Indonesia executes six drug convicts, five of them foreigners

Indonesia executes six drug convicts, five of them foreigners
Widodo has pledged to bring reform to Indonesia

Ban appeals to Indonesia to stop death row executions

Ban appeals to Indonesia to stop death row executions
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has pleaded to Indonesia to stop the execution of prisoners on death row for drug crimes. AFP PHOTO

Pope: 'Death penalty represents failure' – no 'humane' way to kill a person

Pope: 'Death penalty represents failure' – no 'humane' way to kill a person
The pope wrote that the principle of legitimate personal defense isn’t adequate justification to execute someone. Photograph: Zuma/Rex

Obama becomes first president to visit US prison (US Justice Systems / Human Rights)

Obama becomes first president to visit US prison   (US Justice Systems / Human Rights)
US President Barack Obama speaks as he tours the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution in El Reno, Oklahoma, July 16, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

US Death Penalty (Justice Systems / Human Rights)

US Death Penalty (Justice Systems / Human Rights)
Woman who spent 23 years on US death row cleared (Photo: dpa)



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"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Monday, June 17, 2019

The 'richest black nation': Papua New Guinea sets audacious goal

Yahoo – AFP, June 16, 2019

Violent crime and corruption are endemic in Papua New Guinea, reliable electricity
is rare, and population centres are isolated (AFP Photo/ARIS MESSINIS)

Papua New Guinea's new prime minister has an ambitious -- cynics would say far-fetched -- objective of turning one of the world's poorest countries into the "richest black nation" on earth in just a decade.

If national economies were like football teams, then Papua New Guinea would be near the bottom of the table struggling to avoid a relegation dogfight.

Violent crime and corruption are endemic, reliable electricity is rare, and population centres sit like isolated city-states, surrounded by trackless jungle and mountain ridges that soar into the equatorial sky.

As rich as Papua New Guinea is in culture, language and beauty, it is the 153rd most developed country in the world out of 189, according to the United Nations -- doing slightly better than Syria, marginally worse than Myanmar.

New prime minister James Marape wants to change that. He has promised that within ten years his compatriots will live in "the richest black Christian nation" in the world.

That is not going to be easy. The current titleholder is the highly industrialised economy of Trinidad and Tobago, where the average resident earns around 833% more than Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea is rich in culture, language and beauty, but is way down
the UN development rankings (AFP Photo/SAEED KHAN)


If the British territory of Bermuda were also included in the rankings, the task would be even more daunting.

Papua New Guinea's economy would have to grow at a world-beating rate of around 30 percent per year, every year for the next ten years just to catch up.

"PNG has never experienced 30 per cent growth in the past; nor has any other country for that matter, at least not for any sustained period of time," said Maholopa Laveil, a lecturer in economics at the University of Papua New Guinea.

To reach his lofty goal, Marape appears to be betting on a surge in gas revenues and more of that cash staying in the country.

He has hinted that he may look to renegotiate a massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) contract with Total and ExxonMobil that would double national production to better benefit the local economy.

He has also promised to stop the export of unprocessed hardwoods and tackle corruption.

But the strategy comes with risks.

New prime minister James Marape has hinted he may look to renegotiate a massive
LNG contract with Total and ExxonMobil (AFP Photo/SAEED KHAN)

Dashed expectations

The World Bank has warned that even before a second LNG project comes online, the economy has "become increasingly concentrated in petroleum and gas-related activities".

That, the bank warned, raises Papua New Guinea's vulnerability to the vagaries of international energy markets and natural disasters -- like the 7.5 magnitude quake that froze production and stalled the economy in 2018.

Even the country's existing PNG LNG project -- which started to flow in 2014 -- has failed to live up to expectations.

It required a controversial public loan worth more than a billion Australian dollars ($700 million) and helped national debt spike.

The project was forecast to increase GDP by over 97 percent, but according to Paul Flanagan -- a former Australian government official who runs the influential PNG Economics blog -- the increase has been closer to six percent.

The World Bank has warned PNG's vulnerability to earthquakes is increasing along 
with its reliance on petrol and gas (AFP Photo/Melvin LEVONGO)

"Overall, the PNG LNG project massively over-promised and then failed to deliver," one of his recent blog posts read. "For household disposable income, the prediction was an 84 percent improvement. The outcome is a decline of 9 percent."

Flanagan believes that regardless of any energy boom, Marape -- a former finance minister -- will need to undertake difficult currency and trade reforms if the country has any hope of growing sustainably.

"Time will tell if the new government will tackle such difficult political economy challenges, challenges that must be addressed to make PNG a much richer black Christian nation," he said.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Hong Kong transport authorities approve LGBT ad after backlash

Yahoo – AFP, May 21, 2019

Campaigners have criticised Hong Kong for lagging behind on equality issues
(AFP Photo/Yan ZHAO)

A Cathay Pacific advert featuring two men holding hands can now be displayed across Hong Kong's transport network, after its reported ban sparked a public outcry.

Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post reported Monday that the city's airport and MTR train operator had barred the gay-friendly ad from its crowded terminals, citing sources.

The news emerged just after Taiwan's parliament legalised same-sex marriage last week in a landmark first for Asia, placing the island at the vanguard of the region's burgeoning gay rights movement.

By contrast, campaigners have criticised semi-autonomous Hong Kong for lagging behind on equality issues.

Neither Cathay Pacific nor the transport authorities directly confirmed or denied the ban which triggered a massive backlash.

LGBT group Big Love Alliance launched a campaign on Monday encouraging Hong Kongers to share on social media photos of themselves holding hands with their same-sex partners or friends at the airport or the MTR.

As public pressure mounted, airport authorities said on Tuesday the advert now had their full blessing.

The ad is deemed "not in infringement of the Airport Authority's established guidelines on advertisements displayed in the terminal", a spokesperson said in a statement.

JCDecaux, an agency that handles advertising bookings for the MTR Corporation, also appeared to have reversed course.

"We have advised... that the design can be posted at MTR stations," a JCDecaux spokeswoman in Hong Kong told AFP.

Ray Chan, Hong Kong's first openly gay lawmaker, welcomed the move saying public and media pressure have made transport officials and their advertising agencies "right their wrong".

The city airport is operated by a Hong Kong government body, while the MTR Corporation is majority-owned by the government.

Hong Kong does not recognise same-sex marriage or civil unions and only decriminalised homosexuality in 1991.

But a British lesbian won the right to live and work in Hong Kong with her partner in a landmark ruling last year hailed by rights groups.

A separate case has been lodged by two Hong Kong men directly challenging the same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional.

Related Articles:

Taiwan parliament to vote on Asia's first gay marriage bill

Yahoo – AFP, May 16, 2019

Taiwan's top court has ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry
violates the constitution (AFP Photo/Chris STOWERS)

Taiwan will decide whether to pass Asia's first gay marriage law on Friday as conservative lawmakers launch a last-ditch attempt to scupper the bill despite a court ruling ordering same-sex marital equality.

Protesters on both sides of the debate will gather outside Taipei's parliament for what looks set to be a mammoth legislative debate over an issue that has bitterly divided the island.

Parliament is up against a ticking clock.

Taiwan's top court has ruled that not allowing same-sex couples to marry violates the constitution. Judges gave the government two years to make necessary changes by May 24, 2019 or see marriage equality enacted automatically.

With that deadline fast approaching, three bills have been tabled for Friday -- which also happens to be the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

The most progressive is the government's bill, the only one to use the word "marriage" and offer limited adoption rights.

Opponents warn that "forcefully" passing a gay marriage law will intensify 
tensions (AFP Photo/Daniel Shih)

It is backed -- begrudgingly -- by gay rights groups who see it as the closest thing to full equality with heterosexual couples, despite its limitations.

Opponents have tabled two other versions which avoid the word marriage, offering something closer to same-sex unions with no adoption rights.

Conservative and religious groups have been buoyed by a series of referendum wins in November, in which voters comprehensively rejected defining marriage as anything other than a union between a man and a woman.

President Tsai Ing-wen has said the government's bill respects both the court judgement and the referendum.

"I hope everybody can be considerate and tolerate different opinions to show Taiwan is a mature civil society that is capable of handling a divisive issue," she said on Tuesday.

Tsai's ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) holds the majority in parliament, occupying 68 out of 113 seats.

Taiwan's LGBT community has been left in limbo 
the last two years (AFP Photo/SAM YEH)

But there is no guarantee her own lawmakers will vote for the more progressive bill, especially as many fear being punished by conservative voters at the ballot box in January.

One of the rival bills was proposed by a DPP lawmaker.

Taiwan's LGBT community has been left in limbo the last two years, with many couples planning weddings ahead of the May 24th deadline but unsure of what marriage equality will look like.

"We will have a clear answer this week about how this country will treat gay couples in the future," said Jennifer Lu, a spokeswoman for Marriage Equality Coalition Taiwan.

"The cabinet's bill is already a discounted version but it covers the most for now. The other bills are not only unconstitutional but discriminatory."

Opponents warn that "forcefully" passing a gay marriage law will intensify tensions.

"The cabinet's bill ignores the referendum results and that is unacceptable," said Lai Shyh-bao of the opposition Kuomintang party, who proposed one of the bills backed by conservatives.

Related Article:


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Indonesian court sentences French drug smuggler to death

Yahoo – AFP, May 20, 2019

Felix Dorfin was arrested in September carrying a suitcase filled with about three
kilograms of drugs, including ecstasy and amphetamines (AFP Photo/ARSYAD ALI)

An Indonesian court sentenced Frenchman Felix Dorfin to death for drug smuggling on Monday, in a shock verdict after prosecutors asked for a 20-year jail term.

Dorfin, 35, was arrested in September carrying a suitcase filled with about three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of drugs including ecstasy and amphetamines at the airport in Lombok, a holiday island next to Bali where foreigners are routinely arrested on drugs charges.

Indonesia has some of the world's strictest drug laws -- including death by firing squad for some drug traffickers and it has executed foreigners in the past.

While prosecutors had not asked for the death penalty, Indonesian courts have been known to go beyond their demands.

"After finding Felix Dorfin legally and convincingly guilty of importing narcotics ... (he) is sentenced to the death penalty," presiding judge Isnurul Syamsul Arif told the court.

He cited Dorfin's involvement in an international drug syndicate and the amount of drugs in his possession as aggravating factors.

"The defendant's actions could potentially do damage to the younger generation," Arif added.

The Frenchman made headlines in January when he escaped from a police detention centre and spent nearly two weeks on the run before he was captured.

A female police officer was arrested for allegedly helping Dorfin escape from jail in exchange for money.

It was not clear if the jailbreak played any role in Monday's stiffer-than-expected sentence.

Dorfin, who is from Bethune in northern France, sat impassively through much of the hearing in front of three judges, as a translator scribbled notes beside him.

He said little as he walked past reporters to a holding cell after the sentencing.

"Dorfin was shocked," the Frenchman's lawyer Deny Nur Indra told AFP.

"He didn't expect this at all because prosecutors only asked for 20 years."

The lawyer said he would appeal against the sentence, describing his client as a "victim" who did not know the exact contents of what he was carrying.

"If he had known, he wouldn't have brought it here," Indra added.

In 2015, Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran -- the accused ringleaders of the Bali Nine heroin smuggling gang -- were executed by firing squad in Indonesia.

The case sparked diplomatic outrage and a call to abolish the death penalty.

The Bali Nine gang's only female member was released from jail last year, while some others remain in prison.

A number of foreigners in Indonesia are on death row including cocaine-smuggling British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford and Serge Atlaoui, a Frenchman who has been on death row since 2007.

Last year, eight Taiwanese drug smugglers were sentenced to death by an Indonesian court after being caught with around a tonne of crystal methamphetamine.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Brunei says death penalty moratorium to cover sharia laws

Yahoo – AFP, May 5, 2019

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah's remarks on capital punishment appeared aimed at
assuaging worldwide criticism (AFP Photo/Andrea VERDELLI)

Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei) (AFP) - Brunei's sultan said Sunday a moratorium on capital punishment will also extend to sharia laws that include stoning to death for gay sex and adultery, after a furious backlash against the punishments.

It was the first time Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah had commented publicly on the new penal code since it fully entered force last month, and his remarks appeared aimed at assuaging worldwide criticism.

The laws, which also include amputation of hands and feet for thieves in the tiny sultanate on Borneo island, sparked fury from celebrities, including actor George Clooney, the United Nations and rights groups.

In a televised speech ahead of the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the sultan said: "I am aware that there are many questions and misperceptions with regard to the implementation of the (sharia penal code)."

"There should not be any concern on the sharia law as it is full of Allah's mercy and blessings," he said, according to an official translation of his address.

"As evident for more than two decades, we have practised a de facto moratorium on the execution of death penalty for cases under the common law.

"This will also be applied to cases under the (sharia penal code), which provides a wider scope for remission."

He also vowed Brunei would ratify the United Nations convention against torture which it signed several years ago.

Muslim-majority Brunei operates a dual-track legal system with civil courts operating alongside sharia courts that handle issues such as marital and inheritance cases.

Some crimes were already punishable with death by hanging under the civil code but Brunei has not executed anyone for decades, and the sultan's comments suggest this will not change with the introduction of the new sharia laws.

Rape and robbery are also punishable by death under the sharia code and many of the new laws, such as capital punishment for insulting the Prophet Mohammed, apply to non-Muslims as well as Muslims.

The sultan -- one of the world's wealthiest men -- announced plans for the sharia penal code in 2013.

The first section was introduced in 2014 and included less stringent penalties, such as fines or jail terms for offences including indecent behaviour or skipping Friday prayers.

But the introduction of the harsher punishments in the former British protectorate of about 400,000 people was repeatedly delayed after they sparked criticism.


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Indonesia eyes moving capital from congested Jakarta

Yahoo – AFP, April 29, 2019

Jakarta is home to some 30 million people and is also one of the world's fastest
sinking cities due to excessive groundwater extraction (AFP Photo/ADEK BERRY)

Jakarta (AFP) - Indonesia is considering a plan to move its capital away from sprawling megalopolis Jakarta, officials said Monday, but any jump to a new city could still be years away.

The idea of moving Indonesia's seat of government from an urban conglomeration of nearly 30 million people with some of the world's worst traffic jams has stretched on for decades.

Low-lying Jakarta is also prone to annual flooding and is one of the world's fastest sinking cities due to excessive groundwater extraction.

On Monday, urban planning minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said the long-stalled relocation plan won approval from President Joko Widodo who favoured moving the capital away from Indonesia's most populous Java island.

Jakarta, which suffers billions of dollars in annual congestion-and-flood linked economic losses, would remain the country's financial hub.

"(Widodo) decided on ... the option to relocate the capital," Brodjonegoro said after a cabinet meeting.

In a statement before the meeting, Widodo expressed support for the idea, but he did not give an alternate location or a timeline for any move.

"In the future, would Jakarta be able to carry the double burden of being both the centre of government and its business centre?" he asked in the statement.

"If we prepare well from the very beginning, this great (relocation) idea could be realised," he added.

During his re-election campaign, Widodo pledged to spread economic growth more evenly in the nation of 260 million.

He won a second term this month, according to unofficial poll results.

Local media have reported that a possible new capital would be Palangkaraya city on the island of Borneo.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Holiday island mourns after bus crash kills 29 German tourists

Yahoo – AFP, Jerome Pin, April 18, 2019

The bus plunged down a 10-metre slope with around 50 people on board
(AFP Photo/STRINGER)

Caniço (Portugal) (AFP) - Portugal and Germany mourned on Thursday after 29 German tourists died when their bus tumbled down a slope and crashed into a house on the tourist island of Madeira.

Drone footage showed the mangled wreckage lying against a building on a hillside near the town of Canico, the vehicle's roof partially crushed and front window smashed.

Rescue workers attended to injured passengers on the grass where the bus rested nearby, some of them bearing bloodied head bandages and blood-stained clothes.

A woman who survived the accident said on the TVI television channel that the bus crashed after hitting a wall.

"It happened just after the bus started, one minute or a few seconds later. People were flying through the windows," said the woman, who was not named.

"Some people were crying for help and we could immediately see some people were dead," said her husband, who also survived the crash. "Help arrived very fast."

Rescue workers helped survivors at the crash site (AFP Photo/RUI SILVA)

Local authorities said most of the dead were aged in their 40s and 50s. Twelve men and 17 women were among the victims, an official at the Nelio Mendonca hospital, Tomasia Alves, told reporters.

They were among the more than one million tourists who visit the Atlantic islands off the coast of Morocco each year, attracted by their subtropical climate and rugged volcanic terrain.

"It is with sadness and dismay that I think of our compatriots and all the other people affected by the terrible bus accident in Madeira," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement.

"My sincere condolences go above all to those families that have lost loved ones in this tragedy," she added, thanking the Portuguese emergency services for their efforts.

The bus was only five years old and has been recently inspected, officials 
said (AFP Photo/RUI SILVA)

Investigation launched

Witnesses and officials said the 50-odd tourists had left their hotel on their way to the regional capital Funchal for dinner when the bus crashed on Wednesday.

Local media said two Portuguese nationals survived the crash: the driver and a tour guide.

Prosecutors have opened a probe. The vice-president of the regional government Pedro Calado said it was "premature" to attribute the cause of the accident.

He said the bus was five years old and had been recently inspected.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he would travel to Madeira on Thursday with a team of doctors and psychologists to "speak personally with those affected".

The injured were "in a state of shock, with memories of terrible images. An injured woman said she had lost her partner," Ilse Everlien Berardo, the pastor at the German Evangelical church in Madeira, told Germany's RTL network.

Wellwishers left flowers for the victims (AFP Photo/MIGUEL RIOPA)

Frankfurt-based tour operator Trendtours said 51 of its customers were involved in the accident. Another company, Schauinsland, said it also had two customers in the crash.

The companies sent their condolences to victims' families and said they were sending teams to Madeira to offer support.

Trendtour said the bus had been hired by a local operator and crashed off the road "for a reason still unknown".

Makeshift morgue

A makeshift morgue has been set up at the airport in Funchal, local media reports said. Medical teams will be flown in from Lisbon to carry out autopsies.

German holidaymakers were the second largest group after British tourists to visit Madeira in 2017, according to Madeira's tourism office.

Madeira lies in the Atlantic off the coast of Morocco (AFP 
Photo/Maria-Cecilia REZENDE)

Known as the Pearl of the Atlantic and the Floating Garden, Madeira is home to just 270,000 inhabitants.

The Portuguese government decreed three days of national mourning.

"I express the sorrow and solidarity of all the Portuguese people in this tragic moment, and especially for the families of the victims who I have been told were all German," President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told Portuguese television.

Alves said the hospital hoped to begin returning victims' bodies to their families by Saturday.

The last serious bus accident in Madeira occurred in December 2005, killing five Italian tourists in Sao Vicente.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Halal ink: Muslim-majority Indonesia set for polls

Yahoo – AFP, Harry PEARL, April 15, 2019

It is Indonesia's biggest polls, with 190 million voters and 245,000 candidates
standing for the presidency, parliament and local positions (AFP Photo/Juni Kriswanto)

Dipping their fingers in halal ink to prevent double voting, Indonesians cast their ballots Wednesday in a bitterly contested presidential election, with the main rival to incumbent Joko Widodo already threatening to challenge the result over voter-fraud claims.

The Muslim-majority nation's biggest-ever polls -- with more than 190 million voters and 245,000 candidates vying for the presidency, parliament and local positions -- is largely a referendum on Widodo's infrastructure-driven bid to rev up Southeast Asia's largest economy.

But, looming in the background, two decades of democratic gains are at risk of being eroded, analysts said, as the military creeps back into civilian life under Widodo, and his trailing rival Prabowo Subianto, a former general, eyes reforms that harken back to the Suharto dictatorship.

If he loses, Subianto's camp has already warned it will challenge the results over voter-list irregularities.

"It's high stakes in this election," said Evan Laksmana, a senior researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

The election is largely a referendum on President Joko Widodo's infrastructure-
driven bid to rev up Southeast Asia's largest economy (AFP Photo/BAY ISMOYO)

"We simply don't know what (Subianto) would do if he won and we don't know if the institutional constraints in place would contain him."

Halal ink

Voting starts at 7:00 am local time Wednesday (2200 GMT Tuesday) in easternmost Papua and ends at 1:00 pm at the other end of the country in Sumatra.

Ballots will be cast at more than 800,000 polling booths across the volcano-dotted country, from the tip of jungle-clad Sumatra and heavily populated Java island to beach paradise Bali and far-flung Sumbawa.

Voters will punch holes in ballots -- to make clear their candidate choice -- and then dip a finger in Muslim-approved halal ink, a measure to prevent double-voting in a graft-riddled country where ballot buying is rife.

A series of so-called "quick counts" are expected to give a reliable indication of the presidential winner later Wednesday. Official results are not expected until May.

Most polls show the 57-year-old Widodo holding a double-digit lead over Subianto, 67, setting up a repeat of their 2014 contest, which Widodo won despite an unsuccessful court challenge over his narrow victory.

Voters dip their finger in halal ink after casting their ballot, like this Indonesian 
woman shown after advance overseas voting in Malaysia (AFP Photo/Mohd RASFAN)

The race has been punctuated by bitter mudslinging between the two camps, religion-driven identity politics and a slew of fake news online that threatens to sway millions of undecided voters.

'Pragmatism over principle'

Widodo campaigned on his ambitious drive to build roads, airports and other infrastructure, including Jakarta's first mass-rapid-transit system.

But his rights record has been criticised owing to an uptick in discriminatory attacks on religious and other minorities, including a small LGBT community, as Islamic hardliners become more vocal in public life.

"(Widodo) has chosen pragmatism over principle on issues of Islamism and pluralism," said Dave McRae, a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne's Asia Institute.

Widodo, a practising Muslim, blunted criticism that he was anti-Islam by appointing influential cleric Ma'ruf Amin as his running mate.

But victory for Widodo and Amin -- known for his disparaging views towards minorities -- could be the latest knock to Indonesia's reputation for moderate Islam.

Former general Prabowo Subianto has run on a fiery nationalist ticket, courting 
Islamic hardliners and promising to boost military spending (AFP Photo/Juni Kriswanto)

"There is a longstanding track record of very conservative views," Kevin O'Rourke, an Indonesia-based political risk analyst, said of Amin.

"It's inevitable that will affect policy making."

Subianto -- joined by running mate Sandiaga Uno, a 49-year-old wealthy financier -- has run on a fiery nationalist ticket.

He courted Islamic hardliners, promised a boost to military and defence spending and, taking a page from US President Donald Trump, vowed to put "Indonesia first" as he pledged to review billions of dollars in Chinese investment.

Subianto's presidential ambitions have long been dogged by strong ties to the Suharto family and a chequered past.

He ordered the abduction of democracy activists as the authoritarian regime collapsed in 1998, and was accused of committing atrocities in East Timor.

Ballots will be cast at more than 800,000 polling booths across the volcano-dotted 
country, including tsunami-ravaged Palu on the island of Sulawesi (AFP Photo/
OLAGONDRONK)

'Low probability, high impact'

Widodo's own cabinet is stuffed with Suharto-era figures, and he raised eyebrows by agreeing to give civilian government jobs to military brass.

But "there is no grand design for Jokowi to bring back military rule", Laksmana said.

Subianto, however, is a military man keen to roll back reforms that ushered in direct presidential elections, analysts said.

That has raised questions about what an upset victory for the retired general could mean for a system that is supported by most Indonesians.

"Democracy itself would be very much at stake," O'Rourke said.

"This is a low probability scenario, but one with very high impact."

Many Indonesians just want a peaceful power transition -- regardless of the winner.

"I hope there's no hostility," said 53-year-old Untung Sri Rejeki.

"No matter who becomes our next president."

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Global executions at lowest level in a decade: Amnesty

Yahoo – AFP, April 10, 2019

Nooses hang at Pul-e-Charkhi prison on the outskirts of Kabul, Afganistan (AFP
Photo/WAKIL KOHSAR)

Executions fell worldwide by nearly a third last year to their lowest levels in at least a decade, but several countries recorded a rise, Amnesty International said Wednesday.

Use of the death penalty dropped in Iran -- by an eye-popping 50 percent, following a change to its anti-narcotics laws -- Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia, the rights group found in its annual review.

But it rose in Belarus, Japan, Singapore, South Sudan and the United States, while Thailand resumed executions for the first time in a decade and Sri Lanka threatened to follow suit.

"Despite regressive steps from some, the number of executions carried out by several of the worst perpetrators has fallen significantly," said Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International's Secretary General.

He added the "dramatic" drop globally proved that "even the most unlikely countries are starting to change their ways and realise the death penalty is not the answer".

"This is a hopeful indication that it's only a matter of time before this cruel punishment is consigned to history, where it belongs," Naidoo said.

In total, death penalty figures fell around the world from at least 993 in 2017, to at least 690 last year.

Amnesty's count excludes China -- the world's top executioner -- where the numbers are classified as a state secret.

The organisation estimates thousands of people are sentenced to death and executed there every year.

Graphic on executions worldwide, according to a 2018 report by Amnesty 
International (AFP Photo/Gal ROMA)

Iran (253), Saudi Arabia (149), Vietnam (at least 85) and Iraq (at least 52) were the other countries that resorted to the death penalty most in 2018.

Vietnamese authorities' decision to release figures for last year was "unprecedented" for the southeast Asian nation, Amnesty noted.

Elsewhere Japan, Singapore and South Sudan reported their highest levels of executions in years.

Naidoo said these three countries "now form a dwindling minority" and challenged them "to act boldly and put a stop to this abhorrent punishment".

Amnesty also noted concern over a sharp spike in the number of death sentences imposed in some countries -- particularly Iraq and Egypt -- over the course of 2018.

But its annual review found the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty had gathered steam.

Burkina Faso adopted a new penal code effectively banning executions, while Gambia and Malaysia both declared an official moratorium.

Meanwhile, courts in the US state of Washington declared the death penalty unconstitutional there.

Amnesty highlighted a December vote by the United Nations General Assembly that saw 121 countries support a global moratorium on the death penalty, with only 35 states opposed.

"Slowly but steadily, global consensus is building towards ending the use of the death penalty," Naidoo said.