a time when Indonesia’s communist party the PKI was the third largest in the world, Moscow believed it had done a deal to become Indonesia’s partner in helping annex West Papua and thus gain access to the known mineral riches of West Papua, not to mention its strategic position as a gateway between Asia and the Pacific.

Instead, US President Kennedy was able to woo Sukarno (both were young, charismatic “ladies men” who hit it off together) sufficiently to broker a deal where the US would recognise Indonesian sovereignty over West Papua in an attempt to temper both Sukarno’s leftist leanings and the growing PKI.

Coup ‘re-orientation’
The deal signed in 1962 was called the New York Agreement and signalled America would not support Holland’s defence of an independent West Papua. By 1965 Kennedy was dead and Sukarno had been overthrown in a coup that led to a “re-orientation” of Indonesia.

Newly installed General Suharto purged Indonesia of communists and granted the first foreign mining licence to US company Freeport to establish a gold mine in the Puncak Jaya mountain range of West Papua, soon to become (and remain) the biggest gold mine in the world.

Russia was furious, but could do little then. China’s support for the PKI was also checked and Suharto’s 30 year dictatorship, backed by the US and allies, ensured both Russia and China lost their influence in Indonesia.

Today it is a different story.

While Russia influence in the Pacific is small but growing, Chinese influence has surged to become a major force in Pacific politics and security. Part of its engagement with Pacific island nations is to support those nations such as Vanuatu which back West Papuan independence in the face of Indonesian threats.

China’s relationship with Indonesia continues to deteriorate over issues such as rival claims in the South China Sea, nationwide demonstrations across Indonesia in support of persecuted Uighers in China, and concerns about the growing Islamification of Indonesia threatening the local Chinese (often Christian) communities.

Last year, the (Christian) Chinese Governor of Jakarta was hounded out of office by hardline Islamist groups accusing him of blasphemy.

Periodic pogroms
Indonesia’s Chinese community has long been subject to periodic pogroms (such as during the PKI crackdown in the 1960s and during the fall of Suharto in 1998) and as they watch the growing Islamification of Indonesia, they are all preparing Plan B exits, with Singapore, Malaysia and Australia top of their list.

In the past, Beijing could do little to protect the Chinese diaspora here, but today that has changed. West Papuan leaders suggest that China may have a plan to help liberate West Papua and thus provide a sanctuary for Indonesia’s persecuted Chinese community.

Were China to support West Papuan independence it would have the backing of the vast majority of Papuans and give China not just access to its huge mineral wealth, but also a strategic foothold in the south, south China Sea and a major gateway between the Indian and Pacific Ocean.

It would also win the kudos of many Pacific island nations who feel the US and Australia have not defended Pacific island interests all because of the avarice of one US company.

China is also taking note of the recent decision by neighbouring PNG to allow a major new military base on Manus island for US and Australian forces. Manus island, a naval base since WW2, would allow US and Australian naval and air force projection into the South China Sea and beyond, once again amplifying the strategic position of West Papua next door to thwart such allied projections if China got a foothold there.

China is also anticipating a Prabowo presidency in Indonesia this year, which they regard as a CIA asset, ironically backed by hardline Islamic groups, and who will be hostile to the Chinese community there. And not just hostile to China, but Australia and the Pacific too.

Australia has had a good run with amenable leaders such as SBY and Jokowi in recent years, but a Prabowo presidency would see a Duterte-like strongman likely to cause friction.

Reflexive stance
The answer in such circumstances is not to take a reflexive pro-Indonesia stance against Chinese moves, but to check both Indonesian and Chinese expansion by helping the Christian Melanesians of West Papua secure their freedom as part of the Pacific family.

Doing so is not just the right moral thing to do (correcting a previous injustice) but the right strategic thing to do: it prevents a Chinese foothold in the South Pacific, prevents Indonesian jihadis and territorial expansion east into the Pacific, secures an “air-sea gap” for Australia, properly secures a border between Muslim Asia and the Christian Pacific, and in so doing wins the admiration and loyalty of the rest of the Pacific island community precisely at a time when they are being aggressively courted by China.

This year Vanuatu, backed by dozens of countries in the ACP block (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific) is expected to introduce a motion before the UN General Assembly calling for a proper referendum on independence for West Papua and its inclusion on the United Nations De-Colonisation list.

Unless this long-running struggle is resolved soon, West Papua may soon become a major battleground between Indonesian forces including jihadis and Papuan guerrillas backed by China.

US policy has long been guided by Freeport’s commercial interests (helped by such prominent board members as Henry Kissinger and ex-President Ford), but that now pales in comparison to the strategic calculus as China moves in.

Besides, Freeport is now losing its grip – in December it finally accepted a new deal with Jakarta losing its majority ownership of the mine and the Carstenz deposit. Freeport now has been reduced to 49 percent ownership.

Of course, China is playing both sides of the fence – guess who provided funds for Jakarta to increase its equity?

Right side of history
It is time for the US to get on the right side of history. It should go back to supporting Australia and Holland’s original policy – and the rest of the Pacific’s today – by supporting a process towards West Papuan independence to halt growing Islamic and Chinese influence in the Pacific.

As one West Papuan leader told me recently:

“We have suffered for decades. If the democratic west continues to ignore our struggle we have no choice but to look east for our liberation”.

Ben Bohane is a Vanuatu-based photojournalist covering the Pacific who has reported on West Papua for the past 25 years. He is the only foreigner to have been in the three most active Command areas of the OPM operating in West Papua. This article was first published in the Journal of Political Risk and is republished by Asia Pacific Report with the permission of the author.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

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.

-Partners-

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.”

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media