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.
Russia Beyond, a pro-government Russian news outlet, has taken a swipe at a young Indonesian politician for remarks critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Putin is not a model leader. He has silenced opposition and the media,” said Tsamara Amany, a 21-year-old leader of the Indonesian Solidarity Party, in a video posted on Twitter.
“In Russia, there’s no freedom of expression like we have in Indonesia,” she said before alleging that corruption was rife in Putin’s Russia.
Tsamara made the remarks in response to Indonesian opposition politician and deputy parliamentary speaker Fadli Zon, who had praised Putin while taking a thinly veiled jab at Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
But the Indonesian edition of Russia Beyond, seen as a mouthpiece for the Russian government, responded to Tsamara’s video in a series of tweets.
“We think you need to do more research about our country. We don’t meddle in Indonesia’s politics but if there are Indonesian politicians who idolize our leader, what can we do?” Russia Beyond said.
“Your remarks are regrettable because relations between the two countries are very good. You may not agree with Fadli Zon, but your remarks as a young politician shows a lack of maturity,” it said, before inviting her to come to the Russian embassy.
Fadli had made his remarks in support of Putin on Twitter last week. “If Indonesia wants to rise and be glorious, it needs a leader like Putin: brave, visionary, smart, charismatic, no penchant for debt, not clueless,” Fadli said.
The US-government-funded NGO Freedom House rates Russia as “not free” in its 2017 report. Indonesia was rated as “partly free.”
Indonesia’s parliament speaker has called for legislation to curb “homosexual excesses,” as lawmakers and the government debate a revised criminal code that could make gay sex and sex outside marriage illegal.
In an opinion piece published in the Koran Sindo newspaper, House of Representatives speaker Bambang Soesatyo wrote that gay lifestyles have spawned “horrifying” excesses such as murders, HIV/AIDS and paedophilia.
“It is clear that legislation that focuses on curbing the lifestyles of the LGBT community is long overdue,” said Soesatyo, using the abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Soesatyo then listed several murder cases, including two serial killing cases, involving homosexuals in Indonesia in recent years.
Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but Soesatyo is a politician from the secular and nationalist Golkar Party.
Homosexuality is not a crime in Indonesia, but members of the LGBT community have been under pressure following remarks and action by authorities targeting them.
Since last year, police have raided places frequented by gay people and briefly detained scores of them on suspicion of prostitution and pornographic acts.
In the opinion piece, Soesatyo also wrote that gay people often resorted to paedophilia “because of difficulty in finding partners,” citing recent cases of child rape.
“Their penetration into the lives of teenagers and children has been made possible by online social networks,” he said.
Soesatyo also said, without citing sources, that the gay population was estimated to be about 3 per cent of the country’s population, or about 7 million people.
“If these people actively promote their lifestyles, it will be very worrying,” he said.
“We urge the state to take firm action,” he said, adding that the House of Representatives was seeking to add more provisions to the draft revised criminal code to include those on LGBT activities.
Under the draft revisions to the criminal code, a person engaging in “a lewd act” with another person of the same sex who is under 18 years old could face 12 years in prison.
If the act involves violence, the penalty is up to 15 years, according to the draft.
It stipulates that a lewd act committed in public between two people of the same sex is punishable up to 18 months in prison.
The draft also says that sex between a man and a woman who are unmarried to each other is punishable by up to five years.
But it also stipulates that police can only pursue charges if a relative, such as a wife, a husband, a parent or a sibling makes a police complaint.
Human rights groups warn that the new criminal code, if passed as it is, would be a threat to the privacy of citizens and violate human rights.
More than 50,000 people have signed an online petition against the proposal.
“We call on the House of Representatives to remove provisions which could penalize women, victims of rape, children, those who did not register their marriages and the public in general,” the petition read.
Police in Indonesia’s Aceh province, where Islamic law is enforced, rounded up 12 transvestites and made them wear male clothing, a news report said Monday.
The transvestites were arrested on Sunday in several beauty parlours where they were working in North Aceh district as part of a crackdown on what authorities call “social ills,” local police chief Untung Surianata told the state-run Antara news agency.
“These transvestites will be re-educated so they can be real men,” Surianata was quoted as saying.
The officer said they were shaved and told to wear male clothing.
“Officers also asked them to run briefly and scream from the top of their lungs so that their male voices came out,” he added.
Under a version of Islamic law in place in the semi-autonomous Aceh, men who dress as women are not allowed to serve female customers at beauty salons.
Aceh is the only Indonesian province allowed to impose sharia as part of the central government’s attempts to appease a drive for independence in the region.
But elsewhere in Indonesia, sexual minorities have also been subjected to discrimination.
Police in the country’s two largest cities have raided gay clubs and briefly detained dozens of people suspected of engaging in gay prostitution.
The government has also sought to block gay-friendly mobile apps that it says promote “sexual deviance.”
Sandi Widodo used to be a prolific tattoo artist with a self-described wayward lifestyle, until he decided that it was not the life he wanted and re-embraced religion.
Today, he runs a tattoo removal clinic near the Indonesian capital Jakarta for Muslims who have returned to Islam, charging little to nothing for the service.
“I had an established tattoo studio when I began studying religion and realized that tattoos are haram (forbidden),” says the 31-year-old, himself sporting intricate tattoos all over his body, including one on his left temple and neck.
“I kept thinking about people I have made tattoos for,” he says. “So I made a resolution to remove them for those who have abandoned their old ways, which, like mine, often involved drugs and alcohol.”
In 2014, he sold his tattoo kits and studied in an Islamic boarding school before returning to his parents as a devout Muslim. After consulting a doctor, he started an online fundraising campaign in July to purchase laser tattoo removal machines, which cost about 3,000 dollars each.
The public’s response to the campaign was unexpectedly strong and in less than two weeks he managed to raise 90 million rupiah (6,300 dollars). He then converted his tattoo studio attached to his parents’ suburban house on the outskirts of Jakarta into an ink removal clinic, equipped with three laser machines.
So far, more than 200 people have come to his clinic to have their tattoos removed, Sandi explains. They include punk rockers, musicians and gang members.
“Some of my friends in the tattoo community have followed my steps, but there are also those who stayed away from me because they thought I had become weird,” he says.
Repentant Muslims who want their tattoos removed for free must memorize 50 verses from the Koran that focus on God’s attribute of mercy and grace. Many in the world’s largest Muslim nation consider permanent tattoos forbidden in Islam, arguing that the practice inflicts unnecessary pain and is a form of deception.
“People want to remove their tattoos for a lot of reasons, such as bad designs or inability to get jobs, but we only help people who have shown repentance,” he says.
With no money to have their tattoos removed safely, some people have gone as far as using a hot iron, injuring themselves badly in the process, he says.
Laser treatment to remove tattoos is considered safe, but it can leave superficial skin wounds.
Sandi says he himself has not been able to remove all of his tattoos and has only undergone two sessions of laser treatment. “It takes about two weeks for the blisters to heal from the last treatment,” he admits.
Azri Rachman, a former rock band vocalist with tattoos of his parents’ portraits on both arms among images of a skull and rose, has undergone two sessions at the clinic. The 30-year-old father of two has completely abandoned music and is now a businessman selling clothing printed with Islamic messages.
Wearing a beard, a pair of glasses, a white shirt emblazoned with the writing “I don’t follow trends” and pants ending above the ankles, he still looks more like a hipster than a born-again Muslim.
“It’s painful,” Azri says of the laser treatment. “But it shouldn’t discourage people who want to be closer to God.”
Azri says that, as a band member, he lived a lifestyle that he was “too ashamed to recall.”
“One day I got tired of it all and told my mother, who has stood by me even when I lost my way, that I would start praying again.”
Ahmad Zaki, a social worker who founded a charity group called Punk Muslims, runs a mobile clinic offering tattoo removal services to those who have found their way back to religion.
“A tattoo is a sin that is visible until you die, unless you remove it,” says Zaki, during a tattoo removal clinic at a mosque in Purwakarta, about 100 kilometres east of Jakarta.
“You don’t have to remove it if it’s already there, as God is all forgiving, but it’s better if you can,” he says.
Andini Erisa, who was among nine women who took part in the tattoo removal session in Purwakarta, says she wanted to do away with a star on her right arm and a ring around her ankle.
“I’m getting married next year,” the 22-year-old says. “A three-year-old girl once told me that she wanted to have a tattoo like mine because it was beautiful.”
“I don’t want my future children to do what I did.”