Posts Tagged ‘Joko Widodo’

China’s Silk Road revival hits the buffers

November 13, 2017

AFP

China’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ has run into problems from a stalled Indonesian rail project to an insurgency-threatened economic corridor in Pakistan

The ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, unveiled by China’s President Xi Jinping in 2013, envisages linking China with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks. Photo: Reuters

The ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative, unveiled by China’s President Xi Jinping in 2013, envisages linking China with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks. Photo: Reuters

Singapore: From a stalled Indonesian rail project to an insurgency-threatened economic corridor in Pakistan, China’s push to revive Silk Road trade routes is running into problems that risk tarnishing the economic crown jewel of Xi Jinping’s presidency.

The “One Belt, One Road” initiative, unveiled by Xi in 2013, envisages linking China with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks.

Xi, the most powerful Chinese leader in decades, has pushed the infrastructure drive which is central to his goal of extending Beijing’s economic and geopolitical clout.

The initiative was enshrined in the Communist Party’s constitution at a key congress last month, and some estimates say more than $1 trillion has been pledged to it, with projects proposed in some 65 countries.

But on the ground it has run into problems. Projects traverse insurgency-hit areas, dictatorships and chaotic democracies, and face resistance from both corrupt politicians and local villagers.

“Building infrastructure across countries like this is very complicated,” said Murray Hiebert, from Washington think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), who has studied some of the projects in Southeast Asia.

“You’ve got land issues, you have to hammer out funding agreements, you have to hammer out technological issues.”

Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying however insisted the initiative was “moving forward smoothly”.

Beijing won the contract to build Indonesia’s first high-speed railway in September 2015, but more than two years later work has barely started on the route from Jakarta to the city of Bandung.

A recent visit to Walini, where President Joko Widodo broke ground on the train line in January last year, found excavators flattening land but no track laid for the train, which is meant to start operating in 2019.

“The first year after the ground-breaking ceremony, I did not see any progress at all,” Neng Sri, a 37-year-old food stall owner from nearby Mandala Mukti village, told AFP.

The central problem has been persuading villagers to leave their land on the proposed route, which is often an issue in the chaotic, freewheeling democracy.

The Indonesian transport ministry declined to give an update on the project and the consortium of Chinese and Indonesian companies building the line did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

On another planned high-speed line from southern China to Singapore, the Thai stretch of the railway was delayed by tussles over financing and protective labour regulations, and it was only in July that the military government finally approved $5.2 billion to start construction.

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Work is under way on the 415-kilometre (260-mile) part of the line in Laos, a staunch ally of Beijing.

But even there the project has stoked controversy due to its huge price tag—at $5.8 billion, roughly half the country’s 2015 GDP—and the question of how much deeply poor Laos will gain from the project.

There have been concerns in many countries about how much they will benefit from One Belt, One Road initiatives.

Gains for China, such as access to key markets and tackling overcapacity in domestic industries, are often more obvious than those for their partners.

Such worries have bedevilled projects in Central Asia, part of a potential route from western China to Europe.

These include a free trade zone at Horgos on the China-Kazakh border, notable for flashy malls on the Chinese side and relatively little on the Kazakh side, and a planned railway to Uzbekistan that has stalled in large part due to opposition in Kyrgyzstan, through which the line would run.

“I am against this railway as it stands because the financial benefits that could accrue to Kyrgyzstan accrue to (China and Uzbekistan) instead,” said Timur Saralayev, head of the Bishkek-based New Generation movement.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a $54-billion project launched in 2013 linking western China to the Indian Ocean via Pakistan, has been targeted by separatist rebels in Balochistan province, who have blown up gas pipelines and trains and attacked Chinese engineers.

But the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua insisted the One Belt, One Road initiative enjoyed broad support.

“We have seen more and more support and approval of our projects. Many projects have delivered tangible benefits to the people in these countries,” she said.

The view from the ground, however, is not always so positive.

“The high-speed train… is only for super busy people who think time is money,” said the villager Sri, who lives next to the Indonesian rail project.

“We are not rushing to go anywhere.”

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South Korea’s Moon unveils new focus on Southeast Asia

November 9, 2017

 

South Korea’s presidential Blue House has said the policy will mirror Moon Jae-in’s “New Northern Policy” aimed at expanding cooperation between China, Japan, Russia and Mongolia. (Reuters)
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JAKARTA: South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday unveiled a new policy aimed at deepening ties with Southeast Asia, as the North Asian economic powerhouse seeks to curb its reliance on traditional trading partners like China and the United States.
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Moon made Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, his first state visit to the region and was accompanied by a delegation of around 200 business leaders.
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The “New Southern Policy,” aims to better connect South Korea to Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and expand the economic influence of Asia’s fourth-largest economy in the region home to over half a billion people.
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“Korean diplomacy in Asia has been more toward Japan, China and Russia. But I see that it should expand to new horizons and Indonesia has good prospects,” Moon said in opening remarks at a business forum.
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South Korea’s presidential Blue House has said the policy will mirror Moon’s “New Northern Policy” aimed at expanding cooperation between China, Japan, Russia and Mongolia. Moon announced that in September while at the East Economic Forum in Russia.
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Indonesia and South Korea signed a memorandum of understanding to develop a light rail transit (LRT) system, Indonesia’s industry minister Airlangga Hartarto said.
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South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the project in Jakarta was part of a series of MOUs worth up to $1.9 billion due to be signed.
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A recent year-long diplomatic standoff between Seoul and Beijing over the deployment of a US anti-missile system has exposed the dependence of Korean companies on Chinese customers and likely exacerbated Seoul’s urgency to diversify ties.
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During a joint news conference with US President Donald Trump this week, Moon said he was aiming for a more “balanced diplomacy,” which would include Russia, ASEAN countries, and members of the EU.
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Moon is due to meet Indonesian President Joko Widodo at a state palace in Bogor, south of Jakarta, later on Thursday for talks and then a state dinner.
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The two are due to discuss infrastructure, trade, and also tensions on the Korean peninsula.
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Indonesia has traditionally had good relations with North Korea and maintains diplomatic ties and is one of a small number of countries with an embassy in Pyongyang.
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A number of South Korean companies already have or are planning big investments in Indonesia. Steel giant POSCO has a multi-billion-dollar joint venture with Indonesia’s Krakatau Steel, Hyundai Motor is setting up a car factory and Samsung Electronics assembles smartphones in the country.
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Indonesia is also emerging as an important market for South Korean defense equipment and the countries are cooperating on a venture to jointly build a fighter plane, dubbed KF-X.
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Indonesia’s trade with South Korea was worth about $10 billion in the first nine months of 2017, while Korean foreign direct investment rose about a quarter to $1.37 billion over period. South Koreans make up one of the largest expatriate groups in Indonesia and parts of Jakarta have numerous Korean restaurants and bars.
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As well as corporate muscle, Korea’s soft power has also grown in Indonesia alongside other countries in Southeast Asia. Korean K-Pop is hugely popular among Indonesians, with long-established fan clubs and bands, like BTS, touring the Southeast Asian country. Indonesian Twitter accounts dedicated to Korean pop idols have around a million followers.

Indonesia military chief ‘free to travel to US’: embassy

October 23, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | The Indonesian military said General Gatot Nurmantyo was unable to board his Emirates flight from the Indonesian capital after being refused entry by the US Customs and Border Protection agency

JAKARTA (AFP) – Indonesia’s military chief is free to travel to the United States, the US embassy said Monday, after the general was apparently stopped as he tried to board a flight.

Jakarta has demanded an explanation for the incident after General Gatot Nurmantyo — who is believed to harbour presidential ambitions — was refused boarding in Jakarta by the US Customs and Border Protection agency.

Nurmantyo had been invited to Washington by the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph F. Dunford, America’s highest-ranking military officer, where he was due to attend a conference.

Erin Elizabeth McKee, acting deputy ambassador to Jakarta, told reporters there were “absolutely no issues” with the general’s ability to visit the US.

“General Gatot is able to travel, there are no restrictions, the United States welcomed his participation in the conference that General Dunford invited him to,” she said.

Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi said the US ambassador had apologised, but had offered no explanation.

“We have told them that we still demand a clarification and explanation on why the incident happened, we told them we are still waiting,” she said.

Nurmantyo will not attend the conference unless this clarification is received, the military said. “If there has been a mistake, there must be an apology, not to the military commander but to the government,” a military spokesman said.

Since being appointed armed forces chief by President Joko Widodo in July 2015, Nurmantyo has been at the centre of several controversies.

Earlier this year he abruptly suspended all military cooperation with Australia in a row over teaching materials, and he has been rebuked by members of President Joko Widodo’s cabinet for making misleading public remarks.

Nurmantyo will step down as leader of the armed forces in 2018 and many analysts believe he has political ambitions.

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Indonesia to demand answers after military chief denied U.S. entry

October 22, 2017

Reuters

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia intends to send a diplomatic note to the U.S. secretary of state and summon Washington’s deputy ambassador in Jakarta to explain why the head of its military was denied entry to the United States, an Indonesian official said on Sunday.

Indonesia’s Armed Forces Commander General Gatot Nurmantyo was about to board a flight on Saturday when the airline informed him that U.S. authorities had denied him entry, according to Indonesian media reports.

Nurmantyo was going to the United States at the invitation of General Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and a former head of the U.S. Marine Corps, according to the reports. He was also due to take part in a forum organized by the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington on Monday.

Arrmanatha Nasir, a spokesman for Indonesia’s foreign affairs ministry said that Nurmantyo had informed the ministry of the entry denial but the spokesman could not confirm details.

“After receiving that information, our foreign affairs minister has asked our ambassador in Washington DC to send a diplomatic note to the U.S. secretary of state to ask for clarification,” he said.The ministry will also summon the U.S. deputy ambassador in Jakarta on Monday to seek explanation, Nasir said, adding that the ambassador is presently not in Indonesia.

The U.S. embassy in Jakarta did not immediately respond to questions about the incident.

Nurmantyo has frequently courted controversy in Indonesia because of his actions and what analysts perceive as his political ambitions. The general promotes the notion that Indonesia is besieged by “proxy wars” involving foreign states and even a renewed communist threat.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said this month that the armed forces should stay out of politics and ensure their loyalty is only to the state and the government.

Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, generally enjoys good ties with the United States although in the past ties between the two countries’ armed forces have been strained by alleged rights abuses involving Indonesia’s armed forces.

Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by Ed Davies and Jacqueline Wong

Anti-Communist Mob Attacks Indonesia Meeting, 22 Arrested

September 18, 2017

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A mob opposed to public discussion of Indonesia’s 1965 massacre of communists tried to force its way into a Jakarta building where they believed communists were meeting, injuring five policemen.

Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono said 22 people were arrested early Monday for rioting and five officers were injured in the confrontation.

The melee came a day after police blockaded the building on Saturday to stop a public forum on the massacre, in which historians say half a million people were killed, from going ahead.

Bonnie Setiawan, an organizer of the forum, said about 200 people were trapped in the building, which is home to a legal aid institute, for hours on Sunday night while more than 1,000 people protested outside.

The protesters shouted that the people inside were members of the long-outlawed Indonesian Communist Party and threw rocks, breaking windows, he said.

Indonesia held a ground-breaking symposium on the massacre last year, breaking a half century of near silence on the issue, but the military, Islamic groups and senior figures in the government are opposed to unearthing the truth, saying it could revive communism.

The Indonesian Communist Party was the third largest in the world with an estimated 3 million members when an unsuccessful coup by pro-communist military officers in 1965 triggered a monthslong bloodletting by the army and Islamic groups that engulfed the country and ushered in the Suharto dictatorship.

Yuwono said police blockaded the forum on Saturday because organizers hadn’t requested permission for it.

Setiawan said police had violated the constitutional rights to freedom of association and assembly. The meeting on Sunday was intended as a discussion of challenges to democracy in Indonesia, he said.

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Fake news about communism in Indonesia blamed for triggering riot in Jakarta

By Jewel Topsfield

Fake news about Indonesia’s omnipresent bogeyman – communism – has been blamed for riots in Central Jakarta that injured five police officers and damaged vehicles in the early hours of Monday morning.

Police were forced to fire tear gas and water cannons to disperse anti-communist protesters who began to pelt police with water bottles and stones and attempted to force their way into the offices of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute.

A weekend seminar on the 1965 anti-communist purge – a dark chapter in Indonesia’s history that remains extremely sensitive today – had already been banned by police on the grounds the organisers had not applied for a permit.

But this did not stop crowds chanting “Crush the PKI” (the now defunct Indonesian communist party) and surrounding the institute building.

The Indonesian Legal Aid Institute claimed “clearly hoaxes or false news have been broadcast … with instructions for attacking (the institute) done systematically and extensively”.

It asserted false claims included that the planned historical seminar was a re-emergence of the PKI and participants intended to sing genjer-genjer, one of the most controversial songs in Indonesia.

Genjer-genjer, which was adopted as a protest song by the PKI, was banned under the Suharto regime, amid military claims that female communists had tortured six generals while singing the song.

“People said we are PKI – that’s the hoax,” Muhammad Isnur from the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute told Fairfax Media.

“They said PKI was holding an event. It’s not true. We wanted to hold an academic discussion about what happened in 1965.”

Police have arrested five people suspected of provoking the riots.

Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono told Fairfax Media that police had informed the institute that the planned seminar could not go ahead because the organisers did not have a permit.

But Mr Isnur said the police were “just making it up”. “Why would we need a permit for an internal, closed door discussion in our own office? We hold discussions every day.”

The 1965 tragedy was triggered by the kidnapping and murder of several high-ranking army officers, which was blamed on the PKI.

Last month Indonesian authorities disbanded a workshop in East Java on the findings of an international tribunal into the 1965 massacre – also on the grounds organisers didn’t have a permit.

In 2015 the Ubud Writers Festival cancelled sessions discussing 1965 – the first act of censorship in the history of the popular international event.

Amnesty International issued a statement last month saying there had been at least 39 cases since 2015 where authorities disbanded events related to 1965.

“These actions are a clear violation of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” Amnesty said.

Asked if hoax news had inflamed tensions at the weekend, Mr Argo said: “Listen, if people get together to make speeches, discussion, dialogue, they must notify the police, this should be understood by people who work in the legal business.”

Fake news was a huge problem in Indonesia in the lead-up to the gubernatorial election in February, with much of it targeting the ethnicity of former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama.

Hoax news included that Indonesia was being flooded by 10 million Chinese workers, that its new currency bore an image of the banned communist hammer and sickle, that Ahok’s free Human Papillomavirus vaccine program could make girls infertile and that China was waging biological warfare against Indonesia with contaminated chilli seeds.

Smear campaigns during the last presidential election also asserted President Joko Widodo was a Christian and communist.

“Don’t forget, negative (news), slander, reproaching each other, hoax and fake news are spreading in social media today. They also become our challenge in the future,” President Jokowi told a group of boys scouts in Central Java on Monday.

Last month police arrested three people accused of spreading hoaxes against President Jokowi and Ahok, among others, on a “news” website known as saracen, which allegedly charges clients to publish and spread fake news.

“There is clearly a growing industry around the production of disinformation (false information spread to deliberately deceive) in Indonesia and elsewhere around the world,” says Australian National University academic Ross Tapsell, an expert on social media in Indonesia.

“Of course, Indonesia has a long history of government and non-government anti-PKI propaganda designed to incite and enrage,” he said.

“So the material may not have changed, but the technology used to disseminate it is changing rapidly.”

http://www.smh.com.au/world/fake-news-about-communism-in-indonesia-blamed-for-triggering-riot-in-jakarta-20170918-gyjuxv.html

Indonesia, Long on Sidelines, Starts to Confront China’s Territorial Claims

September 11, 2017

JAKARTA, Indonesia — When Indonesia recently — and quite publicly — renamed the northernmost waters of its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea despite China’s claims to the area, Beijing quickly dismissed the move as “meaningless.”

It is proving to be anything but.

Indonesia’s increasingly aggressive posture in the region — including a military buildup in its nearby Natuna Islands and the planned deployment of naval warships — comes as other nations are being more accommodating to China’s broad territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The two countries had three maritime skirmishes in 2016 involving warning shots, including one in which Indonesian warships seized a Chinese fishing boat and its crew.

Indonesia is challenging China, one of its biggest investors and trading partners, as it seeks to assert control over a waterway that has abundant resources, particularly oil and natural gas reserves and fish stocks.

The pushback from Indonesia takes direct aim at Beijing’s claims within the so-called “nine-dash line,” which on Chinese maps delineates the vast area that China claims in the South China Sea. It also adds a new player to the volatile situation, in which the United States Navy has been challenging China’s claims with naval maneuvers through waters claimed by Beijing.

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The coastline at Ranai, the administrative center of the Natuna islands. Credit Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Indonesia “is already a party to the disputes — and the sooner it acknowledges this reality the better,” said Ian J. Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, where he researches South China Sea issues.

The dispute largely centers on the Natuna Sea, a resource-rich waterway north of Indonesia that also lies close to Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone.

Before naming part of the contested waterway the North Natuna Sea “to make it sound more Indonesian,” Mr. Storey said, Indonesia last year began beefing up its military presence in the Natunas. That included expanding its naval port on the main island to handle bigger ships and lengthening the runway at its air force base there to accommodate larger aircraft.

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People take pictures of a burning ship as the government destroyed foreign boats that had been caught illegally fishing in Indonesia waters, at Morela village in Ambon island, April 2017. Indonesia destroyed 81 mostly foreign boats on the weekend that had been caught illegally fishing in its waters, taking to more than 300 the number sunk since President Joko Widodo launched a battle against the poaching of fish in 2014. Antara Foto/Izaac Mulyawan — Reuters photo

For decades, Indonesia’s official policy has been that it is not a party to any territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea, unlike its regional neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Last year, however, Indonesia and China had the three maritime skirmishes within Indonesia’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone off its Natuna Islands, which lie northwest of Borneo.

After the third skirmish, in June 2016, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement in which it claimed for the first time that its controversial nine-dash line included “traditional fishing grounds” within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

The administration of the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, whose top administrative priorities since taking office in October 2014 include transforming his country into a maritime power, has ordered the authorities to blow up hundreds of foreign fishing vessels seized while illegally fishing in Indonesian waters.

Mr. Joko, during a visit to Japan in 2015, said in a newspaper interview that China’s nine-dash line had no basis in international law. (See map below) . He also chaired a cabinet meeting on a warship off the Natunas just days after last year’s third naval skirmish — a move analysts viewed as a show of resolve to Beijing.

On July 14, Indonesia’s Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries held a conspicuously high-profile news conference to release its first national territorial map since 2005, including the unveiling of the newly named North Natuna Sea. The new map also included new maritime boundaries with Singapore and the Philippines, with which Indonesia had concluded agreements in 2015.

Arif Havas Oegroseno, a deputy minister at Indonesia’s Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs, told journalists that the new Indonesian map offered “clarity on natural resources exploration areas.”

That same day, Indonesia’s Armed Forces and Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources signed a memorandum for warships to provide security for the highly profitable fishing grounds and offshore oil and gas production and exploration activities within the country’s exclusive economic zone near the Natunas.

Read more at the source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/10/world/asia/indonesia-south-china-sea-military-buildup.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fworld&action=click&contentCollection=world&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront

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China says it has sovereignty over all the South China Sea north of its “nine dash line.” On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration  in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid. But China and the Philippine government then chose to ignore international law.

Thousands of Indonesians Join Anti-Myanmar Rally in Jakarta — Chanting “Allahu Akbar”

September 6, 2017

JAKARTA — Thousands of Indonesians, led by Islamist groups, held a rally near the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta on Wednesday to protest against the treatment of Rohingya Muslims and demand the snapping of ties between the two countries.

Indonesia has the world’s largest population of Muslims and there have been several anti-Myanmar protests in Jakarta and the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur over the treatment of Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s roughly 1.1 million Rohingyas.

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A Muslim woman shouts slogans as she holds up a poster bearing a defaced portrait of Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi during a rally against the persecution of Rohingya Muslim minority, outside the Myanmar’s Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. Hundreds of people staged the rally in the third day of protests calling for the government of the world’s most populous Muslim country to take a tougher stance against persecution of the Rohingya. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Roads were blocked and barbed wire barriers put up around the embassy, in a leafy district of the capital, which was patrolled by police in riot gear who set up water cannons.

Some protesters chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest), while others shouted slogans such as “Slaughter Myanmar” and “Burn the embassy”.

Buddhists should respect Muslims in Myanmar in the same way that Muslims respected Buddhists in Indonesia, one speaker told the crowd, using a loud-hailer.

Almost 125,000 Rohingyas have been forced to flee clashes between Rohingya insurgents and the army in Myanmar’s northwestern state of Rakhine. Tens of thousands have crossed the border into neighboring Bangladesh.

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A Muslim woman raises her fist as she holds a poster during a rally against persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority, outside Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Sept. 4, 2017. Hundreds of Muslim women staged the rally on the third day of protests calling for the government of the world’s most populous Muslim country to take a tougher stance against persecution of the Rohingya. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

 

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and top security officials this week to urge a halt to the bloodshed. Marsudi also visited Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh on Tuesday, to offer help in tackling the crisis.

Some protesters at the Jakarta rally called for the expulsion of the Myanmar ambassador over the issue, as well as for diplomatic ties between the two countries to be severed.

Myanmar embassy staff would be safe, however, said a foreign ministry spokesman, Armanatha Nasir.

“It is the responsibility of the host countries to ensure the safety of all diplomatic missions and their personnel,” the spokesman said. “Indonesia takes this responsibility seriously.”

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A man mourning a family member believed to have been killed by Rohingya militants in Maungdaw, Rakhine, last month. AFP photo

At the weekend, a petrol bomb was thrown at the embassy causing a small fire.

Indonesian police have also pledged to bar Islamist groups from staging a rally on Friday at the Borobudur Buddhist temple in central Java to protest against the treatment of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims.

(Reporting by Kanupriya Kapoor; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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Commentary: Indonesia an (unlikely) honest broker for Rohingya

  • Kornelius PurbaThe Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Wed, September 6, 2017 | 08:13 am

Commentary: Indonesia an (unlikely) honest broker for Rohingya

Humanitarian crisis: A protester tears up a picture of Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi during a rally in front of Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta on Saturday to protest the actions of Myanmar’s army and the government of Aung San Suu Kyi. United Nations chief Antonio Guterres warned on Sept. 1 of a looming humanitarian catastrophe in western Myanmar and urged security forces to show restraint after hundreds were reported to have been killed in communal violence. (AFP/Bay Ismoyo)

For the first time since he came to power in October 2014, the usually inward-looking President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has launched a weighty diplomatic offensive with his decision to engage himself in ending the gross human rights violations against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

The rewards are evident: He will boost his reputation abroad and at home voters will …

Read more:

http://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2017/09/06/commentary-indonesia-an-unlikely-honest-broker-for-rohingya.html

After Political Storm, Indonesia President Faces Economic Clouds

September 4, 2017

JAKARTA — During the first months of this year, President Joko Widodo was an embattled leader grappling with Indonesia’s most serious political and religious tensions in two decades. Now, he has come through the storm looking stronger than ever.

His popularity is near record highs and, thanks to deft maneuvers against foes trying to exploit a blasphemy case against one of his allies, Widodo has stamped his authority on the ruling coalition, parliament and the security forces.

The quietly spoken former furniture salesman may have proved his political mettle, but his next challenge is an economy that refuses to respond to conventional policies to fire up growth. That could dent his re-election chances in 2019, especially with a budget that won’t stretch to lavish government spending.

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President Joko Widodo

Senior government officials worry that Widodo has been distracted by the battles with political opponents and taken his eye off the economy.

“We are suffering from bad policy right now … if we don’t fix it or we don’t regain the initiative I could easily see GDP growth going down, and is that a risk you want to take?” said one senior government official, who asked not to be identified.

According to a June survey, nearly 60 percent of people polled were satisfied with Widodo’s performance, almost an all-time high. But the poll also showed high expectations that he would deliver on promises to revive the lackluster economy.

“If he doesn’t perform on the economy, that would give ammunition to the opposition to challenge Jokowi in 2019,” said Djayadi Hanan of the Saiful Mujani Research Center, a Jakarta-based pollster, using the president’s nickname.

ECONOMIC DANGERS

Indonesia’s GDP growth has shambled at around 5 percent for the past two years, too low to lift the country out of the middle-income trap, largely because domestic consumption – once the engine of the economy – and bank lending have been sluggish.

An unexpected cut in interest rates last month highlighted the struggle to lift growth despite government initiatives, including a tax amnesty program, an infrastructure drive, and a series of regulatory tweaks designed to make business easier.

The government has little fiscal room to breathe life into the economy: the budget deficit is already close to a legally mandated ceiling of 3 percent of GDP and parliament could impeach Widodo if he allowed the deficit to run past that limit.

David Sumual, chief economist at Indonesia’s Bank Central Asia, said a hike in electricity tariffs and slow disbursement of subsidies to farmers have weakened the purchasing power of middle- to lower-income households. Meanwhile, higher-income groups are worried that the government is pushing for aggressive tax reform that will leave them less well off.

“The problem now is confidence in the prospect of the economy. People don’t want to spend,” Sumual said.

In his state-of-the-nation address last month, Widodo pledged to tackle income inequality by cutting red tape and making land acquisition easier to accelerate infrastructure projects. And last week he urged his cabinet to focus on attracting investment to boost growth and create jobs.

But two officials who spoke to Reuters said they worried he was not matching his rhetoric with bold steps that need to be taken now for growth to be marching higher next year, when campaigning for the 2019 presidential election will begin.

On the to-do list remains finding a way to rein in the overbearing dominance of state-owned enterprises on the economy, which was singled out by the World Bank in July as something preventing private funds flowing in.

In addition, there is a need to speed up efforts to tackle a tortuous regulatory and licensing regime to lift investment, an area where Widodo said last week, during the launch of a new policy package, “there’s so much we have to improve, so much to fix”.

RISK OF COMPLACENCY

Just months ago, Widodo appeared to be fighting for his political survival as political opponents joined forces with radical Islamist groups to foment popular fury over alleged blasphemous comments made by Widodo’s ally Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, the former Christian governor of Jakarta.

Amid massive protests in central Jakarta, there were rumors of treason plots and even a military takeover.

Beating the drum of Indonesia’s “unity in diversity” motto, Widodo embarked on a frenzy of public appearances at military barracks, the homes of both political rivals and allies, and at moderate Islamic boarding schools – all aimed at projecting an image of unity and control.

“He has been busy in the past six to eight months fighting back against destabilizing forces,” said Endy Bayuni, editor-in-chief of the most widely read English daily, the Jakarta Post.

“He’s showed that he is very much in control of the situation and has become even more mature as a politician.”

Widodo’s latest move to regain political authority took aim at hardline Islamist groups. By executive decree, he banned Hizb-ut Tahrir, a group that calls for Indonesia to be ruled by Islamic sharia law, saying its ambitions ran counter to the country’s secular ideology.

Such political dominance could provide Widodo with a false sense of security, the senior government official said.

“The dark side of the story is … the economy,” he said. “I think the biggest threat now, potentially – and it’s the flip side of the incredibly strong political position he is in – would be complacency.”

(Editing by Ed Davies and Alex Richardson)

Vietnam asks Indonesia to investigate South China Sea shooting

July 29, 2017

Reuters

JULY 28, 2017 / 9:43 AM

HANOI (Reuters) – Vietnam has asked Indonesia to investigate and clarify reports that the Indonesian navy shot and wounded two Vietnamese fishermen in the South China Sea.

Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh told Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi by telephone that the reported incident was “very serious … and not appropriate with the strategic partnership relationship between Vietnam and Indonesia,” the Vietnamese foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday.

“Vietnam is deeply concerned about this incident and proposes Indonesia to quickly investigate and clarify the incident and inform Vietnam of the results and to stop repeating similar acts,” Minh was quoting as saying.

Earlier this week, a local Vietnamese sea rescue committee said Indonesia’s navy had shot and wounded the Vietnamese fishermen last weekend.

The Vietnamese boat was about 132 nautical miles (245 km) southeast of Con Dao island when the fishermen were shot on Saturday night, the Binh Dinh provincial search and rescue committee said on its website.

The report was pulled off the website the next day.

Indonesia’s foreign minister told Reuters the information provided by her country’s navy on the incident was different and said illegal fishing involving Vietnam had been a long-term issue.

Marsudi said in a text message she had underlined to Vietnam’s foreign minister the importance of the countries settling negotiations on their exclusive economic zones. She said the two would meet in Manila during a regional forum next month.

The Indonesian navy has yet to comment on the incident.

Disputes over fishing rights and oil drilling have stoked tension in the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in goods is shipped each year.

China claims almost the entire sea, but Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims.

Although Indonesia says it is not a party to the dispute, it recently renamed the northern reaches of its exclusive economic zone, asserting its own maritime claim.

The coordinates given by the Vietnamese search and rescue committee indicated that the shooting happened close to the area Indonesia now calls the North Natuna Sea.

Indonesia has sunk hundreds of mostly foreign boats caught illegally fishing in its waters since President Joko Widodo launched a crackdown on the poaching of fish in 2014.

Indonesia and Vietnam said in May they would launch a joint investigation after reports that Vietnamese coast guards had tried to forcibly free five fishing boats and their crew detained in waters near Indonesia’s Natuna Islands.

Reporting by Mai Nguyen; Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe and Agustinus Boa Da Costa in Jakarta; Editing by Catherine Evans and Kim Coghill

Indonesia Will Follow The Philippines and Shoot Suspected Drug Traffickers

July 24, 2017
In this March 8, 2017 file photo, Indonesian President Joko Widodo waits for the arrival of his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma at Merdeka Palace in Jakarta. President Jokowi says police should shoot drug traffickers who resist arrest because of a narcotics crisis facing the country. Jokowi’s spokesman, Johan Budi, said Sunday, July 23, 2017, that the president made the comments at a recent meeting of an Indonesian political party. AP/Dita Alangkara, File

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo says police should shoot drug traffickers who resist arrest because of a narcotics crisis facing the country.

Presidential spokesman Johan Budi said Sunday that Jokowi made the comments at a recent meeting of an Indonesian political party.

“We have to take firm action. If drug dealers who operate in Indonesia fight back when arrested, officers can shoot them, because we are in a narcotics emergency position now,” Jokowi said, according to his spokesman.

Local media reported last week that police shot dead a Taiwanese man for resisting arrest during a seizure of 1 ton of crystal methamphetamine, Indonesia’s largest-ever seizure of the drug.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte launched an anti-drug crusade last year in which thousands of alleged drug dealers and users have been killed, often in circumstances akin to lawless summary executions. The crackdown has been condemned by rights groups and governments around the world.

RELATED: Duterte to PNP: Kill 1,000, I’ll protect you | ‘Not acceptable’: Morales slams Duterte’s order to kill criminals

Indonesia has tough anti-drug laws and traffickers can receive the death penalty. Four people, one Indonesian and three Nigerians, were executed by firing squad last year, and dozens are on death row for trafficking.

Budi said Jokowi’s comment is not a shoot to kill order and police actions should be measured and in accordance with the law.

It’s a message to all Indonesians to show the commitment of the government to fighting narcotics, he said.

Related:

Indonesian National Police Chief Tito Karnavian, left, Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa, center, and Royal Malaysia Police Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar link arms together prior to the start of their Trilateral Security Meeting in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines Thursday, June 22, 2017. The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia plan to closely cooperate to halt the flow of militants, weapons, funds and extremist propaganda across their borders as they expressed alarm over recent attacks in their countries. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Indonesian National Police Chief Tito Karnavian, left, Philippine National Police Chief Ronald Dela Rosa, center, and Royal Malaysia Police Inspector General Khalid Abu Bakar link arms together prior to the start of their Trilateral Security Meeting in suburban Pasay city, southeast of Manila, Philippines Thursday, June 22, 2017. The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia plan to closely cooperate to halt the flow of militants, weapons, funds and extremist propaganda across their borders as they expressed alarm over recent attacks in their countries. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)