Japan to host Yudhoyono amid FTA hopes

October 31, 2006

TOKYO (AP): President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will
visit Japan in late November, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said
Tuesday, as the two countries work toward reaching a free trade

Yudhoyono is expected to meet Japanese Emperor Akihito and
Empress Michiko, as well as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his
Nov. 26-29 visit, the ministry said in a statement.

The statement provided no more details about the president’s
visit, which comes as the two countries work to conclude
negotiations toward a free trade deal that began in July 2005.

After the latest round of talks in Tokyo earlier this month, the
Foreign Ministry said the two countries made progress in areas
including goods and services and investment rules, but that
negotiations were still needed in other areas such as energy.

The two countries have been looking into ways to ensure a stable
supply of energy from Indonesia, which Japan relies upon for about one-third of its natural gas needs, ministry official
Yuichi Watanabe said.

The countries hope to reach an agreement in principle during
November, Kyodo News agency reported at the time, citing
unidentified Japanese officials. (**)


‘Military cooperation between China and ASEAN may promote openness’

October 31, 2006

WASHINGTON: The United States welcomed a request by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao for increased military cooperation with ASEAN as a potential step for greater transparency on military affairs by the Chinese. The Chinese Premier made the statement  at the ASEAN-China summit attended by Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and other ASEAN leaders in China. The office of State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a statement Monday (Tuesday in Indonesia) that Wen’s appeal to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations apparently was “part of a broader dialogue on common security issues.” The statement said: “Such military-to-military dialogue and engagement can increase transparency and promote stability. “We encourage China to be more open about its military strategy, doctrine and budgets as it modernizes its military.” U.S. officials have emphasized for years their desire for more openness by the Chinese on their military capabilities and plans. “Although ASEAN itself is not a security organization, engaging other countries and other militaries in the region on security issues can be a positive step, so long as it is done in an open and non-exclusionary manner,” the statement said4. (**)

A beaming Tommy gets out of jail

October 31, 2006

Ary Hermawan, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

CENTER OF ATTENTIONWaving and wearing big smile, Hutomo “Tommy” Mandala Putera walked away from the Cipinang narcotics prison Monday a free man, after serving less than half of his 10-year jail term thanks to generous remissions.

 The youngest son of former president Soeharto left the maximum security prison in the early afternoon.

 Tommy was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2002 for hiring a hit man to assassinate a Supreme Court justice, Syafiuddin Kartasasmita, the year before. The judge had sentenced him to 18 months in jail in a land fraud case. 

 The court convicted Tommy of corruption, premeditated murder and illegal weapons possession. But the conviction was later altered by the Supreme Court and his sentence reduced to 10 years.

 Tommy has received sentence remissions twice a year, for Independence Day and Idul Fitri. The total of remissions was about 31 months.   

 Tommy, wearing a baseball cap, told journalists shouting questions at him outside the prison that he was “well” and even planned to go on a haj pilgrimage to Mecca.

 It was earlier reported that he would be released before Ramadhan as he had requested a conditional release in August. Tommy was entitled to apply for conditional release because he had completed twothirds of his jail term with the remissions factored in, and had displayed “good conduct” in prison.

 For the next three years, Tommy is required to report regularly to penitentiary authorities and is not allowed to go abroad.

 Justice and Human Rights Minister Hamid Awaluddin refused to comment on Tommy’s release, saying as a Cabinet minister it was not an issue he handled.

 He said later the government still needs to assess whether Tommy’s release will harm the people’s sense of justice.

 Hamid had said on Oct. 24 that Tommy would likely be released after he was granted a sentence cut of 45 days. He said the ministry would have to coordinate with the prosecutors’ office on the release.

 Attorney General’s Office spokesman I Wayan Pasek Suartha, however, told journalists on Monday that the granting of a conditional release was entirely the authority of the justice ministry. “The AGO does not have a say in it,” he said.

 Under Government Regulation No. 28/2006, the ministry does not have to ask for permission or a recommendation from the AGO to release a prisoner. 

 “We don’t want people to think the attorneys requested Tommy’s release. It would tarnish our image,” he said.

Indonesia, China set US$30 billion trade target

October 31, 2006

Avian E. Tumengkol, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao have vowed to reaffirm their commitment to tripling bilateral trade to US$30 billion by 2010, following Monday’s signing of the Joint Statement of the ASEAN-China Commemorative Summit in Nanning, China.

 In a special bilateral meeting with the Chinese leader, Yudhoyono agreed to try to attain the $30 billion target in two-way trade relations in four years, according to a top official who attended the talks.

 Shortly after the meeting, presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal, in a telephone conversation with The Jakarta Post, said that both leaders were positive in their commitment and that Yudhoyono had encouraged China to take part in developing Indonesia’s energy sector.

 “With President Yudhoyono’s positive commitment, Prime Minister Wen will encourage Chinese business leaders to visit Indonesia and study our energy industry,” Dino said.

 He said Yudhoyono planned to boost tourism in Indonesia by increasing the number of Chinese tourists to Indonesia to about 80,000 per year and Indonesian tourists to China to about 350,000 annually.

 Both leaders are looking at proposing a regular route between Guilin and Bali, Dino says.

 Guilin, a historical and cultural city, is one of China’s top tourist destinations.

 The two leaders also agreed to intensify their defense cooperation by way of more port visits, defense consultations and joint military exercises on maritime cooperation.

 They also discussed North Korea’s nuclear drama, agreeing on close coordination at the United Nations Security Council, where China is a permanent member and to which Indonesia was recently elected as a nonpermanent member.

 While addressing the China-ASEAN summit, President Yudhoyono said that ASEAN fully supported China’s constructive efforts in resolving the tension on the Korean Peninsula through the Six-Party talks.

 Yudhoyono added that ASEAN and China must also work together to advance multilateralism in the international system, saying that “China and Indonesia will work very closely at the Security Council”.

 The joint statement, signed by Prime Minister Wen and ASEAN leaders and commemorating the 15th anniversary of ASEAN-China relations, focused on strengthening strategic partnerships and political, security, economic, socio-cultural, regional and international cooperation.

 ASEAN-China relations, Dino said, have demonstrated clearly how much China has changed in the past 30 or 40 years. Four decades ago, China’s relationship with the region was minimal, ideological and marked by conflict and suspicion, especially in Indo-China with the war in Vietnam and Cambodia, as well as diplomatic frictions with Indonesia, he said.

 Dino said ASEAN leaders were discussing the advancement and broadening of the partnership and noted that ASEAN-China’s geopolitical situation had gone through positive changes.

 ASEAN’s leaders have been talking about China’s peaceful rise, he said, and the joint statement in Nanning gave direction, predictability and substance to the meaning of China’s rise to Southeast Asia.

 “It aims to ensure that China’s rise will have a positive impact on Southeast Asia, will help promote ASEAN’s community building and will stabilize critical elements in the region,” he told the Post.

 Dino also said that China’s current disputes in the South China Sea with Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei would not impede closer engagements between it and ASEAN’s leaders.

 “ASEAN and China should advance efforts to transform the South China Sea into an area of peace and cooperation,” Yudhoyono said.

Police arrest 15 suspects in Central Sulawesi

October 31, 2006

JAKARTA (AP): Indonesian police have arrested at least 15 Muslims
suspected of participating in violence against Christians on
Central Sulawesi in recent years, official said Tuesday.

The men, identified during eight months of police
surveillance, are suspected in 13 cases dating back to 2001,
including shootings, beheadings, bombings and robberies, said
national police spokesman Brig. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam.

Investigators are hunting another 29 suspects still at large,
he said.

Central Sulawesi, particularly the town of Poso, was the scene
of fierce gunbattles between Christians and Muslims from 1998 to
2002 that left at least 1,000 people from both faiths dead.

A peace agreement ended the worst of the violence, but
tensions flared anew after last month’s executions of three Roman
Catholic militants convicted of leading a 2000 attack on an
Islamic school that killed at least 70 people.

Critics say the men did not get a fair trial and allege that
religion played a role in their sentencing, noting that only a
handful of Muslims were punished, and none given more than 15
years in jail. (**)

Troops sent to follow up on government commitment in Poso

October 31, 2006

Andi Hajramurni and Ruslan Sangaji, The Jakarta Post, Makassar, Poso

Troops were sent to Poso on Monday, one day after Vice President Jusuf Kalla and religious leaders here drew up a list of government steps to ensure peace in the Central Sulawesi regency.

 The troops were assigned to help rebuild homes and repair infrastructure damaged in the communal bloodshed of 2000 and 2001.

 Economic recovery was one of three goals agreed to in meetings between Kalla and religious leaders late Sunday.

 The other two priorities were law enforcement, and a commitment to investigate a police killing. In that incident, on Oct. 22, police shot and killed a man and injured a toddler, saying they were looking for terrorists.

 The head of the Wirabuana territorial command, Maj. Gen. Arief Budi Sampurno, said Monday that the troops would work for up to four months to build some 1,000 temporary homes for returning refugees,
as well as mosques and churches across 68 villages in Poso.

 The troops would not attempt to impose order, Arief said. “I entrust security to the people and troops who are already in the area.” 

 He added that soldiers would build a bridge and a 65-kilometer road to open access to and from the Badak village in the mountainous Tentena district. The area, known for its vanilla production, has been isolated for decades.

 Thousands were displac-ed and some 1,000 killed in the conflict, which followed more extensive bloodshed between Christians and Muslims in Maluku province.

 On Sunday, religious leaders stressed that relations between Christians and Muslims were back to normal. But the leaders, whom Kalla met separately until almost midnight Sunday, remain divided over whether police should be withdrawn from the region.

 Muslims and Christians both said any current conflict in the community is with the security forces.   Only Muslims have called for the withdrawal of the police, however, saying they have incited recent violence.

The government has said the forces are still needed to safeguard the area.

 Meanwhile, South Sulawesi police said 16 people were arrested in Makassar for attempting to terrorize people late Saturday and Sunday, when mobs set to fire three homes and vandalized a car.

 Senr. Commr. Genot Haryanto, the police chief of Pare-pare regency, said the 16 men had admitted to roles in the acts. Genot said they acknowledged the crimes were committed “in solidarity” for two men kidnapped and murdered in Poso, following the execution of three Christians charged with masterminding a 2000 massacre.

 Genot said the suspects would be charged under the anti-terror law.

Regulators to impose rules on premium text-messaging services

October 31, 2006

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indah Juwita, 16, was thrilled when she received a text message from her favorite actress, Ririn Dwi Arianti, just after she registered with a text-a-celebrity service operated by a content provider.

 The excitement did not last long, however. Indah never received another message from Ririn and when she tried to say “hi” to another idol, she was sent exactly the same message, only under a different name.
 She knew she had been conned.

 Indah is not the only disgruntled victim. In fact, thousands of angry texters have filed complaints with the Indonesian Telecommunications Regulatory Board (IBRT).

 Premium text services charge much higher tariffs than the normal text-message service.

 “Many customers complain that they cannot deregister, which means that they keep receiving messages, which in turn eats up their phone credit. Others complain that they never received what was advertised in the commercials,” IBRT member Heri Sutadi said.

 Against this backdrop, he explained, the telecoms regulator is mulling a set of rules for content providers that offer premium text services. “We realize that it is a big industry. That’s why it needs specific regulation,” Heri said.

 Based on IBRT figures, there are about 300 content providers offering premium text services, with charges ranging from Rp 2,000 (US$0.22) for a horoscope, news updates and celebrity gossip, to Rp 10,000 for music and game downloads. 

 Some 200,000 to 300,000 people access such services every day.

 Under the planned new rules, all providers will have to be fully accountable for the services they provide, and furnish all the information needed by customers.

 “Firstly, each time a customer signs up for a service, the provider must give him information on what the service is all about, how to use it and how to deregister,” Heri said, adding that each provider would also be encouraged to set up a customer information center.

 At present, many of the content providers do not even have fixed-line numbers that can be contacted to get information about the services they provide.

 “Not complying with the new regulations could result in suspension, or a total ban on their operations,” Heri said.

 Meanwhile, Indonesian Consumers Foundation (YLKI) director Huzna Zahir has urged the IBRT to lay down rules protecting a consumer’s right to withdraw from such services.

 “Many customers face difficulties deregistering as they have to go through various stages before they are finally in the clear. But meanwhile, the operator keeps on charging them,” Huzna said.

 Leoni Rahmawati, an officer with one of the content providers, PT Star Media, argued that running this kind of business was not an easy task as the company had to deal with the inevitable technical errors in its computer system.

 “Sometimes, we get so many customers accessing our services that have no option but to send out the same messages more than once,” said Leoni, who is in charge of the “star” horoscope division, which serves about 3,500 customers a day. (09)

Suciwati demands Garuda disclose Munir documents

October 31, 2006

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The widow of murdered activist Munir and her lawyers pressed national flagship airline Garuda on Monday to hand over documents they say could lead to his killers.

 Suciwati, with help from the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), is suing Garuda for “negligence” leading to the September 2004 death of Munir Said Thalib.

 “We will stick to our beliefs and not let the voice of justice down. We refuse to promote harmony unless Garuda hands us the documents related to the murder,” said Choirul Anam, Suciwati’s legal advisor.

 The session was adjourned until Nov. 29, to give the plaintiff and the accused time to find an amicable solution. The court ordered both parties to go through mediation. The trial will be resumed if they fail to reach an agreement.

 Garuda’s lawyer, Moh. Assegaf, said mediation was only a means of appeasing both sides.

 “Giving over the documents is out of the question because this case is a civil case. The real question is whether Garuda, including its crew and management, had any reason to let the activist die,” he told The Jakarta Post.

 Choirul said the group would ask for assistance from the Geneva-based International Air Transport Association (IATA).

He said the organization had handled similar cases for other carriers.

 Suciwati also demanded that the financially ailing airline pay a total of Rp 13.7 billion (US$1.5 million) in compensation for her husband’s death, including Rp 4.7 billion in material losses and Rp 9 billion in nonmaterial losses.

 Off-duty Garuda pilot Pollycarpus Budihari Priyanto was sentenced to 14 years in jail for helping to deliver a fatal dose of poison to Munir on his flight to Amsterdam. But the Supreme Court quashed the conviction and his sentenced was reduced to two years for falsifying travel documents.

 Activists have alleged that the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) was behind the plot, but BIN leaders have denied any involvement.  

 On Saturday, Suciwati and the rights groups demanded that the UN become involved in the probe, saying special rapporteur Philip Alston had offered his assistance. She wants the Indonesian government to grant formal approval for his involvement in the probe.

 Foreign Ministry director general for multilateral affairs Moh. Slamet Hidayat, however, rejected the idea of the UN joining the investigation.

 “First, we are still investigating the case. Second, we have the authority to reject any request by a special rapporteur to visit Indonesia. And third, we have plans to host three special rapporteurs this year and next year, excluding Alston,” he told the Post.

 He said the Munir case had not ruined Indonesia’s image as many have feared, adding that during the recent meeting of the UN General Assembly on social affairs and human rights, no countries mentioned human rights problems in Indonesia or the Munir case. (03)

Bayan celebrates Idul Fitri at historic mosque

October 31, 2006

Panca Nugraha, The Jakarta Post, Mataram

The residents of Bayan village in West Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara, have celebrated Lebaran Adat, or traditional Idul Fitri, at the historic Bayan Beleq mosque for centuries. 

 This year villagers busily prepared food for the Friday celebration at the house of Raden Gedarip, a cultural leader in Karang Salah hamlet.

 Men made ancak, or bamboo sticks interwoven with banana leaves and filled with rice and dried foods, while women cooked at a separate location.

 “We are celebrating the traditional Idul Fitri, which we call Selamet Lebaran Tinggi, today. This tradition has been passed down by the Bayan community through generations, especially among followers of the Wetutelu beliefs,” said Raden Gedarip on Friday.

 The Bayan community also celebrates Idul Fitri like other Muslims. Gedarip said Idul Fitri is called Lebaran Agama, while Lebaran Adat is carried out to strengthen it.

 What makes it unique is that religious and cultural leaders in Bayan also perform the Idul Fitri prayer during Lebaran Adat, three days after Idul Fitri. The ceremony is held at the historic mosque, believed to be the first mosque on the island, dating back to the arrival of Islam in the early 17th century.

 “The Lebaran Tinggi celebration is held after the Idul Fitri and Friday prayers at the traditional leader’s house and the old mosque,” said Gedarip.

 The atmosphere at the traditional leader’s house, called kampu, was as lively as that at the mosque. On the eve of Idul Fitri, as many as 44 traditional and religious elders stayed overnight at the mosque to recite the Koran and distribute fitrah, or tithes, to the poor.

 After the ancak and food were prepared, about 10 people carried them to the Bayan Beleq mosque in the evening.

 The Bayan community holds its historic customs in high esteem. They wear traditional clothing to enter the mosque. Religious elders wear white shirts, sarongs and a head band called udeng, and those following the ancak procession wear sarongs and udeng, leaving their chests bare.

 The ancak were presented to the village elders, and then a traditional leader presided over the meal. The gathering then prayed together, asking for blessings and protection from God.

 “We brought back the remaining food from the ancak to the kampu to be eaten together. We believe eating it will bring miracles to cure illnesses,” said a local villager, Budiyanto.

 A cheerful atmosphere reigned during the feast at the kampu.

 Budiyanto said many people from outside Bayan also came to fulfill their vows. Some had promised to visit the mosque if their businesses succeeded; others sought cures for their illnesses.

 “You can believe it or not, but in reality many (cures) have turned out to be true,” he said.

 The Bayan Beleq mosque is located some 80 kilometers north of Mataram.

 Though the building is hundreds of years old, its shape and layout are preserved. The 10 meter by 10 meter mosque is made of wood, with woven bamboo walls, a thatched roof and a floor of bare earth. A 1.5-meter long drum sits inside the mosque.

 “The mosque is only used during traditional occasions, such as Lebaran Adat and Maulid Adat. The community uses the common mosque every day,” said the caretaker of the mosque, Raden Kertamurti.

Govt urged to reap economic gains, boost leverage from China ties

October 31, 2006

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Lawmakers and businesspeople are urging the Indonesian government to come up with a practical strategy to reap full economic and diplomatic benefits from its relationship with China.

 A member of House of Representatives Commission XI overseeing financial affairs, Dradjad Wibowo, said relations with China promised huge benefits for Indonesia, but the country was ill-prepared to realize them.

 “China has a huge economy and market for us. Besides being in dire need of natural resources and energy to support its economy, the country is also hungry for almost any other product, including fertilizer for its agricultural sector,” he told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

 “However, we don’t have the capacity to fill the market with our products. The free trade agreement will only benefit China and other ASEAN countries that have that capacity.”

 China hosted leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Nanning on Monday to commemorate 15 years of relations and to affirm ties for the future.

 They are renewing their commitment to establish a China-ASEAN Free Trade Area by 2010. The trade zone would have a combined population of nearly two billion and a gross domestic product of over US$2 trillion.

 Dradjad, who represents the National Mandate Party (PAN), argued that while Indonesia had achieved a surplus in its bilateral trade with China, it needed to diversify its exports to rely less on natural resources, oil and gas.

 “Our exports to China mostly benefit a few people who have a lot of capital, including businesspeople in the natural resources and energy sectors. We have many other labor-intensive industries such as fertilizer, metal, pulp and paper, and furniture that should be upgraded so that we can compete internationally and export the finished goods to China,” he said.  

 Dradjad said the government should help industry cope with current trade conditions. He argued Indonesia had all the raw materials needed to support industry, but China had flooded Indonesia with cheap furniture and metal products that threatened domestic businesspeople.

 Businessman Anton J. Supit agreed businesses here have struggled to compete internationally. He said Indonesia must analyze the Chinese market and apply specific strategies to penetrate it as well as to attract investments.

 “We need to produce goods that are complementary, not competitive, with China’s products, such as rubber, palm oil, agricultural products, and fish, and boost our tourism industry, since many Chinese are eager to visit Indonesia,” Anton, one of the chairpersons of the Association of Indonesian Employers, told the Post.    

 While he concurred that Indonesia could gain huge trade benefits from China, Amris Hassan, a member of House Commission I on security and international affairs, said the Chinese government and business sector had also showed considerable interest in investing in Indonesia.

 “China is more aware of the historical attachment than we are. They really want to make big investments here to maintain and increase the ties. However, we are the ones who are not ready to receive those investments,” he said.     

 Dradjad added that China could be a huge investor in Indonesia with its mammoth foreign exchange reserves of more than US$900 billion.

 Amris said close relations with China were the only balancing move left against the U.S.-Japan alliance.

 “China is the biggest country in East Asia while Indonesia has the largest economy in Southeast Asia. I think we will raise our leverage against the U.S. and Japan if we foster closer ties with China,”
he said.

 Dradjad said this leverage could be used, for instance, to renegotiate Indonesia’s debt with Japan, which has grown to more than $25 billion or one-third of Indonesia’s total debt. He said Japan now felt threatened by China’s rising economic power.