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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Old Traditions for Saving Water

Jakarta Globe, Sitti Aminah, Nov 27, 2014

A villager collects water from a well, which was dug from the bottom of a lake
 that had dried up in Gunung 
Kidul village, near Yogyakarta in Java. Drought
 continually plagues the area and the villagers who reside there. (Reuters
Photo/Dwi Oblo)

Jakarta. Indonesia is home to some of the world’s largest water deposits. According to the Water Environment Partnership in Asia, WEPA, almost 6 percent of the world’s water resources  can be found in Indonesia. Additionally, Indonesia controls 21 percent of water resources in the Asia-Pacific region.

Geographically, it can be said that Indonesia is blessed with an abundance of water in storage.

Mountainous areas covered in rain forests form natural water catchments. Mangrove forests in coastal areas, meanwhile, protect inland water storage from saltwater intrusion.

Indonesia undoubtedly plays an important role in global water security and environmental conservation. This, however, does not mean Indonesia is immune from water-related problems.

Water is one of several basic necessities, a valuable asset that has the potential to trigger problems should it be manipulated or managed unwisely. Speaking of manipulating water resources, the government and the private-sector play an increasing role in this sector.

The 1945 Constitution mandates the government as the sole manager of water resources throughout the archipelago. It is given the mandate so that it can fulfill the people’s basic necessities.

Overwhelmed by the task, the government has delegated part of its water authority to the private sector. They require the private sector to ensure that Indonesia’s need for water is balanced with accessible supplies.

Excessive use

Despite efforts to maintain supply, most urban populations in Indonesia use water excessively.  It may be because to them, water is something easily available, not something that they struggle to attain.

Lower- to middle-income people in Indonesia use 169.11 liters per day, per person on average. The figure is higher for those in the middle-to-upper class group who use 247.36 liters. Almost every domestic activity requires water, from washing clothes and cleaning the dishes to cooking, drinking and watering gardens.

According the Indonesia Water Institute, since 2000, various regions in Indonesia have been forced to deal with water scarcity. Such shortages are blamed by environmental degradation. Additionally, water becomes scarce due to unwise management.

The Baduy people

An examination of the traditional practices of some indigenous groups, including the Baduy people in Banten is insightful. Their actions are in line with sustainable development principles, consisting of three pillars: environment, economy and community. Under those principles, they are able to manage the environment wisely.

The practice, supervised by their elderly, bars Baduy Dalam (Inner Baduy) people, who live deep in the forest, from cutting down trees. Cutting trees is only allowed should the tree be of a sufficient age. If they cut down one tree, in exchange, they must plant two trees. We can see here an effort to balance the ecosystem, and maintain an abundance of trees.

The indigenous Baduy people demonstrate to us how to manage our relations with the environment. By preserving the forest, they maintain the availability of water in the soil.

In terms of their other two pillars, economy and community, an examination of Baduy Luar (outer Baduy) people’s practices is useful.  They are allowed to sell their crops to meet daily necessities, but only if they maintain the sustainability of their plantations and don’t harvest excessively — which can damage their forests. The Baduy sees nature as an integral part of their life that must to be respected. It is a remarkable value, one which has allowed them to avoid environmental-related problems, including water scarcity.

If we apply such values to our modern society, everyone will benefit. Indonesians need to wake from their long sleep and consider such core environmental principles. Unique traditional values that respect nature are part of our country’s identity. Even though they often originate from different cultural practices, they have one thing in common: a unique, traditional solution for environmental issues.

Every region in Indonesia is moving towards preserving the environment as one solution for water scarcity. I’m optimistic that this will work. I’m also aware, though, that it is going to be a life-long project to make people understand environmental principles.

Once they understand the actions they can take to alleviate water scarcity, their behavior will change. Let’s appreciate what we have, and let’s move forward with it.

Sitti “Ina” Aminah is a knowledge management officer at the Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (Yayasan Kehati)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Religious Leaders Present Conflicting Views on Interfaith Marriage

Jakarta Globe, Nov 25, 2014

A mass wedding ceremony for couples looking to save money, in Tasikmalaya,
West Java, in this Oct. 27, 2014, file photo. (Antara Photo/Adeng Bustomi)

Jakarta. Asked about their stance on interfaith marriage as part of a judicial review hearing at the Constitutional Court, three religious leaders on Monday offered conflicting views, increasing the petitioners’ confidence in a successful outcome.

In September, a group of University of Indonesia (UI) law students sought a judicial review of Article 2(i) of the 1974 Marriage Law, which states that a marriage is only lawful “when entered in accordance with the laws of the respective religions and beliefs of the parties.”

This effectively outlaws interfaith marriages, given that nuptials conducted in one religion will not be “in accordance” with the laws of another. The petitioners argue that this clause violates their constitutional right to be allowed to get married as they choose to.

On Monday, the Constitutional Court held its second hearing in the case, listening to statements from representatives from the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (KWI), the Indonesia Hindu Dharma Association (PHDI) and the Supreme Council for Confucian Religion in Indonesia (Matakin).

Various views

Father Purbo Tantomo of KWI said that marriage is essential to human life and that the state should not interfere in people’s pursuit of happiness.

“A marriage is performed with the goal of happiness and nobody has the right to act against God’s will. The state’s job is to protect the individuals’ decision to live side by side” Father Purbo said, as quoted on the Court’s website. “The state is responsible to protect marriages and families, but Article 2(i) [of the Marriage Law] has created difficulties for couples who want to get married.”

“Marriage and faith are personal affairs. The state should not disrupt that, let alone infringe on someone’s rights. The two [the right to marry and keep one's faith] should go hand in hand,” the priest said.

I Nengah Dana from PHDI said Hinduism does not recognize interfaith marriage. “Marriage is formalized with a rite called Wiwaha Samskara led by a cleric, so both [bride and groom] should be Hindu,” he said. Marriage conducted between couples of different religions was not legitimate, he said, and would in fact amount to adultery.

Uung Sendana, from Matakin, stressed the importance of people’s happiness, but said there were limits to what religious could offer in this regard.

“A marriage should be conducted to achieve happiness and continue the blood line. No political view, ethnicity, understanding, culture or even religion can stop it,” he said. “However, an interfaith wedding cannot be conducted with a Confucian ceremony.”

During the first hearing, in October, a lawyer for the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), said marriage regulations have to be based on religion.

“The state [should respect] the regulation that every believer should obey their respective religion,” said Mirza Zulkarnaen. “A marriage would not be legitimate if it’s only administrative. Without religion, the administratively passed marriage would amount to mere cohabitation.”

‘Unclear regulations’

Damian Agata Yuvens, one of the petitioners, said in a statement on Monday that the differences in religious leaders’ opinions should be an important reason for the Constitutional Court to grant the judicial review request.

“Let the religions and their respective institutions prohibit interfaith marriage, let the families prohibit it, but such prohibitions shouldn’t come from the state in the form of unclear regulations or the actions of officials. Indonesia is not a country of a particular religion, and if the state only applies one religion’s rules, the state will be seen as a continuation of that particular religion’s view,” Damian said.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Indonesia's new president causes a buzz by flying economy class

Yahoo – AFP, 22 Nov 2014

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (C) and First Lady Iriana attend the high
 school graduation ceremony of their youngest son Kaesang Pangarep, at the
 Anglo-Chinese International School in Singapore, on November 21, 2014 (Photo
By Mohd Fyro/AFP)

Indonesia's new President Joko Widodo caused a stir this weekend by opting to fly economy class to watch his son's high school graduation in Singapore, drawing both praise and criticism online.

Skipping the usual heavy security protocol for heads of state, Widodo and his wife Iriana queued for check-in at Jakarta airport like ordinary passengers before taking their economy seats.

Widodo is known for his common touch, and his family have maintained a modest lifestyle since he became leader of Southeast Asia's biggest economy last month.

The presence of the president, known by his nickname Jokowi, caused a buzz at Jakarta's airport as passengers shouted and clamoured to shake his hand, with some taking selfies on their phones.

Some, though, thought it was a publicity stunt.

"Why should he go through the metal detector, join the queue, etc. Sir, stop polishing your image, just act natural," Rangga Aditya commented on news portal Detik.com.

Harry Azet tweeted: "Living a fake life is difficult: Jokowi went to Singapore flying economy but slept in an expensive hotel."

Indonesian President Joko Widodo takes a selfie with classmates of his youngest
 son Kaesang Pangarep, at the Anglo-Chinese International School in Singapore,
on November 21, 2014 (Photo By Mohd Fyro/AFP)

Widodo stayed in a five-star hotel on Orchard Road, Singapore's shopping mecca, an Indonesian embassy spokesman in Singapore told AFP.

But his choice to fly economy also won widespread praise, with many urging other government officials to follow suit.

"Jokowi sets a good example by flying economy. Hopefully other officials can follow in his footsteps," tweeted Anita Tobing.

Widodo said he did not use the presidential private jet or the VIP terminal because he was travelling for personal reasons.

"I am going for family matters, a private agenda, not a state visit -- so why should I use the facility?" Widodo told reporters.

The president and his wife were in Singapore to see their youngest son, 19-year-old Kaesang Pangarep, graduate from the Anglo-Chinese International School on Friday evening. The couple have two other children.

Widodo had breakfast with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong before flying back to Jakarta on Saturday morning.

Amnesty Calls On Indonesia to Stop Jailing People for ‘Blasphemy’

New report says more than 100 people jailed solely for peacefully expressing their views during Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono presidency

Jakarta Globe, Bastiaan Scherpen, Nov 21, 2014

Shiite cleric Tajul Muluk is escorted by police after being sentenced for blasphemy,
in this file photo taken on July 12, 2012. (AFP Photo/Juni Kriswanto)

Jakarta. Slamming a skyrocketing rate of convictions based on questionable interpretations of a half-century old blasphemy law during the presidency of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Amnesty International on Wednesday called on Indonesia’s new government to usher in an era of respect for human rights.

Launching a report that discusses the criminalization of beliefs in Indonesia in the past decade, Rupert Abbott, Amnesty’s research director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, told a Jakarta audience that the organization supports President Joko Widodo’s commitment to human rights, but that the new government has its work cut out in a climate of “intensifying intolerance.”

‘Deviant’ teachings

Freedom of religion is “one of the most pressing issues facing Indonesia,” Abbott said during the launch of the report, adding that his organization documented more than 100 cases of people being jailed solely for peacefully expressing their views in the years 2004-14 — almost one each month.

Titled “Prosecuting Beliefs: Indonesia’s Blasphemy Laws,” the report lists a number of cases that have made headlines in Indonesia and beyond in recent years, including that of Tajul Muluk, a Shiite cleric from Sampang in East Java jailed for his “deviant” teachings.

Shiite villagers from Sampang were driven from their homes in December 2011 and remain displaced.

Asfinawati, one of the lawyers representing the cleric, and a former executive director of the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH), condemned the court proceedings that ultimately resulted in her client being jailed for four years on what she described as highly dubious grounds and with key witnesses feeling so intimidated that they refused to testify.

One of the key problems, she explained, is legal uncertainty. “There is no official legal interpretation of what can be defined as blasphemous,” Asfinawati said.

Prisoners of conscience

Besides meeting civil society activists, the Amnesty delegation this week also met with lawmakers and senior government officials. Abbott said his team had urged the government to immediately release at least nine prisoners of conscience currently behind bars.

He said Amnesty considers everyone who is jailed for peacefully expressing their political views a prisoner of conscience, including Filep Karma and Johan Teterisa.

Filep is serving a 15-year sentence for raising the Morning Star flag in Jayapura, Papua, in 2004. The flag is a symbol of the Papuan struggle for independence from Indonesia. Johan is a school teacher from Maluku who was sentenced to life in prison for unfurling a separatist flag in front of then-president Yudhoyono in Ambon in 2007.

Josef Roy Benedict, Amnesty’s campaigner on Indonesia and Timor-Leste, added that the organization was also urging Joko to find a solution for the Ahmadis driven from their homes in Lombok. This community has been forced to stay in a Mataram dormitory since their expulsion from West Lombok in February 2006. And, Benedict said, there is also the issue of discriminative bylaws on the regional level that urgently needs the president’s attention.

Turbulence ahead

At the press conference, Bonar Tigor Naipospos of the Setara Institute explained that the fall of Suharto’s New Order regime created an opportunity for hard-line Islamist groups to make themselves heard and start pushing a political agenda. These groups also managed to promote intolerant strains of thought as part of an overall religious revival in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation-state, he said.

“Religion is being used as a political tool,” Bonar stressed.

The issuance of several key fatwa’s during Yudhoyono’s decade in power by the nation’s top Islamic advisory body, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), underlines the rising tide of intolerance. An MUI fatwa that denounces pluralism, liberalism and secularism, issued in 2005, is often seen as having set the tone for a decade of increasingly open persecution of groups like the Ahmadiyah and followers of the Shiite branch of Islam. The 1965 blasphemy law, hardly used in the era before Yudhoyono’s presidency, has since become an important tool for opponents of sects seen as deviant.

However, Bonar said that with regard to religious freedom, the precedents set by Joko when he served as governor of Jakarta were promising. He cited the examples of Joko’s unrelenting support for Susan Jasmine Zulkifli, a Christian official appointed as chief of the majority-Muslim Lenteng Agung subdistrict of South Jakarta, triggering protests, and the fact that Joko managed to resolve a church dispute in Tambora, West Jakarta.

Still, the deputy chairman of the Setara Institute warned that it would not be easy for the new government to improve the situation for minorities under siege. Pointing to the power of the Red-White coalition (KMP) of Joko’s rivals, which controls the House of Representatives, Bonar feared efforts to oppose any attempts to change problematic laws.

“The Indonesian political situation will experience turbulence,” he said.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Indonesian Muslim pageant challenges Western beauty contests (Video)







Basuki Sworn In as Jakarta’s 17th Governor

Jakarta Globe, Nov 20, 2014

Newly inaugurated Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, left, shakes hands
 with President Joko Widodo, and both are accompanied by their wives at the
Presidential Palace on Nov. 19, 2014. (Antara Photo/Widodo S. Jusuf)

Jakarta. Despite violent protests by hard-line Islamic vigilante groups and threats of a legislative boycott by rival politicians, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama on Wednesday was officially inaugurated as governor of Jakarta.

Basuki, popularly known as Ahok, was sworn in at the State Palace by President Joko Widodo during an afternoon ceremony broadcast live by the nation’s major news networks.

“I promise to fulfill my obligations as a governor to the best of my ability, and I will uphold Indonesia’s 1945 Constitution and implement all regulations fairly,” Basuki said when taking the oath of office.

The first governor of Indonesia’s capital of Chinese descent and a Protestant Christian, Basuki was Joko’s number two at City Hall until the latter resigned to assume the office of president.

Selecting a new deputy

Several cabinet ministers were present at the inauguration, including Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo and Spatial Planning Minister Ferry Mursyidan.

The new governor was accompanied by his wife, Veronica Tan, his children and his mother.

Tjahjo said Basuki would have 15 days to select his own deputy governor.

“After a maximum of 15 days, Basuki must submit the name of his deputy,” the home affairs minister said.

Among the first to congratulate Governor Basuki was former president Megawati Soekarnoputri, the chair of Joko’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P). Tjahjo is also a PDI-P stalwart.

Ari Dwipayana, a political expert from Yogyakarta’s Gajah Mada University applauded that a member of an ethnic and religious minority has been sworn in as Jakarta’s governor, calling it a testament to Indonesia’s motto “Unity in Diversity.”

“This is a historic event,” he said.

Basuki said he joked with the president shortly before the inauguration: “I told Jokowi: this is a miracle. Two years ago we were inaugurated together [as Jakarta governor and vice governor] and now it is Jokowi who inaugurates me,” he said after the ceremony. “Jokowi just smiled and patted me on the shoulder.”

Basuki, keeping his pick for deputy a secret, jokingly said he wants his new deputy to be an actress.

“But my wife won’t let me. So we’ll see,” he said.

Threats of violence

Prior to the inauguration, police said around 12,000 personnel would be mobilized to provide security, after threats by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

The vigilante group said it would block the inauguration at any cost. Members of the group in Cisarua, Bogor, on Sunday vowed to send reinforcements to their confederates in Jakarta. As of Wednesday afternoon, however, there were no reports of disturbances to the public order related to an FPI demonstration.

The FPI has protested, violently at times, against Basuki’s appointment, arguing that as a Christian and an ethnic Chinese, he should not be allowed to govern the capital of a Muslim-majority country.

Wednesday’s inauguration marks the first time a governor was sworn in by a president, an authority bestowed by the so-called Law on Regional Elections, enacted in October, that eliminated elections for governors, mayors and district chiefs nationwide.

Prior to the inauguration, a police bomb squad entered Basuki’s office. The acting governor’s staff denied there had been a bomb threat, saying officers only wanted to have their picture taken with the outspoken governor-to-be. Basuki has, at times, been equally vigorous in trading barbs with the FPI.

Political opposition

The Jakarta chapter of the Red-White Coalition (KMP) said it will boycott every single plenary session of the City Council to express their opposition to Basuki’s inauguration.

The council’s deputy speaker, Muhammad Taufik of the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra), a Red-White constituent, said he has instructed the coalition’s 57 city councilors to stop showing up for plenary meetings.

“Every meeting has its rules, such as [requirement of] a quorum. And can you imagine what’s going to happen if we don’t attend the meetings? The meetings will never reach a quorum,” Taufik said on Wednesday morning.

Taufik, a corruption convict who served an 18-month sentence for embezzling funds from the Jakarta Elections Commission in 2004, is the KMP’s leader in Jakarta.

The former convict said that even after Basuki is inaugurated as the capital’s governor, the Red-White Coalition will retain its power within the city council, since all four deputy speakers are from the KMP.

Taufik dismissed criticism that the boycott would hamper the city’s development, arguing that with Basuki serving as acting governor, development was continuing without the city council being involved.

He also reiterated that members of the Jakarta chapter of KMP, including himself, would not attend the inauguration, despite having received an invitation from State Secretary Pratikno.

Ari of Gajah Mada University said the Red-White Coalition has no legal grounds to reject Basuki as governor.

“Those rejecting [Basuki] are merely showing off political acrobatics, a childish act. The legal basis [for succession] is clear. What more is there to protest?” he said.

“If [Basuki’s] policies remains for the benefit of Jakarta residents, [the KMP] should support him.”

Meanwhile, Jakarta Council Speaker Prasetyo Edi Marsudi invited the Red-White Coalition to challenge his decision endorsing Basuki’s succession in the State Administrative Court (PTUN).

“It is the KMP’s right to lodge a PTUN suit against me,” the PDI-P politician said.

“As [speaker] I have followed all the rules made together by all parties in the council. The parties wanted me to ask for a ministerial recommendation and a [Supreme Court] endorsement; I did that. So with all do respect to my friends at the KMP, we must proceed … to name Basuki as governor.”

Prasetyo lamented the decision by his four deputies — all Red-White Coalition members — not to attend Basuki’s inauguration saying that it shows they were putting their respective political interests ahead of the nation’s.

“Don’t let [political interests] lead to bigger problems. [The KMP] has to respect the Constitution and be fair by coming to the inauguration,” he said.

Taufik and the three other deputy speakers who rejecting Basuki’s inauguration appear to have sought help from the House of Representatives, where the KMP controls 314 of 560 legislative seats.

On Wednesday afternoon, the House announced plans to summon the minister of home affairs and the state secretary.

“We … will invite the home affairs minister and the state secretary based on the recommendations of the City Council,” said Ahmad Riza Patria, deputy chairman of the House Commission II, which oversees domestic affairs and regional autonomy.

“We regret the government’s rushed this unwise decision,” Ahmad said.

But Council speaker Prasetyo said the House had no business rejecting the decision.

“If they disagree they can take it to the Constitutional Court, the only body with authority to judge [if Basuki’s succession] is lawful,” he said.

Further Coverage

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Jokowi Signals Break With ‘Thousand Friends’ Foreign Policy

Jakarta Globe, Robertus Wardhy, Nov 17, 2014

President Joko Widodo listens during the 2nd Asean-US Summit, part of the 25th
 Asean and Related Summits at the Myanmar International Convention Center in
Naypyitaw, Myanmar on Nov. 13, 2014. (EPA Photo/Azhar Rahim)

Jakarta. Following a week of foreign visits President Joko Widodo has returned to Indonesia and given a strong signal he plans to break from his predecessor’s a “thousand friends, zero enemies” foreign policy.

The president, fresh from a series of multilateral meetings last week — including APEC in Beijing, the Asean Summit in Myanmar and the G-20 in Australia — told reporters upon arrival in Jakarta on Sunday he would prioritize diplomatic relationships that provided significant benefits for Indonesia.

“Our [foreign] policy is free and active, befriend all countries but [we will put first] those who give the most benefits to the people,” Joko said. “What’s the point of having many friends but we only get the disadvantages? many friends should bring many benefits.”

The comments follow similar sentiment from foreign minister Retno Marsudi last month. Indonesia’s first female foreign minister said “pro-people” diplomacy would be the soul of Indonesia’s foreign policy, a shift in focus from former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s principle of a “thousand friends, zero enemies” — which was translated into the country’s increasing presence and roles in international forums.

Joko said on Sunday Indonesia would still maintain communication with all countries, but would not invest much time in diplomatic relationships that were not beneficial.

“It it’s not beneficial, I won’t do it,” Joko said. “We’ll still meet but not too much.”

Last week’s meetings were the first chance for Joko — a former furniture seller and small-city mayor — to show his diplomatic chops since taking office on Oct. 20.

Joko used his time at the Asean summit to showcase his vision of turning Indonesia, as the world’s largest archipelago, into a global “maritime axis”. At the G-20 summit in Brisbane at the weekend he again pitched how he would make Indonesia’s business climate friendlier for investors by implementing tax reforms and cutting fuel subsidies to pay for infrastructure investment.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Australia Brings ‘Koala Diplomacy’ to Bear at G20

Jakarta Globe – AFP, Nov 16, 2014

First Lady Iriana Widodo holds a koala while on a spouse visit to a koala sanctuary
 at the G20 conference in Brisbane, Australia on Nov. 15, 2014. (EPA Photo/Ian Waldie/
Pool Australia And New Zealand Out)

Brisbane. Australia arranged a warm and fuzzy welcome for the world’s most powerful leaders at this weekend’s G20 summit with a campaign dubbed “koala diplomacy”, in which top politicians cuddled the shy native marsupials.

While there may have been sharp differences during policy discussions, G20 leaders were unanimous in their desire be photographed with the furry grey animals, which were brought in from a local wildlife park for the summit.

Everyone from US President Barack Obama to China’s first lady Peng Liyuan queued up to hold the koalas as the world’s press snapped away.

Even host Tony Abbott’s pre-summit threat to aggressively “shirtfront” Russian leader Vladimir Putin was temporarily forgotten as the pair smiled and posed side-by-side cradling koalas in their arms.

The well-traveled White House press corps, normally immune to the charms of “local color”, were also enchanted by the iconic bush creatures when they met a two-year-old female named Jimbelung.

The koala, which is destined to be sent to Japan as a gift, munched contentedly on eucalyptus leaves but her handler said she was too tired to pose with reporters after photo sessions with Putin and Obama.

However, there was time for one more round of pictures when local powerbroker Campbell Newman, the Premier of Queensland state, turned up with a gaggle of media in tow.

But handler Al Mucci, from the Dreamworld wildlife park on the nearby Gold Coast tourist strip, said bringing the koalas to the summit was not just about ramping up the event’s cuteness factor.

He said Jimbelung, whose name means “friends” in the local Aboriginal dialect, belongs to a species struggling with declining numbers as human development encroaches on their habitat.

“As an Australian, I am proud of the fact that we are hosting the G20 and I’m proud that today we can share the koala story,” he told AFP.

“Koalas and people aren’t learning to live together and their population is dropping. We want to share that with the global community, that more help is required to make sure that people and koalas live together for another 200 years here in Australia.”

While not listed as endangered, koalas are officially considered “vulnerable”, and efforts to boost their population have been stepped up in recent years.

A 2011 study estimated there were more than 10 million before British settlers arrived in 1788 but numbers had declined to less than 45,000 in the wild, though it noted their existence high in the treetops makes them difficult to count.

Koalas spend up to 20 hours a day sleeping. On the rare occasions when they are spotted in the wild, they are usually nestled in the crook of two branches either napping or chewing leaves.

Agence France-Presse

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott, left, and US President Barack Obama each
 hold a koala before the G20 Leaders' Summit in Brisbane on Nov. 15, 2014.
(Reuters Photo/G20 Australia/Handout)

Related Article:


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chinese Ambassador: Maritime Links Key in Boosting Ties With Indonesia

Xie Feng speaks at length about his thoughts on President Joko Widodo, the historic treatment of ethnic Chinese, and the future of bilateral relations as both countries pursue parallel visions

Jakarta Globe, Nov 13, 2014

President Joko Widodo (left) walks with China’s President Xi Jinping after
 arriving to take part in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders
 meeting at Yanqi Lake, north of Beijing on Tuesday. (AFP Photo/Greg Baker)

On the eve of President Joko Widodo’s departure for Beijing to attend this week’s APEC Summit and meet a number of world leaders, including China’s President Xi Jinping, the Chinese ambassador to Indonesia, Xie Feng, was interviewed by the Chinese newspaper Global Times.

In the interview, Ambassador Xie, who has been in the country since June, talked about his impression of Indonesia, his interaction with the new president, economic ties between China and Indonesia, and the correlation between Jokowi’s vision of a “maritime axis” and President Xi’s plan to build a “21st-centurty maritime silk road.”

With permission, the Jakarta Globe is republishing the interview, which first appeared on Nov. 6. It was edited for style only.

Global Times: Global media said that Mr. Joko Widodo won voters’ support because he’s a ‘People’s President.’ After your arrival in Jakarta, have you had any contact with him and what are your impressions about him?

Chinese Ambassador Xie Feng. (Photo
 courtesy of the Embassy of the People’s
 Republic of China)
Ambassador Xie: In less than a decade, Mr. Joko Widodo’s journey from being a furniture businessman to president is truly a political miracle in Indonesia and even worldwide. In my first week as ambassador, I had the honor of meeting with him briefly and was deeply impressed by his sincerity, easy-going style and kindness. After that I had two in-depth conversations with him and paid courtesy calls on him on several occasions with visiting Chinese delegations after he won the presidency. I believe President Joko Widodo is a firm, visionary, pro-people and down-to-earth leader, with a clear sense of purpose. His policy agenda has a lot in common with that of Chinese leaders. These include governance in the interest of people, pushing forward reform, developing economy, improving public well-being and fighting corruption. The Indonesian people have quite high expectations for him.

President Joko Widodo told me that he much values the face-to-face communications with the public. He believes such communications should happen day in and day out and this is the only way to understand what people need. That’s why he frequently visits traditional markets, rural villages and street food vendors to talk to and eat together with people. In the Javanese language, there is a specific word to describe his work style, blusukan. It means impromptu visit, which is akin to what we call “reach out to the grassroots.”

Global Times: What does President Joko Widodo’s trip to China mean to the APEC Summit and China-Indonesia relations?

Ambassador Xie: Indonesia was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with China. In 1950s, China, Indonesia and other Asian and African countries initiated the Bandung Spirit. At the heart of it is peaceful coexistence, seeking common ground and shelving differences. The Bandung Spirit remains a significant norm in state-to-state relations today. China today is Indonesia’s largest trading partner, its No. 1 source of overseas tourists and a major destination for Indonesian students. In October last year, President Xi Jinping paid a successful state visit to Indonesia. He and Indonesian leaders agreed to lift the China-Indonesia relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership. This has laid a solid foundation and mapped out a blueprint for the long-run development of our bilateral relations. In 2014, Indonesia’s general elections year, our bilateral relations have had a smooth transition and got off to a good start. President Joko Widodo attaches great importance to China-Indonesia relations. He has chosen China for his first overseas visit after inauguration.

Indonesia was the birth place of APEC Bogor Goals. Last year, Indonesia hosted its second APEC Summit in 20 years, and raised three major topics including achieving the Bogor Goals, promoting sustainable and equitable growth and improving connectivity. China actively echoed and supported these ambitions. We look forward to closer coordination and cooperation with Indonesia for positive outcomes out of this year’s APEC Summit, including launching the process of the Asia Pacific Free Trade Area (FTAAP), promoting innovative development, economic reform and growth, and improving connectivity in the Asia-Pacific region.

Global Times: It’s almost five months since your arrival in Jakarta. Can you share with us some of your impressions about Indonesia?

Ambassador Xie: I’ve been deeply impressed by Indonesia in many ways.

First, Indonesia is a big country with rich resource endowment. Indonesia has around 250 million population. It is the world’s largest archipelagic state, with over 17,000 islands. It takes 9 hours to fly from its east to west. That’s roughly the distance between London and Tehran. Indonesia has abundant natural resources and is known as the Emerald of the Equator. My Indonesian friends often say with great pride that ‘please don’t ask what we have, just ask what we don’t have!’

Second, diversity and inclusiveness. Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world, yet it’s also known for its ethnic and cultural diversity. We Chinese value ‘harmony but not uniformity.’ In the same vein, the Indonesian people believe in ‘unity in diversity.’

Meanwhile, Indonesia has around 20 million Chinese Indonesians, that’s the largest ethnic Chinese community outside China. Over the past hundreds of years, generations of Chinese migrants sailed to Indonesia. They settled down and took root in this country. They survived the tribulations yet always worked hard to pursue a better life. Today, many of them have built a successful career and become social elites. They have made major contribution to Indonesia’s economic, social development and cultural prosperity, and have acted as a unique bridge in promoting China-Indonesia friendly exchanges and cooperation. Since 1998, successive Indonesian governments have made active efforts to improve the social status of Chinese Indonesians and promote ethnic harmony. In 2000, President Abdurrahman Wahid lifted the ban on Chinese culture and customs. In 2002, President Megawati Soekarnoputri announced the Chinese Spring Festival as a public holiday in Indonesia. In 2006, the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) passed a new law on citizenship, annulling the previous legal distinction between native and non-native Indonesians. It marked an end to many discriminatory policies against Chinese Indonesians. In March this year, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono repealed the discriminatory term for the Chinese Indonesians through legislation and adopted ‘Tiongkok’ and ‘Tionghoa’ to refer to China and Chinese Indonesians respectively. This past August, Indonesia’s first Museum on Hakka history and culture was completed. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and I attended the opening ceremony. In his remarks, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono spoke highly of the Chinese Indonesians’ outstanding contribution to Indonesia’s independence, development and progress.

Third, goodwill and kindness. The Indonesian people are warm, hospitable and are always ready to help others. Their happiness index is quite high.

Fourth, great potential. Indonesia’s population, landmass and GDP are all over 40 percent of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states combined. It’s the only Southeast Asian member of the G20 and is the 16th-largest economy around the world.

Global Times: China is Indonesia’s largest trading partner. Where is the growth point for the bilateral commercial cooperation in the future?

Ambassador Xie: China and Indonesia are both major emerging markets and developing countries. Our economies are highly complimentary and the cooperation potential is huge. Two-way investment will be a bright spot in our business cooperation in the years ahead. And infrastructure is expected to be a new growth driver in this regard. My Indonesian friends told me that the cargo freight from Papua to Jakarta is three times the cost of shipping the cargo from Shanghai to Jakarta. Nearly 50 million population in Indonesia have no access to electricity. Infrastructure is a major bottleneck holding back Indonesia’s economic growth. The Indonesian new government is implementing the ‘ocean highway’ strategy, and planning to build 2,000 kilometers of road, 10 new airports, 10 new sea ports and 10 industrial parks. The purpose is to promote air, land and sea connectivity, and improve energy, telecommunications and transport infrastructure. In my recent meetings with Indonesian leaders, responsible officials of economic departments and entrepreneurs, I could feel their strong desire to enhance cooperation with China.

Global Times: President Joko Widodo vows to develop marine economy and turn Indonesia into a global maritime axis. What’s the purpose of this strategy? What does it mean to China-Indonesia relations?

Ambassador Xie: Indonesia sits between the Pacific and Indian Oceans and connects Asia and Oceania. It controls a number of strategic chokepoints, such as the Malacca Straits, the Lombok Strait and the Sunda Strait. In history, Indonesia was a major hub in the maritime silk road, with a rich legacy of friendly exchanges between our two countries. The city of Semarang has been named after the well-known Chinese navigator Admiral Zheng He. It retains much heritage of Zheng He’s voyages to the Western Seas in the 15th century.

In his inauguration speech, President Joko Widodo called for building Indonesia into a maritime power. This policy agenda focuses on raising maritime awareness, building ocean highways, promoting maritime connectivity, developing marine economy, upholding maritime security and conducting maritime diplomacy. And the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs has been established. In his visit to Indonesia in October last year, President Xi Jinping announced the strategic initiative of building a “21st century maritime silk road.” This is to develop a ‘silk road’ spirit of peace, friendship, openness, inclusiveness and win-win cooperation among China, Indonesia and other coastal countries of the maritime silk road. The purpose is to promote policy communication, transport connectivity, trade relations, monetary circulation and understanding between the people, and build a community of common destinies. This shows the strategic visions of Chinese and Indonesian leaders complement each other. Maritime cooperation will become a ‘blue bond’ connecting our two countries’ development strategies. It is expected to be a new highlight and a new driver for strengthening the comprehensive strategic partnership and deepening the practical cooperation between our two countries.


Russian President Vladimir Putin walks past US President Barack Obama
as Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana and other world leaders
and their spouses get into position for a family photo before a banquet in Beijing
on Nov. 10, 2014. (EPA Photo/Sergei Ilnitsky)

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Archbishop: Pope Francis to Visit Indonesia in 2017

Jakarta Globe, Fatima Bona, Nov 13, 2014

Pope Francis gestures as he arrives to lead his weekly general audience in
Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican on Wednesday. (Reuters Photo/Tony Gentile)

Jakarta. Pope Francis will visit the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation in 2017, the secretary general of the Indonesian Bishops Conference (KWI) said on Thursday.

“The pope will come to Indonesia, to celebrate Asian Youth Day,” said Mgr. Johannes Pujasumarta, the archbishop of Semarang.

Johannes, who was speaking on the sidelines of a KWI meeting in Central Jakarta, said he could not yet confirm any details of the visit.

If the pope indeed manages to come to Indonesia, it would be the first papal visit since 1989, when Pope John Paul II celebrated a mass and visited then-President Suharto in Jakarta.

The apostolic nunciature in Jakarta could not immediately be reached for comment after office hours.

Approximately 3 percent of Indonesia’s population identifies as Roman Catholic, or about 7.5 million people. However, Roman Catholicism is the majority religion in some — primarily eastern — parts of the country.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jokowi in Prime Spot at APEC

Symbolic: Indonesia’s president asked to stand between two of the world’s most powerful leaders

Jakarta Globe, Robertus Wardi, Nov 12, 2014


Russian President Vladimir Putin walks past US President Barack Obama
 as Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his wife Iriana and other world leaders
 and their spouses get into position for a family photo before a banquet in Beijing
on Nov. 10, 2014. (EPA Photo/Sergei Ilnitsky)

The spotlight is on Indonesia, analysts say, as president Joko Widodo stood in the front row between two of the world’s most powerful leaders, Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Barrack Obama during Monday’s photo session at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in Beijing.

“This is flattering for Indonesia,” University of Indonesia international relations expert Hikmahanto Juwana said on Tuesday. “[As host], China has the right to say who stands where [in the photo shoot].”

The placement, he said, signals China’s acknowledgement of Indonesia’s important role in the global political climate.

“Only [leaders] of important countries get to stand next to the host,” he said adding that during the 2011 East Asia Summit, which Indonesia hosted, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono also got to decide who stands where in a photo shoot of world leaders.

“China needs [Indonesia] to mitigate tensions between [China] and many countries, including the US,” Hikmahanto said of the subtle meanings behind the placement of Monday’s session.

President Joko must play this important role, Hikmahanto said, as his predecessor Yudhoyono did during his administration, with the world looking to Indonesia as a diplomatic force, which can ease tensions between China and the rest of the world.

“But the president also suggested to the international community that [Indonesia] will carry out that role as long as we don’t sacrifice our national interests,” he said.

Political observer from the National Strategic Studies Institute, Irwan Suhanto said Indonesia’s strategic location also makes many countries to see Indonesia as an important ally.

“Jokowi is implicitly saying to the world be friends with Indonesia if you want to move forward,” he said.

Joko said he is surprised to find himself standing between Xi and Obama despite the presence of leaders from more developed and powerful countries.

“I was at the center. This is a symbol. People are fighting to make friends with Indonesia,” the president said.

The leverage had allowed Indonesia to be firmer in pushing its own agendas.

Responding to China’s proposal of creating an Asia-Pacific free-trade zone, Joko said Indonesia will not accommodate one-sided needs.

“We don’t want to support [the proposal] hastily. We must calculate first our products. What will benefit us. We don’t want to be trapped by their needs,” he said.

The president said he was more in favor of a partial implementation of the free-trade area, protecting industries such as fisheries and rattan, which in Indonesia are produced by individuals instead of large companies.

“We must be firm when others want us to open [the Indonesian market]. We don’t want others to flood our country [with their products],” Joko said. “I have said this quite openly that they were shocked. I want to get straight to the point, no time for diplomacy.”

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Jokowi Tells Obama He’ll Keep Fighting Terrorism

'Indonesia has played an extraordinary role in promoting pluralism,' American president says

Jakarta Globe, Robertus Wardhy, Nov 10, 2014

US President Barack Obama, right, gestures during a bilateral meeting with
 President Joko Widodo, left, in Beijing on Monday. (Reuters Photo/Kevin Lamarque)

Beijing. President Joko Widodo has promised to continue combating terrorism and extremists as he met US President Barack Obama for the first time on Monday.

Joko and Obama were attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing this week, before departing to Myanmar to attend the East Asia Summit on Wednesday.

This is Joko’s first international summit as head of state, testing the former furniture businessman’s diplomatic skills.

Obama praised his Indonesian counterpart, calling Indonesia a model for nations with large Muslim populations.

“As one of the world’s largest democracies and also one with a large Islamic population, Indonesia has played an extraordinary role in promoting pluralism and respect for religious diversity,” Obama said, thanking Indonesia for its efforts to isolate extremists.

Obama said his country was keen on increasing its partnerships with Indonesia, stressing his interest in Joko’s flagship programs and reforms.

“I know that President Joko Widodo has a strong agenda and ambition toward reform and increasing the welfare of Indonesians. The United States is willing to become a partner in this reform process,” he said.

The US president noted Joko’s ambition to transform Indonesia into a world maritime powerhouse, saying that Indonesia could play a pivotal role in maintaining peace and stability in the region.

Joko said he would continue to forge cooperation with the United States to combat terrorism.

“We will continue it. Not just from a security perspective, but also through a cultural and religious approach to isolate and eliminate radicalism and extremism,” he said.

Indonesia a key partner

The United States has been seeking closer ties with Southeast Asian countries as a defense against what it sees as China’s aggression in pursuit of its claims in the South China Sea, as well as Beijing’s increasing economic influence.

Indonesia is seen as a key partner in this goal, as shown by Joko’s predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

To maintain relations with the new Indonesian president, Obama sent a delegation led by Secretary of State John Kerry to attend Joko’s inauguration.

However, Washington is competing with Beijing to draw Indonesia to its side as Chinese President Xi Jinping met first with Joko on Sunday, telling the new Indonesian president that links between the two nations ran deep in history, while quoting an Indonesian proverb to demonstrate emotional ties.

“Joko has a big challenge to maximize gains from Indonesia’s relations with big powers while maintaining neutrality,” said Bantarto Bandoro, an international relations expert at the Indonesian Defense University.

“But I think Indonesia has all the cards to do it as long as we play it correctly,” he added.

Shinzo Abe, Vladimir Putin

Later on Monday, Joko also met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who also expressed an interest in Joko’s maritime ambitions.

Indonesia and Japan “are both maritime countries, both countries must contribute to peace and justice,” Abe said.

“The Japanese government wishes to make some contribution in [Indonesia’s maritime] industry and the development of human resources,” he added.

Another world leader who held talks with Joko was Russian President Vladimir Putin, who sought to forge stronger economic partnerships with the new Indonesian government.

Partnerships between the two countries have mainly centered on the defense industry.

“Indonesia and Russia have good partnerships and histories,” Putin said.

“There is slow growth in terms of our economic partnerships. I hope in this forum we can discuss how to address this shortcoming.”

Joko welcomed more investment and partnerships from Russia, saying it had a lot to offer in developing Indonesia’s energy, transportation, agriculture and manufacturing potential.

In his maiden speech at an international forum on Sunday, Joko pitched his country as a prime investment destination to regional business leaders, pledging to slash fuel subsidies that have crimped the government’s ability to spend on social and infrastructure development.

Describing the $27 billion that Jakarta spends annually to hold down fuel prices as “huge,” Joko told the APEC CEO Summit that the savings would be used to build much-needed ports, railways and other infrastructure for the sprawling nation and help improve the livelihoods of rural residents.

Additional reporting from Reuters

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, second from right, and Chinese President Xi
Jinping, second from left, attend a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in
Beijing on Nov. 9, 2014. (Reuters Photo/Jason Lee)

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