Monday, August 31, 2009

Killings in Southern Thailand on the Rise

Paka Lue Song, only a 15-minute drive from the provincial capital of Pattani, is ground zero for Thailand’s “surge” of troops into its troubled southern provinces, where ethnic Malay Muslims are battling for autonomy from Thailand’s Buddhist majority.The number of Thai security forces, including the army, the police and full-time militiamen, has doubled here over the past two years to about 60,000 personnel.The huge increase in security forces initially helped bring down the overall number of violent incidents as well as the death toll, which fell by 40 percent last year.

But more recently analysts refer to another surge: the number of killings has risen sharply in recent months. More than 317 people have been killed so far this year, compared with 284 in the same period last year. The dead include civilians, soldiers and insurgents.

Mujahadeen Movement (or GMIP by its Malay acronym) and the National Revolution Front-Coordinate (BRN-C), is to cleanse the area of Buddhists, discredit the Thai government and put into place strict Islamic laws.

But their exact goals and motives are unclear. Although the groups appear to have communicated with and received financing from foreign organizations, most experts discount significant connections with other militant movements, such as Al Qaeda and the Indonesian group Jemaah Islamiyah. The movement in southern Thailand, they say, appears to be a localized struggle over territory and control overlaid with historical resentment over the domination of the Thai state.

Excerpt from Thomas Fuller article in the NY Times

600 military officers to be deployed to Freeport Mine

600 military officers will be deployed on Wednesday to guard the mining site of PT Freeport Indonesia in Tembagapura, Timika, Papua. Cendrawasih Military Commander Maj. Gen. Ahmad Yani Nasution said Monday that police had asked him to send 600 officers to Tembagapura.

Bali Updates

Om Swastiastu ...

Details are unfolding on the tragic loss of 9 lives in the sinking of a local ferry sailing from Kusamba to Nusa Penida on August 28. Captain and Port Master facing possible criminal prosecution. Details in this week's edition.

Other top news stories this week include a call from the governor to preserve the site of the former Sari Club for a park or museum; an indication that PLN electricity rates may again rise; the elimination of "poverty certificates" for Bali residents seeking free medical treatment; the introduction of new and sophisticated "biometric" identity cards for Bali residents; cooperation agreement signed between Garuda and the Indonesian Air Force; and continuing moves to "patent" Bali's cultural heritage.

In other news, Garuda hopes to raise US$400 million in its coming IPO; the Bali legislature is seeking to permanently preserve certain areas of the island as agricultural heritage sites; and transportation officials prepare additional vehicles. while Garuda adds more than 42,000 extra seats, to meet the coming Lebaran Holiday surge.

Bali was graced last week by the visit of SKAL International President Hulya Aslantas, paying homage to Bali's very successful SKAL Chapter.

Read how Bali's major export has become its young people working on foreign cruise ships.

Mark you calendar for an important exhibition of sculptures at the Ganesha Gallery in Jimbaran.

These are just some of the stories in this week's edition.

Follow me on at BaliUpdateEd

Om Çanti Çanti Çanti Om ...
Read the full report at:

Indonesian terrorist infiltrated Garuda in attack plot

A suspect wanted in connection with hotel suicide bombings in the Indonesian capital
had infiltrated the national airline in a plot to carry out a "bigger attack".

The suspect, Syahrir, had been recruited by a militant network and was working as a technician with the airline. Documents seized by police uncovered the plot to strike in Indonesia's airline sector. Syahrir had resigned from the airline, but remains at large.

Syahrir is the brother-in-law of a militant suspect shot dead by police earlier this month in an hours-long standoff in Central Java province. The suspect who was shot, Ibrohim, had been working as a florist at the two hotels for years before smuggling in explosives and the bombers for the July attacks.

Police are still searching for several suspects in the hotel bombings, including the alleged mastermind, Noordin Muhammad Top, said to head a breakaway faction of the regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Japan’s Next Prime Minister Looks to Asia (and new PM Profile)

TOKYO: Yukio Hatoyama, Japan’s next prime minister after Sunday’s elections, believes his country should shift its foreign policy and look less to the United States and more toward Asia. A center-left leader who has promised to shake up domestic politics after more than half a century of conservative rule, Hatoyama has also called for a “more equal” partnership with Washington, Tokyo’s traditional ally.

In an article published in The New York Times last week, Hatoyama launched a spirited critique of US-style capitalism and “market fundamentalism,” which he called “void of morals or moderation” and said harmed people’s lives. Not mincing his words, he predicted that “as a result of the failure of the Iraq war and the financial crisis, the era of US-led globalism is coming to an end and that we are moving toward an era of multi-polarity.”

Looking to Asia

Hatoyama, head of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), stressed that “the Japan-US security pact will continue to be the cornerstone of Japanese diplomatic policy,” just as it has been since the end of World War II. “But at the same time, we must not forget our identity as a nation located in Asia,” he wrote. “I believe that the East Asian region, which is showing increasing vitality, must be recognized as Japan’s basic sphere of being.”

Hatoyama pointed to the fast rise of China, set to eclipse Japan as the world’s number two economy, and called for the creation of an Asian community with a common currency based on the model of the European Union. For now, he said, the US dollar remains the world currency, but he hinted at a looming decline of Washington’s influence, saying only “it will remain the world’s leading military and economic power for the next two to three decades.” For observers in the US, the article was the clearest indication yet of the 62-year-old Hatoyama’s worldview, with his party expected to win in a landslide against Prime Minister Taro Aso’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Under more than a half century of Liberal Democratic Party rule, Japan has maintained close ties with the superpower that defeated it in World War II and has protected it since, now basing 47,000 troops in the country and providing a nuclear deterrence.

Emulating the US

Despite trade disputes and friction about US bases on its soil, Japan largely emulated the US free market model as it rose from the ashes of war to become Asia’s top economy, while keeping a low profile on the world stage. Under former LDP premier Junichiro Koizumi, Tokyo’s relations with Beijing badly deteriorated as he made repeated visits to a controversial Tokyo war shrine, as ties simultaneously strengthened with Washington.

Koizumi even sent non-combat troops to support US President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, the first time post-World War II officially pacifist Japan deployed soldiers to a war zone.

For years in opposition, the Democratic Party of Japan—which includes ruling party defectors and former socialists in its mixed ranks—opposed Japan’s joining “American wars” and called for a reduction of US bases on its territory. The DPJ has also said it would not renew a naval mission that has supported the US-led war in Afghanistan when its current mandate expires next year, although it welcomed the election of President Barack Obama and pointed to similarities between their Democratic parties.

Just political rhetoric

When the DPJ takes power, observers said it was unlikely to quickly or radically shift foreign policy, despite the campaign-season rhetoric, opting instead for a pragmatic approach.

Whether change is fast or gradual, Hatoyama has made it clear that he supports a fresh look at Japan’s role in a 21st century world. A key question for Japan, he wrote in The New York Times, is this: “How should Japan maintain its political and economic independence and protect its national interest when caught between the United States, which is fighting to retain its position as the world’s dominant power, and China, which is seeking ways to become dominant?”

Profile of opposition leader Yukio Hatoyama

Just like his main rival in the Japanese general election, Yukio Hatoyama is the grandson of a former prime minister and son of a former foreign minister.

Born in Tokyo in 1947, Hatoyama studied engineering at the prestigious University of Tokyo before going on to Stanford University - coincidentally where his rival in Sunday's election, the prime minister Taro Aso, also studied.

Hatoyama began his political career in 1986, when he took over the seat of his father, Ichiro Hatoyama, in Hokkaido, although heriditary seats have since become one of the first political traditions that his party has promised to eradicate after taking power.Elected to the House of Representatives, he was quickly disillusioned with the Liberal Democratic Party - although his brother, Kunio, was until recently in the cabinet.

He joined a splinter group in 1993 to set up the now-defunct New Party Sakigake. Shortly before the party was dissolved, he again jumped ship to become a founding member of the Democratic Party of Japan, acting as its president between September 1999 and December 2002.

A coalition of minor opposition parties, it was initially unable to topple the remarkably popular prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, but since his resignation has grown into a more cohesive union that has fared well in both regional and national elections in the last three years.

Ichiro Ozawa joined the party in 2003 and became leader in 2006 with the explicit aim of replacing the LDP in power. That personal ambition was thwarted in May when a funding scandle forced him to resign, leaving the way open for Hatoyama to again assume the leadership on May 16.Seen as middle of the road politically, critics have in the past derided his policies as having the consistency of ice cream that has been left in the sun. But he also has a habit of speaking his mind.

Hatoyama's key policy pledges include eradicating wasteful spending, funding the public pension system through tax revenues, raising disposable household income by 20 per cent, increasing local governments' autonomy and distancing Tokyo diplomatically and militarily from the United States.

West Papua to the next East Timor?

The Indonesian government needs to pay more attention to the province because conditions were becoming more and more precarious with a number of concerning
incidents in Papua recently, including sporadic skirmishes between unidentified armed groups and security forces, the flying of the banned flag of the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM) and indications that the movement was growing stronger after setting up headquarters in a 15-story building in Fiji.

Separatism in Papua poses greater risks than the secessionist movement in Aceh in the past, because in Aceh there had been cultural and religious affinities between insurgents and the government. What Jakarta is facing in Papua is something much different from the Aceh situation. Therefore Papua must be handled in a very special way in which many sensitive factors must be taken into account, including the polarization of international forces in the Pacific, especially in the South Pacific.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Terrorist Hambali legacy proves a challenge

THE US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) now claims that information from Indonesian terrorist leader Riduan Isamuddin led to the crackdown on a previously unknown Karachi-based Al-Qaeda cell whose members were designated as pilots for an aircraft attack in the United States. But with censors blacking out large slabs, it is difficult to determine from a recently released CIA document just what else interrogators were able to prise out of Hambali following his capture in Thailand in August 2003.

Instead, readers are left to ponder this paragraph: 'Agency senior managers believe that lives were saved as a result of the capture and interrogation of terrorists who were planning attacks, in particular Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Hambali and Al-Nashiri.'

The 110-page document was released on Monday in response to a Justice Department report that raised questions about the legality and effectiveness of the CIA's harsh interrogation methods, including water-boarding, mock executions and so-called 'hard take-downs'. According to the document, the best informant was probably 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was subjected to the near-drowning technique 183 times during the course of interrogation. That is said to have led to the arrests of Sayfullah Paracha and his son, Uzair - businessmen tasked with smuggling explosives into the US; New York-based sleeper agent Saleh Almari; and Majid Khan, an operative with easy access to the US.

So also former Osama bin Laden lieutenant Abu Zubaydah, who identified Jose Padilla and Binyam Muhammed, two operatives subsequently charged with planning to detonate a uranium-tipped dirty bomb in either Washington, DC, or New York City. While there is no mention of the methods employed, it seems clear from the context that Hambali underwent the same harsh treatment, most likely during his initial detention on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia or later at a secret prison in Jordan.

It was only in 2007 that he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where he is currently listed as one of 14 high-value detainees the Bush administration wanted to keep in US custody. The Americans resisted efforts by the Indonesian authorities to gain access to Hambali until last February, when a police colonel from the US-trained Detachment 88 counter-terrorism unit and agents from the National Intelligence Agency were permitted to see him. The meeting transpired near the time of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's first official visit to Jakarta and came soon after President Barack Obama decided to close the Guantanamo facility within a year.
Counter-terrorism sources claim Hambali, the key link man between Al-Qaeda and the Jemaah Islamiah regional terror network, made several admissions during that meeting about his role in the 2000 Christmas bombings, the 2002 Bali bombings, and the 2003 attack on Jakarta's JW Marriott Hotel.

A summary of evidence for a combatant status review tribunal says Hambali took refuge in Pakistan from February 2001, where he is also alleged to have supervised plans to bomb the US, Australian and British embassies and a mass transit station in Singapore.

Publicly, the Indonesian government must show it is trying to extradite the West Java-born native, who would probably not like anything better than a show trial in Jakarta with an uncertain outcome. But Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda has said only that the authorities will 'try their best' and another senior official has indicated the issue is complicated by the fact that Hambali was carrying a Spanish passport when he was captured.

In fact, the Indonesians have privately informed the Americans they would prefer the US to build a case of its own against him, using conspiracy laws and intelligence information that is not available to Indonesian prosecutors. That will almost certainly centre on the fact that seven Americans were among the 202 victims of the Bali bombing, and that another two were wounded in the Marriott attack that killed 12.

The first Marriott bombing was financed with US$50,000 (S$72,000), supplied at Hambali's request by Ammar Al- Baluchi, an Al-Qaeda operative who had also arranged the transfer of US$120,000 through two Dubai bank accounts to stage the 9/11 attacks.

Muhammed Farik bin Amin, another of Guantanamo's Top 14, personally couriered the money to Bangkok, where he and Malaysian militants Majid Khan and Mohammed Nazir bin Lap arranged for its transfer to Indonesia to pay for safe-houses and explosives. Much of this information was given to the police by Rusman Gunawan, Hambali's younger brother and leader of a Karachi-based student cell, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2004 and subsequently returned to Jakarta for trial.

The 2003 Marriott blast was the last operation known to have been financed by Al-Qaeda, but evidence is growing that it may well have provided the funds to Noordin Top for the latest bombings of the Marriott Hotel and the Ritz Carlton Hotel. It looks increasingly likely that Noordin sought and received Middle Eastern funding. Any operational link to Al-Qaeda would make the problem even more difficult.

While Hambali's arrest appeared to sever the formal relationship between Al- Qaeda and past members of Jemaah Islamiah, little is known about the informal linkages that could have been sustained in many different ways.

Equally disturbing is the apparent size and sophistication of the Noordin network and the relative ease at which it has managed to continue bringing in new recruits with no past ties to terrorism. Most Indonesians are outraged by terrorist attacks on civilians but the ideology that legitimises those attacks is hard to eradicate. One individual with the right contacts can create a security cordon for Noordin that extends to several different towns and villages.

Hambali's legacy lives on.

John McBeth, Senior Writer The Straits Times (Singapore)

3 killed, 17 wounded in restive southern Thailand

Muslim insurgents shot two off-duty troops and hurled a hand grenade at a group of
villagers playing petanque in restive southern Thailand in separate attacks that left three dead and 17 wounded Saturday.

One of the attacks was a drive-by shooting of two paramilitary troops who were on a hunting trip Saturday when four suspected insurgents chased them and opened fire. The shooting took place in the Bacho district of Narathiwat province. Both of the victims were rangers, who are generally local residents hired as armed auxiliaries to the regular military.

It was the latest attack in a recent rash of bombings in Thailand's three southernmost provinces, where a Muslim insurgency flared in January 2004.
More than 3,700 people have been killed in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala provinces despite a massive military presence. The three provinces are the only Muslim-majority areas in the Buddhist-dominated country.

The shadowy insurgents are generally believed to be fighting to carve out an independent Muslim state. The area used to be an Islamic sultanate until it was annexed by Thailand in the early 20th century. Muslims in the area have long complained of discrimination by the central government.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Oil, Gas, Mining Updates from Indonesia

- Nanjing Iron & Steel To Build $1.1 Bln Plant In S. Kalimantan
- Medco, Adaro Interested in BHP Indonesia Coal Project, IOG Says
- Rio Tinto Awaiting License To Start Indonesian Nickle Mine Pjt
- PLN reiterate power price hike demand
- Antam Seeking For More Gold Mines In Indonesia
- Indonesia Gas Producers Sign $895M Worth Of Local Supply Deals
- Indonesia Asks State Banks To Loan $3.4B For Oil & Gas
- Japan Energy:To Buy 15% Stake In Australia/E Timor Gas Block
- Vale Sells 2.1% of PT International Nickel Indonesia
- Indonesia's Inco 2.07 pct stake sold for estimated $92 mln

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Business & Trade updates from Jakarta

- Telkom To Sell 40% Stake In Patra Telekomunikasi Indonesia
- Pembangunan Perumahan To Hold IPO In Q4 - Minister
- Indonesia aims to raise 2 trln rph at Sept 1 auction
- BAT ends Indonesia's Bentoel Tender Offer To Up Stake To 99.74%
- Indonesian Property Credits Grow 13 Per Cent
- Indonesia's Titan Kimia To Expand Pe Production Capacity
- 170 Indonesian Textile Cos To Restructure Factories
- Indonesian Govt Yet To Decide On Sugar Imports

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Thousands flee Burma

The ruling junta and rebel ethnic armies in the remote northeast has
driven up to 30,000 refugees into China, as analysts warned of a full-scale civil war.

China issued a rare admonishment to its southern neighbour and close ally, urging it
to resolve the conflict that has broken out in Kokang, a mainly ethnic Chinese region of Myanmar's Shan state.

A battle between the Kokang rebel group and the government's army began on Thursday in violation of a 20-year ceasefire. The mass exodus began after Myanmar's junta deployed troops in the region on August 8 and now only elderly peoples are left at homes, while at least one Myanmar policeman was reportedly killed during the battle.
30,000 crossed into the Chinese border town of Nansan, in southwestern Yunnan province.

China is Myanmar's main source of military hardware and a major consumer of its vast natural resources, despite Western concerns over the military-ruled nation's rights record.

Freeport Workers Wear Flak Jackets and Helmets against Attacks in Papua

Amid a spate of roadside ambushes from gunmen over the last few months, employees of PT Freeport Indonesia have started wearing flak jackets and helmets. Employees and drivers who are going to go to Tembagapura from Timika and vice versa are using flak jackets and helmets in order to protect them from harm and to anticipate sudden attacks from gunmen during their trips transfering logistics equipment to Tembagapura.

The two cities are about 80 kilometers apart and can only be reached overland via the infamously treacherous road linking the mine with Tembagapura.

Authorities initially blamed members of the separatist Free Papua Movement (OPM) — who consider Freeport to be a symbol of oppression — for attacks since July 8 that have left three people dead. But there is still no clear evidence that rebels were involved. Freeport’s operations and staff members have been the targets of blockades, bomb attacks and arson since production began at the mine in the 1970s.

Suharto Clan Making a Move

Analysts say that the irrepressible Suharto family was courting its former bedfellow, the troubled Golkar Party, for a possible comeback. A string of recent political events involving the two amounts to a “testing of the waters” for possible re-entry into politics, analysts said. After keeping a low political profile since Suharto stepped down in 1998, members of the dynasty are now back in the news headlines.

Suharto’s youngest son, Hutomo “Tommy” Mandala Putra, speaking through an aide earlier this month, raised eyebrows when he floated his candidacy for the chairmanship of Golkar. In a second instance related to Suharto’s family, a young rising Golkar figure, Yuddy Chrisnandi, held meetings with Tommy and his eldest sister, Siti Hardiyanti “Tutut” Rukmana, to drum up support for his own play for the Golkar throne.

Political analyst Ikrar Nusa Bakti from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) believed that both Tommy and Tutut were testing public reaction over the possibility of a return to political life. Tutut and another Suharto sibling, Bambang Trihatmojo, had previously been active on Golkar’s executive board, while Tommy served as a member of the Golkar faction in the People’s Consultative Assembly from 1992 to 1997.

The Suharto clan still exerted substantial influence among Golkar elites, and recent moves indicated Tommy and Tutut were testing the party’s reaction.

by Febriamy Hutapea
Excerpt from The Jakarta Globe

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Burma's nuclear ambitions: smoke or fire?

Radio Australia

Over the past few months there's been increased speculation
about whether Burma is developing a nuclear weapon, but how much
truth is there to the claims?
In July, at an ASEAN meeting in Thailand, US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton told reporters of concerns about the transfer of
"nuclear technology" from North Korea to Burma. The Australian
Strategic Policy Institute discusses the issue in a new report,
'Burma and North Korea: Smoke or Fire?'

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Business & Trade updates from Jakarta

- Indonesia's BTPN To Issue IDR500B 3-Year, 5-Year Bonds In Oct
- Maybank Swings To Q4 Net Loss After Writing Down Foreign Assets
- Indonesia's PT PAL Eyeing $170 Mln Project To Build Navy Ship
- Indonesian Town To Disburse $260,000 In Sugar Bazaar Subsidies
- Indonesia Plantation Co Waits On Order To Intervene In Sugar Mkt
- Indonesia's Bumi Serpong Damai To Boost Real Estate Investment
- Indonesia's Krakatau Steel To Spend $200mln On Factories
- Indonesia State Cos Agree To Accept 8% Interest On Deposits
- Indonesia's GDP From Fishery Sector Up By $7.7 Bln In 4 Years

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Terrorism is here to stay

After a four-year gap, terrorism is now back in our midst. The initial buoyancy the country enjoyed believing it had stopped terrorist attacks, hitting it yearly from 2002 to 2005, turns out to be an illusion. The police have their hands full these days, catching Ali Muhammad bin Abdullah, believed to be a Saudi Arabian, who allegedly funded the July 17 bombings in Jakarta.

This is a sign that terror operatives are getting closer to their targets and of a laxity in community policing. A study by the International Crisis Group suggests the government pay more attention to Jemaah Islamiyah-affiliated schools that offer protection to men like Noordin M. Top, better understanding of terrorism's international linkages and better intelligence.

Improved community policing, for one, implies reform in neighborhood bureaucracy, particularly, on the issuance of identity cards. This boils down to bureaucratic corruption as one can easily obtain a card with a fee. Since curbing this practice takes time, terrorism is here to stay.

The military, on the other hand, seems to find terrorism a convenient piggyback to strengthen its hold on power. With the split of the military and the police in 2001 as a backdrop, it seems to be a good time for the military to legitimize its presence in the civilian domain.

The government is faced with a dilemma: to leave terrorism in the hands of the police or to invite the military to help them. Both measures are legitimate, albeit the second carries a risk of repeating the New Order's violations of human rights.
Thousands were jailed or kidnapped during the Soeharto years, most of whom were never brought to court. Despite the spate of good work the police have done lately, they are still struggling to strengthen their institution building. Speaking at the headquarters of the Army's Special Forces (Kopassus) in Jakarta last Thursday, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said the Indonesian Military (TNI) should be given wider-ranging powers in the fight against terrorism. Yudhoyono added that the TNI should not repeat what the military had done in the past with their "dark, bizarre" actions, such as the mysterious shooting operations known as Petrus. "Don't let such things happen again. Don't let the Munir case happen again," he said, referring to the killing of the country's most prominent human rights activist. A presidential statement, however, is not a law as Indonesia is not a kingdom. To make Yudhoyono's caveat work he should come up with a ruling that delineates the roles of the military and the police in dealing with terrorism and with a specific time frame.

While it is not fair to put the blame for the mysterious killings on Yudhoyono, as Soeharto himself artlessly claimed to have ordered them in his autobiography, we object to his way of acting like a father scolding his son when he referred to the Munir case. A leader cannot govern by simply saying "don't do this or that" but should be able to deliver. In this case, he should have fulfilled the promise he once made, that is, to bring the case to light. To date, the mastermind of the killing is still at large.

Terrorism cannot be fought by military force alone but by well-coordinated intelligence, elimination of a departmentalism tendency among security forces, continued attention to the government's counter-radicalization program and by cleaning the government house of elements sympathetic to terrorism.
This is an uphill task for Yudhoyono's new government.

Jakarta Post Editorial

A Natural Successor Emerges for Aquino

MANILA - Less than a month ago, Philippine Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III was not among the many politicians vowing to run for president at next year's polls. But with the passing this month of his popular mother, former president Corazon Aquino, in the emotional aftermath there is a mounting push for him to enter the race.

Noynoy is the only son of five siblings of the late president Aquino and slain opposition leader Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr, who are widely recognized for standing up to and finally toppling in 1986 former Ferdinand Marcos' authoritarian regime. Many here now hope Noynoy will leverage his family's good name into a new era of good governance and democracy promotion.

The 49-year-old bachelor served three terms as a congressman before being elected a senator in 2007. He is a graduate of economics from Ateneo de Manila University and started his career in retail sales management and later managed the finances of his family's businesses before entering national politics. He has in Congress consistently called for more public accountability and greater oversight of funds earmarked for intelligence gathering.

In the process, he has also emerged as a vocal critic of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's scandal-plagued administration. At the height of the "Hello Garci" scandal,
where wiretapped audio recordings implied Arroyo was possibly complicit in vote-rigging the 2004 elections in her favor, Noynoy was stripped of his deputy house speaker post after he joined calls for her resignation.

Now, many political analysts view Noynoy as a candidate with comparatively clean hands the potential to rally jaded voters after nearly a decade of divisive and corruption-riddled rule under Arroyo. Widely perceived as humble and imbued with the same strong religious values that made his mother Corazon popular with the masses, political analysts believe his candidacy would be blessed with a sense of moral authority inherited from his politician parents.

It would represent a move towards more democratic rule, which many Filipinos crave and still associate with the Aquino family name.

Excerpt from article by Joel D Adriano is an independent consultant and award-winning
freelance journalist.

Indonesia: Noordin Top’s Support Base


Jakarta/Brussels. The 17 July 2009 Jakarta hotel bombings have produced calls for a strengthened security apparatus and harsher laws, but the more urgent priority is to understand the terrorists’ local support base and target government programs accordingly.

Indonesia: Noordin Top’s Support Base,* the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the backgrounds of those arrested, killed or on the run in connection with the July attacks. It looks at how individuals close to Noordin Top, self-styled leader of al-Qaeda Indonesia, draw on their friends, family, co-workers and schoolmates to expand the local support network.

“Most Indonesians are outraged by terrorist attacks on civilians, but the ideology that legitimises those attacks is hard to eradicate”, says Sidney Jones, Crisis Group’s Senior Adviser to the Asia Program. “One individual with the right contacts can create a security cordon for Noordin that extends to several different towns and villages”.

The report looks at the information made public thus far about the men involved in the 17 July bombings and the possible role of Middle Eastern funding. In this operation, Noordin Top seems to have relied on an inner circle of long-term Jemaah Islamiyah associates, each of whom brought new people into the mix. One family in particular has emerged as pivotal, with four members deeply involved in the plot. By recruiting just one of them, Noordin got access to the others and to a wealth of skills and contacts.

The report also looks at some of the institutional foundations of Noordin’s support base, including JI schools, local mosques where jihadi preachers have managed to recruit local youth, and Islamic medicine clinics. The government has not come up with a plan for addressing the problems posed by the schools in particular, says Crisis Group, but the answer is not closing them down – it is rather providing much more intensive oversight than is currently taking place. Public information campaigns in vulnerable villages, greater information-sharing among security agencies, and improved pre- and post-release monitoring of “high risk” prisoners are needed as well.

Read the full report at:

Email Kerry for the full report

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Oil and Mining Updates from Indonesia

- Pertamina Unit Boosts Offshore W Java Crude Output By 4,000 B/D

- Indonesia To Exports 33 Cargoes Of LLNG In August

- Indonesian Utility PLN To Buy Gas From Donggi-Senoro Blocks

- Indonesian Miner Antam Eyeing Bhp's Local Assets

- Drilling Rig For Plugging W. Australian Oil Leak Still In Batam

- Indonesia's Petrosea Wins Mining Contract Valued At Us$200 Mln

Read full report at:

Business & Trade updates from Jakarta

- Nestle To Invest Us$100 Mln In Dairy Cattle Farms In East Java
- Indonesian Co PTPN's Sugar Stock Now Only 200,000 Tons
- Motorcycle Sales Fall 15% Year-On-Year In Indonesia
- Indonesia Min: Posco May Invest $5B In Steel Venture - Report
- Indonesian Govt Urged To Increase Tax Ratio To 12.6% Of GDP
- Indonesian Finance Co Batavia Secures Loans From Four Local Banks
- Foreigners Reduce Investment In Bank Indonesia Certificates
- Indonesian Toll Road Co Jasa Marga Accepts $300 Mln Loan Offer
- Indonesian State Budget Deficit Forecast To Widen To $11.2 Bln
- $1 Bln Needed For Indonesia Public Housing: Minister

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Singapore Faces a 'Silver Tsunami'

SINGAPORE - In a departure from the usual state-sponsored message urging Singaporean couples to have more children, this year's National Day rally addressed the island state's rapidly graying population. As rising health and living costs emerge as a threat to social stability and economic growth, a dramatic demographic shift is driving the government to re-examine its past anti-welfare stance.

Singapore has one of the fastest aging populations in the world, with over 65-year-olds estimated by 2030 to represent 23% of the population, the second highest percentage in Asia lagging behind only Japan. If current demographic trends hold, the island state's median age will rise from 36 presently to 41 by 2030. By 2050, the island state's median age will rise to 54, leaving only Japan, South Korea and Macau with more elderly populations.

Singapore's demographic shift has been accentuated by the country's low fertility rate, which fell to a low of 1.24 in 2004 before rising last year to 1.29. Fewer offspring translates into an increased burden on the young population to provide for their elderly forebears. Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan earlier this year described the changing demographics as a "silver tsunami".

The government has long enforced individual savings through the mandatory Central Provident Fund (CPF), which mandates that the population saves for old age. More recently the government announced plans to pass a so-called Re-employment Act, which
will take effect in 2012 and extend the standard retirement age from 62 to 65.

Nonetheless, a recent survey found that less than 5% of the current elderly population relies on CPF disbursements for their livelihood. Rather, the majority of respondents said they depend mainly on their children. That dependence, however, is straining family ties as average health-care costs rise.

Read the complete article by Megawati Wijaya at:

'Prince of Jihad' Arrested in Indonesia

THE owner of a radical Islamist website who calls himself the Prince of Jihad in his blog postings has been arrested in connection with the Jakarta hotel bombings. Counter-terror squad officers arrested Muhamad Jibril Abdurahman, alias Muhamad Ricky Ardan bin Mohammad Iqbal, near Jakarta late yesterday and also raided the office of his website,

Police believe the Pakistan-educated suspect helped channel funds from abroad to finance the July 17 twin suicide bombings on the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels that killed nine people, including six foreigners.

Muhamad Jibril is well-known in Indonesian radical circles as a publicist of extremist material, and is the son of a firebrand Islamist cleric who has been linked in the past to the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) regional terror network. Five other suspects are being sought, including Malaysian alleged mastermind Noordin Mohammed Top, who was reported killed in a police raid earlier this month but remains at large. Another five members of the cell have been killed, including the operational planner who worked as a florist at the hotels.

The threat to whip a woman for drinking beer spotlights Malaysia's rising religious dilemma

It is starting to appear that Malaysia, characterized habitually in the world's press as a "moderate, majority Muslim nation," is beginning to reap the whirlwind of fundamentalist Islam.

It isn't just the caning of Kartika Sri Dewi Shukarnor, a divorced mother of two, for drinking beer in a resort bar two years ago, which has been on the front pages of newspapers across the world. That alone is giving the moderate government of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak fits and damaging both the investment and tourism climates. With the shariah court having deferred the caning until after the end of the Ramadan holy month, that gives Najib another month to endure criticism from human rights groups and western governments.

Read the complete article at:

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Australia's Terror TV

Australia's Terror TV
Canberra shouldn't open the door to Hezbollah's satellite channel
(Wall Street Journal)

Australia has a record of success in fighting terrorism—witness the capture earlier this month of 18 terrorists who planned to attack a military base. But Canberra may be forgetting that the long war against violent extremism is a war of ideas as much as a war of arms. The decision last month to allow Hezbollah's al-Manar television station to begin broadcasting down under is a dangerous development for Australia and Indonesia and could reverberate around the world.

Free speech protections may protect the hateful content of their messages but should not cover the role of these media outlets as operational weapons. Radical groups like Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Hamas, the Taliban, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and others use media outlets all over the world to plan attacks, recruit and train jihadists, fundraise, intimidate and incite. Hezbollah established al-Manar in 1991 as a tool to incite hatred and violence and recruit children and adults as terrorists. According to an al-Manar official interviewed by al-Manar expert Avi Jorisch, the station's programming is meant to "help people on the way to committing what you call in the West a suicide mission." Al-Manar reaches an estimated 10 to 15 million viewers daily and, before international action against the station, it had worldwide coverage through a network of 13 satellite providers as well as advertising support from western corporations.

Al-Manar routinely airs inflammatory speeches seeking to mobilize crowds to take action. For example on December 3 and 5, 2008, Islamist clerics instructed Palestinian viewers: "We saw how, on a day in 1929, you slaughtered the Jews in Hebron. Today, slaughter them on the land of Hebron. Kill them in Palestine . . . let pure bodies blow up again in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv," according to a translation from the Middle East Media Research Institute. Similarly, each year on Hezbollah's "Martyr's Day" on November 11, al-Manar airs hours of speeches glorifying suicide bombers.

It's puzzling, then, that the Australian government decided to reverse two previous government decisions banning al-Manar. According to its press release, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) made the decision after a mere week of monitoring al-Manar broadcasts from Indonesia. Never mind the deep operational ties between al-Manar and Hezbollah: ACMA said it found no violation of the "Anti-terrorism Standard" in a 2006 broadcasting law because "no content . . . could reasonably be construed to directly recruit people to join or participate in the activities of Hezbollah, or to solicit funds for . . . Hezbollah." This decision makes it much more difficult to persuade Indonesia to stop its satellite provider, Indosat, from broadcasting the Hezbollah station to homes across Australia. The same might be true for any Australian satellite provider.

At present satellite operators in nine countries with global distribution have terminated broadcasting of al-Manar thanks to the efforts of antiterrorism agencies, but the Australian ruling could provide an excuse for countries to accept al-Manar's demands for broadcasting rights in the future. In the United States, after a lengthy interagency investigation, the Treasury Department designated al-Manar as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity in March 2006, placing al-Manar on the same terrorism list as Hezbollah itself. The Treasury Department based its decision on al-Manar's direct operational role in support of Hezbollah: Al-Manar employed numerous Hezbollah members; actively recruited and raised funds for Hezbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups; and provided pre-attack intelligence for Hezbollah.
In Europe, the European Union focused on the station's incitement to violence and anti-Semitic programming. In 2005, on the basis of the station's content, European authorities determined that al-Manar violated European law. Four European satellite providers and five other operators—based in Australia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Barbados and Brazil—terminated their transmissions. Two executives of a U.S.-based provider in late 2008 pleaded guilty to material support for a terrorist organization after refusing private requests to stop broadcasting the station. They are currently serving jail terms.

Likewise, the German government banned al-Manar in 2008 after recognizing the station's threat to German security and its role in radicalizing German Muslim youth. And, after being alerted to their advertising on the terrorist station, some of the world's best-known multinationals discontinued almost four million dollars in annual advertising, according to an investigation by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. From 2003 to 2008, 10 global satellites ceased al-Manar transmissions once they became aware of its content, ownership or operational links to Hezbollah.
The ACMA decision may have serious consequences for Australia, which has a larger proportion of Muslim youths at risk of turning to radical Islam than any other nation, according to a government study in 2007. Reuters reported in 2007 that between 2,000 and 3,000 youths in Sydney alone had already been targeted by radical Islamic teachers, with some at risk of making the jump to militancy.

Australia and Indonesia have additional reasons to stop al-Manar's broadcasts: In recent weeks, Indonesia tried to capture Noordin Top, who perpetrated a number of deadly terrorist attacks including the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings that together killed 222 people, including 92 Australians. Indosat, along with Saudi-owned Arabsat and Egyptian-owned Nilesat, continue to broadcast al-Manar on Asian, European and Middle Eastern airwaves.

Al-Manar should not operate with impunity. Hate speech and violent incitement have been prosecuted as war crimes, initially at the Nuremberg trials against the Nazi regime and, in 2003, at the United Nations tribunal for Rwanda against three Rwandan media executives who used Rwanda's Radio Mille Collines to call for the extermination of Tutsis. In response to the conviction by the U.N. tribunal, Reed Brody, Human Rights Watch's legal counsel, said that "if you fan the flames, you'll have to face the consequences."

By providing operational support for terror attacks, al-Manar is doing more than just fanning the flames. It is providing the match, the gasoline and the arsonist. Australia should follow the lead of the U.S. and Europe and hold the terrorist station accountable for its well-established support of Hezbollah's operational goals.
Dubowitz is executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Ms. Bonazzi is executive director of the Brussels-based European Foundation for Democracy. They are co-directors of the Coalition Against Terrorist Media.

Tackling Extremism Before It Takes Hold

No country is immune to extremism and Indonesia is no exception. Extremists have attempted to disrupt the nation’s social harmony since independence, but over the past six years they have waged a violent campaign of terror.

The latest incident, of course, was the deadly bombings at two upscale Jakarta hotels. Innocent lives were lost and many more people were maimed. The police have moved quickly to apprehend the perpetrators, with some success.

The government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been firm in vowing to fight terrorism and to stem the spread of hard-line teachings that could lead to such actions. The media have reported that the two hotel suicide bombers, one of them still a teenager, were recruited by a hard-line cleric who is now on the run. But police efforts have also given rise to public concerns, especially after media reports quoted a senior police officer as having allegedly said the police might start to monitor sermons in mosques, especially during the month of Ramadan. As we all know, the fasting month is a time when nightly prayers are held, often accompanied by sermons.

The key to fighting extremism is to change the belief system by which these individuals operate. Once they are convinced of their cause, it is nearly impossible to alter their behavior. Preventing radicalism from developing is not a simple matter. The complexity of the issues require the involvement of everyone at all levels of society.

Therefore, we must start in our own homes. Parents must guide their children by rejecting such behavior and thinking; they need to instill in their children the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. It must also start in our schools, with teachers as role models, educating their students and sharpening their sense of appropriate justice.

And it must start in places of worship, with religious leaders providing the moral compass to guide the faithful on the right path.
The Jakarta Globe Editorial

Business & Trade updates from Jakarta

- Indonesia's Bank Mandiri To Issue Bonds Valued At $300 Mln
- Indonesia's Astra Sedaya May Issue Mtn Valued At Us$50 Mln
- Indonesian Engineering Co Truba Reports Fall In Net Profit
- Indonesia Govt Acknowledges Failure In Manufacturing Sector
- Indonesia Govt Hopes Posco, Krakatau Steel In JV By Oct-Report
- Indonesia statistics bureau sees August inflation down
- Indonesia's 2009 Inflation Rate May Reach 8 Pct: Economist
- Indonesia's Capital Inflow To Stay Positive Until Year-End: Min
- Indonesian Allianz Groups Post 170% Rise In Pre-Tax Profit
- Indonesia Signs Economic Agreement With China's Henan Province
- Neste Oil To Use Indonesian Cpo To Feed Factory In Singapore
Full report can be viewed at:

On the March to Do Business in Myanmar

The debate over United States and European Union-led sanctions against doing business in Myanmar is set to intensify in the wake of US Senator Jim Webb's recent high-profile meeting with Senior General Than Shwe and detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Webb spoke out against the sanctions and Myanmar's junta echoed that call through state media. As US policymakers weigh the pros and cons of economically re-engaging the ruling junta, the process will necessarily take into account that a handful of military linked businessmen, many allegedly involved in illegal activities, including drug trafficking, dominate Myanmar's underdeveloped economy.

For US investors eyeing business opportunities that the cessation of sanctions would present, dealing with Myanmar's top military and business leaders would be key to gaining market access. Myanmar is one of the world's most corrupt countries, according to Transparency International, an independent corruption watchdog, and US businesses would enter Myanmar at great risk to their corporate reputations.

In Myanmar business circles, the most talked about businessman is Tay Za, who owns the Htoo Trading Company Ltd, also known as the Htoo Group of Companies. Htoo maintains large logging, construction, property development, import-export, aviation, transportation, shipping and mining operations. Tay Za has also made recent forays into telecommunications and banking, and established Myanmar's first privately invested airline, Air Bagan.

Read the full article at:

Getting Rich in Malaysia Cronyism Capital Means Dayak Lose Home

After a stomach-churning takeoff from a 550-meter runway at Long Banga airstrip on the Malaysian side of the island of Borneo, the 19-seat plane soars over a green
tropical wilderness. This is one of the world’s last remaining virgin rain forests.
About 30 minutes into the flight to the bustling oil town of Miri, the lush landscape changes, and neatly terraced fields of oil palms take the place of jungle. Twenty years ago, this was forestland. Now, those forests are lost forever.

The shift from rain forest to oil palm cultivation in Malaysia’s Sarawak state highlights the struggle taking place between forces favoring economic development, led by Sarawak state’s chief minister, Abdul Taib Mahmud, and those who want to conserve the rain forest and the ways of life it supports.

During Taib’s 28-year rule, his government has handed out concessions for logging and supported the federal government’s megaprojects, including the largest hydropower site in the country and, most recently, oil palm plantations. The projects are rolling back the frontiers of Borneo’s rain forest, home to nomadic people and rare wildlife such as orangutans and proboscis monkeys.

At least four prominent Sarawak companies that have received contracts or concessions have ties to Taib or his family.

Read the full article at:

Terrorist Funds - Transferring Money,

Terrorist Funds - Transferring Money, Funding Death
Indonesian Police capture couriers of funds for terrorism.

It is suspected that the Jakarta hotel bombs involved foreign donors since this act of terrorism was meticulously planned and required a huge amount of money.

The 2002 and 2003 bombings were funded by foreign money through Hambali alias Riduan Isamuddin. The information on this foreign money comes from the police report regarding the investigation of Ali Ghufron alias Mukhlas and Rusman Gunawan—Hambali’s younger brother. Funds from Al Qaeda also came up in the confession made by Mohd. Faruk bin Amin alias Zubair, a Malaysian citizen captured in Thailand and now detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Hambali proposed the plan to detonate bombs in Bali and at the Marriott to Khalid Syah Muhammad, a Pakistani, who is said to be the right-hand man of Osama bin Laden. Hambali got US$30,000 plus 200,000 Thai baht. For the 2003 Marriott bombing, Hambali
proposed US$50,000. The money from Pakistan first stopped over in Bangkok.

In the 2003 Marriott bombing, Hambali through Rusman contacted Ammar al-Baluchi in Pakistan to hand over US$50,000 to Zubair in Thailand. Zubair took the money through the Al-Baluchi network in Bangkok. From Bangkok the money was taken in cash to Indonesia via Malaysia. The 2003 Marriott bombing only used US$15,000 out of the total US$50,000. The remainder was used for the bombing of the Australian embassy in 2004.

The terrorist money supplies dwindled following Hambali’s capture in Thailand or 10 days after the 2003 Marriott bombing. This terrorist network struggled to obtain money at home by, for example, robbery. Part of the money for the 2005 Bali bombs was gained from robbing a jewelry store in Serang, Banten.

Money for the bombs at Kuta and Jimbaran, Bali, were amounts of about US$2,000, while at least US$15,000 was used for the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton bombs. The money was used for a number of rooms at the five-star hotel, to hire cars, to buy explosives, and to lease houses at Jatibening, Bekasi and at Mampang, South Jakarta, where the bombs were assembled and stored.
Excerpts from Tempo Magazine

Monday, August 24, 2009

A German's point of view on Islam

Dr. Emanual Tanay is a well known and well respected psychiatrist.

A man whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.

‘Very few people were true Nazis 'he said,' but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.'

We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectra of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam. The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history.

It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. The hard quantifiable fact is that the 'peaceful majority', the 'silent majority', is cowed and extraneous.

Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China's huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.

And, who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were 'peace loving'?

History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.

Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghanis, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.

As for us who watch it all unfold; we must pay attention to the only group that counts; the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

Lastly, at the risk of offending, anyone who doubts that the issue is serious and just ignores my statement is contributing to the passiveness that allows the problems to expand.

Emanuel Tanay, M.D.
2980 Provincial St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104

Bali Updates

Om Swastiastu ...

May I "steal" the next dance? Malaysia and Indonesia are at loggerheads, with Bali claiming Malaysian tourism promoters are hi-jacking Balinese dances to promote Malaysian destinations.

The Best Western Hotel in Kuta is reportedly open and doing business with no operating license. Three out of four of Bali’s fresh water lakes are shrinking. Arrival numbers via Bali’s airport remain very robust. And, 44 immigration officials in Bali are now safe from criminal prosecutions after being caught stealing US$300,000 in visa-on-arrival fees.

Bali’s police need more bomb-sniffing dogs to fight terrorism, while police officials warn of a possible upsurge in terrorism in the coming October-November period.

A Balinese girl has just won a bikini fashion contest in China; a win causing some concern and embarrassment to Bali tourism officials.

From the Hotel Beat: Starwood hotels in Bali join forces to provide kids with motorcycle helmets; we’ve got a brief interview with the new Chef de Cuisine at the Ayana Resort’s “Dava” restaurant; and Australian Adam McDonald is appointed Resort Manager at the InterContinental Bali Resort.

Looking for something to do in Bali? The Kuta Karnival returns for the 7th year September 17-29; SKAL International President Hulya Aslantas gives a speech in Bali on Friday, August 28; The Ubud Readers & Writers Festival is shaping up to be a gala event October 7-11th; and there’s a major exhibition of paintings by Ipong Purnama Sidhi at the Ganesha Gallery September 3 – October 5.

All these stories, and more, in this week’s Bali Update

Follow me on at BaliUpdateEd

Om Çanti Çanti Çanti Om ...
J.M. Daniels - Bali Update
Bali Discovery Tours

Read the full report at:

State secrecy bill: A threat to Indonesian democracy

The government and the House of Representatives (DPR) are committed to passing the state secrecy bill this month. This is bad news because the bill, if passed, could be draconian, inhibiting people's right to information and fertilizing a corrupt regime. The law will be a serious threat to democracy and, at the same time, empower political authoritarianism in this country.

Historically, the first draft of the state secrecy bill was initiated in 1994 when Soeharto's regime was still in power. It was a part of Soeharto's scenario to monopolize and control public information. So the legalizing of such a bill is no longer relevant today. Our reform movement that was built on freedom of information, transparency and people's political participation should behind the basic spirit of any rule, including state secrecy issues.

Regulating state secrecy is accepted, in democratic countries too, by putting national security and people's safety as the main goal. For this purpose, a state secrecy bill must avoid the tendency to limit individual rights, have accountability mechanisms and be under public control. These expectations are not contained in this draft bill; it gives power to the state and criminalizes the people.

First, in regard to the definition of state secrecy: "State secrecy is information, a thing, and/or activity which has been officially approved by the President, and must be kept secret and protected through standard managerial procedures, which if
known by unauthorized person/persons can endanger the sovereignty, wholeness, and safety of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) and/or can disturb the function of the state's official role, national resources, general order and/or disturb the implementation of the duties and role of state institutions". This definition is too broad and too general.

Second, the kind of information categorized as secret is too wide, such as information on national defense, the military, intelligence and the national economy. It is against the spirit of the law on the openness of public information.
Third, the President is given too much power to determine the definition of state secrecy.

The punishments, a heavy fine of Rp 1 billion (US$100,000), prison sentences, and even the death penalty, show that the law will be used to inhibit people's right to information and, at the same time, make the state more powerful. A regime of secrecy impedes people's opportunity to participate in the public policy making process. Although receiving strong opposition from pro-democratic groups, this draft bill will almost certainly be legalized this year.

If so, consolidation of the civil society movement is urgently needed. So far, advocacy against the draft bill has been done only by limited groups, specifically by NGOs activists, member of the press and intellectuals. And it is being done sporadically, so it is failing to get support from a wide public.

In this case, we can probably learn from the English experience. When the government legalized the Official Secrets Act in 1911, many civil society groups, led by activists and media workers, were against the law. They campaigned against the detrimental effects of state secrecy on civil liberties, democracy and human rights. At the same time, they promoted the importance of freedom of information for public participation and control over the state.

The bringing to court of two senior English state officials made their movement even stronger.

First, the Sarah Tortilla case. A senior official at the foreign ministry, she was accused of disclosing secret information about the government's plan to eradicate the mass protests at a ballistic missile site.

Second, the Clive Ponting case. A senior official at the defense ministry, Ponting was accused of disclosing that a minister had given false information about the sinking of the Belgrano during the Falklands War.

The two cases became a great public arena to fight against the Official Secrets Act and to promote the freedom of information issue. After a long process, the pressure finally got a serious response from the English government, the passing of the Freedom of Information Act in 2000.

The government and specifically Commission I of the House of Representatives must appreciate and be responsive to people's criticism of this draft bill. This is the time for Commission I to boost the implementation of the law on the openness of public information, not to create a new law that will be against the spirit of transparency, democracy and human rights. Without strong public support, the forcing of the state secrecy draft bill into law will cause their legitimacy over it to be negligible.

Romanus Ndau Lendong , lecturer at Bina Nusantara University Jakarta

Gold mining threatens the Komodo dragon

A row has taken off in Indonesia over whether or not to allow gold mining near Komodo National Park, home to the infamous, venomous, and largest of all lizards, the Komodo dragon. Eight mines have currently been proposed, several have already begun exploratory work. Critics of the gold mines contend that the mining threatens the ecology of the park and the Komodo dragon, listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.

The local government and members of the national government have argued that the mine is far enough away not to impact the park. One of the mining sites has already come under investigation for allegedly violating environmental regulations. Officials visited the Chinese-backed exploratory mine on Batugosok Island saying that the digging began before the approval of an environmental assessment.

Although it's the headliner, the Komodo dragon is not the only endangered inhabitant of Komodo National Park. Its main source of prey the Timor deer Cervus timorensis is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN as well. In addition, nearly 70 percent of the park is marine environment. Created in 1980 over several islands, the park contains half of the world's Komodo dragons.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Losing Afghanistan?

To stop the country sliding out of control, the West needs more men and a better strategy

THIS is the just war, the “war of necessity”, as Barack Obama likes to put it, in contrast to the bad war, the war of misguided choices in Iraq. But as a deeply flawed election went ahead in Afghanistan this week, there were echoes, in the mission by America and its allies, of the darkest days of the Iraq campaign: muddled aims, mounting casualties and the gnawing fear of strategic defeat. Gloomy commentators evoke the spectre of the humiliations inflicted by Afghanistan on Britain in the 19th century and the Soviet Union in the 20th.

Americans, relieved to be getting out of Iraq, and caught up in a national row about health care, are paying little attention to the place. But if things there continue to slide, Afghanistan could turn out to be the biggest blot on the Obama presidency.
The war is going badly. Much of the south of the country is out of government control. A scattered, disparate insurgency has gained strength and risks turning into a widespread insurrection against Western forces and the elected government they are backing . In Britain, a sceptical public wonders what its soldiers are dying for. And as the costs and casualties continue to mount, Americans too will ask that question increasingly loudly.

Western governments use a lazy shorthand to justify this war. Its purpose, they say, is to deny terrorists the base and haven that Afghanistan under the Taliban provided to al-Qaeda. But al-Qaeda’s surviving leaders are reckoned to have decamped across the border to the tribal areas of Pakistan, where Western forces do not tread. The other reasons that Western governments keep their soldiers in Afghanistan are harder to sell to voters: first, because a precipitate departure would damage the West’s global clout, and, second, to stop the country becoming the theatre for a war which could destabilise Pakistan and draw in other powers, such as Iran, India and Russia.
As the West struggles to maintain its weak hold on Afghanistan, so its ambitions there are narrowing. Early aspirations to bring peace, prosperity and decent government to the country have been replaced by the hope of establishing a functioning state and of improving security. By that measure, success in the short term will look much like stalemate. But the chance of achieving even these modest aims is being jeopardised by too few troops and a flawed strategy.

The shortage of soldiers has hampered the generals’ ability to hold territory and forced them to use air power to make up for the lack of numbers. The civilian casualties that are the inevitable consequence of conducting a war from the air are, in turn, damaging the war effort. The generals need more troops both to regain territory from the Taliban and to fight the war in a way that does not breed hostility to the West.

Yet swamping Afghanistan with foreign soldiers will never bring outright military victory. The surge that helped secure Baghdad was carried out in a smallish, densely populated area. Such tactics cannot be contemplated in a country as mountainous and rural as Afghanistan. If the West is to stop the place slipping further out of control, it needs not just to direct more resources to the place, but also to use them better. That means different approaches to three elements: the opposition, the government and aid.

The opposition, casually described as “the Taliban”, is far from a unified force in a country of great ethnic complexity. It includes not just religious zealots but all manner of tribal warlords and local strongmen. Many have alarming ideas and repellent social attitudes. But if Afghanistan is to be stabilised, the West will have to hold its nose and encourage its allies in government to do deals with them.
On the campaign trail, President Hamid Karzai has appealed to his enemies to make peace. But his government—inept, corrupt and predatory—does not look like a trustworthy partner. In parts of Afghanistan where insurgents have been driven out and the writ of the government has been restored, residents have sometimes hankered for the warlords, who were less venal and less brutal than Mr Karzai’s lot.
Cleaning up government is not just an end in itself but also a means to building a functioning state, for Afghans will not support an administration as corrupt as the current one. The West should therefore use its leverage over the government to insist that the next cabinet is dominated by competent technocrats, rather than thugs owed a favour.

How to spend it

The West is spending a fortune in aid to Afghanistan. As the new head of Britain’s army recently pointed out, it is likely to have to go on supporting the country for decades. Yet the roads that are foreign development’s proudest boasts also serve to meet the insurgents’ and drug-dealers’ logistical needs.

That is inevitable: infrastructure serves the wicked as well as the righteous. But the West has not spent its money as well as it could have. By giving too many contracts to foreigners, it has created grudges instead of buying goodwill. To most Afghan eyes, watching heavily guarded foreign aid-workers glide by in their Landcruisers, it is obvious that much of the money is going straight back out of the country. To a degree, this is forgivable: in such a poor country it is difficult to build the capacity to manage huge volumes of aid, and channelling more of the cash through the government may mean that more of it gets stolen. But that is a risk that needs to be taken to build support for the West and the government.

Taking even the rosiest view, the war in Afghanistan is likely to get more expensive, and worse, before it gets better. The mini-surge this year to enable the election to take place in most of the country will probably be followed by another to try to contain the growing insurgency. For the moment, Mr Obama is better off than George Bush was when Iraq went bad, because he enjoys broad political and popular support for this commitment. But as casualties mount, political pressure in America to announce a timetable for military withdrawal will intensify. To resist it, Mr Obama will need more men, a better strategy and a great deal of luck.
Economist Editorial