Tuesday, February 17, 2015

New posts this week: last pleas for mercy fall on deaf ears; salvaging the relationship despite death penalty go ahead; Indonesians well aware of threats to KPK

Selamat datang ke blog resmi Indonesia Institute,

The Indonesian Attorney General has granted Myuran and Andrew a few more precious moments with their family. But the clock is ticking and the gracious reprieve is just delaying the inevitable. Clemency is what they desperately need. Please Pak Widodo, reconsider your decision.Please join your leading thinkers and intellectuals who regard the death penalty as unconstitutional.

Take a look at drugs in Indonesia, at prisons at 400 percent capacity due to drug related crimes, at statistics that define functioning, casual drug users as addicts on the brink of death. What you have been doing is not working. This hardline, criminal approach to drug use is not working. It is dehumanising. It is a losing battle. Another approach to drugs is needed.


Please enjoy this week's offerings:

"The majority of the public believe there are efforts to weaken the KPK," by Hotman Sirego, February 2015.
Not fooled: Indonesians are well aware their much loved thin red line, Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi, is being set upon.

"Cool heads needed as Bali Nine leaders prepare for firing squad," by Ross B Taylor, February 2015.
The Indonesia Institute's president warns against extreme reactions that push Indonesia into a more intolerant position on the death penalty.

"No to second chances: what Indonesia and Australia have in common," by Lauren Gumbs, February 2015.
The similarities between Indonesia and Australia are apparent as both governments pander to populism, in the process justifying grave human rights abuses.

"Comments on the death penalty and current state of play," by members and others, February 2015.
Read what out members and other have to say about the pressures facing Jokowi.

In other news: 

The Indonesia Institute will be holding its annual board meeting 23 February and will discuss the forward direction of the Institute in 2015 and beyond. We hope to continue to be part of the Aus-Indo relationship and to forge new partnerships and contribute to positive change in the way we interact with one another and the ASEAN region.

The Perth US Asia Centre is also staging a book launch 23 February, New Perspectives on Indonesia. If you would like to attend please contact info@indonesia-institute.org.au before 23 February.  More to come on this.

The Indonesia Institute is supporting the Australia Indonesia Business Council (AIBC) in holding a welcome event for the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia, H.E. Bapak Nadjib Riphat Kesoema 4 March. Registrations close 27 February. Visit AIBC's website for details.

Extra reading:

Check out the latest foodie craze coming to a street corner near you.

Another stab: Kalla says if it were up to him he would inaugurate Budi Gunawan.

East Timor President Xanana Gusmao is stepping down.

Comments on the death penalty and current state of play

The pressures facing President Joko Widodo:

In regards the current direction of Indonesia, the omens are not good. Jokowi's problems are not just about picking a corrupt police chief or emasculating the KPK; bigger politics is at play. I (and others) remain concerned about Chinese territorial encroachment. This is not helped by the push from the USA, in which Australia is seen as complicit because of the positioning of a permanent Naval base (ala Subic Bay) in Darwin. Everyone is playing with fire at the moment, just look at the Ukraine. The last thing we want is to escalate conflict into WW3, especially our simmering regional conflicts. If Indonesia allows itself to be drawn, it will make itself a plum target.

In regards the political show, Megawati is running scared. For sure the KPK will deepen and speed up its enquiry into BLBI corruption. This will force her evermore into a corner. Golkar /PPP still have leadership problems and the onset of increased TNI involvement is there for all to see. 

Colin Singer

Religious intolerance:

While he did many good things, SBY stood by and let religious tolerance be ripped to shreds. Will President Jokowi be any different? I truly hope so.

I feel these are very dangerous times for Indonesia and our region. Jokowi is showing all the signs of being rendered lame and is being undermined from his own people. The instability is palpable.

Ross Taylor


Jokowi continues to dash any optimism I had about his newly appointed

leadership. I thought he was more astute.  As far as the Sukamarun and Chan matter

goes, the case of the drug kingpin with the commuted sentence makes an absolute mockery of these executions.  You can bet too, when this Javanese drug kingpin slips out of prison in a couple of years he will be straight back to the vice, in fact he's probably running his business from jail now. Whereas Sukamaran and Chan I'll bet just want to go home and reboot simple lives and repay their family for the grief they've caused.

The Indonesians could do well to tackle the rampant vice and extortion rackets going on by Balinese organised crime games in bali's Kuta, turban, Legian,Seminyak  precincts just a few kilometres from the walls of Kerobokan jail.

Neil Robinson

There is absolutely no doubt about two aspects of all this:

1.  The AFP will have blood on its hands - and their role and reason has not been totally transparent thus far,

2. Whatever the outcome, the overall Aus-Indo Relationship will inevitably be affected negatively.

Graham Hornel 

Published comments in media:

To execute 2 Australian citizens after having been in jail for 10 years for a crime that would have seen them if rehabilitated back in society in Australia will be viewed as barbaric and insulting not only in Australia but the whole civilised world. 

Who did these two work for? These drugs would have originated outside of Indonesia so how did they get to Bali? Why did the AFP have to inform local Balinesse police? When did murder become right

The Indonesian prison system is corrupt and it's said to be very easy to get hard drugs in prison. In my opinion, these two have lived a positive, drug free existence, for ten years with drugs available around them. I believe they are reformed. But whatever, Jododo, or whatever his name is, is going to shoot them for political points with the anti-foreigner brigade.

It's a pity, really, that Australia didn't try spending money to save them as Indonesia is being accused of doing. But let's face it, this pair of photogenic goons, for all their sentimental natures, aren't poster boys for a boy scout holiday.  

Food trucking just got real

 Photo by Immanuel Antonius

Indonesians love their pop up restaurants but now they are also loving food trucks. In Indonesia, land of the kaki lima, there is nothing better than mobile food. Around 3-4pm you will see people starting to set up temporary restaurants on the street sides and in parks and before 11pm they will have been dismantled and disappeared back into the night with only a few bits of rubbish and food scraps to prove they were ever there. Expect food trucks to be the next big thing for hipster Indo foodies. As far as Western Asian fusion goes, the food truck just seems the perfect cultural fit for Indonesia's ravenous and curious culiners. Read about the new craze at Media Indonesia.

Mayoritas Publik Percaya Ada Upaya Pelemahan KPK - The majority of the public believe there are efforts to weaken the KPK

By Hotman Siregar

As many as 58 percent of the public believe the case involving the Corruption Eradication Commission's commisioner is an attempt to criminalise and undermine the KPK. Just 15 percent believe it is purely a legal case, while 27 percent are baffled at the goings on of their leaders.

Most Indonesians see the case for what it is: a legal farce dressed up in a political charade.

Read on:

Sebagian besar, tepatnya sebanyak 58 persen publik percaya, kasus yang menimpa komisioner Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK) saat ini merupakan upaya kriminalisasi. Hanya 15 persen publik percaya kasus hukum yang menimpa KPK murni kasus hukum. Sementara 27 persen menyatakan tidak tahu.

Hasil itu merupakan survei Persepsi Masyarakat terhadap Isu KPK Vs Polri yang diadakan Litbang Beritasatu pada 28 Januari-1 Februari 2015. Jumlah sampel sebanyak 500 orang mewakili pengguna telepon di lima kota besar di Indonesia, yakitu DKI Jakarta, Semarang, Surabaya, Medan, dan Makassar.

Responden dipilih secara acak sistematis berdasarkan buku telepon yang diterbitkan oleh PT Telkom. Margin of error lebih-kurang 4,5 pada tingkat kepercayaan 95 persen.

Tim Litbang Beritasatu Didik J Rachbini memaparkan, mayoritas publik atau 67 persen publik percaya, selama ini ada upaya untuk melemahkan KPK. Hanya ada 12 persen publik yang tidak mempercayai adanya upaya-upaya untuk melemahkan institusi KPK.

"Namun, harapan publik terhadap Presiden Jokowi masih sangat tinggi. Sebanyak 69 persen masyarakat yakin Presiden Jokowi mampu menyelesaikan perseteruan antara KPK dan Polri," kata Didik dalam paparan hasil survei Litbang Beritasatu di Gedung Beritasatu Media Holding, Jakarta, Selatan, Jumat (6/2).

Didik menambahkan, KPK masih menjadi lembaga penegak hukum yang paling memuaskan masyarakat. Sebanyak 66 persen publik puas terhadap kinerja KPK. Sementara kepuasan publik atas kinerja kepolisian hanya 23 persen.

This article originally appeared 6 February in Berita Satu.

Cool heads needed as Bali Nine leaders prepare for firing squad

By Ross B Taylor

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has increased the pressure on Jakarta with threats of retaliation if Indonesia carries out its promise to execute Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan; probably later this week.

The statement by Mr Abbott follows-on closely from comments late last week by foreign minister Julie Bishop that should Chan and Sukumaran face the firing squad in Indonesia - and that is now highly likely – Australians may boycott Bali as a tourist destination.

The statements by Mr Abbott and Ms Bishop are understandable, and in the opinion of many Australians necessary, but great care must be taken in raising the diplomatic stakes to this level in what is now a highly charged environment for both countries.
The boycott threat by our foreign minister is in reality not sensible, nor is it going to happen.

Firstly, based on a poll conducted two years ago, almost 52 percent of Australians going to Bali did not know that it is actually part of Indonesia. The remaining 48 percent of Australians probably are able to distinguish between their friends in Bali and the Indonesian president in Jakarta; almost 1,300 km away.

Bali also remains an incredibly cheap and family-orientated holiday destination for Australian families, so there would be almost no impact at all on the number of Australians travelling there, so why even suggest this?

Such comments will also invite Indonesia - currently engulfed in a strong feeling of nationalism - to respond by taking an even harder line on executing drug smugglers, and other cases involving the many Australians who often find themselves in trouble whilst in Indonesia.

Calls from within Australia that we should stop aid to Indonesia as a means of protest is also gaining momentum, but again, such threats are extremely inflammatory and misguided. 

Apart from our aid assisting some of the poorest people in our region, aid funding is strategically directed to also serve our interests. Australian funding for education for example, ensures Indonesian village schools are managed in decent facilities by qualified teachers, and that students are educated with a respect for all cultures and religions. 
It is not in Australia’s interest to have a fanatical Islamic group lead by people such as the infamous Abu Bakar Bashir filling a gap left by angry Australians and free to teach the millions of young people about the 'benefits' of hard line Islam!

Secondly, and more critically, is that Indonesia and Australia need each other despite our cultural differences and respective levels of economic development.

Both countries, from time-to-time, suffer from 'the tyranny of closeness' with all the associated petty neighbourly problems that arise. We can work through these matters as good neighbours should, thanks to the depth of trust and friendship at many levels within our two communities.

With the rise of China, the increasing role of Japan and the USA in south and north Asia, all flexing their muscles, plus terrorism issues, asylum seekers, and massive trade and business opportunities the stability and growth of our region demands close ties and partnerships between our two countries.

The last thing either country needs at this time is a major ‘tit-for-tat’ argument between too deeply unpopular national leaders over the death penalty applied to two Australians; notwithstanding the understandable emotion it causes.

Only last year relations between Australia and Indonesia returned to 'normal' after a particularly bumpy period as a result of spying by Australia on the wife of the previous Indonesian president. 

The current anger being (justifiably) felt by so many Australians should certainly be conveyed to Indonesia forcefully, but with respect and clarity. 

Emotional outbursts should be deliberately put to one side and be tempered with respect and calmness to avoid this issue becoming the catalyst for the bilateral relationship to spiral out of control as President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo continues to desperately try and prove he is as tough as his main rival, and former Suharto strong-man, Prabowo Subianto, amidst collapsing popularity polls.

Despite a fairly positive start to his presidency ‘Jokowi’ is, after just over 100 days as president, showing all the signs of a leader who is lacking in any authority, and who is trapped by a lack of the numbers needed in the national parliament, and lacking loyalty and support within his own PDI-P party, lead by former president Megawati Sukarnoputri. 

Ironically, Jokowi is now following in his Australian counter-part’s footsteps by making some very bad judgment calls and poor 'Captain’s picks' which has seen his respect and popularity within Indonesia, collapse.

The now almost inevitable deaths of the Bali Nine leaders will leave a feeling amongst many Australians, that Indonesia has just taken a giant leap backwards. 

As these two men die, so will Indonesia's humanity as a progressive and evolving nation, and that is not only a great shame, but a very disturbing development in a nation that is still yet to cement democratic rule as its preferred style of government and way-of-life.

 Ross B. Taylor AM is president of the Perth-based Indonesia Institute (Inc)
February 2015. This article originally appeared 17 February The West Australian.

No to second chances: what Indonesia and Australia have in common

By Lauren Gumbs

This week Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan avoided being moved to Nusakambangan, however the Attorney General's small act of kindness can only grant reprieve for so long. Unless they receive presidential clemency, all hopes will be dashed that humanity can prevail. Despite their lawyers making last ditch appeals and despite the determined support of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Australia's diplomatic community, and the many concerned human rights campaigners, the cause seems hopeless. That is because for Indonesia, the issue of narcotics is as much a platform for populism as 'boat arrivals' are for Australia.

The issue is mired in political pressures and showmanship, misplaced moral panic and a growing sense of nationalism, stoked in part by Indonesia's economic rise and need to reinforce its sovereignty. But I could just as well be talking about the logic behind Australia's handling of refugees and asylum seekers. In a complex Indonesian legal and political environment, drug dealers are to Indonesian as people smugglers are to Australians. And while Australia doesn't kill people smugglers, we do lock up kids involved in the trade and there is about as much public outcry on that as there is in Indonesia about the executions of a few foreign nationals caught smuggling drugs.

So we do have our similarities. There is a harsh side to Indonesia just as there is to Australia. But just as Indonesia seemed to be rethinking its use of the death penalty under SBY, the wind changed. After ten years living in Indonesia's Kerobokan prison, the two sorry men used their time to rehabilitate. Nobody really thought they would be executed. And then Jokowi came along. A popular grassroots reformer who surprised everyone with his intolerant stance on drug traffickers and flat out refusal to consider the possibility that Indonesia's prison system could successfully reform its inmates.

His surprising indifference to foreign policy and failure to oppose the puppeteering of his party's chairman has resulted in a hard and unhelpful approach to add to many that still stymie Indonesia's democratic and human rights progress. In the past ten years, Indonesia has produced case after case of Indonesian police testing positive for drugs, Indonesian politicians caught with narcotics and Indonesian king pins receiving commuted sentences. There was hope Jokowi would be a catalyst for change, that he would clean up the corruption, strengthen the KPK, and implement human rights reforms. But hypocrisy and impunity has proved a match for rationalisation and reform. Indonesia is not there yet.

Myuran and Andrew, with hard drugs readily available all around them, managed to turn their backs on that world while having to live within it. Indonesia's drug problem does not kill nearly as many people as its tobacco problem does, but tobacco is its fourth largest industry and in this multiverse even children are fair game. It doesn't make sense for a state to decide a slow death from lung cancer is preferable to a quick death from a bullet. It isn't right and that's why the finality of the death penalty doesn't leave room for moral mistakes. In another ten years, when moderate and progressive voices become the majority - and they will - Indonesia's death penalty for non-violent crimes will be a sad reminder of a time when the state said no to second chances.

Lauren is Director of Social Media at the Indonesia Institute and is studying a Master of Human Rights through Curtin University.

Friday, February 6, 2015

New posts this week: Faulty stats on drug crisis? Aussie pleas rejected, death imminent; Jokowi gets harsh rating 100 days in; VOA scheme for Australian travellers to stay in place

Selamat datang semua,

Dengan kesidihan kita dengar kabar baru tentang hukuman mati Myuran Sukumaran dan Andrew Chan, yang pasti akan mati bulan depan.

All avenues of appeal and clemency have been exhausted and it is with indifferent determination that the state of Indonesia will see out its promise to execute the two Australians.

The execution of two reformed young men who spent the past decade in prison will gain nothing yet put everything on the line. A line which is increasingly blurred with political power struggles, moral equivalency debates and insistence on a crippling drug problem.

But everything is not what it seems and the drug problem may not be as pervasive as the deafening moral panic would have it.

When Myuran and Andrew die something else will die with them: a little piece of Indonesia's humanity.

Here's to second chances.


Please enjoy reading this week's posts:

"Indonesia uses faulty stats on 'drug crisis' to justify death penalty," by Claudia Stoicescu, February 2015.

"Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in next group to face firing squad," by George Roberts, February 2015.

"Hypocrisy, politics and courts play out in death row lottery," by Tim Lindsey, January 2015.

"Indonesia weights in on Jokowi's poor start," by the Jakarta Globe, January 2015.

"Indonesia changes its mind about removing visa on arrival impost on Aussies," by Ross B. Taylor, January 2015.

Extra reading:

Tim Lindsey says there is little hope for Chan and Sukumaran at this late stage. They are caught in the crossfire of politics between Indonesia's two courts as well as the President's need to establish a tough image and stance on drugs.  

Jokowi is planning to face up to Megawati and her crew and reject Budi Gunawan's candidacy for the top police job.

A Garuda plane skidded off the runway in Lombok.

Malaysia vacuum ad demonstrates underlying predjudice against Indonesian maids.

Indonesians are increasingly mobilised and civil society savvy; they know the KPK is being undermined and they won't stand for it.

Indonesian children are still languishing in Australian asylum seeker jails. 

Indonesia uses faulty stats on ‘drug crisis’ to justify death penalty

By Claudia Stoicescu

Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s claim of a national drug “emergency” that necessitates the death penalty for drug crimes is based on questionable statistics.

Jokowi, as he is popularly known in Indonesia, recently cited some astonishing figures: 4.5 million Indonesians need to be rehabilitated due to their illicit or illegal drug use, and 40 to 50 young people die each day due to the same cause.

Jokowi argues that applying a no-compromise, punitive approach is necessary to combat the state of emergency represented by these numbers. He ordered the killing of six drug traffickers on death row by firing squad last month, and vowed to reject clemency requests from more than 60 people on death row for drug-related charges.

Jokowi ignores protests from human rights groups and pleas from the Australian government, whose citizens Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, members of the Bali Nine drug ring, are facing imminent execution.

But the Jokowi administration’s attempt to present the death penalty for drug offenders as a policy based on evidence falls flat on one necessary ground: the evidence.

The figures quoted by the president and parroted by national officials and media outlets are based on studies with questionable methods and vague measures.

Government advisers cherry-picked the figures to lend credibility to a “national emergency” and ultimately justify an ineffective but politically convenient policy.

Dodgy estimate of the number of drug users

Let’s start with the 4.5 million drug users who allegedly need rehabilitation.
This figure is a projection of the number of people predicted to use drugs in 2013, calculated by the University of Indonesia’s Centre for Health Research working in collaboration with the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) as part of a 2008 study.

It is not an estimation of the actual number of people who are unable to manage their drug use and need support. Nor can it be generalised to represent the prevalence of drug use in Indonesia’s population.

The most problematic aspect of this projection is its overly simplistic definition of “addiction”, which is based solely on how often an individual uses drugs. The study classifies drug users into three categories – ever tried drugs, regular users and addicts – based on frequency of drug use. Those who had used drugs less than five times in a lifetime are persons who “ever tried drugs”.

People who took drugs less than 49 times in the last year before the survey are classified as “regular users”. And those who had used drugs more than 49 times in the year before the survey are “addicts”. Participants who indicated that they had injected a drug, even if only once in the last year, are also categorised as “addicts”.

What this amounts to is a projected estimate of more than 4.5 million drug users using dated surveys and imprecise classifications. From this projection there were supposedly 2.9 million “drug addicts” in 2013. The remaining 1.6 million people were recreational users who tried drugs less than five times in their lives or who may party once in a while with little risk of side effects.

The projected estimate of 4.5 million drug users implies that the couple of times my buddy Amin casually passed a joint around at New Year’s Eve’s parties makes him a drug user who should spend three to six compulsory months in rehabilitation and who is at the crux of Indonesia’s drug crisis. It is this exaggerated version of the “drug problem” that government advisers repeatedly exploit to justify draconian policy decisions.

Questionable number of drug deaths

The 40 to 50 young people said to be dying each day because of drug use is even more problematic. These figures come from the same seven-year-old study by the Centre for Health Research and BNN.

To determine the rate of drug deaths in the general population, the researchers surveyed 2,143 people selected from population groups such as students, workers and general households. They asked how many of their friends use drugs, and among these, how many of their friends died “because of drugs” in the last year before the survey.

The study authors then applied the median number of friends who died (three) to their 2008 estimate of “drug addicts”, arriving at a figure of 14,894. Divided by 365 days, this amounts to 41 “people dying because of drug use every day”.

Methodologically, this is an ambiguous, inaccurate way of measuring deaths in any population, let alone overdose-related deaths – assuming this is what the survey refers to.

Since Indonesia does not collect reliable statistics on drug overdose, it is not clear what “dying because of drugs” means in the context of this survey. Does it translate to death due to respiratory depression caused by overdose? Does it mean dying due to injuries from police violence following a drug-related arrest? Does it refer to death associated with AIDS or hepatitis C in people who inject drugs? The study’s methodology provides no definition.

Researchers agree the most reliable method to measure drug-related mortality is to prospectively follow a cohort of drug users who represent a target population for several years. Researchers should measure various behavioural, physiological and structural factors that could affect mortality. This can be disease or access to health services.

Analysing the numbers of drug deaths in the group and the factors that may have contributed to these outcomes generally provides decent results.

Determining the need for rehabilitation

Practitioners and academics still debate the most clinically accurate definition of addiction. But there are widely accepted standard diagnostic measures and research tools that consider more than frequency and method of drug use. These accommodate key biological, psychological and sociological dimensions.

For instance, Indonesia’s Ministry of Health uses the International Classification of Diseases and Health Problems (ICD-10). A number of standardised, reliable and World Health Organisation-approved research instruments also assess problematic drug use.

What sets these tools apart from the UI-BNN’s survey’s crude categorisation is their application of complex behavioural, cognitive and physiological elements. These include quality of the user’s life, withdrawal symptoms, chronic relapse and clear evidence of harmful effects caused by uncontrolled use of a substance.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Health estimates 74,326 people inject drugs in Indonesia, with the highest concentrations of users found in Greater Jakarta, East Java and West Java. International agencies such as the United Nations and World Health Organisation refer to this data as well.

This number mirrors the estimate of drug injectors in a 2011 BNN-UI survey. The BNN-UI survey also identified a little over 1.1 million non-injecting drug users in Indonesia. Most used ecstasy and crystal methamphetamine more than 49 times in the last year before the study.

But, as argued above, indicators such as methods or frequency of drug use alone are not enough to determine whether a person requires rehabilitation or not, nor whether rehabilitation itself is an appropriate method at all.

Among these individuals, only a few may be ready for or choose rehabilitation in BNN’s centres. Others may decide to enrol in a methadone substitution therapy programme. Some may continue living productive lives while independently managing their drug use.

A matter of life and death

Analysts inside and outside Indonesia have eloquently argued against the death penalty for drug offences on human rights grounds. Ample evidence from Singapore, Malaysia and other countries proves its ineffectiveness in deterring drug trafficking and reining in drug use.

While all research has a margin of error, as evident in Jokowi’s data on drug use, not all research is equally well planned or executed. At its worst, research can be manipulated to justify political ends, ignite public fear and lend dubious credibility to otherwise unpopular, unethical or punitive policies.

Policy makers planning a proposed action based on evidence-based research must use the newest, best available, objective evidence to understand a problem and to solve it with minimal unintended consequences.

With the imminent executions of Sukumaran, Chan and others on death row, policy decisions based on good evidence are a matter of life or death.

Claudia is a PhD Candidate in Social Intervention at University of Oxford. This article originally appeared 5 February in The Conversation.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Hypocrisy, politics and courts play out in death row lottery

By Tim Lindsey

One of the strongest arguments against the death penalty is that its administration is fundamentally unfair. Too often, the question of who receives a death sentence and whether and when it is actually carried out becomes more a matter of politics than of facts and law.
This is certainly the case for the two Australians, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, on death row in Indonesia. They find themselves at the centre of a series of complex political controversies, all of which could directly affect their chances of survival.

Sukumaran and Chan are the only members of the Bali Nine still sentenced to death for their role in attempting to smuggle 8.3 kilograms of heroin out of Bali to Australia in 2005. Indonesian President Joko Widodo has now rejected both Sukumaran’s and Chan’s pleas for clemency, leaving the pair facing execution by firing squad.

Clemency is last hope on death row

An application for clemency is usually made when the judicial process is exhausted. It is intended to be the last chance for a lighter sentence before execution takes place. The Chief Prosecutor’s office has indicated they usually execute co-offenders together.

Jokowi’s decisions on Chan and Sukumaran are consistent with recent statements he has made that he would not grant clemency to drug offenders. The death penalty is available in Indonesia for 17 offences but usually only imposed for drugs, terrorism and murder.

For decades the majority of executions in South-East Asia have been for drugs offences. Now Indonesian officials have said they aim to build a reputation for harsh treatment of drug offenders to match neighbouring Singapore and Malaysia, where, unlike Indonesia, death is mandatory in many drugs cases.

Jokowi’s refusal to grant clemency also reflects a decision made in 2013 by his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to end the informal moratorium on executions he put in place after the Bali bombers (Imam Samudra, Mukhlas and Amrozi) were executed in November 2008. In 2013, executions resumed, targets were set and four prisoners met their deaths. Last weekend, six more were executed, including five foreigners.

A double standard for Indonesians abroad

Indonesia’s efforts to prevent its own citizens being executed overseas therefore seem odd indeed. In recent years it established a taskforce and spent millions of dollars to hire lawyers and, where permitted, pay “blood money” to ensure that Indonesian domestic workers in countries including Saudi Arabia and Malaysia escape the death penalty.

This obvious double standard has drawn much criticism, including from Indonesian civil society. The government justifies it by drawing a clear distinction between, on one hand, its overseas workers – many of them maids who have murdered abusive employers – and, on other other hand, drug offenders, whom it categorises with terrorists as “mass murderers”. This distinction has support in Indonesia, where a high-profile “war on drugs” policy has been in place for years and many locals rely on overseas workers for remittances.
However, it does make it much harder for Indonesia to run an in-principle argument in favour of the death penalty, as leading Indonesian human rights organisations such as NGOs KontraS (Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence) and LBH (the Legal Aid Institute) have been arguing.

Many Indonesians still support the death penalty, including some active anti-drug NGOs. There is, however, a growing debate about whether it is still appropriate in an open liberal democratic state committed to human rights of the kind Indonesia claims to have become since Soeharto fell in 1998.

A question of politics as much as law

This ambivalence over how the death penalty sits with recognition of human rights is reflected in the “bob each way” decision the Indonesian Constitutional Court made in 2007. It held that execution is not inconsistent with the guarantee of right to life in its liberal post-Soeharto constitution.

However, the court also recommended that prisoners who have been on death row for ten years and have shown reform and rehabilitation should have their sentences commuted to imprisonment.

Jimly Asshiddiqie, the Constitutional Court Chief Justice at the time, has recently complained that the government has completely ignored this part of the judgment. He has also indicated discomfort with his court’s decision to uphold the death penalty, suggesting the time may be right to abolish it.

Sukumaran and Chan were arrested in 2005, and prison authorities have described them as reformed model prisoners. If the Constitutional Court’s proposal was implemented they would have a strong argument for their death sentences being replaced by long jail terms.
As this suggests, Indonesia may be undergoing a slow transition towards abolition. Many newspapers, including the leading daily, Kompas, have published articles criticising Jokowi’s decision to resume executions. But this shift in public opinion does not seem to big enough or moving fast enough to save Sukumaran and Chan.

It may not move Jokowi much either. Indonesian political observers say that while he is a strong democrat and anti-corruption reformer, he is personally morally conservative and not greatly focused on human rights issues.

They also say that Jokowi is under massive political pressure to match the decisive hardline “tough guy” image of his defeated presidential rival, former general Prabowo Subianto, who made much of “standing up” to foreign influences.

Jokowi lacks strong elite support and is fighting hard to build a workable coalition to overcome Prabowo’s stranglehold on the national legislature, which has so far prevented any laws being passed. While granting mercy to Sukumaran and Chan might have helped Jokowi with the second-rank challenge of building a relationship with Australia, he might well have seen it as too damaging for his own political survival.

Bali Nine: Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran in next group to face Indonesian firing squad

By George Roberts

The Indonesian government has confirmed that two convicted Australian drug smugglers are to be put to death in the next round of executions.

It is understood Prime Minister Tony Abbott pleaded with Indonesia to see if there was anything that could be done to save the lives of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.
But Indonesia informed Australia that all options had been exhausted and the decision was made.

Last week Chan and Sukumaran filed requests for reviews of their death sentences after they were denied presidential pardons.

Among the documents filed to the Denpasar district court were letters Chan and Sukumaran wrote to president Joko Widodo and the chief justice of the supreme court, begging for mercy.

However, a spokesperson for attorney-general Muhammad Prasetyo said that would not stop the Bali Nine ringleaders being executed.

The two Australians have been in jail in Indonesia since 2005 after they were arrested with seven others while trying to smuggle heroin out of Bali.

There has been no decision on when the executions would take place, but the pair could get as little as 72 hours' official notice of their execution.

The pair's lawyer, Julian McMahon, said the comments from Indonesia's attorney-general were "disturbing" considering an appeal was underway.

"According to the rule of law, most people immediately understand that a whole lot of rights flow from being in that position," he told 7.30.

"So it seems disturbing to say the least that while we are in a court, a politician is saying that - the attorney-general is saying that.

"Nevertheless, we're going to be in the next batch of executions while at the same time saying that he would not seek to interfere with the court."

Mr McMahon said he had no further information than reports in the media, but warned Indonesia against conducting the process with unnecessary speed.

"In fact, looking at these kinds of cases around the world over the last 50 years, the one thing that you don't want when considering whether or not people should be taken out and shot is, firstly, political involvement in the judicial process and, secondly, unseemly haste," he said.

"The question of the death penalty is a very live issue in Indonesia. There is no reason to be hasty.

"Six people were taken out and shot about 10 days ago, and now we're told a whole lot more are going to be taken out and shot soon."

Nothing Australia can do to stop executions, ambassador says

Earlier, Indonesia's ambassador to Australia said he had met with Australia's "highest official" and explained there was nothing Australia could do to save Chan and Sukumaran from the firing squad.

Ambassador Nadjib Kesoema was in Jakarta for a briefing with Mr Widodo.
It is understood that on Australia Day Mr Abbott asked the ambassador if there was anything Australia could do to change the decision.

Mr Kesoema said he explained that all avenues had been exhausted and the situation was final.

George Roberts is the Indonesia Correspondent for ABC. His article originally appeared 2 January on ABC online.

Indonesia Weighs In on Jokowi’s Poor Start

By Jakarta Globe

President Joko Widodo’s popularity was plunging sharply on the eve of his 100th day in office, which is today, while analysts scrutinize his cabinet’s poor performance obscured behind a series of increasingly scandalous policies.

Poll institute Puspol Indonesia said in its press conference last week that 74.6 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with Joko and Vice President Jusuf Kalla’s leadership in the first three months of their term in office.

“Only 25.4 percent indicated that they were satisfied,” Puspol Indonesia executive director Ubedilah Badrun said.

Among the policies that contributed to Joko’s plunging popularity was the subsidized fuel price hikes, where 44 percent of respondents said it was the wrong move to make amid falling global crude oil prices and only 20.64 percent gave their nod of approval.

“Most of the respondents, or 51.58 percent, were unsure if diverting funds from fuel subsidies would spur developments in more productive sectors,” Ubedilah said.

He added that Education Minister Anies Baswedan’s decision to suspend the 2013 school curriculum — despite its controversy — also appears to be unpopular, with 27 percent of respondents saying the change would create confusion, 19 percent claiming it would only be detrimental to both teachers and students, and 25 percent giving their approval.

“Of the ministers’ performance, only Maritime and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti’s policy of sinking foreign boats is considered positive by the public,” Ubedilah said, referring to Susi’s aggressive measure to fighting poachers in Indonesia’s waters by foreign-flagged fishing vessels.

A total of 756 respondents from Jakarta, West Java and Banten were surveyed for the poll that took place on Jan. 6-16, three days after the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) named the sole candidate for the post of National Police chief, Comr. Gen. Budi Gunawan, a suspect over his “fat” personal bank accounts.

The KPK made the announcement mere days after Joko submitted Budi’s nomination to the House of Representatives and a day before lawmakers — with the exception of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party — endorsed the nomination despite Budi’s troubling status.

The drama surrounding the chain of events has deepened into a crisis since then, turning into a full-blown conflict between the police and the KPK.

Joko, meanwhile, has been widely censured over his failure to show appropriate support for the KPK, whose four leaders are now facing legal charges by the police on cold cases critics have seen as a systematic scheme to “criminalize and incapacitate” the antigraft body.

The public has understandably thrown their weight behind the KPK, a highly regarded institution deemed Indonesia’s last bastion of hope against systemic corruption; as opposed to the police, which vies with the House each year for the ignominious honor of being the most corrupt public institution in the land.

Joko, meanwhile, has been seen as either directly or indirectly defending the police, believed by some to be led by Budi behind the scenes. The police general is a close associate of Joko’s patron, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) chairwoman and former President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Critics have slammed Joko’s perceived inability to defy Megawati’s orders even when the stakes are high — namely completely losing the public’s trust.

Observers had begun criticizing Joko when he announced his cabinet lineup in late October — as it is studded with political appointees, either those who are direct members of political parties under the pro-government Awesome Indonesia Coalition (KIH) or close associates of Megawati.

But although it is a direct deviation to his campaign promise of no horse-trading politics, observers understood Joko’s move to secure political backing in order to face the opposition Red-White Coalition, which controls majority seats at the House of Representatives.
More and more of his personnel picks, though, raised even more eyebrows, including the appointment of former National Democratic Party (Nasdem) politician H.M. Prasetyo as attorney general and, more recently, nine members of the Presidential Advisory Board (Wantimpres) — nearly all of who are senior politicians with the Awesome Indonesia Coalition.

In his first 100 days in office, transactional politics under Joko has already been seen by some as even worse than that under former President Yudhoyono. The former president had at least appointed real technocrats with vast experience in their respective fields as his Wantimpres members — although he reportedly more often ignored their advice — and he named no one with apparent political associations or legal problems as the attorney general and the police chief.

And now Joko’s decision to only “postpone, not cancel” Budi’s nomination, as well as his insistence that he should play fair in addressing the police vs KPK squabble — despite the political intrigues obvious to many, is increasingly seen as proof to his incompetence or lack of will to fight the pressures placed upon him by Megawati and other senior politicians.
A poll on the president’s first 100 days in office at the Jakarta Globe’s website as of Monday night indicated more than half of 1,181 respondents were dissatisfied with his performance — 38.9 percent considered it “very poor,” 12 percent deemed it “poor,” 19.3 percent called his performance “fair,” 11.5 percent said it has been “good,” 11.25 percent believed it was “very good,” while 7 percent called it “excellent.”

In comparison, the former Jakarta governor and mayor of Solo led popularity polls with more than 50 percent of votes — compared with some other presidential hopefuls — in dozens of polls conducted during the peak of his popularity in late 2013 and in the first quarter of 2014.

Lesser-known policies

While controversies and critics surrounding the police chief nomination, the tension between the KPK and police, and Susi’s ship-sinking policy continue to make media headlines, some observers scrutinized the Joko administration’s performance in sectors that have garnered less media attention.

Irwan Suhanto of the National Strategic Study Center criticized the performance of Joko’s economic team, citing its inability to bring prices of staple foods back to normal in the wake of fuel price hikes, even though the price of fuel was once again slashed on Jan. 16 following continued fall of global crude oil prices.

“This is really confusing. When the fuel prices were hiked, prices of staple foods automatically rose, too. But after the fuel prices dropped, the prices of staples have not lowered, afflicting the poor people,” Irwan pointed out.

He also scrutinized the lack of work done by the coordinating minister for human development, Puan Maharani, whose appointment for the cabinet post has been largely attributed to her status as Megawati’s daughter.

Puan’s office should be spearheading Joko’s “Mental Revolution” movement, which he had loudly touted during last year’s presidential campaign, “but where is this so-called revolution?” Irwan asked rhetorically.

He also scrutinized Industry Minister Saleh Husin’s allocation of a mere Rp 27 billion ($2.2 million) to supposedly support Indonesia’s shipbuilding industry, saying operating a shipyard alone requires at least Rp 100 billion.

“What does he want to do with the Rp 27 billion budget for the shipbuilding industry?” Irwan questioned, adding that he had told Joko not to hesitate if he is faced with the option of conducting a cabinet reshuffle should his minsters continue to fail at their jobs.

“Jokowi should evaluate the performance of his ministers in his first 100 days in office,” Irwan said, referring to the president by his popular nickname. “That is a form of responsibility to the people that have voted for him.”

Melli Darsa, chairwoman of the Alumni Association for the University of Indonesia’s School of Law, said Joko’s political appointments in the legal sector resulted in his administration’s inability to formulate a blue print on the national legislation program and of the new laws it must prioritize or old laws it must revise before others.

“Senior officials appointed in the legal sector simply don’t have enough experience and are thus unable to make proper contributions [to legislation planning],” Melli said as quoted by Republika.co.id.

“President Jokowi has been completely inconsistent with his [campaign] promises,” she added.

 This article originally appeared 27 January in the Jakarta Globe.