Indonesia maintains its stance on Syria following pressure from US and its allies

Indonesia said its position remains the same after the US, the UK and France called on it to join forces in pressuring Syria’s Assad regime about its alleged use of chemical weapons.

Envoys from the three countries on Thursday asked to meet Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and requested that the country go further in its stance on Assad’s regime.

Arrmanatha Nasir, Foreign Ministry spokesman, told journalists on Friday that Indonesia was deeply concerned about developments in Syria after the US and its allies’ missile strikes.

Nasir said during the meeting that the three Western countries’ ambassadors conveyed their views on Syria, while Marsudi reiterated Indonesia’s position issued on Apr. 14 after the strike, which underlines the need for all parties to respect international laws and norms, in particular the UN charter on international peace and security.

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Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met with the UK’s ambassador to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik, the US’s Joseph R. Donovan and France’s Jean-Charles Berthonne on Thursday, Apr. 19 to hold talks about the situation in Syria. Photos: Twitter/@Menlu_RI

Indonesia also “strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons by any parties in Syria” and called on all parties to show restraint and prevent an escalation of the deteriorating situation.

Indonesia stressed the importance of a comprehensive resolution of the conflict in Syria through negotiations and peaceful means and expressed concern about the security of civilians, calling on all parties to ensure that the safety of women and children was always a priority.

Beginda Pakpahan, an international relations lecturer at Universitas Indonesia, said that the country’s position on Syria was clear and reflected its free and active foreign policy.

“They (the ambassadors) should be aware of Indonesia’s position,” Pakpahan said.

Rene Pattiradjawane, a former Kompas daily senior journalist and foreign policy commentator, said that it was natural the three countries would seek support from Indonesia as the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

But with its free and active foreign policy, Indonesia could not support US and its allies’ unilateral strike on Syria and it should not be interpreted as espousing either Russia or Syria.

“Indonesia sees this more as a humanitarian problem with a lot of collateral damage,” he said.

According to the Foreign Ministry, there are up to 2,000 Indonesian citizens in Syria.

Moazzam Malik, the UK’s ambassador to Indonesia, said after Thursday’s meeting that he and fellow ambassadors to Indonesia, the US’s Joseph R. Donovan and France’s Jean-Charles Berthonne, would like Indonesia to join them in holding the Assad regime accountable for the suspected misuse of chemical weapons against their own citizens and the abuse of the Chemical Weapons Convention.

Malik said that since Indonesia would soon become a committee member of the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), they would like it to put pressure on Syria and Russia to open access for the investigation in Douma.

This story was first published in Arab News

 

Indonesian university wages war on ISIS — with animations

Ahmad met his friends Udin and Ari at a mosque, and Ari asked him why he had not been around for some time.

When Ahmad said he had just returned from Syria, Ari replied in awe that he, too, wanted to go there to wage “jihad”.

When a teacher approached them and asked Ahmad the same question, Ari replied, saying: “He (Ahmad) just returned from Syria to wage jihad. Isn’t that cool?” But Ahmad told both men the caliphate propaganda was false and many innocent people had been killed in the name of the caliphate.

“They were Muslims just like us,” he said. The teacher closed the conversation by saying that Ari had learned his lesson and should understand he did not have to go far to wage jihad. The teacher then asked Ari to join him assisting elderly people.

“This is also jihad,” he said.

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A screen grab from “Kembali dari Suriah” showing Ahmad, Udin, Ari and their teacher. The four characters appear in an animated clip aimed to counter radicalism among teenagers.

Ahmad, Udin and Ari are characters in an animated film entitled “Kembali dari Suriah,” or “Returning from Syria,” produced by the Center for the Study of Islam and Social Transformation (Cisform) at Universitas Islam Negeri Sunan Kalijaga in Yogyakarta. The short film — one of 20 animated clips produced to counter extremism among teenagers — was launched in Jakarta on Wednesday, following the February release of the first 20 clips in Yogyakarta.

Muhammad Wildan, Cisform’s director, said the films had been made to counter radical propaganda after earlier efforts to publish two short comics largely failed because of the poor reading habits of Indonesian teenagers.

“We decided to develop these animated short clips to expand our reach. They will be more accessible through social media,” Wildan said.

Most of the clips are between 90 seconds and three minutes long, depending on the content.

Wildan said the real challenge was to condense the message with the correct reference to Qur’an and package it in a maximum three-minute clip.

“We are careful when choosing our arguments that cite the Qur’an and the Hadith,” Wildan said.

Lecturers from the university had offered their expertise on specific subjects, he said.

Also present at the film launch was 20-year-old Nur Shadrina Khairadhania, who went to Syria as a teenager with her extended family. She shared her own account of emigrating to the so-called caliphate and explained why going to Syria to wage jihad was wrong.

Speaking to an audience of high school students, Khairadhania said that after her interest in Islam began to grow, she fell victim to ISIS online propaganda introduced to her by an uncle.

“I watched their videos, which showed that life would be really good in the caliphate. I was enticed to join,” Khairadhania said.

She convinced her father, Dwi Djoko Wiwoho, a high-ranking civil servant in Batam, Riau province, as well as her mother and two siblings, to migrate to Syria.

A group of 26 extended members of her family, including two uncles and a grandmother, left for Syria in 2015. After 19 managed to cross the border to Turkey, they quickly discovered that life in the caliphate was very different to the propaganda.

“Everything is contrary to Islamic teaching. A male family member was forced to fight and was put in detention for months when he refused,” she said.

The family tried for a year to leave and finally returned to Indonesia in August 2017.

Family members completed a rehabilitation program run by the national counterterrorism agency, but now her father and uncle are facing terrorism charges.

Rebuilding her life had been difficult because of the stigma of her past, she said.

“But God gave me a second chance to live. This is probably my jihad, to tell the truth to people so no one will be deceived like us,” she said.

This story was first published in Arab News

World’s fastest sinking city Jakarta to subside up to 2 meters in less than a decade

Jakarta city administration’s recent raid on 80 high-rise buildings along the Indonesian capital’s main business thoroughfare, which showed that 37 buildings are not equipped with infiltration wells and are alleged to have failed to comply with regulations on the use of groundwater, is another confirmation of what experts have warned that the city is well on its way to become an underwater metropolis.

The 2017 World Ocean Review, which was published in November last year in Berlin, reports that Jakarta is currently the fastest sinking city in the world, subsiding at a rate much faster than other coastal metropolis of over 10 million inhabitants in Southeast Asia such as Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh and Manila.

According to the report, Jakarta, which is partly built on peaty soils, is an “extreme example of a sinking city” with many of its high-rise buildings and the commercial center are sinking in the soft subsurface by up to 10 centimeters annually.

The abstraction of groundwater for drinking water supply is also contributing to this effect and it is feared that the sinking will accelerate. Groundwater normally acts as a natural abutment that counterbalances the weight of built-up areas bearing down on the substrate, while another factor that contributes to Jakarta land subsidence is compaction of the ground.

“Without countermeasures and a reduction of groundwater abstraction, by the year 2025 parts of Jakarta are likely to have sunk by a further 180 centimeters,” the World Ocean Review reports.

To come up with resolutions on how coastal metropolis can adapt to the land subsidence and sea level change, scientists at Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) and University of Bremen’s Institute of Sociology in Germany are working on research projects in Jakarta, Singapore and Manila.

Chief sociologist Dr. Anna-Katharina Hornidge, who is one of the scientists behind the World Ocean Review, said they are seeking to find answers on how policies and standardized practices for living with sea level rise, which are communicated by international donors can be translated into local context and are politically legitimized.

“Our recent findings so far are that the relative sea-level change serves as a floating signifier to justify investment in infrastructure to transform the coastal areas and acculturation to living with water,” Hornidge told a group of international journalists during a visit to the institution in Oct. 2017.

The evil twin of global warming: ocean acidification

But sea level rise, which is rising by around 3 millimeters annually according to the World Ocean Review, is not the only problem faced by people living in coastal areas. Those that are driven by climate change, such as ocean warming and ocean acidification, are adding to the coastal inhabitants’ woes.

Ocean acidification or the rising acid in seawater because the ocean partly absorbs the carbon dioxide that humans pump into the atmosphere, poses another threat to ocean life and marine ecosystem, impairs life in the ocean, and compromises important ecosystem services it provides to humankind, such as fish, which serve as the primary source of protein for a billion people, mainly in developing countries, and the fisheries industry that provides jobs for millions of people, especially those living in coastal areas.

Scientists have coined the terms “the other carbon dioxide problem” or the “evil twin of global warming” for ocean acidification, which has increased by 30 percent since 1850, according to Dr. Ulf Riebesell, a marine biologist at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in the northern German seaside town of Kiel.

Riebesell, who led more than 250 scientists from a network of 20 German research institutions to conduct an eight-year research on ocean acidification called Biological Impacts of Ocean Acidification (BIOACID), said the changes in seawater acid is happening 10 times faster than it would have been if it was happening due to natural process.

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Dr. Ulf Riebesell, a marine biologist at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel explained about ocean acidification. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

Findings of the research, which was conducted from 2009 to 2017, were presented at last year’s United Nations climate change conference COP23 in Bonn. Some of the findings show that many organism are able to withstand ocean acidification but may lose the ability if also exposed to other stressors such as warming, loss of oxygen or pollution. Ocean acidification and warming reduce the survival rates of some fish species’ early life stages, which will likely reduce fish stocks and yields. Climate change also alters the availability of prey for fish and as a consequence may affect their growth and reproduction.

Scientists involved in BIOACID research found that ocean acidification reduces the ocean’s ability to store carbon and will change the distribution and abundance of fish species. The change will have a significant impact on economic activities such as small-scale coastal fisheries and tourism. This calls for therefore, the scientists said it is crucial to consider ocean acidification and warming in fish stocks and marine areas management.

Hans-Otto Portner, co-coordinator of BIOACID and marine ecophysiologist at Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Center for Polar and Marine Research said for scientists to be able to project the steady level of ocean acidification based on historical events would depend on political decisions.

“The oceans are warming, just like the rest of the planet. They are losing oxygen and acidifying. The overarching trend is marine life now is being depleted,” he added.

Riebesell said the global community needs to understand the many ways in which humans depend on the ocean and its services and it will be for humans’ own benefit if carbon dioxide emissions are reduced that it could limit global warming to less than 2 degree Celsius.

“The future of this planet depends on us. Wouldn’t it be a great achievement if the age of human dominance on earth goes down in history as an era of rethinking and changing behavior?” Riebesell added.

Portner said all countries need to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions drastically by the middle of the century if they want to meet the Paris climate targets.

“The current world climate report indicates that net-zero emissions are a precondition for limiting global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius. However, reducing carbon dioxide emissions alone may not be sufficient,” Portner said.

Coral reef restoration

Keeping global warming further down to below 1.2 degrees Celsius with limited concentrations of carbon dioxide emissions could help to preserve about half of the tropical coral reefs, the BIOACID research found, adding more attestation on how ocean acidification will impact humans.

“Coral reefs provide habitat for millions of species, coastal protection, revenues from tourism and biodiversity heritage for the future,” Riebesell said.

According to Marine Policy journal published in August 2017, coral reefs around the world is one of the most notable examples of nature-based tourism spurred by a single ecosystem, which attract tourists and generate revenues in 100 countries and territories, including Indonesia.

Coral reef tourism is estimated to generate roughly US$35.8 billion dollars globally every year or over 9 percent of all coastal tourism value in coral reef countries around the world. Indonesia ranked second among the 10 jurisdictions in the world that have the highest total reef tourism value, amounted to US$3,098 million annually, while neighboring Thailand and the Philippines ranked fourth and seventh, generating US$2,410 million and US$1,385 million per year respectively.

Dr. Sonia Bejarano, head of the reef systems workgroup at Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) in Bremen, said coral reefs are biodiversity treasure in need of science for sustainability.

Bejarano and a group of scientists at ZMT has been conducting research projects on coral reefs in various parts of the world, including in Indonesia, where they found that a receding destructive fishing practice in an Indonesian marine park has led to a rise in herbivorous fish.

“There is a high social and economic dependence on coral reefs,” Bejarano said, adding that their research is directly applicable in coral reef restoration.

 

 

Indonesia’s rampant coastal erosion preventable with research-based planning

The northern coastline on Indonesia’s main island of Java is sinking annually at a fast rate, causing land subsidence and threatening residents of communities living near the shore.

Experts say economic developments and land conversion from mangrove forests to industrial or residential uses are among the factors causing the sea level to rise and water to creep farther inland.

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North Jakarta’s vulnerable coastline converted to high-rise apartment buildings. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

But in Jakarta, the nation’s capital, groundwater extraction remains the main culprit behind land subsidence, as up to 65 percent of its residents rely on underground water sources. Land subsiding is anywhere from 3 to 18 cm annually in various parts of the city and a lack of mitigation would lead to 30 percent subsidence in 2050, Abdul Malik Sadat Idris, an official from the National Development Planning Agency, warned in February.

“Land subsidence is obvious along the northern coastline of Java at a rate of 1 to 25 cm annually,” said Dr Heri Andreas, a geodesist from Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) in West Java.  “This trend is a warning for us that land subsidence will continue to happen unless we do something to stop or withhold it, since land subsidence is like a silent killer that will affect our communities as it causes inundation and land to erode.”

Indonesia’s 54,700 kilometer coast line is the second-longest in the world after Canada, and its mangrove ecosystem is the largest in the world, covering 3,489,141 hectare or 23 percent of the world’s mangrove ecosystem, according to data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

These mangrove forests are part of an estimated 30 million-hectare coastal area ecosystem along with peatlands, wetlands, lagoons, river deltas, sea bank, marshes and evaporation ponds, many of which are located close to human settlements that are less than 30 meters above sea level.

They support to a wealth of life as a natural habitat for various species, and also serve as a buffer to seawater intrusion. At the same time, they store fresh water and contain high carbon reserve that help mitigate climate change. A mangrove forest that extends at least 100 meter inland could suppress rising tide by 13 percent to 66 percent.

“But most of our wetlands and 52 percent of our mangrove forests have been destroyed. We have lost 85 percent of the mangrove areas on the northern coast of Java as they have been converted to human settlements or man-made fish ponds. In some areas, the sea level has even risen,” said Agung Kuswandono, a deputy minister in charge of natural resources coordination at the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs.

Nyoman Suryadiputra, director of Wetlands International Indonesia said the only course of action now is an immediate halt to wetlands conversion.

“Many of us don’t realize the fact that Indonesia’s largest fresh water reserves are in peatlands instead of lakes or rivers,” he said, adding that at the same time, climate change also causes sea level to rise and these two situations are increasing the risk of further calamities along the coastline.

Jakarta is not the only city in the region suffering from land subsidence. Other Asian mega cities such as Tianjin, Shanghai, Tokyo, Osaka, Manila, Bangkok, Dhaka, and Bombay also have some areas that have slipped below sea level, said Dr Athanasios Vafeidis from Department of Geography, Coastal Risks and Sea-Level Rise of Kiel University in Germany.

According to Vafeidis, calamity could be prevented if people are willing to adapt to the sea level rise and prepare for it by looking at data and historical facts. Planning based on such knowledge is less costly compared to the damage that could result from ignoring the facts, or having to take action after the fact.

“Adaptation costs are generally lower than direct damage costs. If we include indirect impacts, benefits are even larger,” Vafeidis told a group of visiting international journalists to the institution in late 2017 organized by

“The costs depend on the timing of adaptation but proactive adaptation pays,” he said.

Dr Vafeidis added that the rise in sea level has been accelerating for the past decade and will continue to do so. The rates the same but some regions could see acceleration three times faster than others. Without adaptation, he said, many areas will become unviable by 2100.

“A better understanding of adaptation and decision-making under certainty is essential, especially for vulnerable regions such as deltas and small islands,” he said.

Klaus Schwarzer from Institute of Geosciences, Sedimentology, Coastal and Continental Shelf Research at Kiel University, cited the Mekong in Vietnam, Chao Praya in Thailand and Mahakam in Indonesia’s Kalimantan island as examples of deltas that are vulnerable, based on current estimates of the relative sea level rise to 2050, including land subsidence in the deltas.

If no adaptions are in place, the number of people displaced from the Mekong delta would be extreme at more than one million, while anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 people would have to flee their communities along the Chao Praya and Mahakam.

Schwarzer said more research on coastal zones would be essential to provide knowledge that could be applied in drafting potential future scenarios so that people can continue to make use of the coastal environment. However, such usage must be sustainable with better management of coastal ecosystem resources, given that some 2.8 billion people in the world now live within 100 km of a coast.

Mangrove forests that help to keep the tides at bay continue to be cut down, but very few people are talking about the loss of this essential element of coastal protection, said Martin Zimmer, a professor for mangrove ecology at Bremen’s University of Bremen.

Zimmer said researchers are developing an approach mangrove spatial conservation that focuses on humans needs while also maintaining biodiversity.

“It is an ecosystem design that focuses on what people in the area need. We implement an ecosystem that functions for them, not just to make the areas look beautiful. To protect coastal areas, we can’t just build dykes or other structures, but we do that with something that is naturally there, which is mangrove,” Zimmer said.

Coastal zones serve as an essential lifeline for much of the world’s population, Schwarzer said, given 95 percent of international trade involves marine transport, which ends up in harbors.

Oceans are also important sources of food with 90 percent of the world’s fishery activity  is carried out in coastal zones.

“There is an increase in extreme storm surges and predictions of sea level rise. Coastal erosion already endangers about one-third of the world’s population,” Schwarzer said.

The original story was published in Bangkok Post

Indonesia slapped Facebook with second warning letter over data leak

Facebook was slapped on Tuesday with a second warning letter by Indonesia’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology for having improperly shared Indonesian data users with political consultant Cambridge Analytica.

In a statement posted on its website, the ministry said it warned Facebook again in the letter, which was signed by the ministry’s Information Applications Director General Semuel Pangerapan, to explain the ministry how personal information from over a million Indonesian users have been used by a third-party application on Facebook.

The ministry gave Facebook the first warning letter during a meeting on Thursday, when Indonesia’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Rudiantara summoned the company’s representatives to his office, after Facebook disclosed in a blog post on Wednesday that a large number of Indonesian users’ data had been shared with Cambridge Analytica.

In the meeting, Rudiantara said he asked them to provide the ministry with their audit results to see how personal information of Indonesian users have been used and asked Facebook to block third-party applications from accessing Indonesian users’ personal data.

Rudiantara said he already got in touch with Facebook representatives in Indonesia when initial reports of Cambridge Analytica scandal emerged and gave them verbal warning over possible data breach of Indonesian users.

He called for Indonesian users to “temporarily fast from using social media. If they really have to use it, please be really careful when sharing personal data.”

According to the chart in the post, written by Facebook Chief Technology Officer Mike Schroepfer, Indonesia and two other Southeast Asian countries the Philippines and Vietnam are among the top ten countries whose citizens’ personal data may have been harvested for Cambridge Analytica’s inappropriate use.

The chart shows data of 1.75 million users in the Philippines, which is second to US users, could have been leaked, followed by Indonesia as third most-affected with more than a million users. Vietnam’s some 427,000 users, which ranked ninth in the chart, are believed to have also been affected.

Rudiantara said he has asked police to probe alleged violations of electronic information and transactions law on the misuse of Indonesia users’ data. If Facebook is found guilty of violations, its representatives in Indonesia could face a maximum 12 years in prison and a fine of up to 12 billion Indonesian rupiah.

A Facebook spokesperson said they are strongly committed to protecting people’s information, and intend to make all the same privacy controls and settings available everywhere. They also said it has recently taken significant steps to make their privacy tools easier to find, restrict data access on Facebook, and make their terms and data policy clearer.

The spokesperson said the company believes these changes will better protect people’s information and they will keep the community updated as they make more change, and continue to work with privacy and information commissioners, and authorities, in Indonesia.

Indonesians are among the world’s most active social media users, consistently remain among the top five countries with the largest number Facebook users.

A survey conducted from Oct. to Nov. 2017 by the Indonesian Internet Service Providers Association and the Indonesian Telecommunications Society showed Facebook is the second most popular social media applications on smartphones, according to 66.5 percent respondents, after Instagram which is owned by Facebook, with 82.6 percent respondents.

The survey was conducted across the country, involving 1,020 respondents, more than half were high school and university students, followed by professionals and entrepreneurs.

The survey also showed 79 percent respondents object to having their personal data being transferred to another party without their consent. Almost all respondents, or 98 percent, said they acknowledged personal data shared online should be protected and that the government should issue a legislation regulating protection of personal data shared online.

Rudiantara said this data leak case calls for a momentum for lawmakers to start deliberating a government-sponsored personal data protection bill and pass it into law. In the absence of such a law, data protection is currently guaranteed by a 2016 ministerial decree.

He added despite the importance of having personal data protection law, the bill had failed to be listed in the House of Representatives’ 2018 National Legislation Program.

“I hope this users’ data breach case could push for the bill to be eventually included in this year’s national legislation program,” he said.

This story has been updated from its original version in Arab News

Indonesian braces for greater environmental damage as oil slick widens

Indonesian authorities have launched a massive cleanup operation off the coast of Balikpapan, the provincial capital of East Kalimantan, where an oil slick from a ruptured undersea pipeline has sprawled to 20,000 hectares, contaminating mangrove forest and marine life.

Satellite images from state space agency LAPAN showed in just two days since the initial oil slick was detected on Mar. 31, the spill has sprawled to 13,559 hectare on Apr. 2 from 12,987 hectare on the previous day.

According to the Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Ministry, by Apr. 5 the spill has sprawled to 20,000 hectares, Kompas newspaper reported.

“Now it would take months to recover from the environmental damage,” Arifsyah Nasution, a marine campaigner from Greenpeace Indonesia said.

Environmental activists in Balikpapan have team up to collect evidence and assess the environmental damage, which Nasution said the public can later use as a comparison to assessment made by government agencies.

Balikpapan city administration has declared a state of emergency as locals’ livelihoods suffer. The oil spill claimed the lives of five fishermen when it ignited on fire on Mar. 31 and killed at least an Irrawaddy dolphin, a rare and protected species.

State-owned oil company Pertamina, which at first denied the leak was its fault, acknowledged that the spill had come from its undersea pipelines, located 22 to 26 meters below the sea.

“The crude oil leaked from one of the pipelines that was dragged more than 100 meter from its location,” Yudi Nugraha, a spokesman for Pertamina operations in Balikpapan said.

The company said the steel pipelines, which distribute crude oil from the Lawe-Lawe Terminal to its refinery in Balikpapan are 20 years old and that only external forces can dragged them as far as 100 meter.

Greenpeace’s Nasution said the crisis could have been minimized if Pertamina had responded more quickly.

The Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry said the likely culprit is a Panama-flagged coal ship that dropped its anchor in Balikpapan Bay, dragging one of the pipelines and causing it to rupture.

The ministry’s oil and gas director general Djoko Siswanto said ships are not permitted to drop anchor on that part of the bay where the pipelines are installed.

Environmental and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar has dispatched ministry officials to Balikpapan, an oil and mining hub in the island of Borneo, to spearhead the cleanup effort and to assess the adverse impact on the bay’s ecosystem and biodiversity. Pertamina has deployed 15 cleaning vessels.

Siti Nurbaya said the ministry team will measure the length of the coastline impacted by the spill. They found that it has so far polluted 34 hectare mangrove wetlands in Kariangau village and 6,000 mangrove trees in another village.

“We have asked Pertamina to prioritize cleaning the oil slick in waters close to human settlements to get rid of the oil’s nauseating smell and other imminent health hazards,” Siti Nurbaya said.

The team also collected oil booms, or temporary floating barriers, from oil companies operating in the region to contain the oil spill and by late Wednesday, the team has collected up to 70 meter cubic oil slick.

“We are coordinating with the police, which will launch a criminal investigation into the case. The forestry ministry will assist in determining the loss suffered by locals and the compensation for those affected,” Rasio Ridho Sani, forestry ministry’s director general for law enforcement said.

Octavinus, a search and rescue official in Balikpapan said locals began to see oil slick floating on the waters on Mar. 31 midnight and it was sparked on fire before noon, burning two fishing boats.

An operation was immediately dispatched to rescue the fishermen and by Apr. 3,  Octavianus said they found one of the boats completely burned and all bodies of five fishermen killed in the fire.

“A coal barge with 20 crew on board was sailing by but the barge was only slightly damaged and the whole crew is safe,” he said.

The original story was published in Arab News

Politician calls Jokowi’s bike ride “political gimmick”

An Indonesian opposition politician and citizens criticized President Joko Widodo after he rode a highly-modified motorcycle through the town of Sukabumi alongside several cabinet ministers.

Sporting a denim jacket, a half face helmet and a pair of Vans x Metallica sneakers, Joko led the  convoy on his golden chopper on Sunday in what critics referred to as an attempt to appeal to younger voters. The 56-year-old is seeking re-election in 2019.

Opposition politician and deputy parliament speaker Fadli Zon referred to the move as nothing more than “a political gimmick, not genuine,” saying that  “the whole thing was forced.”

“What for? I think we need to know what is needed to be done: Jobs and a better future, not visible symbols like motorbikes,” he said.

Critics pointed out on social media that the president’s customized Royal Enfield Bullet 350 and his protective gear were not up to the country’s own road safety regulations.

“Luckily he’s president. If I did that I would be given a ticket because the mirrors are too small and the headlight isn’t on,” a Twitter user wrote.