Parents Say School Pressed Kids to Cheat

The Jakarta Globe

The parents of a sixth-grader at a South Jakarta elementary school have filed a complaint claiming the school provided students with answers to the national exams prior to testing in May.

The parents allege the school, identified as State Elementary School (SDN) No. 6 Pesanggrahan, initially provided answers to a handful of students, then had them distribute the answers to the rest of the student body by cellphone. These efforts, the parents told the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak), involved their own son, identified only as M.A.P.
Commission chairman Arist Merdeka Sirait said the complaint was filed on Saturday.
“We believe there is evidence of systematic fraud,” he told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday.
“Additionally, we believe this not only occurred at M.A.P.’s school, but at others as well.”
He said his office would investigate the case, but even if the allegations proved to be true, it would not impose punishments.
“It’s not fair if the school helped its students cheat during the national exams,” Arist said. “But [the Education Ministry is] not demanding that the guilty parties be punished.”
He stressed, however, that the allegation undermined the credibility of the exams themselves.
Winda Lubis, M.A.P’s mother, told the Globe on Monday that she found out about the systematic cheating when her son returned home crying after the first day of the exams.
“He told me his teacher had told him and three other students to give the exam answers to the other students during the test,” she said.
“However, they were told not to tell anyone about this, including their parents.”
She said that after learning about this, she had tried to file a complaint at one of the posts set up by the Education Ministry for that very purpose.
“When I tried to call the first time, there wasn’t any response. The second day, an office boy answered and said the complaint post was closed because it was set up to accommodate reports of cheating in the junior and senior high school exams,” Winda said.
“So I reported the case to Komnas Anak because that was the only alternative.”
However, Taufik Yudi Mulyanto, head of the Jakarta Education Office, told the Globe that the complaint had been noted.
“We first received the complaint [on Friday] and we have already followed up on it,” he said.
“But we haven’t found any evidence [to support the allegations]. Even if we do, we don’t know yet what we’ll do about it.”
Bambang Wisudo, executive director of the nongovernmental group Schools Without Borders, said it was a shame that teachers were fostering a culture of cheating among young students.
He also said that requiring sixth-graders to take exams to proceed to junior high school placed undue pressure on them.
“The national exams can destroy the children at a basic level because the standardization of the tests is flawed and the implementation can force students to cheat,” he said.
“Instead of being forced to take the exams, the children should be allowed to develop based on their interests.”
Winda said she had gone public with the issue because she believed that cheating at such a young age posed a moral danger to the country’s children.
“I know there are many potential risks that I’ve exposed my son to by revealing this case, but I just care about my children’s education,” she said.
“To develop the nation on the basis of a smart work force means nothing if that work force lacks morals. We need to nurture honest people.”

Alert Raised Over Volcano’s Deadly Gas

The Jakarta Globe

Authorities have raised the alert level for Mount Dieng in Central Java and have ordered the evacuation of residents living near the area after the volcano began spewing poisonous gas.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, a spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB), said on Monday that the alert status was raised from level 2 to level 3, which meant the volcano was showing signs of erupting.
He said scientists recorded increasing volcanic activity on Sunday. “There was phreatic eruption [a steam eruption without lava] which happened at the Timbang crater, one of the active craters,” Sutopo said.
He said the crater spouted jets of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide — both colorless and odorless.
Mount Dieng has six craters: Sileri, Siglagah, Condrodimuko, Sikidang, Sinila and Timbang. Scientists say the latter two are the most active.
Sutopo added that the Volcanology and Geological Disaster Mitigation Agency (PVMBG) had declared a one-kilometer radius around Timbang off-limits. Several villages were covered by the danger zone.
“We have evacuated 1,179 people from Simbar and Sumber villages to [a village in] Batur subdistrict,” Sutopo said.
PVMBG chief Surono said on Monday that Mount Dieng’s eruption was marked by the emission of gas, which if inhaled in large amounts could be fatal.
He said that in 1979, CO2 from the Timbang crater killed 149 people. During the rainy season, the greenhouse gas stays close to the surface of the earth, making it deadlier, Surono added.
Muhammad Djasri, the Banjarnegara district chief, said the government on Monday declared a state of emergency in the area through to June 12.
Sarkono, head of Batur subdistrict, said that although residents in the danger zone had already been evacuated, many villagers were sneaking back to the Mount Dieng area to tend to their land and livestock.

Survey Finds 80% of People Still Find Pancasila Relevant

The Jakarta Globe

Most people still see Pancasila as relevant and believe there is a need to apply the values of the state ideology in their daily lives, a survey released on Tuesday shows.

For three decades under the iron-fisted rule of President Suharto, the teaching of the state ideology was obligatory at all schools, but once he stepped down in 1998, the compulsory nature was dropped.

But a recent survey by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) found that most people long for a return to the days when the ideology was taught in all schools, across the country, giving it equal footing with the state’s six recognized religions.

“About 80 percent see Pancasila as something that is still needed,” BPS chairman Rusman Heriawan said at the State Palace before reporting the results of the survey to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The survey, conducted from May 27-29, questioned 12,000 randomly selected people from various backgrounds throughout the country, asking for their opinion of and understanding of the state ideology.

“This [the result] might be in response to growing incidents of unrest,” Rusman said, referring to the mounting number of recent cases of religious-based violence around the country.

The survey also revealed that most respondents had hopes that Pancasila would be returned to school curricula.

“They feel a lack of implementation [of Pancasila] in their daily lives,” Rusman said.

Pancasila, which means five tenets, was used by Suharto’s New Order regime to keep religious extremism at bay, including by demanding that all political parties and mass organizations adhere to the ideology.

In a private discussion, “Tolerance in Spiritual Lives and a Pluralistic Country,” which was held in Jakarta on Tuesday, religious leaders called on the government to protect both the Constitution and Pancasila.

Speaking at the event, Andreas A. Yewangoe, chairman of the Indonesian Protestant Church Union (PGI), said the country needed to be brought back to Pancasila before other ideologies could destroy it.

“It needs to be understood that we, the religious leaders, are not contemptuous of all government policies or actions, but we just criticize what it has been doing, with the government slowly leaving Pancasila behind,” he said.

Yewangoe cited the Islamic Awards granted by the minister of religious affair to governors, district heads and mayors deemed to “explicitly include Islamic education in regional bylaws.”

“It is not a picture of Pancasila at all, which has values of tolerance and mutual respect, because those district heads and mayors are actually discriminating with the decrees they issue to govern their areas,” he said.

Yewangoe added that Pancasila was the ideal ideology to keep multifaceted Indonesia united.

“The government and all the Indonesian people need to seriously implement Pancasila in their daily lives, including when they make regulations or policy,” he said.

Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah, the country’s second-largest Islamic organization, said Pancasila was the best ideology to sustain the country.

“Indonesia is a Pancasila country, where we must be tolerant and respect each other,” he said.

He said that to get the values of Pancasila reflected in the nation’s daily life, those who supported the ideology should persuade everyone in the country to embrace its tenets.

Din said the government should also intervene whenever there was a problem of intolerance, and that there was also a need to build common ethical values across religions.

“It is very important that we share common ethical values among the followers of the various faiths,” he said.

Ursula McLackland, regional secretary general of the Universal Peace Federation-Asia, a network that advocates global peace, said the country’s Constitution, which guaranteed freedom of worship, was a good model but its implementation in daily life still needed to be more effective.

Official Confident of Hollywood Ending in Foreign Film Boycott

The Jakarta Globe

Indonesia’s despair over the lack of Hollywood blockbusters on the big screen may be over soon, according to a tourism official.

Ukus Kuswara, the director general for culture, arts and film at the Ministry of Tourism, said the government and the Motion Picture Association had negotiated a “win-win solution.”

“Let’s just say it’s not about the tax figure, but the mechanism for its imposition. There’s a difference in perception but that’s been sorted out now,” he told AFP without elaborating.

The dispute centers on Indonesia’s new system of calculating and charging royalties on imported films, which the MPA said had “a detrimental impact on the cost of bringing a film into Indonesia.”

When asked to clarify, Ukus said the ministry wanted US box-office hits — which made up more than half of all movies screened in Indonesia before the boycott began in February — to return as soo n as possible, largely due to the detrimental impact the boycott has had on the cinema industry.

“I have been monitoring the films [being shown] and cinema visitors, and it’s sad to see theaters empty,” he said.

While the Directorate General of Customs and Excise has been resolute about implementing the new royalty computation, the Ministry of Tourism has always maintained that the government is open to negotiations with film importers.

Ukus said that while it was the government’s right to impose taxes and duties, “we need a way of determining import duties that everyone agrees to.”

“We will have one more meeting with the Ministry of Finance [on Monday] regarding the tax scheme,” he said. “Hopefully, in the next one or two weeks, importers can resume bringing in box-office hits to Indonesia.”

Since the MPA stopped distributing films to Indonesia, everyone has been losing except the sellers of pirated DVDs.

“Customers are looking for titles like ‘Fast Five,’ ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Thor’ because they can’t watch them in the cinema,” said Yani, who sells pirated DVDs. “They complain my videos are low quality and they wouldn’t watch them if they had a choice. But I can’t complain, business is good.”

She said sales had jumped 50 percent since the MPA boycott.

Cinemas, which have been trying to fill the gap with local fare and B-grade foreign films dug out of the rejects bin, are almost empty.

Djonny Sjafruddin, the head of the Indonesian Cinema Companies Union (GPBSI), which represents 240 cinemas nationwide, had earlier said that the foreign film distribution boycott had caused a 60 percent drop in the local cinema industry’s income nationwide.

Worse may be yet to come, with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” also likely to be axed, Djonny added.

But if the issue is indeed resolved in the next one or two weeks, as Usuk said, Potter fans might not have to fly to Singapore to see the much-awaited conclusion of the blockbuster series.

Additional reporting by AFP

Indonesia’s Transgender Community Facing Test of Faith

The Jakarta Globe

For Indonesian transgenders, practicing religion in public is not an easy thing, but that doesn’t stop some from trying.
Mariyani, a 50-year-old transgender hairdresser, said during a discussion on homosexuality and religion that transgender people, just like other people, wish to be able to practice their religion openly.
“If I ever had the choice, I would not want to be a transgender, but this is what God has decided for me,” Mariyani said.
“It needs to be understood that it is not true that all transgenders are bad, because there are good transgenders who actually have a strong willingness to publicly practice religion but unfortunately we are not accepted,” she said.
But Merlyn Sopjan, a Christian transgender who heads the Malang Transsexual Association (Iwama), told the Jakarta Globe that unlike Mariyani, she has never experienced rejection in her church.
“Even though there are many people who know that I am a transgender, no one stares at me every time I walk to the church and I feel so comfortable because I can practice my religion peacefully,” Merlyn said.
“I think it is because that in Christian religious rites, the male and female believers are not segregated,” she added.
“However, I have one friend who was told by the priest that he cannot join the Mass if he dresses up as a woman.”
Merlyn said she expects that transgenders will eventually be accepted within religious groups.
“As human beings who are committed to our religion, we just want to have the freedom to practice our religion as other people do,” she added.
Mohamad Guntur Romli, a prominent liberal Muslim intellectual and a graduate of Egypt’s Al Azhar University, said on Thursday that the root cause of suspicion of homosexuals in Indonesia is ignorance.
“The lack of knowledge about rights and health issues related to homosexuality has created hatred within society,” Guntur said.
“Homosexuality is being equated with a mental disorder or the homosexual community is blamed for having spread HIV/AIDS, for instance. That’s not proper information about homosexuality and this has led to homophobia among wider society,” he explained.
Guntur said religious institutions and leaders have also played a role in the stigmatization of homosexuals.
“Religious institutions and leaders often find it difficult to be sympathetic toward homosexuality,” he continued.
He said that self-righteous religious leaders and institutions see homosexuals as sinners.
“Ignorance about homosexuality has created homophobia in society and religion is being used to spread hatred toward homosexual communities,” Guntur added.
Muhammad Syukri, an openly gay man from Yogyakarta, told the Globe on Friday that obvious signs of gayness sometimes lead to rejection.
“Being gay is not as hard as being transgender … whenever I want to practice my religion, I do not get a hard time from another believer, because I do not dress up as a woman,” Syukri said.
But as soon as he would begin acting in what is seen as a feminine way, trouble often starts. “Some people make a fun of me and actually, that is a form of harassment,” Syukri said.

AGO Says It Will Still Go After Teen Over Rp 10,000 Phone Card

The Jakarta Globe

The Attorney General’s Office indicated on Friday that it would continue pursuing a teenager accused of stealing a Rp 10,000 cellphone voucher, despite a recent ruling dismissing the matter.

“We embrace the principle of legality, as long as the crime falls under the criminal charges. This is the theft of phone voucher that falls under the Article 362 [of the Criminal Code],” said Marwan Effendy, the deputy attorney general for internal supervision.

He was commenting on a preliminary court decision rejecting the indictment against Deli Suhendi, 14, and ordered he be cleared of theft charges because, among other things, he was not accompanied by lawyers during the police interrogation.

“For underage children, there are special rules for the trial and detention procedures, but the criminal charges will be the same,” the deputy said.

Marwan said unconventional methods to settle controversial cases were often rejected by the Supreme Court if they were against the principle of legality.

“We once used the ‘sociological’ approach but our decision was overturned by the Supreme Court,” he said, apparently referring to the decision by prosecutors to drop charges against antigraft officials Chandra Hamzah and Bibit Samad Rianto last year.

Prosecutors said “it would be morally harmful than beneficial to try the two officials,” but the top court ruled such an approach was not recognized by the Indonesian judiciary system.

The AGO’s insistence on the trial drew protests from the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak) for ignoring a regulation that adopts a special approach for children.

“As a prosecutor, Marwan Effendy has violated the 2009 joint ministerial decree on how to deal the children who are in conflict with the law, and if he insists to go through with the case he will set a precedence for other prosecutors,” commission chairman Arist Merdeka Sirait said.

“It needs to be considered that there was no aggrieved person who reported this case, but police reported it themselves and there was no Rp 10,000 credit voucher as the evidence for the trial.”

Supriyadi Sebayang, a lawyer for Deli, told the Jakarta Globe that the defense was ready.

“Although it is surprising that the prosecutor insists to file the appeal against Deli, we are going to fight against the prosecutor.”

“The prosecutor’s willingness to continue with the case has raised question about the motive behind the action, whether there is a fear toward the investigators [police]?” he said.

“This is not a big case, not worth millions of rupiah, but only Rp 10,000 and there is no aggrieved person.”

Legal Aid Nonprofit Hoping for New Benefactors After Funding Shortfall

The Jakarta Globe

A nonprofit legal aid foundation that offers advice and representation to impoverished and marginalized city residents is itself seeking financial support after suffering a setback in funding.

Nurkholis Hidayat, director of the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta), told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday that the nongovernmental group had Rp 27 million ($3,200) in the bank, not enough to cover one month’s operational costs.

“We are looking for public donations to support us because we are not going to stop handling the legal cases that we are currently dealing with,” he said.

Nurkholis said the funding shortfall happened after some key donors withdrew support on the belief that the government should be funding the group.

He said LBH Jakarta hoped to gain more individual donors aside from the local and international groups that have traditionally supported the organization.

Such a move would allow the foundation to be more independent, he said.

According to LBH Jakarta data, on average the foundation handles about 1,000 cases every year without charge on a volunteer basis. The foundation also provides legal education to disadvantaged communities and individuals.

LBH Jakarta also proposes bills to be discussed in the House of Representatives, such as a bill on domestic workers rights and one on religious freedom. Both are currently being deliberated by the legislature.

So far this year, LBH Jakarta has received 447 cases, according to its data.

Nurkholis said the foundation required minimum funding of Rp 70 million per month, Rp 40 million of which went to paying the salaries of its 17 staffers.

He added that this was not the first time the foundation had experienced financial difficulties. In 2003, the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, of which LBH Jakarta is a regional branch, lost several donors, causing the 15 regional offices to fend for themselves in securing funding.

“Between 2003 to 2005, half of our advocacy staff had to resign. However, we got funded again from some donors, including the Jakarta provincial administration,” he said.

According to Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo, that financial aid was stopped in 2008. However, the foundation is still housed in a Central Jakarta building provided by the city.

When asked to comment about the foundation’s bleak financial prospects, the governor said he was greatly concerned about its ability to continue its mission. He added that the foundation “will find a solution to the situation.”

Raydonnyzar Moenek, a spokesman for the Ministry of Home Affairs, said as much as it would like to help, the government had to be selective in which groups it funded.

“Providing the social funding is not the government’s obligation. Therefore, it is given in a limited period of time,” he said.

Victoria Coakley, the democratic governance counselor for Australian Aid for International Development (AusAID), told the Jakarta Globe that her group would continue to show its support for LBH Jakarta.

“I can confirm that there has been no delay in dispersing the funds. They should receive the funding soon,” she said when asked about the foundation.

Unrepentant Failed Suicide Bomber Gets Light Sentence

The Jakarta Globe

A would-be suicide bomber who botched his attack on an Indonesian police post last year and lived to tell the story was jailed for five and a half years on Tuesday. 

The sentence handed down to Ahmad Abdul Rabani, 38, was two and a half years lighter than the eight-year jail term recommended by prosecutors. 

They had originally sought the death penalty. 

The East Jakarta District Court ruled Ahmad had acted with intent in attempts to kill two Bekasi Police officers with a crude bomb in September. The bomb, however, detonated prematurely, leaving Ahmad with serious injuries, including a broken leg and arm. 

Ahmad was unrepentant. 

“I do not regret what I did. I will accept all the consequences that come my way,” he said. “What I have done is done.” 

The homemade bomb with which Ahmad tried to kill the officers at a traffic police post in Kalimalang was mounted on the back seat of bicycle. 

Ahmad, a drifter who moved from one mosque to another after coming to Jakarta from Aceh in April, tried to kill himself, along with Adj. Comr. Hendry Azhari and Second Brig. Sugianto, with his bicycle bomb. 

Presiding judge H.B.J. Nasution said Ahmad was found guilty for specific reasons. 

“Although Ahmad did not kill anybody, he did put other people’s lives in danger and spread terror by detonating the bicycle bomb,” he said. 

The judge also said mitigating factors were considered for Ahmad, saying he confessed to his actions and was honest during the course of the trial. 

“He admitted that he had built the bomb to take revenge on police officers for arresting Muslim terror suspects,” the judge said. 

“He also admitted that he made the bomb by himself and that he spent as much as Rp 200,000 [$23] in the process.” 

Outside the court, Trimo, one of the prosecutors, told reporters that the prosecution would consider appealing the sentence. 

Ahmad, who has lost his entire family in the 2004 Aceh tsunami, said he did not know where he would go when he was released as he did not have any family or friends in Jakarta. 

“I am just going to start my life all over again. I do not know yet what I am going to do exactly,” he said. 

When questioned about the Indonesian Islamic State (NII) movement, Ahmad said Indonesia should be run according to Shariah law. 

“[An Islamic state] would be ideal for Indonesia. I do not like the current state of affairs in Indonesia. It just doesn’t fit my beliefs. A good country is an Islamic country,” he said. 

Two suicide notes were found after Ahmad had set off his bike-bomb. 

One of them read: “This bomb is for all you kafir [infidels]! We will come chasing after you even if you run up to the clouds. Your death is certain. The mujahideen are still alive in Indonesia!”

Most Media Reports on Women’s Issues Focus on Violence: Rights Group

The Jakarta Globe

Activists said on Monday that violence against women still dominated reports on women’s issues in the print media and that other angles and themes needed to be explored. 

The state-sanctioned National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) said its findings came from a survey of reports on women’s issues published by eight national print media in 2010, including the Jakarta Globe. 

The survey showed that from the 1,278 articles on women’s issues covered in those media that year, 82.95 percent were focused on violence against women. The majority of the rest covered gender discrimination, female criminals and morality issues. 

Komnas Perempuan’s Andy Yentriyani said at a discussion on Monday that the media should pay more attention to the frequently negative portrayal of women’s morality, even in stories where a woman is the victim of a sexual assault. 

“The presumption of innocence is often neglected by the media, especially media reports on pornography, where the moral issue, rather than the sexual violence, is being brought forward,” she said. 

TV presenters Cut Tari and Luna Maya both came under intense media scrutiny last year after being implicated in the Nazril “Ariel” Irham sex video scandal. Both women were publicly denounced by some religious groups for immoral behavior. 

Komnas Perempuan commissioner Arimbi Heroeputri said that while 83 percent of reports on women’s issues actually met the journalistic code of ethics, including in not naming victims of certain crimes, only half met both the journalistic code of ethics and Komnas Perempuan’s own code of victim’s rights. 

Nunung Qomariyah, another commissioner, called on the media to become an agent of change and help spread a better understanding of the issues women face in society. 

“The media also has a function to influence, create and change society’s point of view … on women’s issues, to have a better understanding in the society,” Nunung said. 

Another commissioner, Neng Dara Affifah, said the press council and other journalistic organizations must closely monitor the implementation of the code of ethics in media reports. 

“In order to implement the code of conduct in media reports on violence against women, media workers and women activists need to discuss and establish an appropriate code of conduct,” Neng said. 

Neng said that in reporting on violence against women, the presumption of innocence, especially for the victims, should also be respected, especially when concerning a public figure.

Electronic IDs Set for Debut In September, Ministry Says

The Jakarta Globe

The government is set to begin issuing the much-discussed electronic identification cards in September, an official said on Sunday. 

Raydonnyzar Moenek, a spokesman with the Ministry of Home Affairs, told the Jakarta Globe that the government would begin handing out the new cards, also known as E-KTPs, in 197 districts, mostly in Java and Bali. 

The E-KTP is being hailed by the government as a step forward that will simplify bureaucratic processes and improve national security by being tougher to forge. 

The new smart cards will be equipped with an electronic chip that will contain more data than previously recorded, such as information on birth, land ownership and tax status. 

They will also contain a biometric fingerprint and the holder’s new single identity number. 

“We will split the distribution of the E-KTP into two phases,” Raydonnyzar said. 

“The first distribution will be done in 197 districts in early September through the end of December 2011. That will be followed by 300 districts in 2012.” 

He said the distribution of the cards was taking place in two phases to give those districts not yet ready more time to prepare for the program. 

Raydonnyzar said the government had budgeted as much as Rp 5.9 trillion ($690 million) for the E-KPT project. 

He said the new cards would be distributed for free, and that citizens would only need to register at their local subdistrict office to obtain the card. 

It will take about two weeks from registration for the new card to be issued, he said. 

He added that the new cards’ adoption of the Single Identity Number program was also a sign of progress. 

Under the system, all Indonesian citizens will have only one identification number until they die. The government has said the system will lead to greater administrative order and, most important, avoid IDs being duplicated or misused. 

Some terrorists and terrorist suspects have been found carrying multiple identity cards listing falsified information. 

Raydonnyzar said he was confident the E-KTP would also reach those living in remote areas lacking electricity. 

“In order to provide all citizens throughout the country with an E-KTP, we are going to send out officers equipped with laptops and electric generators that will then be used to verify the information of citizens,” he said. “We will also record their fingerprints.” 

He also dismissed rumors that private information would be sold to businesses. 

“The information that the government will sell the citizen database to private institutions is not correct at all,” he said.