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)


"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. …

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

US man on the run after escaping notorious Bali prison

Yahoo – AFP, December 11, 2017

The pair made a break from the Indonesian resort island's main prison by cutting a
hole in the roof with a hacksaw, authorities said. It was not clear how they obtained
the tool (AFP Photo/SONNY TUMBELAKA)

Denpasar (Indonesia) (AFP) - A US man convicted on drugs charges escaped Bali's notorious Kerobokan jail in an early Monday morning jailbreak with another American prisoner who was caught almost immediately, an official said.

The pair made a break from the Indonesian resort island's main prison by cutting a hole in the roof with a hacksaw, authorities said. It was not clear how they obtained the tool.

Police are now scouring the palm-fringed island and handing out pictures of escapee Chrishan Beasley, a 32-year-old arrested in August for carrying five grams of hashish.

Foreigners are regularly arrested for drugs offences on Bali.

Beasley was awaiting a sentencing in his case. It was not immediately clear how much jail time he was facing, but Indonesia has some of the world's toughest drugs laws, with the death penalty available in some trafficking cases.

Beasley's accomplice in the escape, convicted thief Paul Anthony Hoffman, 57, was apprehended before he could make good on the escape.

"Paul was immediately recaptured by the locals who saw him trying to escape while Chrishan, who climbed up before him, managed to run away," Kerobokan chief warden Tonny Nainggolan told AFP.

Hoffman is serving a 20-month sentence for robbing a number of convenience stores at knifepoint.

Kerobokan houses some of the country's most notorious and high-profile inmates, including members of the so-called Bali Nine which plotted to bring heroin into Australia via Bali. Two members of the group have been executed.

Jailbreaks are common in Indonesia, where inmates are often held in unsanitary conditions at overcrowded and poorly guarded prisons.

In May, more than 200 inmates staged a mass breakout from an overcrowded prison on Sumatra island, while last year a convicted child murderer escaped from jail by putting on a woman's Muslim veil, make-up and sunglasses and walking out past unsuspecting guards.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Bali paradise turns to tourist nightmare as volcano rumbles

Yahoo – AFP, Bagus SARAGIH, November 28, 2017

The structure of a typical volcano and the phases of an eruption (AFP
 Photo/Patrice Deré)

Denpasar (Indonesia) (AFP) - Cancelled flights, missed connections and expiring visas have turned Bali into a nightmare for thousands of tourists scrambling to leave, as a volcano on the Indonesian vacation paradise threatens a major eruption.

Hundreds of flights have been grounded as the main international airport was shuttered for a second day on Tuesday, leaving 120,000 stranded visitors in need of shelter -- or an exit plan.

Hundreds joined the mad rush to board buses headed to an international airport in Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya -- 13 hours' drive and a ferry ride away -- as torrential rains dampened spirits even more in one the world's top tourist draws.

The imminent eruption of Mount Agung may mean more five-star hotel living for some well-heeled visitors who are happy to sit out the minor inconvenience, but Mukesh Kumar Gupta and two-dozen members of his family aren't going to be staying at the Four Seasons.

"We are practically helpless -- how can we get back to India?" said the Chennai-based member of the heaving 26-member clan.

Gupta's family -- 23 adults and three kids -- arrived in Bali 10 days ago from different Indian cities.

They were all supposed to fly back Tuesday but now they say they are stuck, and nearly broke, as chaos ensued at the airport with frustrated travellers and overwhelmed staff.

"The refund money (from the airline) won't be enough to buy us new tickets," another family member, Navin Saraf from Kolkata, told AFP at Bali's main airport.

"We booked everything online beforehand, so we don't have much cash right now," he added.

Towering columns of thick grey smoke have been rising from Agung since last week, and in the last few days the volcano has begun shooting smoke and ash into the sky, forcing all flights to be grounded until at least Wednesday morning.

Ash is dangerous for planes as it makes runways slippery and can be sucked into their engines.

A flight information board shows the list of delayed flights due to the volcano at the
Ngurah Rai International airport in Denpasar, Bali on November 28, 2017 (AFP Photo/

'Nobody's fault'

Agung is 75 kilometres (47 miles) from the beach-and-sandal tourist hub of Kuta, but that wasn't making German student Alex Thamm feel much better.

"We are supposed to go back to Germany via Singapore on (Friday) but the situation seems not good," he said nervously.

"Is it dangerous here? Do you think [the volcano] will explode?"

The delays weren't putting a smile on Juan Gajun's face either, after he missed a connecting flight Monday.

"We have to leave the island and we can't. We were planning to go to Singapore but we have to stay here for I don't know, maybe two or three days more," said the 30-year-old Argentine.

Colin Cavy, a French dive master who has been in Indonesia for a couple of months, had other problems.

"I've just come to Bali two days ago to leave the country," he told AFP.

"My visa has expired...I need to go to the immigration office."

Meanwhile, cash-strapped Gupta and his bulging brood were weighing their options, which he lamented would not include help from India's consulate in Bali.

"No one can beat nature, but at least people can help," said Gupta's relative Abhisek Garg, who lives in Delhi.

They might want to call inn operator I Wayan Yastina Joni, who is among the few hoteliers willing to take up an appeal by Bali's governor and tourism agency to supply free rooms to out-of-luck visitors.

"I don't mind giving free accommodation for tourists I already know," said the owner of the Pondok Denayu Homestay.

"This is nobody's fault. It's a natural disaster that no one expected."

Monday, November 27, 2017

Tourists have been left stranded on the Indonesian island of Bali after a volcanic eruption

Sunday, November 26, 2017

West Java Celebrates Angklung Day

Jakarta Globe, November 19, 2017

West Java held Angklung’s Day at the Sate Building in Bandung, on Sunday (19/11),
to celebrate the traditional bamboo musical instrument's entry into Unesco’s Intangible
Heritage list seven years ago. (Photo courtesy of Tourism Ministry)

Jakarta. West Java held Angklung Day at the Sate Building in Bandung, West Java, on Sunday (19/11), to celebrate the traditional bamboo musical instrument's entry into Unesco’s Intangible Heritage list seven years ago.

"Through the event, participants will always remember the ancestral culture and preserve it," Wawan Gunawan, the ministry's head of cultural promotion, said in a statement.

Art communities Saung Angklung Udjo and Keluarga Besar Bumi Siliwangi of the Indonesia Education University (UPI) participated in arranging the event, which was joined by 6,000 people.

The participants came from regions across West Java, including students of kindergarten, elementary, junior and high schools.

Kenny Kaniasari, head of the Bandung Tourism Agency, hoped that by inviting students as participants, they can appreciate local culture more.

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said the event is a real manifestation of West Java community in an effort to preserve and improve the art of Angklung.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Local people battle to free nine beached sperm whales stranded in #AcehBesar, Indonesia

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Indonesian museum removes Nazi-themed exhibit after outrage

Yahoo – AFP, November 11, 2017

An Indonesian woman take a selfie with a life-size wax sculpture of Adolf Hitler
at a museum in Yogyakarta (AFP Photo/Henryanto)

An Indonesian museum that allowed visitors to take selfies with a life-size wax sculpture of Hitler against a backdrop of Auschwitz concentration camp has removed the exhibit following international outrage, the manager said Saturday.

De ARCA Statue Art Museum in the Javanese city of Jogjakarta drew swift condemnation from rights groups after details of the controversial display were published in foreign media.

The exhibit features a sure-footed Hitler standing in front of a huge photo of the gates of Auschwitz -- the largest Nazi concentration camp where more than 1.1 million people were killed.

The museum’s operations manager, Jamie Misbah, said the the wax sculpture had been removed after the building was alerted to criticism from prominent Jewish human rights organisation the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

"We don’t want to attract outrage," Misbah told AFP.

"Our purpose to display the Hitler figure in the museum is to educate."

The Hitler sculpture is one of about 80 figures, including world leaders and celebrities, at the wax and visual effects centre.

The Nazi-themed exhibit was a popular attraction for visitors to take selfies, and photos circulating on social media show customers -- including children -- posing with Hitler and in some cases using the Nazi salute.

Misbah said he thought it was "normal' for visitors to take photos in front of displays, but said the museum respected the exhibit had upset people from around the world.

Historians have blamed poor schooling for the lack of awareness and sensitivity about the Holocaust in Indonesia, which is home to the world's biggest Muslim population and a small number of Jews.

In January, a controversial Nazi-themed cafe in the western Javanese city of Bandung closed.

The venue, which featured swastika-bearing walls and photos of Hitler, sparked global uproar when reports about the unusual venue surfaced several years ago.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Riyadh's palatial Ritz-Carlton has reportedly morphed into a makeshift prison after the kingdom's unprecedented crackdown on its coddled elite

Friday, November 10, 2017

Advocacy Groups, Celebrities Call for End to Barbaric Dog Meat Trade in Indonesia

Jakarta Globe, Dhania Sarahtika, November 09, 2017

An animal rights collective, known as Dog Meat Free Indonesia Coalition,
together with world-renowned celebrities launched a global campaign to stop
the trade in dog meat on Thursday (02/11) at Hotel Gran Mahakam in South
Jakarta, in light of recent disturbing findings of animal cruelty in the Southeast
Asian country. (Photo courtesy of Dog Meat Free Indonesia Coalition)

Jakarta. An animal rights collective, known as Dog Meat Free Indonesia Coalition, together with world-renowned celebrities launched a global campaign to stop the trade in dog meat on Thursday (02/11) at Hotel Gran Mahakam in South Jakarta, in light of recent disturbing findings of animal cruelty in the Southeast Asian country.

The coalition consists of the Jakarta Animal Aid Network (JAAN), Animal Friends Jogja (AFJ), Change for Animals Foundation and Humane Society International. Celebrities taking part in the initiative include British actors Ricky Gervais, Joanna Lumley and Peter Egan, as well as Indonesian singer Gamaliel Tapiheru and actresses Sophia Latjuba and Chelsea Islan.

The campaign video, titled "I Didn’t Know," shows terrified-looking dogs in sacks and trucks being transported to slaughterhouses. The celebrities have invited viewers to join the campaign and sign an online petition.

"I didn’t know the magnitude. Literally millions of dogs are slaughtered for food in Indonesia every year. It has to be condemned and we have to stop it," Gervais said in the video.

"We have the ability to be their voice and defend them. Though they don’t talk, it doesn’t mean that they want to be killed, especially in a cruel way," Sophia said during the press conference.

Other celebrities, who did not take part in the official video campaign yet are animal activists, also spoke up.

"Dogs are like my children. If something happens to them, I will chase the criminal to court or to hell if I need to," singer Melani Subono said.

Cruelty Beyond Belief

Halting animal cruelty is the main impetus behind the initiative. According to JAAN co-founder Karin Franken, a series of investigations that have been carried out since late 2014 revealed that about a million dogs in Indonesia are brutally killed every year.

The investigations started after an increase in the number of reports of missing dogs and passersby seeing dogs roughly snatched from the streets and private properties.

Several key areas in the meat trade chain include Manado (North Sulawesi), Java, Bali, Sumatra, and Flores (East Nusa Tenggara).

Dogs are usually crammed onto the back of trucks for a long drive with their legs and mouths bound with string.

"I tracked the suppliers up to the slaughterhouses. The dogs were all in terrible fear and some even died en route," AFJ co-founder Angelina Pane, who conducted investigations in Solo (Central Java) and Yogyakarta, said.

She witnessed dogs being beaten to death by their handlers.

National Health Threat

Less than 7 percent of Indonesians eat dog meat, but are still at risk due to the transmission of rabies and other zoonotic diseases due to a lack of reporting on the animals' health before being slaughtered and miserable and unsanitary slaughterhouse conditions.

"One of our investigations shows that dogs from Cianjur [West Java] were butchered and the leftovers were thrown into the gutter," Franken said.

Provinces that have achieved rabies-free statuses, like Jakarta and Yogyakarta, are still vulnerable to the disease since they import dog meat from places like Bali and Cianjur, where there are many reported cases of rabies. The country has set a target of achieving zero rabies cases by 2020.

Progress in Law Enforcement

So far there are no laws banning people from eating and trading dog meat in the country. Because eating dog is already part of some cultures, particularly among non-Muslim Manadonese and Bataknese communities, deeming it illegal is not an easy process.

Existing animal welfare laws are not a reliable measure to stop the barbaric slaughtering because they do not pose severe enough punishments against people who commit animal cruelty. According to Law No. 41/2014, which is the revised version of Law No. 18/2009 on Husbandry and Animal Health, a person who abuses an animal faces only one to six months in prison or a maximum fine of Rp 5,000,000 ($370).

However, AFJ has held meetings with the Solo Legislative Council (DPRD) on the matter.

Focus group discussions have also been held in tandem with the Yogyakarta Provincial Administration to draft a new regulation on the meat trade. The regulation will state that sold meat must comply with a series of principles, abbreviated to "ASUH," which translates to safe, healthy, undamaged and halal.

Since dog meat is commonly considered non-halal by Muslims, the provisional regulation is expected to be a baby step towards ending the trade, though Angelina claimed that religion actually has nothing to do with the dog trade because most of the butchers she met were Muslims.

In Jakarta, JAAN has collaborated with the Fisheries, Agriculture and Food Security Agency (Dinas KPKP) to educate the public by hosting workshops on spaying and neutering pets, vaccination and responsible pet ownership to avoid an increased population of stray or ill dogs.

They are also in talks of introducing pet microchips to help owners track their stolen pets.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Indonesia to open first contemporary art gallery

Yahoo – AFP, Harry PEARL, November 3, 2017

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago nation of more than 250 million people, is home
to a vibrant art scene but lacks high-quality museums (AFP Photo/BAY ISMOYO)

Jakarta (AFP) - Indonesia's first international gallery of contemporary art opens Saturday, bringing together works by Ai Weiwei, Mark Rothko and Indonesian masters in a freeflowing modern space overlooking the Jakarta skyline.

The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara (Museum MACAN) holds nearly 800 paintings and sculptures, and aims to provide a world-class gallery to a country starved of quality museum infrastructure.

The collection, mostly acquired by businessman Haryanto Adikoesoemo over the past 25 years, is showcased in an airy 4,000 square metre space on the fifth floor of a city tower.

Indonesia, a sprawling archipelago nation of more than 250 million people, is home to a vibrant art scene but lacks high-quality museums.

"What we are offering is something very different to what already exists in Indonesia. We are one of kind in a sense of our international and national focus," museum director Aaron Seeto told AFP.

The opening underlines growing interest in Southeast Asian art and comes amid a number of high-profile gallery launches this year outside of Europe and North America.

Cape Town’s Zeitz MOCAA opened in September and the Louvre Abu Dhabi is set to open this month.

Seeto said Museum MACAN is uniquely positioned to boost the profile of Southeast Asian art.

"We really want to encourage cultural exchange, but also working relationships with other museums around the world."

Around half the museum's collection is Indonesian, and the remainder takes in international works including paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Willem de Kooning, and sculptures by Yayoi Kusama and Damien Hirst.

Designed by London’s MET Studio, the museum will also feature conservation and education spaces, which Seeto hopes will help boost the appreciation of art within Indonesia.

The museum occupies an airy 4,000 square metre space on the fifth floor of 
a city tower (AFP Photo/BAY ISMOYO)

Civic role

The gallery's inaugural exhibition "Art Turns. World Turns" features 90 pieces from Indonesian and international artists.

Works by Raden Saleh, the founder of modern Indonesian painting, hang alongside pop artist Andy Warhol and Chinese realist Luo Zhongli.

Several pieces tackle issues pertinent to current political debate in Indonesia.

FX Harsono weighs in on the treatment of ethnic-Chinese minorities in his painting "Wipe Out #1", while Balinese artist Dewa Ngakan Made Ardana addresses Indonesia’s 1960s anti-communist massacres in "A Father is Trying to Collect the Memories of His Family".

Arahmaiani Feisal’s painting "Lingga-Yoni", meanwhile, is being displayed for the first time since she was forced to flee Indonesia in the 1990s.

The painting, which overlays Hindu iconography of male and female genitalia on Arabic script, infuriated Islamic hardliners who threatened to kill her.

Seeto said the piece was an important acquisition for the museum and highlights the future role it can play in fostering discussion.

"Even though we are a private museum we very much consider that what we do occurs within the public sphere," he said.

"The museum has a civic responsibility".

Friday, November 3, 2017

Climbing Australia's giant red rock Uluru banned

Yahoo – AFP, November 1, 2017

Traditional owners and National Park representatives have decided to ban the
 climbing of Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, from October 2019 amid fears it
was being treated as a 'theme park' (AFP Photo/Greg Wood)

Sydney (AFP) - Climbing the world's largest monolith Uluru was banned Wednesday amid concerns it was becoming a "theme park", undermining the giant red rock's deep cultural significance.

Scrambling up the symbol of the Outback, also known as Ayers Rock, is seen by many tourists as a must-do on their visit to Australia.

But they do so against the wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners, the Anangu, to whom the site is sacred.

At a meeting of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board, made up of traditional owners and National Park representatives, a unanimous decision was made to ban the activity.

It will come into force in October 2019.

"This decision is for both Anangu and non-Anangu together to feel proud about; to realise, of course it’s the right thing to close it," board chairman Sammy Wilson said.

Speaking to state broadcaster ABC after the decision, he added that the site was not a "theme park".

"Some people in tourism and government for example might have been saying we need to keep it open but it's not their law that lies in this land," he said.

"It is an extremely important place, not a playground or theme park like Disneyland."

The rock's traditional Aboriginal owners' connection to the site dates back tens of thousands of years and it has great spiritual and cultural significance to them.

Wilson urged tourists to respect the ruling.

"If I travel to another country and there is a sacred site, an area of restricted access, I don’t enter or climb it, I respect it," he said in the statement.

"It is the same here for Anangu. We welcome tourists here. We are not stopping tourism, just this activity."

Park authorities have long looked to close the climb permanently. It is currently left up to visitors to decide whether to tackle the sandstone monolith, which soars 348 metres (1,148 feet).

About 300,000 people visit each year and, while there are no official figures on how many climb, their numbers are reported to have declined significantly.

Tackling Uluru's sandstone slopes is not an easy exercise and there have been numerous deaths over the years on the rock, where summer temperatures often hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).

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Monday, October 30, 2017

Myanmar's tourism dreams pierced by Rohingya crisis

Yahoo – AFP, Marion THIBAUT, October 29, 2017

In Myanmar, there are fears the Rohingya refugee crisis could throw the country's
fledgling tourism sector back to the dark days under military rule (AFP Photo/Ye Aung THU)

Only a few years ago Beyonce and Jay-Z were posing for photos among Myanmar's famed temples, heralding the former junta-run country's rise as one of the hottest new tourist destinations on the map.

But that dream is cracking as images of burnt villages and Muslim Rohingya fleeing army-led violence in western Rakhine shock the globe, sparking outrage over a staggering scale of human suffering that has festered along the border.

Ever since the bloodshed broke out in late August, tourism operators have witnessed a cascade of cancellations, rippling fear through a nascent industry that was gearing up for its high season in October.

"Almost all the trips scheduled for October and November have been cancelled due to instability in the country, because of the situation in Rakhine state," said Tun Tun Naing from New Fantastic Asia Travels and Tour, an agency that leads trips to the pristine beaches and mist-shrouded lakes that dot the lush country.

"Most groups in Japan, Australia and other Asian countries cited security reasons and some Europeans have clearly said they boycotted because of the humanitarian situation," he told AFP.

In Yangon, a bustling city known for its crumbling colonial architecture, some foreign tourists could still be seen circling the gilded Shwedagon Pagoda that looms over the former capital.

But they admitted that the ongoing crisis is an awkward backdrop for their holiday.

"It's very sad to see what the country is becoming, our guide told us that Muslims were dangerous and that they were not Burmese," said French tourist Christine, who declined to give her surname, of a crisis that has spiked religious tensions in the Buddhist majority country.

Some distinguished guests are also keeping their distance, with Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and his wife Camilla deciding to skip a stop in the former colony during an autumn tour of Asia.

One step forward, two back?

There are fears the refugee crisis could throw Myanmar's fledgling tourism sector back to the dark days under military rule, when many travellers passed over the pariah state to avoid lining the pockets of generals who brutally suppressed human rights.

All that had started to change after the army initiated a transition to partial democracy in 2011.

The move saw Western sanctions lifted as foreign tourists flocked to landscapes unspoiled by the crowds and travel infrastructure that has mushroomed elsewhere in the region.

The first half of 2017 kicked off well with a 22 percent increase in visitors compared to the previous year, according to figures from the Ministry of Tourism, which hopes to double the number of annual arrivals to 7.5 million by 2020.

But at the end of August, western Rakhine state was in flames.

Raids by mobs of poorly-armed Rohingya militants prompted a military backlash so brutal the UN says it likely amounts to ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority.

More than half a million Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh in two months, carrying testimony of killings, rape and arson at the hands of soldiers and Buddhist mobs.

Their chilling stories, alongside photos of gaunt and weary refugees cramming into Bangladesh's ramshackle refugee camps, have seized headlines around the globe and cast a pall over the young democracy's rise.

A few hours south of the conflict zone in Rakhine state lies Mrauk-U, an ancient capital and hallowed archaeological site.

Two months into the crisis, locals say the site is empty of the tourists normally buzzing around its ruins.

"All people who live on tourism are out of work now," guide Aung Soe Myint told AFP.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Despite the clear seas and white sandy beaches of Raja Ampat, Indonesia, the islands' children face the gloomy reality of poor education

Friday, October 13, 2017

Indonesian bishop resigns amid mistress, corruption allegations

Indonesian bishop Hubertus Leteng was accused of having a mistress and siphoning off more than 100,000 euros in church funds. Leteng has denied the allegations.

Deutsche Welle, 12 October 2017

Pope Francis on Wednesday accepted the resignation of Bishop Hubertus Leteng of Indonesia's Ruteng diocese, after the Vatican dispatched an investigator to look into allegations that he had had a mistress and skimmed over 100,000 euros ($118,000) from church funds.

The probe was triggered after dozens of priests resigned en masse to protest Leteng's conduct.

The 58-year-old Leteng has denied the allegations but did not offer any explanation about his premature retirement, almost 17 years before the usual retirement age for a bishop.

The Vatican also did not address the scandal or clarify why Leteng was retiring early. It named Sylvester San, a Bali-based Bishop of Denpasar, as a temporary replacement.

Leteng said the money was used to finance the education of poor youth, AP news agency reported, citing Ucanews, which reports on the Catholic Church in Asia. He termed allegations that he had a relationship with a woman "slanderous."

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, is home to some 45 bishops and 4,900 Catholic priests, according to 2015 Vatican data.

ap/bk (AFP, AP)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

First global pact backing indigenous land rights launched

MSN – AFP, Marlowe HOOD, 3 October 2017

Provided by AFP Brazilian natives demonstrate in front of the Planalto Palace in
Brasilia, during the National Mobilization Week to protest and demand their rights, in 2015

Native peoples struggling to retain or regain stewardship of forests that sustained them for countless generations may finally have backing from an organisation with both swag and sway.

The International Land and Forest Tenure Facility -- the first and only global institution dedicated to securing the land rights of indigenous communities worldwide -- was formally launched in Stockholm on Tuesday.

Funded by Sweden, Norway and the Ford Foundation, a major US philanthropy, the Tenure Facility has already provided grants and guidance for pilot projects in Peru, Mali, and Indonesia, helping local communities leverage rarely enforced laws to protect their land and resources.

Disputes over land rights in tropical forests teeming with exploitable resources -- from hard woods to precious stones to oil -- can quickly escalate into deadly conflict, and local peoples more often than not wind up on the losing end.

More than 200 environmental campaigners, nearly half from indigenous tribes, were murdered around the world in 2016 alone, according to watchdog NGO Global Witness.

Restoring some measure of control to the original inhabitants of forests appropriated by corrupt governments or extraction industries has also proven an effective bulkhead against global warming, according to a 2014 global survey by the US-based World Resources Institute, a think tank.

In Brazil, for example, deforestation in indigenous community forests from 2000 to 2012 was less than 1 percent, compared with 7 percent outside those areas.

'Unrelenting conflicts'

Provided by AFP Representatives of indigenous communities and activists protest
in front of the Chinese Embassy in Lima, Peru, on September 22, 2017, to support the
Achuar, Kichwa and Quechua Amazonic tribes affected by oil industry activities on their
ancestral lands

Tropical vegetation soaks up planet-warming CO2 emitted by the burning of fossil fuels.

Destroying these forests outright not only reduces the area available to absorb carbon dioxide, it also releases CO2 into the atmosphere, accounting in recent decades -- along with agriculture and livestock -- for more than a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

"We see climate change and inequality as two of the greatest existential threats facing the planet," said Ford Foundation president Darren Walker.

"Creating mechanisms that allow indigenous peoples and local communities to gain tenure over their land or forests is a way to tackle both these problems," he told AFP ahead of a conference keyed to the launch.

Walker has pledged five million dollars, and expects -- based on other grants in the pipeline -- the facility to have 100 million within a year.

The project aims over the span of a decade to boost forestland properly titled to indigenous peoples by 40 million hectares, an area twice the size of Spain.

Such efforts, they calculate, would prevent deforestation of one million hectares and the release of 500 million tonnes of CO2, more than the annual emissions of Britain or Brazil.

"The Tenure Facility provides a powerful solution to save the world's forests from the ground up," said Carin Jamtin, director general of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, a key funder.

Corruption and abuses

More than two billion people live on and manage half the world's land area in customary or traditional systems, yet indigenous communities have formal legal ownership of only 10 percent.

And even where they do have title, corruption and abuses have led to protracted conflicts with local and national governments, companies and migrant workers.

Native populations can even run afoul of major green initiatives to fight climate change or stem biodiversity loss.

A controversial UN-backed programme, for example, known as REDD+ -- Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation -- creates incentives to keep forests intact, paid for by rich nations or companies seeking to offset pollution under carbon trading schemes.

But the projects that REDD+ finances can push aside the needs and rights of indigenous peoples who are often most directly affected by the changes set in motion, critics say.

A peer-reviewed 2013 study -- one of the few to examine the impacts on local communities -- concluded that less than half of 50-odd projects in Africa, Latin America and Asia did anything to alleviate the poverty of forest-dependent peoples.

But many did enhance their land tenure rights, they concluded.

Related Article:

Friday, September 29, 2017

Panda diplomacy: Two giant pandas from China land in Indonesia

Yahoo – AFP, 28 September 2017

One of two giant pandas stays inside a cage as they arrive at the
Sukarno-Hatta airport in Indonesia

Two giant pandas from China arrived in Indonesia on Thursday in an act of "panda diplomacy" aimed at celebrating 60 years of bilateral ties.

Cai Tao and Hu Chun, both aged seven, arrived from Sichuan province and will be housed at a safari zoo in Bogor, a city near the capital Jakarta.

The pandas were lent by Beijing to mark the diplomatic anniversary despite recent tensions between the nations, with a number of clashes between Chinese and Indonesian vessels in the South China Sea.

The delivery is the first time Indonesia has been lent pandas, the country's forest and environment ministry said, making it the 16th country to be gifted with the animals by China.

A safari zoo will be their home for the next ten years once they clear an initial month-long quarantine.

"We hope we can breed them, that Hu Chun and Cai Tao will mate so they'll have offspring while they're here," said Yulius Suprihardo, a spokesman for Taman Safari Indonesia.

The zoo has built a 1,300 metres squared panda home for Cai Tao, who weighs 128kg (282 pounds), and Hu Chun, who weighs 113 kg (249 pounds).

Giant pandas are considered vulnerable and there are only about 1,800 in the wild, according to conservation organisation World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

China's use of giant pandas -- a national icon -- as gifts has a long history and has been dubbed "panda diplomacy".

Indonesia maintains it has no maritime disputes with China in the South China Sea, unlike other Asian nations, and does not contest ownership of reefs or islets there.

But Beijing's expansive claims in the sea overlap Indonesia's exclusive economic zone -- waters where a state has the right to exploit resources -- around the remote Natuna Islands.

The skirmishes have prompted Indonesia to bolster defences there.

In July, Indonesia changed the name South China Sea to North Natuna Sea to show its sovereignty in the waters, prompting criticism from Beijing.

Balinese Hindus offer prayers to calm Mount Agung, a volcano that is threatening to erupt for the first time in more than 50 years

Related Article: 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Indonesia Rejects UN Recommendation to Abolish Death Penalty

Jakarta Globe, Sheany  September 25, 2017

Indonesia on Thursday (21/09) accepted 167 of the 225 recommendations it
 received from international delegations during the 27th session of the United
Nations Universal Periodic Review, or UPR, earlier in May, but crucially rejected
a recommendation to abolish the death penalty. (Photo courtesy of Foreign
Affairs Ministry)

Jakarta. Indonesia on Thursday (21/09) accepted 167 of the 225 recommendations it received from international delegations during the 27th session of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review, or UPR, earlier in May, but crucially rejected the recommendation to abolish the death penalty.

Indonesia said the remaining 58 recommendations, including ones on abolishing the death penalty, addressing past human rights violations and ending prosecutions under blasphemy laws, "were noted" but considered "not in line with the priorities in Indonesia’s human rights agenda."

Indonesia went through its third UPR cycle in May, and had straight away accepted 150 recommendations put forward by 101 delegations during the review while placing the remaining 75 under further examination.

Indonesia stated its final position on the pending recommendations during the 36th session of the Human Rights Council last week.

During the session, Indonesia reaffirmed its position that "the death penalty is still a prevailing positive law in Indonesia."

"However, the revision of the penal code had provided a more robust safeguard in due process of law on the death penalty," Indonesia's deputy permanent representative to the UN office in Geneva, Michael Tene, said.

The United Kingdom said it "regretted that the recommendations on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty had not been supported" and repeated its call that no evidence suggests death penalty is a more effective deterrent than alternative forms of punishment.

Other delegations in the session also expressed concerns that the Indonesian government had not addressed discrimination against minority groups in the country, which include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and followers of religious minorities.

"Indonesia took note of the remaining 58 recommendations with the consideration that they are not in line with the priorities in Indonesia’s human rights agenda. Some of the recommendations were also inaccurate and not based on facts," Michael said, according to a statement released by the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) urged the Indonesian government nevertheless to take some measures to deal with the recommendations it did not accept, including "measures to eradicate impunity, prioritize the settlement of gross human rights violations, guarantee freedom of religion and belief, ensure freedom of expression and abolish the death penalty.”

Komnas HAM and Amnesty International also noted that Indonesia has yet to ratify several international human rights accords, including the Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture and Convention for the Protection of All Persons From Enforced Disappearance.