Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Jokowi to Get Pay Raise as President, but Salary Lags World Leaders

Jakarta Globe, Josua Gantan, Jul 25, 2014

Joko Widodo’s pay as president of Indonesia would be a fraction of the pay
as other world leaders. (Antara Photo/Widodo S. Jusuf)

Jakarta. As the president-elect of Indonesia, Joko Widodo is bound to receive a pay rise that will amount to an eightfold increase of what he currently earns as the governor of Jakarta.

Official sources revealed that Joko is raking in $8,700 each year as chief of the nation’s capital, while his second in command, Basuki Tjajahaja Purnama — widely known as Ahok — earns $7,260.

Outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, on the other hand, reportedly makes $64,300 per year.

At face value, one may judge the figure to be on the low side for what the leader of an entire nation should earn. Bank of Indonesia governor Agus Martowardojo, for example, is paid three times more than the president at $207,450 per year.

Similarly, the president directors of several state-owned enterprises, such as Pertamina, Bank Mandiri and Bank Rakyat Indonesia, take home a significant amount more money than the president, earning up to Rp 190 million ($16,500) per month on average.

The leader of one of Indonesia’s closest neighbors, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, rakes in a staggering amount of $1,740,000 per annum, which means he earns 27 times more than President Yudhoyono.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama, makes six times more than Yudhoyono with an annual salary of $400,000.

‘Other benefits’

One may wonder why Indonesia’s president — the state leader of some 250 million people — earns what some may label a “dismal” amount of money compared to the nine-digit figures coined in by senior members of the country’s enterprises.

What then, is so special about being a high-ranking government official in Indonesia?

The answer to this question lies in additional “benefits” beyond what can be seen on paper.

“Don’t just look at the salary, look at the allowances too,” Ade Irawan, coordinator of Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.

“Their salaries are usually quite small, but [government officials] are entitled to various allowances, ranging from small to massive, all of which are paid for by the state,” Ade said. “They are also given an allowance for clothes, electricity, water, and many other [services].”

Siti Zuhro, a political researcher from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) told the Jakarta Globe that there are various “unwritten” benefits that high-ranking officials regularly receive.

“What is written [on paper] is indeed meager, but [politicians] do get a lot of money; don’t be naive,” she said.

On top of the many “facilities” they enjoy, many high-ranking public officials make huge sums of money by providing their services — and essentially their names — to some of the countries larger private-owned companies.

“Special envoys [to the president] for example, earn a lot [of money] by being commissioners [of a business]. This may get them more than Rp 75 million rupiah per month,” she said.

These government employees, she added, are allowed to have their hand in more than one company.

Major businesses are often incentivized to hire politicians as members of the board as their presence and political clout would boost the company’s legal standing.

Simply put, having a high-ranking public official on the firm’s payroll may be costly, but it makes doing business in Indonesia’s multi-tiered, bureaucratic industries a whole lot easier.

As a result, however, many of these so-called “business boosters” become prone to conflicts of interest and often find themselves being accused of favoritism.

The right question

Perhaps asking whether Indonesia’s politicians make enough money would be the wrong question, Siti pointed out. The right question would be whether the current remuneration policy for public officials is one that can minimize corruption and conflicts of interest, she added.

Clearly, the long-standing practice of handing out “unwritten benefits” to politicians and providing them with the freedom to boost their finances through business means have made little impact on the fight to eradicate corruption within the Indonesian government. In fact, these political habits could very well be seen as adding fuel to the fire.

With such financially driven customs buried deep within the country’s political system, Joko and Vice President-elect Jusuf Kalla face a grueling task of implementing a “mental revolution” that discourages monetary gain.

Related Article:

Monday, July 28, 2014

Indonesia Frees Hundreds of Prisoners on Idul Fitri

Jakarta Globe, SP/Novianti Setuningsih, Jul 28, 2014

Prisoners greet ward officials in celebration of Idul Fitri at the Cipinang
 Detention Center in East Jakarta on July 28, 2014. (Antara Photo/Vitalis
Yogi Trisna)

Jakarta.  Hundreds of prisoners across Indonesia were freed on Monday, the start of the Idul Fitri celebration this year, following a massive sentence reduction granted by the government as it sought to reduce overcrowding at jail facilities.

Justice and Human Rights Ministry spokesman Akbar Hadi said the government had granted an Idul Fitri reduced sentences for 56,704 Muslim prisoners, 820 of which were allowed to walk free on Idul Fitri.

“As many as 55,884 prisoners and juvenile detainees were handed a special remission but remain in jail,” Akbar said.

He said that of those, 15,958 had their sentences reduced by 15 days, 35,534 received a one-month sentence reduction, 3,471 received a one-month and 15-day sentence cut, while another 921 prisoners received a two-month sentence cut, Akbar said. He added that a majority of the prisoners who received the reduced time were located in West Java.

According to Akbar, a total of 165,731 prisoners live in 463 detention centers and prisons across Indonesia, indication that overcapacity was 152 percent. Such facilities were built to house only 109,231 detainees.

Some of the prisons and detention centers suffering from overcapacity are located in Yogyakarta, Maluku, North Maluku, Papua, West Papua, West Sulawesi, South Sulawesi and Southeast Sulawesi.

“The sentence cut, aside from motivating the prisoners to behave well and actively join training programs at the prisons and detention centers, also aims to decrease the impact of overcapactiy,” he said.

Bali to continue anti-rabies dog cull as gory video emerges

Yahoo – AFP, 27 July 2014

File photo taken in October 2010 shows government health workers vaccinating
 a dog in Denpasar during a province-wide anti-rabies campaign (AFP Photo/
Sonny Tumbelaka)

Among the white sandy beaches, luxury villas and temples, authorities on the Indonesian island of Bali are carrying out mass culls of dogs in an anti-rabies campaign, an official confirmed Sunday.

Despite a stomach-churning 16-minute video posted on YouTube of a mass slaughter that has prompted outrage from animal welfare groups, Bali Animal Husbandry Department chief Putu Sumantra said there were no plans to end the practice.

"The dogs culled were smuggled illegally. When that happens, we try to find the owners to return them, and ensure they are vaccinated. But if they have no owners, we have to cull them," Sumantra told AFP, adding the persistent problem "requires firm action".

The footage shows more than 30 dogs squealing before they are given lethal injections to the heart and piled on top of each other as they convulse to their deaths.

A uniformed employee is seen smiling at a small fluffy pomeranian as she takes picture of it on her smartphone seconds before it is injected, along with Siberian huskies, collie dogs and pugs.

Although the footage was first posted in April, a repost this week sent the video viral, with 40,000 views in three days.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) strongly condemned the "inhumane slaughter" in a statement received by AFP.

"Local animal welfare groups have run successful vaccination programmes and the number of humans becoming infected with rabies has fallen dramatically," it said.

The government too has carried out a programme, with more than 300,000 dogs vaccinated.

File photo taken in October 2010 shows government health workers vaccinating
 a dog in Denpasar during a province-wide anti-rabies campaign (AFP Photo/
Sonny Tumbelaka)

Since 2008, 147 people have died after contracting rabies on Bali, but the numbers have declined rapidly over the years, with 10 deaths reported since 2012.

PETA warned that "many compassionate people worldwide will avoid travelling to Bali" after learning of the practice, while a petition on Change.org calling for an end to the culling has attracted more than 20,000 signatures.

Bali Governor I Made Mangku Pastika recently encouraged authorities to "eliminate" all stray dogs, according to local media reports, saying the government was tired of carrying out vaccinations and that protecting tourists was priority.

I Gusti Ngurah Bagus from the Bali Animal Welfare Association also condemned the practice, saying that animal trade should be better organised and dog breeders and sellers should be licensed.

"People are throwing away native Balinese dogs in exchange for imported breeds that are often not vaccinated, diseased, unhealthy and at times already incubating rabies," he said.

The Bali provincial government is aiming to rid the island of rabies by 2020, and in 2009 passed a local law obliging dog owners to vaccinate their pets.

Bali, a holiday spot popular for its surf, nightlife and cultural heritage, attracted more than three million foreigners last year, almost a million of them from neighbouring Australia.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Momentous Idul Fitri Celebrating a Spiritual and Democratic Triumph

Jakarta Globe, Yanto Soegiarto, Jul 26, 2014

 (JG Graphic/Josep Tri Ronggo Laksono)

Despite the difficulties for most people to return to their hometowns for the annual “Lebaran” holiday due to traffic and poor infrastructure, Indonesians remain high-spirited; they look forward to being united with their families, friends and relatives to celebrate a joyous Idul Fitri on Monday and Tuesday.

This year, however, the festive mood is quite different. Aside from celebrating a day of triumph after having completed the Ramadan fasting period, they have so many stories to tell about a great feat they have just accomplished: Indonesians have elected a new leader, whom they believe will bring about changes to their welfare and livelihoods.

Mamad, a taxi driver who decided to return early to his hometown in Indramayu, West Java, just after the real count announcement that crowned Joko Widodo as president-elect, was upbeat in telling his family about how he had sacrificed his working hours and a day’s earnings simply to wait for the General Elections Commission’s (KPU) official declaration.

Unlike Mamad, his family members in Indramayu had voted for Prabowo Subianto as the region is known for being a Prabowo coalition stronghold.

The Joko supporter recalled proudly casting his vote at a polling station in a ward where the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), a member of Prabowo’s coalition, rules. The ward chief was a staunch PKS follower and had encouraged people not to vote for Joko. But Mamad was not influenced and at the end of that day, Joko garnered the most votes there.

Matrodji, a collector of used wooden materials, returned to his hometown in Sampang, Madura, in East Java, where he was told by his relatives that no votes had been cast in favor for Joko. Matrodji was not surprised as he had suspected the influential Muslim cleric of the region had discouraged people from casting their votes for the Jakarta governor.

Not wanting to make an issue out of Joko’s victory, Matrodji switched the subject of conversation to ways of preventing hard-line elements from infiltrating Indonesia’s moderate ideology and Joko’s wish to set up an Indonesian representative office in Gaza, which he thought would be impossible. He was of the view that Joko should concentrate on domestic affairs.

Gembong, a native of Solo, Central Java, has a message for the president-elect: If he can indeed meet the Indonesian people’s expectations, that would be an amazing feat. But at national scale, the task would not be easy.

Infrastructure is key. Indonesia has long faced infrastructure problems. The closest example is the annual Idul Fitri exodus, during which travelers face the same problems again and again despite years of potential improvement to roads and transportation.

The recent breakdown of bridges in Comal, Central Java, and Ciamis, West Java, are the perfect example of failure on the part of the outgoing administration after 10 years in power. The public works ministry is a mess due to rampant corruption and markups. So, if by Idul Fitri next year the conditions of Indonesia’s infrastructure hasn’t changed, people will slowly lose their trust in Joko, regardless of how popular the president-elect is.

People are pinning their hopes on the new leader, but the country’s problems are complex. If Joko can appoint professionals into his cabinet, reduce fuel subsidies, formulate a proper budget, implement realistic policies, promote religious tolerance, build infrastructure, reduce imports food imports, promote the nation’s business environment and open Indonesia up to new investments in the same spirit and outstanding volunteerism with which people have supported him, he can endure.

The discourse on our president-elect’s ability to lead the country is what will set this year’s Idul Fitri celebration apart from previous years’.

Yanto Soegiarto is the managing editor of Globe Asia, a sister publication of the Jakarta Globe.

President-Elect Jokowi Calls on Public to Pick Cabinet

People's Power — In an unprecedented move, Joko Widodo has asked Indonesians to help him put together a new government

Joko Widodo, center, and Jusuf Kalla, second from left, with PDI-P head Megawati
 Sukarnoputri, second from right, and Puan Maharani on July 22, 2014.
(Reuters Photo/Darren Whiteside)

Jakarta. President-elect Joko Widodo has again come up with an innovative idea; one that is unheard of in the history of Indonesian politics. Indonesia’s future leader is asking the public to add its two cents in filling out his cabinet, and in the process, revealing the potential nominees.

Jokowi Center, a team of volunteers helping Joko gather suggestions and examine candidates for his cabinet lineup, launched a poll on its website jokowicenter.com on Thursday, allowing Indonesians nationwide to cast their votes for names provided by the site, or nominate their own favorites.

More than 18,000 online participants raced to the site as of Thursday evening, causing it to crash less than 24 hours after its official launch.

The Center’s Facebook page and Twitter account — @Jokowi_Ina — also provided a link to a Google document inviting citizens to fill out a similar questionnaire.

A total of 102 names have been nominated for 34 ministerial posts, with each position receiving three candidates. If respondents remain unsatisfied with the suggestions, they may nominate their own choice with the “other” option.

“I’m only asking for input [to create] the cabinet,” Joko commented about the online poll on Thursday. “[The suggestions] will be processed by a team, using a set of criteria. Then, [the results] will be sent to coalition members, before being sent back to the [Jokowi Center] team.

“The final decision will be on me.”

The Jakarta governor has repeatedly stated he was against the practice of transactional politics and will not trade political support for a seat in his government.

The unprecedented move could account for the relatively small size of his coalition — compared to opponent Prabowo Subianto’s massive campaign machine — which will control a mere 37 percent of legislative seats when the new set of lawmakers go into session on Oct. 1.

Compare that with the rival bloc of former Army general Prabowo, which will control 73 percent of the House seats if the coalition does not fall apart — as many observers have predicted.

Joko has also vehemently rejected allegations claiming he will merely act as a “puppet president” to Megawati Soekarnoputri, the chairwoman of his political vehicle, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

“I truly respect Megawati as my senior. But surely good governance should come from making the right decisions and what is best for our nation,” Joko said in an interview a day before the General Elections Commission (KPU) declared him and running mate Jusuf Kalla the winners of the July 9 presidential race on Tuesday.

Still, it’s impossible not to notice that at least 30 names on Jokowi Center’s list of cabinet nominees are party members — and most of those are from the PDI-P.

Take for example Puan Maharani, Megawati’s daughter, who is tipped as an heir apparent to the PDI-P throne. The 40-year-old is a candidate for the position of women’s empowerment minister.

Meanwhile, senior PDI-P politicians Maruarar Sirait and Pramono Anung are both nominated for state secretary. Similarly, Hendrawan Supratikno has been suggested for the post of finance minister and Arif Budimanta for energy minister.

Politicians from other parties within the PDI-P-led coalition, including National Awakening Party (PKB) chairman Muhaimin Iskandar, National Democrat Party (Nasdem) deputy chairman Ferry Mursyidan Baldan and Indonesian Justice and Unity Party (PKPI) chairman Sutiyoso, are also on the list. They are — in respective order — nominated for the chief welfare minister, the communication minister and the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.

Interestingly, a number of figures from parties in the rival camp have also been nominated, including popular Bandung Mayor Ridwan Kamil of Prabowo’s Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party and Lukman Hakim Saifudin of the United Development Party (PPP). They are candidates for the public housing minister and religious affairs minister, respectively.

More notable additions to the list include movie directors Garin Nugroho and Mira Lesmana as the tourism and creative industry minister.

The nomination of noted composer Addie M. S. and Paramadina University rector Anies Baswedan as the youth and sports minister, meanwhile, have managed to raised eyebrows — with neither known to have any experience in the area. Anies has in fact been widely expected as Indonesia’s next education minister, but he’s strangely not among the Jokowi Center nominees for the job.

Is the right man in the right place?

Bantarto Bandoro, a political, defense and international relations expert from the Indonesia Defense University (Unhan), expressed his opinion on several candidates on Friday.

According to Bantarto, Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Gen. Moeldoko and former Army chief of staff Gen. Budiman were both capable of holding the chief political and security minister position, but noted that Budiman’s recent dismissal — the reason of which remains unclear —  would not set a positive precedence for Joko’s future cabinet.

“Would Joko promote Budiman though he was ‘dismissed’ from the Army?” Bantarto questioned.

“The coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs is a managerial position; it doesn’t require technical skills. Moeldoko will be the best man for the job. He’s familiar with latest security issues, including those that will remain [Indonesia’s concerns] over the next five years,” Bantarto said.

Former chief of the Jakarta military command Sutiyoso, meanwhile, has been absent from Indonesia’s political arena since the end of his term as Jakarta’s governor in 2007, which means he may face difficulties readjusting to another government post, Bantaro added.

For defense minister, he pointed to one of his former students at the University of Indonesia (UI), Andi Widjajanto — who is now a lecturer at the university— as the best man for the job. Andi, along with senior PDI-P lawmaker T. B. Hasanuddin and former Army chief of staff Ryamizard Ryacudu, are three nominees for the job.

It helps that Andi is a core member of Joko’s campaign team and has been directly involved in outlining the ticket’s defense and foreign policy platform.

“Andi has an advantage over the other two [candidates]. His academic, scientific-based approaches will introduce logics in Indonesia’s defense policies and help them develop,” Bantarto said. “He’s young, but has good expertise.”

Meanwhile, Hasanuddin, a member the House’s defense commission, has admittedly been following every development of Indonesia’s defense sector and has provided the government with ample criticism on the matter.

“But his arguments often lack theoretical, scientific and practical grounds and therefore offer no real solutions to the matter at hand,” Bantarto commented.

Finally, he pointed out that the appointment of Ryamizard — a known close aide to Megawati — would contradict Indonesia’s stance on appointing a civilian for the defense minister position. The policy was introduced at the start of the post-Suharto reformation era and was meant to curb military involvement and dominance in the government.

As for the role of foreign minister, Bantarto champions Indonesia’s current international public relations man Marty Natalegawa, as he is expected to continue the country’s ongoing diplomatic missions — which most of Indonesia’s foreign observers say are cruising in the right direction.

“Additionally, there would be almost zero resistance against him within the diplomatic ranks. The same may not be said for public figures who have currently no connections to the foreign ministry, such as UI lecturer Makmur Keliat or Center for Strategic and International Studies [CSIS] executive director Rizal Sukma,” Bantarto said. “Rizal has some great, sharp foreign policy concepts, but he would meet resistance in the diplomatic ranks as he’s never been part of them.”

The economic team

Eric Alexander Sugandi, an economist at Standard Chartered, gave his comments on the appointment of Indonesia’s future economic ministers.

However, Eric refused to take sides and name his favorite choice for chief of Indonesia’s economy, the nominees for which include incumbent minister Chairul Tanjung, who has only held the title for several months, gaining the position after stepping in for current Prabowo running mate Hatta Rajasa; State Enterprise Minister Dahlan Iskan; and former trade minister Gita Wirjawan.

“Ideally, the coordinating minister for the economy position should go to a senior minister, experienced enough to be able to smoothly coordinate with other economic ministers. And ideally, the person must also be able to work with regional administrations,” Eric said.

For the post of finance minister, Eric favors former minister Agus Martowardojo — who held the role from 2010 to 2013 — but highly doubts that Agus would want to leave his current position as Bank Indonesia governor.

“Raden Pardede gained ample experience with the KSSK, the [now-defunct] Financial System Stability Committee,” Eric said. “But other names from the finance ministry’s inner circle should be considered as well.”

These would include deputy finance minister Bambang Brodjonegoro, former deputy finance minister Mahendra Siregar — who is now chief of the Investment Coordinating Board, or BKPM — and tax director general Fuad Rahmany.

Eric added that Mari Elka Pangestu, trade minister from 2004 to 2011 and current nominee, would still be fit for the job, citing her vast experience in the sector.

“Basically, aside from having specific skills in their specific areas, ministers for the economy should also possess macroeconomic knowledge, experience in policy making and the ability to build relations with other state institutions, including the House of Representatives, Bank Indonesia and the OJK [Financial Services Authority].

“Candidates should also be in favor of administrative reform,” Eric added.

Corruption free?

Meanwhile, the Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW) offered its input by highlighting the track records of names added to Jokowi Center’s online list, some of which have already raised a red flag within the antigraft organization.

ICW coordinator Ade Irawan refused to go into detail, but conceded that Rokhmin Dahuri, the maritime and fisheries minister under Megawati’s 2001-04 presidency, had once been convicted of corruption and abusing his power.

Rokhmin was sentenced to a seven-year prison term in 2007 for illegally collecting up to Rp 11.5 billion ($1 million) from various government programs. His sentence was cut short due to good behavior.

Raden may also prove to be a problematic candidate due to KSSK’s involvement in the Bank Century bailout scandal, which is currently being tried at the Jakarta Anti-Corruption Court. However, the former KSSK secretary has only testified as a witness in the case.

“The candidates’ list should be free from people implicated or suspected in corruption cases and potential conflicts of interest,” Ade said. “Jokowi-JK should clearly outline the criteria required for each candidate… so the public would not make their choice simply based on popularity.”

Ade conceded Joko’s attempts to draw public participation in selecting cabinet members “deserves appreciation.”

“It is important that people are involved in choosing the officials who will ultimately serve them,” Ade said. “This strategy would also hopefully prevent any transactional, horse-trading politics from happening.”

The ICW is currently drawing up its own list of pros and cons on Jokowi Center’s existing list of candidates.

That report, added Ade, will be released in August.

The ICW coordinator added that the organization supported the idea of cutting down on bureaucracy by closing several ministries that are deemed ineffective, though he declined to name them.

Additional reporting by SP/Deti Mega P.

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“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013. They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."

"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration LecturesGod / 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)

“…  Government

Let us speak of government. We're not speaking of your government, but of any government - the way it works, how it survives, how it has survived, the way it campaigns, and how it elects leaders. It's going to change.

Years ago, I told you, "When everybody can talk to everybody, there can be no secrets." Up to this point on this planet, government has counted on one thing - that the people can't easily talk to each other on a global scale. They have to get their information through government or official channels. Even mass media isn't always free enough, for it reports that which the government reports. Even a free society tends to bias itself according to the bias of the times. However, when you can have Human Beings talking to each other all at once, all over the planet without government control, it all changes, for there is open revelation of truth.

Democracy itself will change and you're going to see it soon. The hold-outs, the few countries I have mentioned in the past, are doomed unless they recalibrate. They're doomed to be the same as they have been and won't be able to exist as they are now with everyone changing around them.

I mentioned North Korea in the past. Give it time. Right now, the young man is under the control of his father's advisors. But when they're gone, you will see something different, should he survive. Don't judge him yet, for he is being controlled.

In government, if you're entire voting base has the ability to talk to itself without restriction and comes up with opinions by itself without restriction, it behooves a politician to be aware and listen to them. This will change what politicians will do. It will change the way things work in government. Don't be surprised when some day a whole nation can vote all at once in a very unusual way. Gone will be the old systems where you used to count on horseback riders to report in from faraway places. Some of you know what I am talking about. Government will change. The systems around you, both dark and light, will change. You're going to start seeing something else, too, so let's change the subject and turn the page. …

KPK Swoops on Soldier, Police Officers and Gangsters Over 10-Year Extortion of Migrant Workers at Soekarno-Hatta

Jakarta Globe, SP/Novianti Setuningsih & Rizky Amelia,  Jul 26, 2014

A passenger leaves Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, in Jakarta,
in this file photo. (JG Photo/Jurnasyanto Sukarno)

Tangerang. Indonesia’s anti-corruption authority arrested figures from the country’s military and police in addition to several gangsters on Friday night and Saturday morning over a decade-long scheme extorting migrant workers.

Chairman of the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Abraham Samad said the 18 people detained included a soldier, two police officers and career criminals. The 18 people had extorted migrant workers over a decade, the KPK said.

Abraham said the KPK had not arrested anyone from the manpower ministry’s migrant worker agency— but that his investigators were looking into potential involvement.

“We will investigate further the involvement of other parties,” Abraham said in a press conference. “The involvement of the agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers [BNP2TKI] should not be ruled out. In time, we will find the involvement of BNP2TKI.”

The KPK led the raid with support from the National Police, the Presidential Unit for Supervision, Control and Development (UKP4), and the airport operator, Angkasa Pura II. The operation was based on existing intelligence, but the authorities acted on Friday because of the high number of travelers arriving for the Idul Fitri holiday.

“I heard from [KPK] investigators that there was a Pakistan national who was asked to pay a taxi fare of US$ 200,” said Bambang Widjojanto, KPK’s deputy chairman. “A Slovakian was asked to pay even more — $250.”

The National Police’s investigations chief Comr. Gen. Suhardi Alius said the soldier and the police officers forced the migrant workers to use specific taxis, which were set up to shake down the vulnerable passengers. Suhardi said the suspects had been stationed at Soekarno-Hatta by their police and army commands, which was how they knew the inner-workings of the airport and were, allegedly, able to run the racket over such a long period.

“This is only the beginning, we will investigate further and will reveal the network,” Suhardi said.

The suspects also ran a foreign exchange scam.

Abraham also questioned an officer at immigration, saying he had seen foreigners having to place money in their passports in order to pass through immigration.

“Why do foreign nationals passing here have to put money in their passport?” Abraham asked the officer.

The officer denied the accusation, but Abraham said he had seen money changing hands.

A KPK deputy chairman, Adnan Pandu Praja, searched the offices at the immigration checkpoint but did not find any evidence.

An investigation continues.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Widodo wins Indonesian presidency as rival withdraws

Indonesia's election commission has announced Joko Widodo as winner of this month's presidential polls. Hours before the finalized results, rival runner Prabowo Subianto withdrew from the race, claiming electoral fraud.

Deutsche Welle, 22 July 2014

Jakarta governor Joko Widodo, popularly nicknamed "Widodo," claimed just over 53 percent of the votes, according to the final count on Tuesday. Voter turnout was over 70 percent, with almost 133 million valid ballots cast in total across the giant archipelago.

Police were out in force in
Jakarta after a heated election
The results largely corroborated the unofficial "quick counts" released after the July 9 election, most of which gave Jokowi a slim lead of up to 5 percent.

After a tense election campaign, Jokowi had called on his supporters to stay home in the case of a victory on Tuesday - to avoid potential clashes with supporters of his main rival, former general Prabowo Subianto. Jakarta police mobilized in force on Tuesday anticipating possible clashes.

Rival quits at last second

Subianto withdrew from Indonesia's presidential election process hours before the final results, citing widespread fraud.

Prabowo Subianto said he did not accept,
 but would not appeal, the results
"We reject the 2014 presidential election that was legally flawed, and therefore we withdraw from the ongoing process," he said in the capital Jakarta. Prabowo said complaints from his camp about "massive, structural and systematic cheating" were ignored by officials.

"We have found instances of electoral fraud involving organizers that make this election unfair," he said, before urging his supporters to remain calm. "We will base our struggle on the constitution and laws."

Prabowo had previously called on the election commission to stop the counting process until all allegations of electoral fraud were investigated.

Prabowo's withdrawal could open him up to prosecution: candidates agree not to withdraw once they have signed up to run for the presidency. Under Indonesian election laws, pulling out of the race can theoretically be punished by up to five years in jail and a fine of up to 50 billion rupiah (3.18 million euros, $4.31 million).

msh/dr (AFP, AP, dpa)

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The China issue in Indonesia's presidential election

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono watches the vote recapitulation
 process along with some of his cabinet members at his private residence in
Cikeas, West Java, on Tuesday.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Jokowi-Kalla Win Presidential Election as KPU Completes Tally

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo has just more than 53 percent of the vote nationally, over rival Prabowo Subianto who garnered just less than 47 percent — according to the official results from 34 provinces

Jakarta Globe, Markus Junianto Sihaloho, Robertus Wardhi & Yeremia Sukoyo, Jul 20, 2014

A KPU official, right, shows the official report documents with the election
 results to witnesses of both presidential candidates in Jakarta on July 20,
2014. (Antara Photo/Widodo S. Jusuf)

Jakarta. Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo has won  the presidential election with just more than 53 percent of the vote, over rival Prabowo Subianto who garnered just less than 47 percent — according to the official results from 34 provinces compiled on Sunday.

A total of 33 provincial offices of the General Elections Commission (KPU) have completed their individual tallies by early Sunday morning, with Jakarta finishing last — declaring Joko the winner with 53.08 percent of the vote over Prabowo’s 46.92 percent.

Indonesia’s newest and 34th province, North Kalimantan, had its votes counted by the KPU’s East Kalimantan branch.

The final individual tallies of the provinces have been made public in various media reports, and the Jakarta Globe has compiled the data to produce its own recap of the national tally — with the KPU only scheduled to finish and announce its final national tally by Tuesday night.

On Sunday, the KPU headquarters in Jakarta only began recapitulating data from 12 provinces.

The Jakarta Globe’s national recap of the 33 provincial tallies lands Joko — who is also known as Jokowi — and his running mate Jusuf Kalla the winners of the July 9 presidential election, collecting a total of 70.67 million votes (53.17 percent) compared with Prabowo’s 62.25 million votes (46.83 percent). There are a total of 132.92 million valid votes — representing 70.6 percent of Indonesia’s total eligible voters.

Consistent with quick counts

The result recap is consistent with the  quick counts by eight pollsters announced immediately after Indonesians cast their votes on July 9 — which had put Joko in the lead with between 51 percent and 53 percent vote over the 47 percent to 49 percent in favor of Prabowo.

Four other pollsters, citing their own quick counts, had declared Prabowo the winner with lower margins.

The recap also shows that Joko and his running mate, former vice president Jusuf Kalla, win in 23 provinces, while Prabowo-Hatta Rajasa lead in 10 provinces. Joko-Kalla thus lead by 8.4 million votes, or around 6.3 percent.

“Three biggest contributors to Jokowi-JK’s votes are Central Java, East Java and West Java,” Tjahjo Kumolo, the secretary general of Joko’s Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the head of his campaign team, said in Jakarta on Sunday, citing the party’s own recap of the KPU provincial data — similar to that of the Jakarta Globe.

Joko-Kalla did record an overwhelming 66.65 percent vote in Central Java, which is a traditional PDI-P stronghold, securing nearly 13 million votes, double that of Prabowo.

Although West Java was the third-largest contributor to Joko’s votes, he actually suffered a big loss in Indonesia’s most populous province, securing 9.5 million votes (40.22 percent) over Prabowo’s 14 million (59.78 percent).

Bali (another PDI-P stronghold), Bangka-Belitung, South Sulawesi (Kalla’s hometown), West Sulawesi, Papua and West Papua are among other provinces where Joko-Kalla won by an overwhelming majority.

Prabowo-Hatta, meanwhile, enjoyed an overwhelming majority in West Sumatra, West Nusa Tenggara and Gorontalo.

Joko-Kalla dominate votes in central and eastern Indonesia, and share wins with Prabowo-Hatta on Sumatra island.

Overseas, Joko-Kalla also lead with a total of 364,283 votes (53.74 percent) over Prabowo-Hatta with 313,600 votes, or 46.26 percent.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Prabowo, Jokowi Break Fast With Yudhoyono in a Gesture of Peace

Jakarta Globe, Jul 20, 2014

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, center, brings the two candidates
 together prior to a prayer at the State Palace in Jakarta on July 20, 2014.
 Prabowo Subianto, left, looks on, and Joko Widodo, right, stands. (EPA
Photo/Adi Weda)

Jakarta. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono invited presidential candidates Prabowo Subianto and Joko Widodo with their respective running mates to a fast-breaking gathering at the State Palace, in a move to cool down the heated situation as the national polling commission prepares to announce the vote count results on Tuesday.

The president told both pairs of candidates to ensure a peaceful and democratic election process, avoiding violence and conflicts that could divide the nation.

He said that were the nation to be divided, it would be very difficult to rebridge the rift and heal wounds from the conflict.

“The price would be very costly to the nation,” he said. “That’s why maintaining a peaceful and democratic election is the responsibility of us all. All of us should work together to make sure the final process of our election ends in peace.”

He cited Palestine and Ukraine as illustrations of the suffering wrought by ruptured nations.

“We see what happens to our brothers in Gaza. It’s a tragedy of humanity that we condemn and want to avoid,” Yudhoyono said, adding that division among Palestinians themselves, as well as Arab nations and the wider Muslim community, had enabled “outsiders” to wreak havoc within.

In Ukraine, Yudhoyono said, division between the people had caused a bloody civil war with countless victims.

He added that the deaths of innocent people aboard the Malaysian Airlines flight shot down over eastern Ukraine on Thursday showed the ripple effect of conflict.

“I have called Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to express my condolences,” Yudhoyono said.

Indonesian legislative and presidential elections have been largely peaceful, with almost two-thirds of Indonesian voters turned out at polling stations.

The camps of both candidates have praised Yudhoyono’s administration for overseeing a calm and civil election.

“We thank President SBY, the military chief and the National Police chief, and the KPU [General Elections Commission] for this democratic and peaceful election,” said Maruarar Sirait, a member of Joko’s campaign team.

Meanwhile, the military and police announced that they had prepared a joint force of 22,000 personnel around the KPU headquarters in Central Jakarta to secure Tuesday’s final announcement of the results from the July 9 ballot. Throughout Indonesia, the military is deploying 33,000 personnel to secure conflict-prone areas.

National Police Chief Gen. Sutarman said police officers were set to handle any fallout from Tuesday’s announcement.

He called on supporters from both sides not to come to the KPU office because it would increase the potential for a clash.

“We can guarantee to the public that there will be no clashes during the announcement, and we ask them to go about their activities as usual,” he said.

Joko also instructed his supporters not to take to the streets or go to the KPU.

“Just stay home and pray,” he said, adding he would be in his hometown of Solo, Central Java, for the announcement.

While Prabowo said he would respect the official vote count by the KPU, dismissing talk that there would be riots should he lose the election, he nevertheless claimed the election was unfair and not credible — signaling he might take the matter to the Constitutional Court. “It’s tainted,” he said. “We question its legitimacy.”

Chinese Tourists Abandon Vietnam After Oil Rig Row

Jakarta Globe, Cat Barton, Jul 20, 2014

Tourists touring downtown Hanoi. (AFP Photo/Hoang Dinh Nam)

For years Nguyen Huu Son has guided Chinese tourists around Vietnam’s popular coastal city Danang, but a bitter maritime dispute between Hanoi and Beijing means he is now out of work.

Relations between the communist neighbors plunged to their lowest point in decades when Beijing moved a deep-sea oil rig into disputed waters in the South China Sea in early May, triggering deadly riots in Vietnam.

The rig has since been withdrawn. But the Chinese tourists have not returned.

“It’s never been this bad before … My company has almost no customers, no work,” Son told AFP.

Son’s salary has been cut by two-thirds, but he feels “embarrassed” to take even this reduced pay package as he knows his company is not making any money at all.

“We focus on individual travelers, not tour groups, and 100 percent of them cancelled … I have nothing to do with my time,” he said, adding that he was mulling a change of career.

After the mid-May riots, in which China says four of its nationals were killed, Beijing evacuated thousands of citizens and issued a “yellow” travel warning for Vietnam.

While this was reasonable in the immediate aftermath of the riots — which mostly affected Taiwanese and South Korean businesses — maintaining the travel warning when any danger to tourists has passed smacks of politics, said Professor Jonathan London at City University of Hong Kong.

“It reminds one of Beijing’s campaign to reduce mainland tourism to the Philippines,” London said, referring the economic fallout from the 2012 standoff over the Scarborough Shoal.

After a dispute over the uninhabited shoal, Beijing warned its citizens about travel safety in the Philippines, prompting mass cancellations.

Economic impact

Chinese tourist arrivals to Vietnam were down 29.5 percent in June from the previous month, according to official figures.

In June, 136,726 Chinese visited Vietnam, down from 194,018 in May and 216,659 in April this year, the figures show.

Vietnam will continue tourism promotion efforts in China, aiming to show “Vietnam is a safe destination,” said Nguyen Manh Cuong, an official at the tourism department.

Tourism is an important source of revenue for communist Vietnam, contributing nearly six percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2013, official statistics show.

Chinese visitors make up the largest single group of arrivals — more than 1.1 million in 2014 overall, despite the sharp fall off after May.

The next largest group, South Korea, saw 405,634 arrivals.

The average Chinese visitor stays five days and spends $300 if they travel by land, or $700 if they have arrived by airplane, Cuong said.

This compares to an average stay of about 10 days by European or American tourists, who spend up to $3,000 during that period, official figures show.

Tourism politics

The fall in Chinese arrivals after the maritime dispute erupted is understandable as Beijing uses outbound tourism as a “negative sanction,” according to Tony Tse, a professor at the school of hotel and tourism management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

“Outbound tourism can be used by the Chinese government to show its aggression,” he said in a 2013 paper, citing the examples of the Philippines and Japan — where tourism was hard hit after a 2012 dispute with the latter over the Senkaku islands, known as the Diaoyu in China.

“The hostility in withholding tourism acts like a punishment and China is powerful enough to exercise this kind of sanction,” Tse wrote in the paper on how China uses outbound tourism as a form of diplomacy.

Vietnamese tourists have also been cancelling trips to China in droves, although the government has not issued any travel warning, said one travel agent who declined to be named.

“It’s a way to express patriotism. Vietnamese like travelling in China… but now they cancel to show their patriotism,” he said.

Tran Thi Lan, 54, a primary school teacher from central Nghe An province, had booked a trip to China for this summer which she was “very excited” about.

“We decided to cancel, not the tour operator. The Chinese government’s behaviour was unacceptable,” she told AFP.

“We decided not to go to show our attitude… We don’t want to go on holiday to a country that is invading our waters,” she said.

Agence France-Presse
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