Marty Says China-Indonesia Ties Strongest Ever

The Jakarta Globe

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa on Saturday said that bilateral relations between Indonesia and China were currently the strongest they had ever been.

“Indonesia and China’s current relationship is actually at the highest point it has been since we started building the relationship in the last 20 years,” Marty said in a speech at the Indonesia Council of World Affairs (ICWA) at the conclusion of Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao’s two-day visit to Jakarta. 

The foreign minister said Wen’s visit to Indonesia showed how strong ties between the two countries were.

“Improvements to the relationship have been built according to the spirit of friendship, equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit,” Marty said.

Wen also gave a policy speech at the ICWA on Saturday, in which he emphasized the importance of relations with Indonesia and said that China wanted to boost its cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

“Asean is a political, economic, social and cultural community which has a strong influence,” he said.

“Therefore, China needs to build a partnership with Asean countries so that we can establish a free-trade zone, holding as the basis both the interests of Asean countries and China.”

Wen said China planned to construct land transportation infrastructure from China to other Asean countries in order to help these countries develop their own state infrastructure.

“China is willing to help Asean countries without any conditions, because there are still some countries facing poverty.”

Govt Plays Down Extremist Threat Despite SBY Warning

The Jakarta Globe

A day after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono warned of the “serious threat” from Islamic extremism, his chief security minister played down the issue as nothing to worry about. 

Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, said on Friday that the resurgence of the Indonesian Islamic State (NII) movement was not large enough to pose a significant threat. 

“It’s not true that we’re weak,” he said. “I’m saying that in the national context, we shouldn’t worry about the movement. We only need to raise our awareness.”

He added, “We need to see if the movement is massive enough to get power on the national scale, which it doesn’t have yet.” 

Recent revelations that the spate of book bombs sent to prominent figures last month were masterminded by NII proponents, who champion the establishment of an Islamic caliphate in the country, have shined a light on the movement, which has reportedly been recruiting members undetected by the authorities for 19 years. 

The group is also believed to have been behind the foiled Good Friday plot to bomb a church, gas pipeline and military arsenal in Serpong, Tangerang. 

On Thursday, Yudhoyono acknowledged the creeping radicalization in the country, calling it “a continuous and serious threat in terrorism and in horizontal violence.” 

He called on all Indonesians to help stamp out extremism in their communities, and not just rely on the police to do the job. 

However, Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah, the country’s second-largest Islamic organization, accused the government of ignoring and even exploiting the growing NII movement. 

“The NII is actually an old issue that’s been around for more than 20 years, or more than 60 if you want to link it to DI [Darul Islam, an extremist movement],” he said. 

“But even though it has claimed so many lives, the government has taken no serious action to address it.” 

He claimed the government was using the NII for political gain. “The government actually supports this kind of movement and uses it as a political commodity, which serves to discredit Muslims,” he said. 

Tubagus Hasanuddin, a legislator from the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) who sits on House of Representatives Commission I, overseeing security affairs, said that lax government oversight had allowed the NII’s numbers to swell to 160,000 nationwide. 

“It’s growth has been quite fast because although the government has known about the NII for several years, it has continued to give it room [to grow],” he said. 

Sidney Jones, a terrorism expert from the International Crisis Group, said there were several variants of the NII across the country, each with different objectives. 

“The NII KW9, for instance, which is led by Panji Gumilang, also known as Abu Toto, doesn’t carry out terrorism,” she said. 

“It carries out fraud to get funding. So it always targets university students as a source of funding.” 

Pepi Fernando, the suspected mastermind behind the Good Friday and book bomb plots, was himself believed to have been recruited on campus. He also claimed he learned to build the explosives on the Internet. 

On Friday, Tifatul Sembiring, the communications and information technology minister, announced his office would block all Web sites promoting terrorism, but not those teaching bomb-making. 

“If they are, by nature, spreading hate, agitating [people], those we will close down. There is a [legal] basis for that,” he said. 

“But if it is something scientific, we do not have any basis to close it down. What is forbidden is bombing people, but the making of those weapons is general knowledge.”

Labor Day: Workers Can’t Afford to Quit Despite Complaints

The Jakarta Globe

Mulyadi is 25, but he’s lost count of how many times in the past three years he has switched factories. 

He works in one for a few months before moving to another, all within Jakarta’s massive Kawasan Berikat Nusantara industrial estate in the Cakung-Cilincing area. 

Thousands of contract factory workers are employed at the KBN in any given year. Some of those workers have worked within the KBN for more than a decade, despite regulations aimed to prevent it. 

“I work mostly for garment factories. The money’s the same everywhere at KBN. I earn Rp 1.38 million [$160] per month,” Mulyadi told the Jakarta Globe. 

“Why do I move around? Not by choice, I can tell you. They’ll just give me a three-month contract or a six-month contract. That’s a lot pressure for us [to turn down the offer], because we know how hard it is to get jobs nowadays,” he said on Friday, two days before May Day demonstrations are expected to hit the capital’s streets. 

“What all of us here at the KBN are most concerned about, though, is unpaid overtime hours. We have to meet the production target, which is quite high. The target depends on company regulations and the type of clothes produced. Sometimes some of us don’t get paid overtime, but we cannot afford to leave.” 

Mulyadi said he would not be among the thousands expected to protest on Sunday. Instead, he said he would join demonstrations on Monday — the details of which were unclear — since Sunday was his day off. 

A Jakarta legal aid group said in February that it received almost 200 labor complaints last year that pointed to the uphill battle workers continued to face in claiming their legal rights. 

Muhammad Isnur of the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) said labor disputes over the lack of insurance, wrongful termination, problematic contracts and outsourcing led to 191 complaints being filed by more than 3,000 workers in 2010. 

“We received complaints about unlawful dismissals, [wage] payments being put on hold and the status of contract workers,” Isnur said. 

According to the 2003 Labor Law, a person can only be employed as a contract worker for two years, with a one-year extension option. Contract workers, he said, are not entitled to receive benefits such as raises, with many being paid less than the standard minimum wage (UMP). 

“A [permanent] worker’s rights include a health insurance scheme, a pension fund, leave, overtime and being paid in accordance with the UMP,” he said. 

The 2011 UMP for Jakarta is Rp 1.29 million per month, a 15.8 percent increase from last year. Labor unions, however, have said the figure is too low. They cite the Reasonable Living Cost Index (KHL), which has been set at Rp 1.4 million per month. 

Laborers at the KBN said their daily problems were usually quite simple, but they still remained unresolved. 

Yana, a 32-year-old mother of two, said her major problem at the garment factory was that the model for the clothes was too complicated at times, and that workers could not go home until all the day’s work was finished. 

“Our main problem is the high production target. Every garment model is different. We could produce, for instance, 200 pieces in an hour or 400 pieces in an hour. It depends on the make of the clothes. We hate that pressure. We have to finish in eight hours of work, or work overtime until we finish, before we can go home,” Yana told the Globe. 

Etty, 27, said she had worked at the KBN since 1999, and she knew that many of the factories there did not pay for menstrual leave. “Every month, the law requires that all female workers are given two days of paid menstrual leave. The company should pay us as much as Rp 92,000 for this leave, but it doesn’t. We lose money like this, but not everybody realizes that,” Etty said. 

“Aside from the short-term contracts and unpaid overtime hours, we have many other concerns. However, we are actually quite afraid to join the [May Day] rally. We do not want to lose our jobs.” 

A male worker who refused to give his name said he would likely not join in the demonstrations on either Sunday or Monday because he was not a member of a labor union. 

“Unless we join a labor union, we do not know what it is we are going to rally for. Most of the time these rallies are organized by labor unions, but our company does not have a labor union,” the worker said. 

Budi Wardoyo, secretary general for the Indonesian Labor Movement Association (PPBI), said 100,000 workers were expected to join Sunday’s May Day demonstrations. 

He said the rally would start at 9 a.m. at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle. From there, demonstrators would march toward the Presidential Palace.

Boy on Trial for Phone-Voucher Theft As Defense Rails Against ‘Trivial’ Case

The Jakarta Globe

A 14-year-old student accused of stealing a Rp 10,000 ($1.15) cellphone voucher went on trial on Thursday, even as defense lawyers insisted such a minor dispute should have been settled out of court.

The case of Deli Suhandi made headlines earlier this month after it was revealed he had been languishing for weeks at the Pondok Bambu Penitentiary along with hardened criminals for a petty offense.

He was released from prison a day after reports of his situation came out, but charges against him had not been dropped.

Agam, a prosecutor at the Central Jakarta District Court, said after Thursday’s closed-door hearing that Deli could face up to seven years in prison. Under the law, trials for juveniles are required to be closed to the public.

Deli was arrested along with two school friends, Muhamad Luki and Rahmat Wibowo, after witnesses reported them stealing phone cards from a shop after a riot along Jalan Tanah Tinggi on March 10. Luki and Rahmat were released from police custody later in the day.

Defense lawyer Hendra Supriatna said police did not have a warrant to arrest Deli at the time. He also said the boy was not accompanied by a lawyer during his interrogation.

“The indictment is too vague and there are some violations [by police],” he said. “Rahmat and Muhamad were [subjected to] intimidation during questioning. The police failed to show a warrant for Deli’s arrest.”

Agam insisted there was a lawyer present during the child’s interrogation.

Hendra added that prosecutors and the Johar Baru district police “neglected” a 2009 joint ministerial decree on dealing with children in conflict with the law by throwing Deli in jail.

“This kind of a case can be solved by discussions among the witnesses, the victim and the suspect,” he said.

Hendra said Deli’s case was a wake-up call for the government to properly enforce the decree and “prevent other children from being tried for trivial cases.”

He added: “If this kind of case can happen in Jakarta, where the access to information is easy, what will happen in small and remote provinces?”

The trial was adjourned until May 5. Deli’s lawyers are expected to present their preliminary defense, while the prosecution will reportedly call on witnesses to testify.

Fisherman Reduced to Scavenging Plastic

The Jakarta Globe

Some of the country’s best restaurants serve up green mussels steamed, baked or in curries. But the menu price on a single plate of the delicacy hardly reflects the amount of labor put into the shucking of the mollusks by the wives of North Jakarta fishermen on any given day.

North Jakarta’s fishing sub-district of Cilincing is renowned nationwide for its green mussels, but fishermen and their wives are complaining that with growing pollution in Jakarta Bay tainting the seafood paired with falling demand in the capital, more and more shuckers are losing their jobs. Many are now scavenging for food instead.
During Wednesday’s visit by the Jakarta Globe, 54-year-old Astia said that she has been shucking mussels for 10 years, but she was earning less today for double the work she was doing in previous years.
“The green mussels are smaller now than before. We earn Rp 2,000 [23 cents] for a single kilogram of green mussels, but we have to peel more of them nowadays. We work so much harder, but we still make less,” Astia told the Globe, as she sat with other women around a pile of mussels, removing them from their shells one at a time.
“But nobody cares. Nobody gives us basic food supplies. So, we have to do whatever we can to eat rice.”
Ruswati, 34, said she earned a maximum of Rp 18,000 on a good day of shucking. But her eldest son, 15, had to be taken out of school to make ends meet three years ago, joining his father fishing. However, Ruswati said she counted herself among the lucky ones.
Suwardi, 32, said he used to set out for fish and mussels at the same time, but due to changes in the weather and environment, “there is no job available for people like me anymore.”
“I now look for plastic bottles in piles of rubbish by the beach, to sell them. At least my family can stay alive,” Suwardi said.
“I sell one sack of clean bottles for Rp 5,000. A bag of dirty bottles gets me just Rp 3,000,” he added.
“Although we end up eating just tofu with some salt, we have to keep trying to make enough so we can eat rice. We’ve grown tired of complaining to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. He does not seem to care, even though we have protested in front of his palace.”
Riza Damanik, secretary general for the Fisheries Justice Coalition (Kiara), said fishing families in Cilincing were being pushed into poverty and had resorted to scavenging because of the pollution affecting Jakarta’s northern coast.
“Mussels are among the fastest to respond to changes in the environment. And there are so many industries polluting the Jakarta Bay with toxic waste, for instance,” he said.
“Pollution is destroying the bay, and, we believe, so will the city’s land reclamation project there, if goes ahead. All this pollution will affect the quality of marine life, which in turn will directly affect the lives of fishing families,” Riza said.
“Fishing families across Indonesia are losing their livelihoods because pollution is destroying our bays. Pollution and land reclamation projects will push even more fishing families into poverty. They become scavengers, or laborers.”
The same sentiments were shared by green mussel entrepreneur Minen, who told the Globe on Wednesday that his three farms were affected too.
“I would get, for instance, just 100 sacks of small green mussels from all three farms in a single day. And we cannot use all of them because some are polluted by toxic waste!” Minen said.
“I invested Rp 6 million to build the farms, for the bamboo, the nets and the people,” he said. “Instead of profit, I have been making losses. Still, I have to try making money. I can help people in my neighborhood to have an income, even though it’s not a lot.”

Jupe Faces 2 Years, 8 Months Jail for On-Set Cat Fight

The Jakarta Globe

Controversial Indonesian celebrity Julia Perez is facing a maximum of two years and eight months in jail for allegedly assaulting a fellow controversial actress, Dewi Perssik.

The trial opened on Tuesday for the case, which stems from an incident that took place last November on the set of “Arwah Goyang Kerawang” (“Dancing Ghost of Karawang”), a horror film in which the two co-starred.

The celebrities, both of whom began as dangdut singers, reportedly slapped and scratched each other while grappling on the floor of the Hotel Mega Matra in Matraman, East Jakarta, where the filming was taking place.

Prosecutors told the East Jakarta District Court that Julia, whose real name is Yuli Rahmawati, violated Article 351 of the Criminal Code on assault.

Based on the police report filed by Dewi, prosecutor Hutamrin said the incident took place during the filming of a scene that was supposed to show the two women acting out a cat fight.

“The two were supposed to be slapping and scratching each other according to the script, however even after the scene they couldn’t be separated,” he said.

“They were crawling on the floor, tearing out each other’s clothes and their underwear were exposed.

“It became a free show for people in the set,” he continued.

Julia, who appeared in court in a formal outfit along with six lawyers, said she was a bit nervous.

“I was surprised that I had to sit alone in front of the judge during the hearing, but it was fine,” she said.

Though she hasn’t been detained since the police report was filed, presiding Judge Jesayas said her camp still needed to send a request for a suspension of detention to keep her out of jail.

“We will send the formal request,” her lawyer, Henry Yosodiningrat, said.

“We will guarantee that the defendant will always attend the hearings, that she will not escape and that she will not remove evidence.”

The film was eventually released early this year and even promoted that it contained genuine scenes of violence featuring Dewi and Julia brawling on set.

Prosecutors Seeking Eight Years for Bekasi Bicycle Bomber

The Jakarta Globe

Prosecutors on Tuesday demanded that accused suicide bomber Ahmad Abdul Rabani serve eight years in jail for attempting to detonate an explosive at a police post in Bekasi in September.

Arguing in East Jakarta District Court, prosecutors said the 38-year-old Ahmad had acted with intent to kill two officers of the law when he attempted to detonate a crude homemade bomb mounted on the backseat of his bicycle at a traffic police post in Kalimalang, Bekasi.

The bomb exploded prematurely, injuring only Ahmad and leaving him with serious wounds, including a broken leg and arm.

Prosecutors had earlier said they would possibly seek the death penalty under the nation’s Anti-Terrorism Law, but on Tuesday asked for a lighter sentence for the alleged lone-wolf suicide bomber.

“We recommend that the defendant is jailed for a maximum of eight years, minus the time spent in prison. The mitigating factors are, that he was well-behaved throughout the course of the trial, and admitted to making the bomb,” prosecutor Trimo said.

“He put people’s lives in danger. He aimed to spread terror,” he added.

Accompanied by lawyers from the White Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Putih), Ahmad told reporters afterward that he was resigned to his fate and would accept whatever punishment he was given.

“I do not regret what I did. I will accept all consequences that come my way,” he said. “The most important thing is that I did all in my efforts to defend Islam.”

Ahmad is also receiving legal assistance from the Muslim Defenders Team (TPM), which also represents extremist preacher Abu Bakar Bashir.

Prosecutors have said that Ahmad suffers mental health problems after losing his entire family in the 2004 tsunami in Aceh, and that he held a grudge against the police after reading a number of news reports about police officers arresting Muslim terror suspects, and yearned to become a syuhada , or martyr.

His trial is scheduled to resume on Tuesday. Elisabeth Oktofani

Jilted PKS Founder Wants Day In Court

The Jakarta Globe

Prosperous Justice Party co-founder Yusuf Supendi said on Monday that he was ready to take the party’s leaders to court over his controversial dismissal.

In a case that has become another distraction for a party that has recently reeled from one controversy to another, Yusuf has refused to accept his dismissal, saying he had never received official notification.

Yusuf helped establish the Justice Party in 1998, which later became the PKS.

“On November 28, 2010, four people from the PKS, including [deputy chairman] Triwisaksana, visited me at 8:20 p.m. to show me the dismissal letter, dated October 29, 2009, and addressed to me,” Yusuf said.

But he said he had never received a copy of the letter.

He also said he did not read the letter in 2010 because it was not given to him according to party guidelines.

“I do not know why they wanted to kick me out, because I did not read the letter,” he said. “But I think it is because I am too critical of the consultative body.”

Dani Saliswijaya, Yusuf’s lawyer, said they would take the case to court after an attempt to meet party leaders was rebuffed.

He said Yusuf would sue 11 PKS leaders, including Hilmi Aminuddin, the head of the PKS’s consultative body; Surahman Hidayat, the head of the PKS’s Shariah Council; party president Luthfi Hasan Ishaq; Anis Matta, PKS secretary general; Communication Minister Tifatul Sembiring; and Social Affairs Minister Salim Segaf.

Dani said the suit would be filed with the South Jakarta District Court on Thursday and that Yusuf would seek Rp 37 billion ($4.3 million) in compensation.

The lawyer added that four nongovernmental organizations were also planning to report the PKS to the Constitutional Court demanding its dissolution, but he did not say on what grounds.

“I do not want to name who they are yet. But they have evidence to report,” he said.

He added that Yusuf would bring a separate complaint to the Constitutional Court.

Yusuf said the PKS had strayed from its original mission. “Instead of preaching to spread values, the PKS now preaches to look for positions in the House,” he said.

Mustafa Kamal, the head of the PKS in the House of Representatives, said the party would follow all legal procedures related to the case but that Yusuf’s charges were baseless.

A PKS legislator, Arifinto, was recently caught in the House looking at a pornographic video on his tablet computer.

Anis Matta was last month implicated in a sex-video scandal that the police later cleared him of.

Pageant Promotes Country’s Coffee

The Jakarta Globe

Aromatic, with no bitter aftertaste. The coffee, that is, not Laskari Metal Bitticaca, who was on Monday night crowned the inaugural Miss Coffee Indonesia.

Laskari, from South Sulawesi, beat 31 other contestants from 14 coffee-producing provinces, in the event held by the Culture and Tourism Ministry.

She will represent Indonesia at the International Queen of Coffee pageant in Colombia next year, SCTV reported.

Diana Miring Tikupasang, deputy for domestic promotion at the Culture and Tourism Ministry, told the Jakarta Globe that the pageant would be a great opportunity for Indonesia to promote its quality coffee.

“The idea of choosing a Miss Coffee is to promote Indonesia’s good-quality coffee to the world,” she said. “There are several areas in Indonesia that are renowned for their coffee, like Aceh, Toraja [in South Sulawesi] and Papua.”

She said Indonesia is the fourth-largest coffee producer in the world after Brazil, Vietnam and Colombia, and the government plans to develop coffee-based agro-tourism.

“That’s never been done before in the Indonesian tourism sector, and we have so many coffee plantations that can be used as eco-tourism destinations,” Diana said.

The government wanted to see more Indonesian retailers selling coffee, rather than have the market dominated by international brands selling the locally grown produce under their labels. “We can develop our own coffee industry selling the goods for cheaper than the international labels,” she said.

Indonesia’s most famous coffee is kopi luwak, dubbed the world’s most flavorful and expensive. Demand for the coffee, brewed with beans plucked from the dung of civets — furry, weasel-like creatures known locally as luwaks — is surging among coffee connoisseurs around the world, exporters say.

Additional reporting from AFP

Footballer Irfan Ready for His Close-Up in New Movie

The Jakarta Globe

Irfan Bachdim, the golden boy of Indonesian football, is preparing to take his game from the pitch to the big screen.

The Persema Malang striker is set to star in “Tendangan Dari Langit” (“Kick From the Sky”). He will be joined by two of his teammates from the Indonesian Premier League club, German-born Kim Kurniawan and Bima Sakti, Persema’s captain.

Production is expected to start in the middle of May. The film tells the story of a high school student named Wahyu, from Bromo, East Java, who aspires to play for the national football team.

The lead character’s story was inspired in part by Irfan’s own struggles to become a professional footballer.

Irfan became an instant celebrity when he scored a goal in his national team debut against Malaysia during last year’s AFF Suzuki Cup. Indonesia won 5-1.

Abdul Aziz, a spokesman for Sinemart Pictures, which is producing the movie, said the idea for the story came from Persema coach Timo Scheunemann.

“The film is not just about drama, but it will be an inspiration and motivation for all the talented youngsters who want to become future national football stars,” Aziz said.

The film will be shot in Malang, Bromo and other locations around East Java.

Sinemart Pictures has yet to cast the role of Wahyu.

The film is scheduled to be screened later this year.