My Jakarta: Hira Juwita Prabukusumo, Microfinance Advocate

The Jakarta Globe

My Jakarta: Hira Juwita Prabukusumo, Microfinance Advocate

‘I Want to Show People That I Can Stand On My Own Two Feet’

Hira Juwita Prabukusumo, the youngest daughter of Sultan Hamengkubuwono X’s younger brother Haryo Prabukusumo, is part of the royal family but she isn’t content just living a privileged life filled luxury. She has chosen to work and make her own way in the world.

Hira recently graduated from University of Gadjah Mada’s School of Architecture, and is working in Jakarta at Sampoerna Microfinance’s Business Development Division, where she finds fulfillment by helping people realize their dreams of owning a business and making a better future for themselves.

Why did you choose to get into microfinance?

I really love my job because although I am working in banking, there is an emphasis on society, especially the less fortunate people in Indonesia.

My job is not about helping the rich become richer but helping the less fortunate get out of from poverty in a creative yet independent way.

As soon as I graduated from university and I saw this job opportunity, I applied for it. Now people understand that microfinance is actually an excellent way to help people to get out of poverty in a creative community-based way using local commodities. And also, microbusinesses don’t feel the impact of the global financial crisis.

However, in order to keep helping people, we can’t just give them money because they might not be using it properly. We offer them a soft loan, which they have to eventually pay back. This way it encourages the owners to work hard to develop their business.

In addition to all of that, microfinance largely helps women and children, who tend to be the victim of domestic violence when a poor family is facing a financial problem.

Coming from Yogyakarta, how do you like Jakarta?

Jakarta is the capital city, the center of activity and business, it is a place where most decisions and policies are made. If I have an idea and I want it to be implemented on the regional level, I think I have to work in Jakarta because if my idea is accepted, it can be spread throughout the nation from here. If I were working in the regional level and I had an idea, it would likely stay in one place.

As a member of the royal family, why didn’t you take it easy or use your family connections?

I have been asked this question and similar ones over and over again. Even worse, is when people say things such as ‘Of course, you can study in UGM because you are part of the royal family.’ Many people only look at my background, not at me as an individual. Therefore, I want to show people that I can stand on my own two feet. I want to show people that I have developed my own skills and abilities.

So I left Yogyakarta and looked for a job at a place where none of my family members were also working.

Surprisingly, my boss told me that I was doing a good job and I was promoted after just three months at Sampoerna. I was really glad.

How important is it to you to be part of the royal family?

Even though I want people to see and know me as an individual, I would say that royal family member status is still important to me because it is part of my culture and I do not want to dismiss it.

What do you think about Jakarta?

Jakarta is such an unorganized city especially in terms of transportation infrastructure and also security.

Last August, I saw a gunman in the middle of a traffic jam one afternoon near the Senopati area. The gunman was mad at a driver and he was firing his gun into the sky as a form of intimidation. Can you believe it happened in the late afternoon when the sun was still out and in the middle of traffic? It was so shocking.

Other than safety concerns, I think people’s skills are not really appreciated here and they don’t get a fair salary even the living cost in Jakarta is so high.

However, there is always two sides of a coin. Although Jakarta is such an unorganized city, it is also a great place for people to build their careers and increase their knowledge because everyone is here. You can meet all kinds of people with different kinds of knowledge, backgrounds and opportunities to offer.

Are you interested in politics like many of the other members of the royal family?

No! Not at all! Politics is cruel. It is full of intrigue and you will never know who your friends are or who your enemies are. I have seen it and I am not interested. It would be better for me to create something real which has a positive impact for people, especially the less fortunate ones, such as establishing a business and hiring people so that they can earn a living. I see that politics is only about money. I do not want to be so selfish and work to only benefit myself.

Hira Juwita Prabukusumo was talking to Elisabeth Oktofani.

How Positive Coverage Can Be Bought: An Insider Tells of Dirty Journalists

The Jakarta Globe

Danu Pratama (not his real name) has worked as a journalist for nearly seven years, covering beats ranging from technology and politics to human rights and legal issues.

During that time he has also taken bribes from sources and others to “play up issues in the media,” essentially presenting deliberately biased or inaccurate news stories to benefit those paying him.

“We can play up any issue in the media, especially political, legal and economic issues, because politicians, law enforcement officials and businessmen are willing to spend a lot of money to attack their rivals through the media and make them look bad,” Danu told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.

He said his demands for bribes ranged from Rp 7.5 million ($830) into the hundreds of millions, depending on the urgency of the issue, who the source was and whether they wanted an issue manipulated in print, broadcast or online media — or all three.

“I never play up an issue alone, because then it’d become obvious,” he went on. “I usually work with a team of five other journalists, where I act as the coordinator and make the deal with the source. I assure you that even the so-called cleanest media outlets have journalists who have taken part in this ‘mafia’ practice.”

As shocking as Danu’s revelation is, senior media figures say this culture of strings-attached reporting is the norm in Indonesia, fueled by a liberal official stance on bribery and a largely underpaid press corps.

“Government institutions and companies often allocate a portion of their budget to a media development fund that provides journalists with so-called transportation money,” said Nezar Patria, chairman of the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI).

“They maintain a list of journalists covering their beats, whom they usually give anywhere from Rp 250,000 to Rp 1 million each. Unfortunately, this money is often accepted by journalists who work for less-than-credible media outlets that don’t pay them well.”

Nezar said AJI and the Press Council had for the past 15 years been campaigning against the practice of journalists taking bribes. “Indonesian journalists and the media have taken part in the fight because they understand the importance of not losing our sense of objectivity when reporting a story,” he said.

“That commitment can be seen in every media outlet, which all state that journalists may not receive any gifts or money.”

He added that this value was clearly enshrined in the journalistic code of conduct.

“Other than compromising a journalist’s objectivity, receiving a gift or a bribe will harm the wider profession because it needs to be understood that journalists are agents of information between the state and public,” he said. “A journalist must convey only the truth because society has a right to know the truth.”

Agus Sudibyo, a member of the Press Council, agreed.

“But we can’t accuse any journalists of doing this unless we have evidence, such as phone recordings,” he said.

“If the Press Council does receive evidence that a journalist has taken a bribe or a gift, we will notify the media outlet or their journalists’ association.”

Let’s Go Past ‘Vain’ Facebook: Official

The Jakarta Globe

Indonesia may have the highest number of Facebook users in Asia, but the Internet needs to be used for more than just cheap sensation and navel-gazing, an official said on Wednesday.

There were 38.6 million Facebook users in the country as of last December, according to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology. It was just shy of the 39.7 million people it said had access to the Internet.

More recent statistics from independent analysts put the country’s current Facebook population at 40.8 million.

Ministry official Freddy Tulung said that although the high figure was “a positive thing,” Internet use in the country needed to be directed toward more substantial purposes.

“Are we willing to just keep using Facebook as a platform for cheap thrills and narcissism?” he said. “We want people to make much broader use of the Internet, which is about more than just chatting.”

In addition to having the second-biggest Facebook population on the planet, behind only the United States, Indonesia is also the No. 3 source for all tweets on Twitter, after the United States and Brazil.

A Nielsen report earlier this year found that 48 percent of the country’s Internet users accessed the Web through their cellphones, with almost 90 percent of tweets sent from mobile devices.

A business lobby, however, said more needed to be done to clear up the 3G cellular spectrum to improve mobile Internet access and services.

Mas Wigrantoro Roes Setiadi, from the Indonesian Telematics Community, urged the ministry to pass a long-awaited regulation on tidying up the 3G spectrum.

The regulation would require Telkomsel, the country’s biggest cellular operator, to shift its spectrum to line up more neatly with other operators.

The ministry has given Telkomsel until the end of the year to comply.

Greenpeace Cries Foul as Eviction Papers Are Served

The Jakarta Globe

Environmental group Greenpeace has lashed out at the Jakarta administration’s decision to seal off its office for zoning violations, calling the move just the latest attack in a corporate-backed smear campaign against the organization.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia media campaigner Hikmat Soeriatanuwijaya said the group had been unfairly targeted.

“The continued attacks against Greenpeace started when we launched our global campaign against Asia Pulp and Paper by exposing evidence of APP forest destruction in early June this year,” he said.

He declined, however, to say who Greenpeace believed was behind the smear campaign.

“Although we know who it is, we don’t want to mention the particular company or party because we don’t have a capacity to investigate it,” Hikmat said.

The statements came as the Jakarta Building Control and Monitoring Office (P2B) said it had served notice to Greenpeace on Wednesday about the closure and would proceed with sealing off its office on Jalan Kemang Utara in South Jakarta next Monday.

Agus Supriyono, P2B’s head of enforcement, said the office had been built in an area designated for residential buildings only.

“Like any other building that violates regulations, we will have to seal off this building,” he said.

“We will only unseal it once the building owners have restored it as a residential property. So that means that come Monday, Greenpeace must stop all activities at its office.”

Agus denied that his office had been pressured by outside parties to move against Greenpeace, calling the matter a simple zoning issue. He added that an office building next to the Greenpeace office would also be sealed off.

However, several other office and commercial buildings on the same street have been allowed to operate as usual.

“We don’t have a problem with Greenpeace. We’re just doing our job, which is to enforce zoning regulations and take measures against violating buildings,” Agus said.

“If Greenpeace wants to relocate its offices, they’re welcome to do so, just as long as they do so in an area where it’s permissible.”

Widyo Dwiyono, head of the South Jakarta P2B office, echoed the point that the entire Kemang area was designated as a residential zone, making it imperative that Greenpeace move.

Kemang is also home to scores of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and shops, very few of which have ever been sealed off or cited for zoning violations.

Hikmat said Greenpeace found it humorous how its “persecutor” kept coming up with different ways of attacking the organization, including past allegations that it was funded by lottery money and that it was intent on stalling Indonesian economic development by attacking the country’s palm oil industry.

“We’re not against the palm oil industry, nor do we want to stop Indonesian economic development,” he said. “All we are asking for is responsible industrial practices by implementing sustainable industrial development rather than destroying and exploiting the rainforest.

“It needs to be understood that Greenpeace’s campaigns focus on saving the Indonesian rainforest, hence we continue to urge all companies to save the rainforest through sustainable industrial development.”

Hikmat added that Greenpeace was aware it faced opposition to its work, but said attacks and pressure would not stop it from campaigning for better environmental stewardship.

“We just hope that the media and society don’t get the wrong idea about our mission in Indonesia because we just want to save the Indonesian rainforest,” he said.

Last month, a Greenpeace UK forest campaigner was deported from Indonesia for reasons that were never made clear. That incident took place less than a week after the Greenpeace UK director was denied entry into the country despite arriving with a valid visa.

Nur Hidayati, head of Greenpeace Indonesia, said at the time that the group was “coming under attack in Indonesia because of our work to stop deforestation in the country.”

Lawmakers and religious leaders have publicly questioned the source of the group’s funding, while hard-line groups have claimed it is working in the country illegally because it is not registered with the Jakarta administration.

Critics of Greenpeace have also accused it of targeting APP while ignoring foreign companies that operate in Indonesia. APP, though, is foreign, being based in Singapore.

Kemang Bar Faces Questions After Fatal Stabbing of Youth

The Jakarta Globe

Elisabeth Oktofani, Ismira Lutfia & Zaky Paws

Following the fatal stabbing of a high school student at a nightspot in South Jakarta’s trendy Kemang area, a children’s rights activist demanded that the nightclub be held responsible and called on the victim’s school to evaluate its teaching practices.

Arist Merdeka Sirait, the chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak), said on Sunday that the owners of SHY Rooftop should have had rules in place to keep out people under the age of 18.

“The nightclub owners should be held responsible for the stabbing of the Pangudi Luhur high school student because they didn’t enforce this law,” he said.

Arist said Pangudi Luhur students had a reputation for getting involved in brawls, indicating there was a need to evaluate the school’s teaching practices.

“As an educational institute, the school has to focus not only on its students’ academic achievements, but on molding their behavior,” he said.

However, whether the 17-year-old victim, Raafi Aga Winasya Benjamin, should have been allowed into SHY Rooftop may not be a clear-cut issue.

In Jakarta, the minimum age to be allowed into a nightclub is 17, and there is no age limit to enter restaurants.

Arie Budiman, the head of Jakarta’s Tourism and Culture Office, told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday that the permit given to the establishment classified it as a restaurant, bar and live music venue, meaning there is no restriction on who is allowed to enter.

He said the presence of a bar serving alcoholic beverages was part of the restaurant and there was a generally enforced minimum age limit of 17 to consume alcohol.

Yuan Kusuma, who manages several venues that operate nightclubs after 10 p.m., said the policy of keeping out younger patrons was in the hands of managers.

“You need to be 21 or over to get into one of my places,” he told the Globe. “However, before 10 p.m., anyone can dine at the restaurant and we check IDs before letting people in.

“I don’t know about other venues, but we drew up this policy ourselves and stick to provincial by-laws,” Yuan added.

He said that apart from checking IDs, his staff also frisk patrons and inspect the contents of their bags to check for weapons.

However, he admitted that the 21-and-over rule was difficult to enforce with women.

“Makeup can make a woman look older than she is,” Yuan said, adding that the rule was also flexibly enforced for women in a bid to drive up business.

“The more sugar there is, the more ants there are,” he said.

South Jakarta Police Sr. Comr. Imam Sugianto said officers were questioning 12 witnesses as part of its investigation into the circumstances behind the stabbing, which took place early on Saturday morning .

“The witnesses include patrons, friends of the victim, security guards and management personnel at the venue,” he said on Sunday.

Police are also studying closed circuit TV footage from the night. “We’re still analyzing the footage, hopefully it will give us more leads,” Imam said.

Raafi and about 20 friends arrived at SHY Rooftop at 11 p.m. on Friday for a birthday celebration. “They had drinks, but did not get drunk,” Imam said.

He added that at around 2 a.m. on Saturday, Raafi got into an argument with six other patrons at the venue.

“We’re still not sure whether Raafi or his friends knew the people he was arguing with,” Imam said.

The argument escalated into a fight and Raafi was stabbed in the stomach, presumably with a knife. Imam said that at about 3 a.m., Raafi’s friends took him to a hospital in Pasar Minggu, but he died from blood loss.

His body was taken to Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital for an autopsy.

“We’re still waiting on the official results,” Imam said, adding that police were also still searching for the murder weapon.

He criticized the management of SHY Rooftop for not notifying police of the incident immediately and said that by the time officers arrived, the scene of the crime had been cleaned.

“They had mopped up the blood and rolled up the carpet,” Imam said. “They have destroyed evidence, which is a crime.”

“They did not file a police report,” he added. “We only learned of the stabbing after being informed by Raafi’s friends.”

Imam said police would distribute a letter to the managers of all nightspots and would add a new clause to the permits of new nightspots.

“We’ll follow up on getting a clause in the permits of existing venues obliging them to notify police of such incidents,” he said.

Unions Worldwide Back Papua Strike

The Jakarta Globe

Unions both local and international have voiced support for their colleagues in Papua and defended wage demands by striking Freeport miners as justified, considering the mine’s remote location.

“We are one big family, and we fully support the struggle of our comrades, the workers at Freeport who are fighting for their welfare through fair and just wages,” said Subiyanto, general secretary of the e nergy, chemical and mining branch of the All-Indonesian Workers Trade Union (SPSI).

“A raise in Freeport workers’ wages to $7.50 per hour makes sense because of the high living costs in Papua,” he added, speaking in Jakarta on Wednesday.

The same sentiment was echoed by Dick Lin, the information and campaign officer at the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers’ Unions (ICEM).

“A wage rise as desired by Freeport’s employees is reasonable because the mine is located in a remote area, which tends to have high living costs,” Lin said in Jakarta.

Subiyanto said that wages in Indonesia were frequently automatically based on regional minimum rates.

“The problem we must highlight is that an employee’s remuneration tends to be set with reference to the minimum wage in that district or city,” he said.

Since Sept. 15, around 8,000 workers at the Grasberg mine in Papua have been striking after failing to reach agreement on wages and working conditions.

The mine is owned by US company Freeport and jo int venture partner Rio Tinto, a British-Australian mining company.

The national branch of the SPSI has stressed that the government must play a constructive role in helping settle the dispute.

“We ask the government of the Republic of Indonesia as the mandated authority to quickly take action to end the strike by encouraging both sides to undertake constructive negotiations in good faith,” Subiyanto said.

Another union activist, Airan Koibur, said one reason an agreement had not yet been reached was that Freeport had not been sufficiently transparent with the Papuans.

“In previous negotiations, we asked management to be open with us about the company’s profitability, because for the duration of the past 16 joint work agreements we have not felt any improvement,” Airan said.

“We see our demands as very responsible because it relates to the workers’ welfare.”

He went on to say that the workers had lowered their demands as many as five times.

Initially, they had requested a wage hike to $35 per hour. They subsequently reduced the demand to $30, then $17.50, $12.50 and ultimately to the current level of $7.50.

“We don’t understand why they find this unacceptable and say they’ll only increase wages by 30 percent from the current level of $2.10 per hour,” Airan said.

According to the agreement made on Monday, striking workers will meet their bosses again next week on Nov. 7, with the government playing a monitoring and facilitating role.

Any potential agreement reached by negotiators will need to be voted on by all striking workers.

SBY Tries Lyrical Leadership Once More

The Jakarta Globe

SBY Tries Lyrical Leadership Once More

In a nation plagued by seeds of disintegration — as hard-line radicals spread intolerance and separatist clashes dominate news out of the archipelago’s east — there is only so much that policy prescriptions can do.

Perhaps realizing these limits, Indonesia’s uniter in chief has boldly cried for “Harmoni,” (“Harmony”) the title of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s fourth album, released on Monday.

“The president is sending his message across through songs, so the public won’t get bored,” said Energy Minister Jero Wacik after the album’s launch in Central Jakarta.

“Indonesians don’t respond well to speeches. People are getting tired of speeches.”

The president wrote all eight songs on the album and like his previous records, “Harmoni” features some of the nation’s well respected singers, such as pop legends Rafika Duri and Harvey Malaiholo, and up-and-coming stars Sandy Sandoro, Afghan, Rio Febrian and Joy Tobing.

“[Harmony] is the pinnacle of all aspirations, expectations, and dreams of every leader. In one way or another, a leader always aspires to create a harmonious social order for the people,” Yudhoyono wrote in the album’s foreword.

“The harmony I expressed in this album is not just that among humans, but also among nations and most importantly, the harmonious relationship between mankind and the universe.”

Jero said there is nothing wrong with the president’s penchant for lyricism. “The president writes songs in his spare time, so it’s OK for him to write once in a while. He is writing them for the people,” the minister said.

“You need to understand that by writing songs, he is doing his [presidential] work, although he doesn’t do this everyday.”

There is no telling whether Yudhoyono’s latest endeavor will enjoy the same moderate success as his third album, “Ku Yakin Sampai di Sana” (“I’m Certain I’ll Get There”). He released his first album, “Rinduku Padamu” (“I Miss You”) in 2007, followed by “Evolusi” (“Evolution”) in 2009 .

Hard-Line Faith Draws Indonesia’s Youth: Author

The Jakarta Globe

Islamic fundamentalism is getting a foothold in Indonesia, home to the world’s largest number of Muslims, mainly through its younger generations, a Japanese author said.

Hisanori Kato, who has lived in Indonesia and studied Islamic fundamentalism here, said the country’s youth can be easily lured by fundamentalism as they try to determine a sense of self.

“I say that fundamentalism in Islam has a strong influence on youths because many of them are still in the process of seeking their identity and giving a meaning to life,” Kato said.

Fundamentalists, he said, have been actively reaching out to younger generations with their Islamic teachings.

“In searching for identity and the meaning of life, they [the youth] can find answers to their questions in Islam,” Kato said.

He added that many Muslims in Indonesia lack a deep understanding of their religion, so they may be more susceptible to fundamentalist teachings.

Islamic fundamentalism has a long history in the country, Kato said, but it was repressed in the past and could not propagate so freely — especially during more than three decade’s of rule under former authoritarian President Suharto.

Religious restrictions were lifted during the reform era, and fundamentalists today have more freedom to gather and spread their teachings, he said.

Kato wanted the international community to understand that Islam has many interpretations, so he decided to write a book on the subject.

“The Clash of Ijtihad: Fundamentalist Versus Liberal Muslims: The Development of Islamic Thinking in Contemporary Indonesia,” sheds light on the various interpretations of Islam among Muslims in Indonesia.

The 214-page book, which Kato wrote in four years, is meant to help readers understand that Islamic teachings cannot be viewed in any single way, and that different practitioners throughout the country possess different beliefs about their religion.

“Through this book, I want people to know that there are many interpretations of Islam so that non-Muslims can understand that this is the case in Indonesia,” he said.

Kato, a Buddhist, first became familiar with Islam when he came to Indonesia to work as a teacher at an international school here.

He became interested in the pervasiveness of Islam in everyday life, so he took a postgraduate course about democratization in Indonesia and its relationship to Islam.

Govt Calls for Private Sector to Work With It to Help Special-Needs Children

The Jakarta Globe

Govt Calls for Private Sector to Work With It to Help Special-Needs Children

The government and private sector must work together to create a more nurturing environment for children with special needs, officials said on Friday.

Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar, the minister for women’s empowerment and child protection, said the onus for looking after special-needs children should not be on the government alone.

“It is also up to the private sector to pay special attention to these children,” she said at the opening of a congress of parents of special-needs children.

“I believe this congress is a good step toward setting up a support group bringing together parents, carers and medical practitioners. It will also push the government and the private sector to do more.”

Wanda Hamidah, a member of the Jakarta City Council’s oversight commission on social and children’s affairs, said there needed to be better enforcement of the rights of special-needs children.

“We need to keep fighting for them because many of them are still being deprived of their most basic rights, particularly in terms of access to health care and education,” she said at the congress.

She added that the council had last week passed a bylaw on the protection of the disabled.

“The bylaw will provide protection for the rights of special-needs children to a proper education, health care, employment and accessibility in public places,” Wanda said.

“It also stipulates punishments, including fines and jail time, for those violating these rights. Our hope is that with the passage of the bylaw, special-needs children will receive better treatment and service.”

The councilwoman said one area that needed particular attention was education, with very few schools equipped or staffed to teach special-needs children.

“That said, the government has a fundamental obligation to provide access to education for all,” she said.

She added that sufficient funding to meet the needs of special-needs children could easily be found, but only if the political will to do so was there.

“Jakarta’s annual budget is huge,” she said. “If we could just allocate Rp 50 billion [$5.7 million] to training teachers, we would have enough to teach all special-needs children,” Wanda said.

There are an estimated 500,000 special-needs children across Indonesia, according to the parents’ group.

Film Forecast: Showing as Scheduled

The Jakarta Globe

Indonesian fans of Hollywood films need not worry, theater operators say. New Hollywood blockbusters will be screened here as scheduled.

Concerns have been aired that since the resumption of the supply of Hollywood movies in July, the flow of feature films to the country’s theaters has been little more than a trickle.

Catherine Keng, corporate secretary of Cineplex 21, one of the nation’s largest cinema operators, said Hollywood film distribution was proceeding “smoothly.”

“Some were postponed because we want to first screen several films that could not be screened a while ago,” Catherine said via text message.

She went on to say that most upcoming Hollywood blockbusters would be screened in Indonesia on time.

“ ‘The Adventures of Tintin’ and ‘Breaking Dawn: Part 1’ [of The Twilight Saga] will be screened as scheduled, but ‘Paranormal Activity 3’ will be postponed because the slots for films at the cinema are currently already full,” Catherine said.

Top film studios in the United States launched a boycott of the Indonesian market in February because of a dispute over royalties, but they resumed their exports in July.

Djonny Sjafruddin, who heads the Indonesian Cinema Companies Union (GPBSI), said films from the Motion Picture Association of America were being given screening priority.

“We are prioritizing films from the MPAA so that we are not left behind other countries. American indie films, we will delay,” Djonny said.

The MPAA represents many of the biggest Hollywood studios, including Warner Bros. and Disney.

He said that since the boycott was lifted, movie theaters were beginning to see their incomes return to normal levels.

He also said that although the members of his association remained committed to having Indonesian films account for 60 percent of those screened, the market did not appear to support those efforts.

“There may only be about 5 percent of all national film productions that are capable of drawing the market’s interest,” Djonny said.

He said Indonesian film producers and directors should seek input from public figures as well as from movie theater operators to see what kind of films the country’s movie-goers actually demand.

“Better quality Indonesian films would benefit all sides as national films would be popular among the public,” he said.