Indonesian PM Joko Widodo. Photo: Getty Images.

Does the Indonesian government adequately protect human rights?

It does and it does not; it really depends on the context. Indonesia looks good among its neighbours in Southeast Asia in terms of protection of civil and political rights, and to some extent economic, social and cultural rights, although room for improvements exists.

But one of the promises of the current president, Joko Widodo, during his 2014 campaign was about international criminal justice, which involves rights for many victims of past cases of human rights abuses in Indonesia. In that sense, it does not protect these rights, including the rights to justice, truth, reparations or guarantees of non-recurrence.…  Seguir leyendo »

“My grandfather was a professor in Bali in 1965, and he was killed. We don’t even know which mass grave his body was thrown into,” said one of the volunteers, a college student whose father is from Indonesia. In August, she joined a group of scholars and other volunteers at the National Declassification Center outside of Washington for the unprecedented project of examining some thirty thousand pages of newly-declassified documents from the US Embassy in Jakarta. These records add important details to what happened during the 1965-1966 Indonesian massacre, one of the worst, yet least known, mass killings since World War II, in which an estimated half a million Indonesians suspected of being Communists were murdered by soldiers and paramilitary death squads.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indonesia has long been cautious in confronting China’s claims in the South China Sea, so its announcement on July 14 that it was renaming a part of the area the “North Natuna Sea” may have come to many as surprise. The new name encompasses a region north of the Natuna islands that partly falls within the infamous “nine dash line,” by which China claims the sea stretching fifteen hundred miles from its mainland coast almost to the shores of Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Vietnam, and Indonesia. China immediately demanded a retraction—which it will not get.

The naming was a reminder of how seriously Indonesia treats its position as the seat of ancient trading empires and location of some of the world’s strategically most important straits—Melaka, Sunda, Lombok, and Makassar.…  Seguir leyendo »

Illegal logging and the associated trade is a major cause of deforestation and forest degradation and accounts for a large proportion of forest sector activities around the world. Trade in illegal timber can be highly lucrative and involves the buying and selling of timber which may have been harvested, transported or processed illicitly.

This year, Vietnam became the seventh country to conclude negotiations with the European Union for a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA). The agreement aims to tackle illegal logging, improve forest governance and promote trade in verified and licensed legal timber products from Vietnam to European and international markets. Earlier in 2017, Indonesia – one of the world’s largest timber exporters – became the first country to officially issue licensed timber under the agreement.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last week, Indonesian President Joko Widodo signed into law a decree to make it easier for his government to ban any group it deems “extremist.” It also established criminal penalties for being a member or leader of a banned group and for participating in violence or vigilantism as part of one ranging from five years to life in prison.

This decree represents a step not even taken at the height of Indonesian terrorism, when hotels, churches and bars were bombed between 1999 and 2005. Critics of the law argue it has the potential to cause serious consequences for Indonesia’s stability, security and democracy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ayu is a 34-year-old Indonesian maid, and the head of a pro-Islamic State network in Hong Kong. She recruits, raises funds and spreads propaganda for the group. She is just one of several dozen Indonesian domestic workers in East Asia known to endorse jihad.

Ayu — I’m using a pseudonym, because she fears trouble from the police — became pregnant young, ran away from abusive in-laws and left her baby behind to go work in Hong Kong in 2003. She consumed alcohol and drugs to numb depression. In late 2011, after losing her job as a maid for the third time, she went to Macau, sleeping on the streets for months, until she overdosed.…  Seguir leyendo »

Rizieq Shihab may be the most controversial public figure in Indonesia today. Admired by many, reviled by others, the Great Imam of a leading hardline Muslim organization is wanted for pornography.

Mr. Rizieq heads an organization no less controversial than he: the Islamic Defenders Front (in Bahasa, Front Pembela Islam, or F.P.I.), which is best known for promoting the application of Shariah throughout Indonesia, sometimes with hate speech. He rides around in a Jeep Rubicon, wearing all-white robes, his left hand on a microphone, his right index finger pointing to the sky. He sermonizes in a deep, strident voice and leads demonstrations, often violent, against bars and clubs and other places he calls “immoral.”

Early this year, he also led massive protests against the governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly known as Ahok, claiming, among other things, that non-Muslims can’t lead Muslims.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indonesian politics has been rocked by two major developments in recent months, both involving the governor of Indonesia’s capital and most important city, Jakarta. The first came on April 19, when the sitting governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama — better known by his nickname “Ahok” — was decisively defeated in a gubernatorial election. Ahok’s defeat is surprising given his general popularity among Jakarta voters, with an astonishing 76 percent of voters approving of his record of office.

The second came several weeks later, when courts sentenced Ahok to two years in prison for blasphemy — for comments he made in a speech referencing a verse in the Koran that some Muslims believe forbids them from voting for a non-Muslim politician.…  Seguir leyendo »

The reports are greatly exaggerated: Liberal, multicultural democracy in Indonesia isn’t dead yet.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is commonly called “Ahok,” recently lost the gubernatorial election in Jakarta, the capital, after his rivals waged an ugly campaign against his ethnicity and his religion: Indonesia is a majority-Muslim country, and Ahok is ethnic Chinese and Christian. Then this week he was handed an especially harsh prison sentence for a dubious charge of blasphemy.

Ahok’s loss at the polls came as a surprise. Jakarta’s governor since 2014, he was well known and well liked for his administration’s efforts to fix the city’s failing infrastructure, among other things.…  Seguir leyendo »

“Look, Sir,” the taxi driver said to me, pointing at a newly built five-story building. “That’s a community health center. At one point it had practically collapsed, and now it’s five floors high!”

“I’m a Muslim, Sir,” he added. “I can see that Jakarta is finally being developed properly. I’ve been in the streets every day for 15 years, and only now can I say that things are working as they should.”

Damn, I thought. It was three days before the second round of the gubernatorial election in Jakarta last month, an epic drama about race and prejudice that has divided people throughout Indonesia — at the presidential palace, in mosques, across social media and in many homes.…  Seguir leyendo »

In most of the Western world, the image of Muslim women is often distorted. Muslim women have been represented as homogeneous, veiled, submissive, helpless, oppressed and powerless victims.

Across Europe, countries are placing bans on veils on the grounds that they are symbols of oppression against Muslim women.

The construction and representation of Muslim women as being in need of saving, according to Lila Abu-Lughod in her book Do Muslim Women Need Saving?, is problematic. Western media often gloss over the wealth of diversity Muslim women possess with regard to cultures, languages, opinions and the spectrum of faith.

There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, half of them women.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Indonesian government has confirmed that it will not suspend military cooperation with Australia after a top general said earlier in the week that ties between the two nations would be cut. The incident is just the latest episode in a rocky relationship between the neighbours.

On January 4, Indonesian Military Chief Gatot Nurmantyo declared the suspension of Indonesia-Australia military cooperation, apparently because an Indonesian special forces commander trainer found materials at an Australian teaching facility that were insulting to both the Indonesian military and the state’s ideology of Pancasila.

Pancasila, from the Sanskrit word for for “five”, panca, and the Javanese for “principles”, sila, is the name given to the official founding principles of the Indonesian state.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indonesia’s result in the OECD Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA 2015 report, shows some improvements in the skills of students. In particular, girls are performing better than boys in all subjects: science, literacy, mathematics. They are significantly better in reading.

From 72 countries and economies reviewed every three years, Indonesia ranks 62nd, a slight improvement compared to 2013. Indonesian students ranked the second lowest in the 2013 PISA ranking (71), worse than their ranking in 2009, when Indonesia ranked 57th.

The improvement of girls’ performance has helped to lift Indonesia’s ranking. But, overall, the performance of Indonesian students (girls and boys) in science, mathematics and reading is one of the lowest among PISA-participating countries with an average ranking of 62 out of 69 countries.…  Seguir leyendo »

To improve Indonesia’s economy, President Joko Widodo has made infrastructure development – the building of roads, ports, power plants and other public utility services – his main agenda item since being elected two years ago.

From Aceh to Papua, infrastructure projects in the Indonesian archipelago are being accelerated.

Economists support Widodo’s infrastructure agenda. But amid the flurry of land acquisition, ground-breaking and construction, the people who have to give up the land they occupy to make way for the projects have very little power to ensure their livelihoods are secure.

Human cost

Land acquisition is the most-challenging phase of infrastructure development.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indonesian police are investigating Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaya Purnama, also known as Ahok, for blasphemy. They named him a suspect after hundreds of thousands of people rallied against the Chinese-Indonesian and Christian governor earlier this month.

Behind the enormous protest was a complex web of religious and political interests. But some of the protesters genuinely felt insulted by Ahok, who is running in next year’s gubernatorial election.

The reason for their anger was a speech that Ahok gave in September. Among other things, he warned his listeners about people who invoke verse 51 of the Surah Al-Maidah in the Quran to “deceive” people into not voting for him.…  Seguir leyendo »

Today Indonesia begins issuing the first ever FLEGT licenses for timber exports bound for the EU market. A major step in the battle against illegal logging and trade in illegal timber, these licenses are issued under a national system to verify the legality of all timber and timber products. A commitment to licensing its timber exports to Europe was made in the country’s Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) with the EU, although the licensing system applies to all exports and to the domestic market. The scale of this achievement can not be underestimated given the size of the country and of its forest sector – there are hundreds of thousands of forest enterprises ranging from large-scale concession holders and processing industries, to smallholders and micro-scale loggers, saw-millers and manufacturers.…  Seguir leyendo »

Indonesia, por lo visto, consta de diecisiete mil islas, cuatro mil de las cuales desaparecen cuando la marea sube y reaparecen cuando baja. Un puñado de ellas, en el mar de Flores, forma parte del Parque Nacional de Komodo. Es un lugar celebérrimo por la belleza de su paisaje, la riqueza de sus aguas con arrecifes de coral y miríadas de pececillos que atraen a buceadores de medio mundo, pero, sobre todo, por sus dragones. Quedan unos tres mil y parece que son contemporáneos de pleistocenos y dinosaurios, unos vejestorios que, por las condiciones climáticas de estos parajes, donde, dicho sea de paso, se han encontrado también los huesos del homínido más antiguo, han sobrevivido a todos los desastres geológicos que acabaron con las especies prehistóricas.…  Seguir leyendo »

The attack that killed four civilians and four terrorists in central Jakarta last Thursday may be a harbinger of more violence to come. It certainly suggests that ISIS, which claimed responsibility, has already transformed the terrorism threat in Indonesia, after years of mostly foiled plots.

Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, has a tiny jihadist movement relative to its size. Many factors have kept radicalism in check: a stable, democratic government, little internal conflict, peaceful neighbors and tolerance for advocates of Islamic law. It also has an effective counterterrorism police unit, set up after the 2002 Bali bombings.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cada año, Indonesia es presa de incendios forestales que provocan enormes daños ambientales, sociales y económicos. Los de este año (los mayores en casi dos décadas) destruyeron tres millones de hectáreas de tierra, y se calcula que causaron 14 mil millones de dólares de pérdidas en agricultura, degradación forestal, salud, transporte y turismo.

Lo que quizá sea más alarmante es el impacto climático. Indonesia ya es uno de los mayores emisores de dióxido de carbono del mundo. Por los incendios, su promedio de emisiones diario en septiembre y octubre de este año fue diez veces superior a lo normal. Solo el día 14 de octubre, las emisiones de los incendios ascendieron a 61 megatoneladas, casi el 97% de todas las emisiones del país ese día.…  Seguir leyendo »

En el pasado mes de octubre se cumplieron 50 años desde que el ejército indonesio lanzó una de las matanzas en masa más graves del siglo XX. Sin embargo, el aniversario pasó casi inadvertido. La matanza de unos 500.000 miembros o simpatizantes del Partido Comunista de Indonesia (PKI) durante el período 1965-1966 es el genocidio del siglo pasado del que menos se ha hablado.

Hace mucho que se debe retirar el velo que cubre aquel baño de sangre, pero quienes tienen un pasado que ocultar parecen decididos a resistirse. Los organizadores del Festival de Escritores y Lectores de Ubud acaban de tener un anticipo de lo que puede ser una nueva ronda de censura activa, pues los funcionarios locales han amenazado con suspender todo el festival, si siguen adelante los debates propuestos sobre la matanza.…  Seguir leyendo »