Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Future of Nuclear Energy in Indonesia

Indonesia has substantial natural resources in the world, including potential area of various energy and mineral resources. These natural resources, including tin, nickel, copper, gold, oil, gas, coal and other minerals have sustained important role to the national economy. (Reuters Photo/Regis Duvignau)

Indonesia has substantial natural resources in the world, including potential area of various energy and mineral resources. These natural resources, including tin, nickel, copper, gold, oil, gas, coal and other minerals have sustained important role to the national economy.

Most of the Indonesian territories have not been explored thoroughly due to a lack of infrastructure and therefore the requirements to discover new reliable energy and mineral deposits is likely to be significant. However, fossil fuels are still the leading source of energy and primary source of export income of the last few decades, thus it may bring a rapid depletion in the near future.

Among those energy and mineral resources, many are considered non-renewable resources in that their use is not sustainable. Therefore, their utilization involve a proper strategy and they could be continuously beneficial both domestically and internationally and for the future generations as well. Additionally, natural resource exploitation is creating damage in the environment, properly defining regulations regarding to this concern are urgently needed to maintain such negative impact to a minimum scale. More resources should be provided to encompass this issue.

One of the other important energy source in Indonesia is uranium, in which it is the largest producer of the Asia’s reserves. Indonesia also has an adequate of experience and infrastructure in nuclear technology research and development. By considering the natural resource reserves, the application of uranium in nuclear power plants will operate with a more powerful and environment friendly energy source. The vision to have a nuclear power plant is to promote fossil fuels for export commodities. Nuclear energy itself represents the strength of the industry with its optimizing advantages and as a future prospective in electricity demand.

Considerations for future nuclear energy.

Nuclear solution is going to become a role model and more beneficial in the future of worldwide power manufacturing. The critical aspects are numerous, somehow it could be pointed out by the efficient and reliable power production with minimum disposal. In fact, nuclear energy will offer a massive quantity of reliable electricity production at a relatively low cost. The US, UK, China, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine are developing major nuclear energy sources.

The basic scientific process in a nuclear power plant is actually very understandable and logical. Nuclear power plants utilize raw uranium to supply or fuel a reactor in the nuclear industrial process. The fundamental process is that the uranium will be compressed, since it is a radioactive element and unstable and consistently discharges subatomic particles causing a chain reaction in the reactor. The reaction process is rapid and will generate the amounts of heat, evaporating the water into steam, thus rotating the turbines and producing work (in terms of torque) from the shaft connected to the generator for electricity conversion.

Nowadays, the recent issue of how further global warming could be prevented or at least reduced, has been a primary concern for the government. Nuclear power production generates relatively low amounts of carbon dioxide during process and it is capable to produce a massive amount of electrical energy. This possibility also does not go without having substantial disadvantages and risks associated with nuclear power production. Some hesitations still exist, such as the extremely hazardous waste from the nuclear power plant and must be conscientiously monitored. Uranium is a non-renewable energy resource, its supply is estimated to last only for the next decades and could not be recreate in lifetimes. However, nuclear power plant is very complicated to construct and operate. Numerous scientists and engineers are needed to develop a safe and reliable nuclear power plant. This stipulation is important due to the nuclear accident with harmful impacts on humans and environment. Radioactive waste is extremely toxic, causing some serious medical attentions, even small radiation leaks could cause devastating effects such as risk for cancer, blood diseases, and bone damages.

History of nuclear power in Indonesia

Nuclear technology in Indonesia is not a fast-growth process and less significant of attention from the government, compared to the other energy resources, especially Natuna gas field (discovered in 1950s). Even though the research and development on atomic energy also began in 1950s period. In the long and slow progress, the government eventually announced at least four nuclear power plants have been built until 2025, with the total capacity to be at least 4,000 MW of electricity. However, the development of this nuclear technology in Indonesia was not as expected. Protests against these power plants embarked in 2007, thus postponing again the advancement of nuclear technology.

In the long run of mid-2014, the Indonesian government in collaboration with Russia confirmed that they were scheming to construct a 30 MW reactor (Indonesia's first nuclear power plant). However, the government should put an enthusiast interests on advancing nuclear technology and remains more directly involved in the development of civil use of nuclear power. The government has a major impact on the growth of nuclear power plant and specific responsibilities of relevance to policymakers, funding issues, as well as the support for research and developments to facilitate its development.

Indonesia and nuclear future energy

Above perspectives have entail a new aspect and consideration for nuclear power today in Indonesia. The author believe that the nuclear option should be endorsed because it is a carbon-free energy source that can potentially become a future prospective in the electricity demand. To explore the issue of nuclear future energy in Indonesia, the outlook in Indonesia requires three important scenarios: 1) This nuclear power expansion requires some internal understanding of the development in nuclear science and technology through research and development. 2) A critical factor for the future of nuclear energy is the stability governance both economically and politically to embody a nuclear future. Nuclear technology has higher overall lifetime costs and it will require a tremendous financial effort. To preserve the nuclear future, many attempts are required through government involvement in safety as a vital aspect, waste concern, and good internal proliferation in structurally to appreciate the possibility of technology to growth. 3) Public acceptance and education for the development in nuclear technology are the main issues to emphasize that come to pass controversial among the public.

While Indonesia has massive renewable energy sources, it is still insufficient to meet the energy supply of its capacity of the population. Today, Indonesia is far from reliable to implement this technology. However, nuclear power plant is typically regarded as a long-term project for designing, implementing and decommissioning. Since Indonesia is endowed with this scarce resource (uranium) well spread across its geographical area, a political decision should be pursued to go nuclear with the availability of human resources -- both domestically and internationally -- and good cooperation to the vendors.


Rando Tungga Dewa is a PhD. Scholar at the Department of Mechanical Design Engineering, Pukyong National University, Republic of Korea.


South Korea to risk public wrath by reigniting talks on sharing military intelligence with former colonial ruler

South Korea to risk public wrath by reigniting talks on sharing military intelligence with former colonial ruler

South Korea and Japan are to resume official discussions on a military intelligence sharing pact in order to jointly face up to North Korea, a Seoul official said Thursday.

The two sides were forced to abandon their General Security of Military Information Agreement in 2012 under the weight of public pressure in South Korea -- where there remains wariness over a number of issues stemming from Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga plainly admitted Thursday that Tokyo wishes to bolster relations -- both countries are already tied militarily to the United States.

“In terms of Japan-South Korea cooperation, we wish for further promotion of security-related cooperation,” Suga said.

But a government official in Seoul insisted that they will soon hold a working-level meeting to reopen talks on sharing military intelligence.

“South Korea cannot postpone the exchange of military intelligence on the North's nuclear and missile developments any longer at a time the North has mounted its growing military threats,” the official revealed according to local news agency Yonhap.

One of the major stumbling blocks back in 2012 was the suspicion in the South that Seoul was secretly pushing ahead with an agreement at a time when trust in Tokyo was particularly low.

The current Park Geun-hye administration may hope that the situation will have calmed since last year’s so-called “comfort women deal” to compensate now elderly South Korean women forced into sexual slavery during the Japanese colonial era -- although the deal is viewed as insufficient by some surviving victims and critics, and Park is also under heavy pressure at home after leaking presidential drafts in order to seek advice from an unofficial aide.

Anadolu Agency  By Alex Jensen


Comparing post-war politics in Nepal and Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, former president Mahinda Rajapaksa’s ten years in office came to a sudden end last year with a defeat in both presidential and parliamentary elections. Nepal’s previous prime minister K. P. Sharma Oli’s Communist Party of Nepal led government was also forced out in May 2016 and replaced by the Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal or ‘Prachanda’. The latter now heads a new coalition with the Nepali Congress and Madhesi parties based along the southern border with India.

Both these newly elected governments are struggling to craft new constitutional agreements. In Nepal, Prachanda is seeking to amend the 2015 constitution to appease Madhesi demands. In Sri Lanka, the government is hurriedly drawing up a new constitution, which it plans to finalise before the end of the year and put to a public vote in 2017. This is a high stakes game, with the future character of the state and its administrative arrangements up for grabs.

At one level this is a struggle involving elected politicians and lawyers to ensure a fair and legal division of powers and representation. But beneath the formal structures and official debates is a multi-layered struggle involving networks of actors animated by the drive to capture, control and distribute power and resources. New political elites jostle with older established elites in order to gain access to power and resources. In other words, constitutional reform has as much to do with extending patronage networks as democratising the state.

These tensions have a strong spatial dimension, as claim-making from the periphery intersects with patronage politics at the centre. For political parties that have emerged from the state periphery, entering mainstream party politics has been a disorientating experience. Clear cut narratives of the ‘centre against the periphery’ and friend–foe distinctions of ‘justice-seeking rebels’ have been replaced by the murky worlds of political coalitions, alliance making and ‘dirty’ patronage politics. Both Maoists in Nepal and ex-LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) aligned nationalists in Sri Lanka have found that in renouncing violence and entering debates on constitutional reforms, they have been unavoidably sucked into the deal making of ‘normal politics’.

This new cartography of power is much harder to navigate than the old wartime landscape. The new politics involves surprising alliances, hybrid institutional arrangements and blurred zones — all of which creates a promising environment for middlemen or brokers who are able to navigate it, find new pathways and make new connections. During periods of rupture or flux, these fixers can jump the synapses between political networks and parties to form surprising alliances and policy positions.

Muslim politicians in Eastern Sri Lanka, for example, have sought to balance the demands of their constituents in the periphery against the need to extract resources from the centre. Madhesi political leaders in Nepal have both engaged with and challenged the central government, tapping into state power by joining mainstream parties only to switch allegiances and orchestrate violent protests at the border.

Post-war transitions have led to a re-spatialisation of power. Constitutional talks bring into sharp focus these tensions between centripetal forces of state building and centralised patronage, and centrifugal political forces of rebel governance and minority claim-making. These centre–periphery dynamics are made visible in multiple ways — for example, through the creation in Sri Lanka of a constitutional sub-committee for centre–periphery relations, or in Nepal in the initiation of border development programmes in the Tarai.

New patterns of claim-making from the margins in turn impacts central government agendas. In Nepal, since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2006, marginalised tribal groups (the janajati) and Madhesi parties have played a decisive role in politics. In Eastern Sri Lanka, the leading Muslim party — the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress — is being confronted by a more assertive regional identity movement called ‘the Rise of the East’. In Northern Sri Lanka, new groups such as the Tamil People’s Council are drawing attention to a range of issues they feel are neglected in public debate about the new constitution, such as ongoing state-sponsored ‘colonisation’ of the North, war crimes, and the need for a federal solution.

There is also an important international dimension to this scalar manoeuvring. India’s backing of Madhesi demands was instrumental in the party’s successful inception of power at the centre, while China’s support undergirded the Rajapaksa government’s war-time and post-war strategy. Yet these international forces and the domestic responses to them are continually shifting. Both the new Prachanda-led government in Nepal and Sirisena’s government in Sri Lanka are now seeking to distance themselves from previous regimes’ over-reliance on China.

Despite these international pressures, what sets Nepal and Sri Lanka apart from many other countries is that their post-war transitions have been primarily domestic affairs. To a large extent, political leaders have successfully kept the international peacebuilding industry at bay. This has helped create the space for vibrant, contentious and unpredictable political encounters between centres and peripheries in the two countries.

Jonathan Goodhand is a Professor in Conflict and Development Studies at the SOAS South Asia Institute, University of London. Oliver Walton is a Lecturer in International Development at the University of Bath.

This article is based on research conducted as part of a 2-year ESRC-funded research project ‘Borderlands, Brokers and Peacebuilding in Nepal and Sri Lanka: War to Peace Transitions viewed from the Margins’


Thailand’s black hole: a Deleuzian take

Thailand’s black hole: a Deleuzian take

As everything fades to black after the death of King Bhumibol, lets examine the link between mourning and micro-fascisms in Thailand.

In the wake of King Bhumbiol Adulaydej’s death on 13 October, Thailand’s people were called upon to wear black to commemorate the late monarch

Now, people are being attacked because they are not wearing the colour, or wearing enough of it! This is despite the fact that many of the poor, especially since the military coup, cannot afford to buy black t-shirts at Baht 350-600 – let alone enough for a whole year.

The so-called “Justice” Minister (General) Paiboon Khumchaya has indirectly called for socially sanctioned attacks (or “lynch mobs”) against those suspected of being even remotely “anti-monarch”, even if they are living overseas. Meanwhile, gangs attack people not considered to be wearing black, or those who dare not show the mandatory mourning.

Police stand by and do nothing, or worse, comply with the thugs’ demands because their bosses are part of that same reactionary clique.

The current witch-hunts go far beyond customary notions of communal grieving.  People have been arrested for innocuous Facebook comments at the instigation of salim or “yellow-shirt” fanatics, who go on harassing people in their homes, or on the street, and elsewhere. This mass hysteria is simply part of the continuing divisiveness and hatred that has been sown into the Thai social fabric by these same self-serving elite interests.

The end is surely a Deleuzian black hole. And, like black holes generally, their nature is obscure, and we are completely shut out; we don’t know what goes on inside, maybe it even forgets its past, or preserves something of its progenitor for the future. At best, we can only speculate in a kind of quantum mechanics of Thai elite power and the charge and spin of its micro-politics.

The late French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) may have interpreted the situation in Thailand today as micro-fascisms that emerge in various segments of social life, connecting themselves into a “primary source” (which in recent years has been the desperate rear-guard action by the ruling classes to protect their interests).

The power of a macro-fascist state generates micro-transformations with the knock on flows suffusing all elements of social and cultural life. Disciplinary societies operate on the principle of moulds and enclosures, such as at schools, workplaces, and barracks, where a set model is imposed upon those who are enclosed within the system.

The rapid growth of Deleuzian micro-fascisms refers to a field of destructive, authoritarian impulses that permeates modern capitalist society. In the case of Thailand, this can be seen in its totalitarian conservatism, and attempts to seal all possible alternative “lines of flight” – or infinitesimal possibility of escape or moment of change.

But, today Thailand is dangerously close to centralised state organised (capital “F”) fascism as a realised nihilism (or the complete denial of all authority and institutions). Using the forces of the “war machine”, which are now constructed on an intense line of flight, it is creating  a “line of pure destruction and abolition” (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus).

The profound divide in Thai society has been carefully manufactured under the aegis of a royalist military regime solely for its own purposes. Over 60 years, it has created a proliferation of molecular “micro-black holes” that are so entrenched that individuals see only the illusion, which is nourished and fed by its sophisticated propaganda machine that continually articulates present events and inscribes what the future will look like. In Thailand, micro-fascisms permeate and take hold through the military because there was already in place the appropriate micro-organisations (that is, an authoritarian state apparatus and its non-state actors), penetrating every social cell; at times as a cultivated hysteria around the manufactured illusion of a monarchy and of progress, which we call Thai history.

An important question for Thailand (noted in Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia) is in the context of this micro-politics and desiring. It’s related to the way desire then produces the rules, whereby citizens, subject to an all-encompassing and persisting propaganda, feel everyone should follow (for example an all defining statement: “we [must all show] love [for] the king”; “we [must all] wear black”). As a micro-fascism this is an attempt to impose desire on others, where there is no way out — except the mental institution (where the inmate is perpetually judged, threatened, and corrected [see Foucault’s Madness and Civilization]).

This scenario may enable the emergence of a state fascism through an all-embracing political homogeneity and an ultimately “suicidal” condition. In a nutshell, a Deleuzian collective “black hole”, where seemingly all things moral, free and just are obliterated. Here information is not lost, it is just inaccessible.  Indeed, I’d say right now Thailand has a lot to grieve.

Dr James L Taylor is Adjunct Associate Professor, Anthropology & Development Studies, University of Adelaide.


China, Israel, and a return to the cloverleaf world

Counter-terror expert and senior editor of GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, Yossef Bodansky, wrote an insightful article in their September issue regarding the convergence of China’s Afro-Eurasian integration project and Bunting’s map of the world as a clover leaf.

Heinrich Bunting was a German Protestant pastor, theologist and cartographer, and in his masterpiece Itinerarium Sacrae Scripturae (Travel Through Holy Scripture) in 1581, he portrayed the world that mattered was comprised of the three continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa, with each depicted as a cloverleaf.  They converged in Jerusalem, and the rest of the world was irrelevant.

In his article entitled “The History of What’s Next,” Bodansky argued that the Bunting map is likely the best depiction of the unfolding global geopolitical architecture of the 21st century.  With the post-Arab spring weakening of the Arab modern state such as Libya, Iraq and Syria, with Lebanon, Jordan and Yemen at risk of also becoming failing states, what is arising is the merging of the greater Middle East and the greater framework of the reawakened Mackinderian world order

Bottom of Form

And, the clover leaf world centered on Jerusalem is converging with China’s silk road integration project.

Silk road meets clover leaf in Jerusalem

With the rise of Salafi-jihadism in the Middle East increasingly threatening China’s overseas citizens and assets, especially to their maritime trade via the Suez Canal, Israel is emerging as a strategic node on China’s southern corridor on the New Silk Road.

Traditionally China has depended on the Suez Canal to reach its largest export market in Europe—with trade volume at €521 billion in 2015. However, the presence of ISIS, Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups in the Sinai are threatening China’s maritime trade. With over 95% of global trade being seaborne and China now as the world’s largest trading state, this is a challenge for Beijing’s continued economic development.

As such, China is building a “steel canal” of the Med-Red Railway through Israel to connect the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea that bypasses the Suez. In turn, the rise of Israel as a key node in China’s Silk Road grand strategy elevates Jerusalem in China’s strategic calculus, and as Jean Michel Valantin of The Red Team Analysis Society argued, also presents a potential new status of Israel from a “protected power” of the US to an “integrated regional power”, transforming Israel’s traditional narrative of seeking “protectors” to one of seeking partners.

The emergence of Israel as a Mediterranean energy player, its continued stability, robust military especially naval power in a neighborhood of unstable and weakening Arab states, and outreach to the eastern hemisphere by joining Turkey, Egypt and Syria to partner with the China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization, is thus slowly creating a new regional and international systems of shared interest between Mideast countries and the Middle Kingdom.

China becomes a Mid-East player

With all eyes focused on the US-Russia standoff in Syria, there exists a blind spot regarding the emergence of the Chinese dragon in the Mediterranean Sea. China is poised to become an important player in the Mideast security scene, and is already asserting its role as a potential conflict mediator in the region following its participation in the P5+1 deal with Iran and now its present role in the Syrian crisis.

For a start, Beijing has a unique role in the current Saudi-Iran tension over Syria, given its “cleaner” scorecard than other permanent members of the UN Security Council. The US is seen as being pro-Israel and pro- Saudi, Russia is perceived to be backing Iran and Shia Muslims with its military operations in Syria, and Europe has colonial baggage in the Mideast region.

In contrast, China enjoys good relations with both Iran and Saudi Arabia—the largest crude oil supplier to China—as well as good relations with Israel. In fact, China contributed 1,000 peacekeeping troops in UNIFIL in Lebanon after the 2006 war at the request of Israel, given the Jewish state did not want Arab troops and requested Asian troops from China, South Korea, India, Malaysia that were viewed as more neutral in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Moreover, at a September conference at IDC Herzliya on Israel’s China policy, some Israeli officials envision Beijing could play a role in pushing Jerusalem’s Arab neighbors toward peace, by virtue of its increasing economic and diplomatic presence in the region. Capt. Yigal Maor, director general of the Transportation Ministry’s Administration of Shipping and Ports, believes if China can invest in what he dubbed the Israel Gulf Economic Corridor (IGEC) that encompasses linking infrastructure projects in the Arab Gulf region with Israel and Jordan to transship Chinese goods, this could push Gulf countries into more formal ties with Israel.

Also, countries in the Eastern Mediterranean likely see the China-led Eurasian security bloc as a more effective anti-terror coalition to counter ISIS, Al Qaeda and other Salafi terrorist groups, while the US-led coalition is perceived to have a regime-change objective by supporting al Qaeda laced Salafist groups to overthrow secular governments considered unfriendly.

As former special operations veteran Jack Murphy revealed, CIA’s Syria Task Force and the Counterterrorist Center/Syria-Iraq (CTC/SI) remain focused on overthrowing the Assad government rather than the terrorists. Indeed, counter-terror expert and Professor at Northeastern University, Max Abrahms, notes Egypt’s President Sisi likely fears he is next in line for regime change after US removes President Assad, and is now forging bilateral counter-terrorism ties with Damascus.

If Israel and Egypt could somehow balance their status as traditional US “protectorates” with their emerging trajectory as “regional powers” with additional partners, and take stock not only of US interests but also legitimate interests of new Mideast actors such as China and Russia, it could perhaps help manage regional transition and maintain relative stability as the greater middle east continues merging with China’s Afro-Eurasian integration project.  And along with this, perhaps a resurrection of Bunting’s Clover leaf world and a return to history.

Asia Times

China to Indonesia: Thanks For All the Fish

Indonesia has been trying to realize its Global Maritime Fulcrum vision, China just undercut it

Over the weekend, Chinese coast guard vessels brazenly reclaimed a Chinese fishing boat being towed by Indonesian maritime authorities after it was caught illegally fishing in Indonesian waters. The incident occurred around Indonesia’s Natuna Islands in waters that conveniently overlap with China’s infamous nine-dashed line area. Despite being inside Indonesian territorial waters, the particular seas in question are claimed by the Chinese as “traditional fishing waters.” It’s the first high-profile confrontation between an increasingly assertive China and Southeast Asia’s largest state, a non-claimant in previous South China Sea disputes.

This is a calculated escalation by China which has aggravated Southeast Asian states one by one over the course of a few years, starting with the Philippines and Scarborough Shoal followed by Vietnam and the CNOOC oil rig (not once but twice). Just last week the Malaysian defense minister publicly called for consultations with regional states to discuss China’s potential militarization of parts of the South China Sea. Nerves are being frayed. This week’s snatch-and-grab away from Indonesian law enforcement reflects the way China sees the region and is a taste of how it will  treat even the best of its Southeast Asian partners.

The incident complicates Indonesia’s long-held nonaligned stance in which it has carefully maintained the semblance of good relations with both China and the United States. On closer inspection, there is a qualitative difference between Indonesia’s security relationships with China and the United States. Cooperation with the United States is far more established and covers a greater number and variety of activities than activities with China. This latest incident could result in a turn toward even greater depth in that longstanding relationship, particularly in the maritime domain. But more importantly, this is an opportunity for Indonesia to now actively lobby other Indo-Pacific states — in particular Japan, India and Australia — to work together in the maritime sphere.

China’s behavior undercuts the Indonesian president’s Global Maritime Fulcrum vision. This concept positions sovereignty front and center, and has the eradication of illegal fishing as a core domestic element. Despite wanting to keep good relations with China and investment flowing into the country, Indonesia can’t afford to sweep this incident under the rug. China’s “liberation” of its vessel from Indonesian law enforcement, in Indonesian waters, shows flagrant disregard for Indonesia’s sovereignty. It would be an error for President Joko Widodo to let this pass without some sort of reaction, lest he appear weak or his fulcrum concept full of contradictions. Jokowi must stand his ground. In the past he has shown his resolve by mandating the destruction of foreign vessels caught illegally fishing. But, staying silent in this case will be a sign that his administration is willing to tolerate sovereignty violations when the going gets tough.

This incident is sure to rattle Indonesian military officials, who have obliquely expressed concern in the past about China’s encroachment in territorial waters. Statements about upgrading Indonesian bases in more remote parts of the archipelago and locating a squadron of helicopters near Natuna (more symbolic than material) are a response to the perceived threat of Chinese incursions. In the past, senior political figures like the president and defense minister were more circumspect, wanting to avoid military exercises that could trigger instability. Things could get a bit noisier now that there’s cause for action. With a chief of defense force who is acutely sensitive to matters of sovereignty as well, it would be a good time for Jakarta to focus on upgrades to its navy and air force as part of ongoing modernization plans. On the civilian side, the coast guard is in desperate need of the patrol vessels promised to it by the Indonesian Navy.

It’s not just for domestic reasons that Jokowi has to show real grit with China. The rest of Southeast Asia is watching. It has been a shame that Jokowi has been less engaged with ASEAN and focused primarily on domestic issues. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi is also a different actor to her predecessor Marty Natalegawa whose style of active shuttle diplomacy found a home in ASEAN. But nevertheless, Indonesia must lead in ASEAN; no other state in Southeast Asia has the size or gravitas to step up and take charge. It’s therefore up to Jokowi to not only strengthen his own maritime hand, but also help steer ASEAN towards a swifter conclusion of the Code of Conduct with Beijing in the South China Sea. In material terms, it might not hold the Chinese at bay, but revitalizing ASEAN’s consensus-based spirit is a way of rallying the troops for the longer fight. And rally they must, for we have only seen the beginning.


Natalie Sambhi is a Research Fellow at the Perth USAsia Centre where she focuses on Indonesian foreign and defense policy. She is also host of Sea Control: Asia Pacific, a podcast series by the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC).




Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Behind the Beauty of Indonesia’s Raja Ampat Islands Lie Poverty and Neglect

For the month of October, people walking past Times Square in New York City will see a large billboard with a picture of Indonesia’s Raja Ampat islands, accompanied with the tagline “escape to a magical place.” But the appeal of the image hides the abject poverty of the people living on the islands.

A cluster of islands in the Bird’s Head peninsula of West Papua in Indonesia, Raja Ampat is one of the best diving spots in the world. It’s a pristine and biodiverse marine environment where you can see colorful tropical fish with the naked eye from above the water.

Formerly known as Irian Jaya, the western half of the island of Papua was claimed by Indonesia in 1961. The people of West Papua voted to become a part of Indonesia in a widely disputed plebiscite in 1969 and in 2003 the territory was divided into two provinces – West Papua and Papua. But they are generally referred to together as West Papua.

There is a pro-independence movement across Papua, especially in the highlands, and the police and military frequently crack down on separatists. But the coastal areas, including Raja Ampat, is politically stable and safe.

The islands have abundant natural beauty that make them look like an earthly paradise. But of the more than 45,000 residents, around 20 percent live below the poverty line with poor access to education, health care, and markets.

Data shows that in 2015, a household of four to five people in Raja Ampat spent an average of $65 a month on food and other consumables. That’s 10 percent higher than the national average because the cost of living on the islands is so high.

Relative isolation

It takes around eight hours to reach Raja Ampat from Indonesia’s capital Jakarta. From Jakarta, you either get a direct flight to Sorong, or have to stop in Makassar, on the island of Sulawesi between Java and Papua, and then continue the flight to Sorong, on the northwest tip of Papua.

Then you get on a ferry to Waigeo island (also known as Amberi, or Waigiu), one of the four main islands of the 1,800 that make up Raja Ampat.

Waisai, the capital of Raja Ampat, is located on Waigeo, the largest island in the group. It houses several cottages, mostly owned by local elites. Most of Raja Ampat’s government and administration activities are centered in Waisai. But the population is scattered across many islands.

For my doctoral research, I stayed on Mainyafun island, four hours by boat from Waisai, in April 2016. Mainyafun is home to 55 households, with each family having between nine and 12 members.

Like in many towns in Raja Ampat, Mainyafun doesn’t have a water treatment facility. Clean drinking water is transported from Waisai either twice a month or once every two months depending on the season. Villagers also collect rainwater for drinking. Water from the mountain is piped into the village center, but it has very high mineral content.

There’s no electricity and no phone signal. Most people refer to education as “prestigious goods,” and only study to the end of elementary school – the highest level available on the island.

To continue schooling beyond elementary level, students in Manyaifun have to go to Waisai. The journey costs $100 one way and takes four hours by fiberglass boat, often without safety equipment.

Scraping a living

Being in an area abundant with fish, most people on the island earn their living as fishers. But a lot of them still live in extreme poverty. Most families are indebted to the local mini store owner who sells staple goods.

The price for the fish they sell is so low that even if they catch ten kilograms of fish every day, they still lose money. Fishers need five liters of fuel a day to operate their small boats. But fuel is scarce and very expensive, and five liters costs $12.50.

The fishers sell to a collector in Mainyafun who processes them into salted fish. The maximum selling price in Mainyafun is$0.20 for a kilogram, so ten kilograms of fish gets around $2. After the cost of fuel, that’s a loss of $10.50.

The price of fish in Waisai is ten times higher, and it’s 20 times higher in Sorong. But fishers in Mainyafun have to sell their fish right away because there’s no electricity to power cold storage.

People need bigger boats, cheaper fuel and access to Waisai or Sorong markets to get a better price for their fish. But a decent boat with an engine that can carry a larger volume of fish costs more than $10,000, which is impossible for them to afford.

Lack of health care

There’s a small public community clinic in Manyaifun. The one doctor and four nurses who work there serve seven sub-districts scattered on neighboring islands.

Working conditions are hard. Many of their patients are the fishers who leave their house at five in the morning and return at five in the afternoon. Health workers have to be on standby all the time.

The most common issues are malaria, skin infections and respiratory diseases. Death in childbirth is common for women. Only basic and generic medicines are available in the clinic and sometimes stock is scarce.

Living on an isolated island with no phone signal jeopardizes both health workers and the people they serve. Patients needing emergency care, such as chronic malaria, often die. The only hospital with decent equipment is located in the mainland city Sorong, 135 kilometers away.

The health workers sometimes have to go to neighboring islands for health emergencies on small boats. They have to ignore the fact that sometimes the waves reach up to three meters. It’s worse if they have to go at night time because there are no modern navigation tools or any information about the expected weather.

Health workers are only able to meet their families once or twice a year. Most of them come from Sorong and South Sulawesi, which is 1,532 kilometers away. The basic salary of health workers as civil servants or contract workers is $150 a month. This is the same all over Indonesia, but that’s very small compared to the demands on the health workers on Manyaifun, who are also sometimes paid late.

Getting better services

While Indonesia promotes Raja Ampat to the world, local people and health workers feel abandoned. They rarely see government officials in their district. According to my interviews with the local doctor and nurses, bureaucrats in Waisai, especially from the health agency, don’t care about their lives, safety or emotional needs.

The local government officials I interviewed told me they tried to improve welfare by teaching people how to build homestays for tourists and how to promote them online. But locals and health workers said they had never met any official who’d visited their district.

The poverty in Raja Ampat is a reflection of the vital role of the state in the development process. Only through proper attention from the elites in Raja Ampat, and supervision from the central government, can change come to the impoverished people in the area. Until then, Indonesia may want to think twice about advertising Raja Ampat as paradise on earth.

Asmiati Malik is a doctoral researcher at University of Birmingham