Category: Diplomacy

Saudi couple meet Indonesian maid they forgave for murder of their child

A Saudi couple from Tabuk have met the Indonesian domestic helper they pardoned after she was sentenced to death for murdering their 11-month-old child in 2009.

Ghalib Nasir Al-Hamri Al-Balawi and his wife arrived in Indonesia on May 3 for a week-long stay, which included a visit to Cirebon in West Java to meet Masamah bint Raswa Sanusi and her family.

“I didn’t seek for anything else by giving her pardon but God’s mercy,” Al-Balawi said through a translator during a press conference at the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Jakarta on Monday.

He said that he was very impressed with the hospitality showed by Indonesia during their first visit to the country.

Arief Hidayat, an official from the Foreign Ministry’s Directorate for Protection of Indonesian Citizens Abroad, said that the couple’s visit was facilitated by the Indonesian Consulate General in Jeddah in appreciation of the couple’s compassion and willingness to forgive Masamah.

“We took them to Cirebon by train and they were greeted by the acting Cirebon district head upon arrival,” Hidayat said, adding that they also took the couple to the safari park in Cisarua in the mountainous Puncak area, a popular destination for tourists from Middle Eastern countries.

Masamah’s lengthy trial began in 2009 after local authorities accused her of murdering Al-Balawi’s child after they found her fingerprints on the baby’s face.

Masamah has always maintained her innocence and said that she only rubbed the baby’s face after she found it unconscious. She was sentenced to five years in prison in 2014 but the district attorney appealed and she was sentenced to death in 2016.

During her appeal trial in March 2017, Al-Balawi pardoned her and decided not to demand blood money, but Masamah still had to serve the remaining two and a half years of her prison sentence.

She was released from prison in January and stayed at the consulate general’s shelter until she was cleared to leave and return to Indonesia in March.

Al-Balawi and his wife’s visit came after the execution of an Indonesian national who had been working as a driver, Muhammad Zaini Misrin on March 18 after a court has found him guilty of murdering his employer in 2005. The news of Misrin’s execution caused a national outrage.

The Indonesian government said they didn’t received notification prior to his execution and said that the execution was untimely as Misrin was undergoing another legal avenue to have his case reviewed.

Saudi ambassador to Indonesia, Osamah bin Mohammad Al-Shuaibi said the Saudi authorities had done their part to inform the Indonesian embassy about Misrin’s execution including a notification on the day of the execution before it was carried out.

“What we need to do now is inform those who want to visit Saudi Arabia about the law and that they have to follow the rules in Saudi Arabia. It is our duty to explain to them,” Al Shuaibi said.

“We have to respect the laws in our respective countries,” he added.

Hidayat said there are 20 Indonesians on death row in Saudi prisons and Indonesian officials in Saudi Arabia were making sure that their legal rights were met.

“But it would not annul the crimes that they committed,” he added.

This article has been expanded from its original version in Arab News

Indonesia rebuffs claims it issues tourist visas for Israelis

The Indonesian government said Sunday it was not issuing tourist visas for Israeli passport holders, debunking a report from an Israeli news outlet, which claimed that it was accepting applications for tourist visas from Israelis.

Agung Sampurno, a spokesman for the immigration department of Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, said that there was no tourist visa specifically for Israelis as Indonesia already has a free-visa policy for nationals from 169 countries to enter the country for tourist or leisure purposes.

Israel is not included on the list since Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

“Our visa policy has not change in accordance with our foreign policy,” Sampurno said.

Israeli news portal Haaretz.com reported on Thursday that Israelis could soon see the “gorgeous destinations” that they “could only see in the movies” by applying for a tourist visa to Indonesia beginning on May 1, and the report described the process as “expensive and lengthy.”

According to the report – which did not provide information from the Indonesian authorities – Israelis can apply for the visa through the “Israel Indonesia Agency” and that “talks are underway to let Israelis get their Indonesia visa in Israel.”

“The news report that said Indonesia was giving out tourist visas to Israel is a hoax” Sampurno said.

The agency’s website was still accessible on Friday but was no longer so on Sunday. According to the website, a single-entry visa costs applicants $135, with which they can stay for 30 days, and an extension for another 30 days will cost applicants $35.

According to the website, “in April 2018, the Ministry of Immigration of the Republic of Indonesia decided to open up a temporary visa quota for Israeli passports to travel to Indonesia under all foreign visa categories to determine the impact and potential of increased bilateral relations between the nations.”

It also featured pictures of a white sandy beach with turquoise blue water and a destination believed to be Raja Ampat, a cluster of 1,500 jungle-covered small islands known as a diver’s paradise and located on West Papua province on the eastern part of the Indonesian archipelago.

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Screenshots from the now-defunct Israel Indonesia Agency website, which claimed it offered assistance for Israeli passport holders to secure tourist visas to Indonesia.

“There is no such ‘Ministry of Immigration’ in Indonesia,” Sampurno said.

A statement from the Foreign Ministry said the Indonesian government institution in charge of any immigration issues is the Directorate General of Immigration, which is part of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights.

“The Directorate General of Immigration of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights of the Republic of Indonesia neither recognize nor has relations with Israel Indonesia Agency.”

The statement also said the information in the agency’s website was “wrong and misleading” and that the only way for Israeli passport holders to secure Indonesian visa was through the “calling visa” process.

Sampurno said the calling visa mechanism is available for citizens of nations with which Indonesia does not have diplomatic relations.

The decision to grant a calling visa involves a number of government agencies with the Foreign Ministry at the lead and the conditions applied to a calling visa holder are very restrictive.

“The visa holder’s whereabouts is limited to a certain place. For example, if the holder stated in the application the place would be in Jakarta, the visa holder can’t go further even to the suburbs of Jakarta and the visa holder can only enter Indonesia through Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta airport,” Sampurno said.

“There will also be constant monitoring from the authorities to the calling visa holder,” he added.

The story was first published in Arab News

 

Indonesia to host Pakistani, Afghan scholars for peace conference

Indonesia will host a meeting of “ulema” (Islamic scholars) from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indonesia on Thursday in an effort to support the Afghan peace process, the country’s Vice President Jusuf Kalla announced last week.

In a concluding speech at a three-day gathering of international Muslim scholars, Kalla said Indonesia could play a role in building peace in Afghanistan by hosting the meeting on May 11. It was scheduled to be held in March in Jakarta but was delayed after a call from the Taliban to boycott it.

“We hope to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan, we still have a problem there,” Kalla said at the vice presidential palace on May 3.

The plan to hold the meetings of the ulema from Indonesia, Pakistan and Afghanistan arose after a delegation from the Afghan High Peace Council led by its chairman Karim Khalili visited Indonesia in November. The council had asked Indonesia to support the peace process in Afghanistan through the ulema’s role.

The plan was further discussed when Kalla visited Kabul in late February to attend the Kabul Process conference, where he was the guest of honor.

“The people will listen to the ulema and they have trust in fatwas that the ulema issued,” Kalla said.

Afghan cleric Fazal Ghani Kakar, who was one of the participants in the conference, confirmed that the meeting will take place and that he has been invited to attend.

Kakar, who is the former chairman of Afghanistan’s Nahdlatul Ulama, said that the meeting would be timely because there was an urgent need to find resolution to the problem in Afghanistan, which he said was suffering from radicalism and extreme interpretation of Islam.

“The core issue will be how to build trust between the Afghan and Pakistan ulema because both sides have their own influence on the warring factions in Afghanistan,” Kakar told journalists at the palace.

“This will be the first round and we hope this will open the gate for further discussion,” Kakar said.

He said that he had high hopes for the meeting because “most of the extreme ideas are coming from the Pakistani side, so sitting with the Pakistani ulema is the first step together to reach a better solution.”

He also said there would be at least five ulema from Afghanistan attending, and ulema from the Taliban were expected to come because the political faction of the Taliban has expressed interest in joining the meeting.

“We are very thankful for Indonesia; it has always played its role in brokering peace within the country, and in neighboring countries. We are looking forward to this being a good step for Afghanistan,” Kakar said.

Riefqi Muna, a foreign policy researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said  there was a lot that Indonesia could share from its experience as a Muslim-majority country with a stable democracy that has had its own share of secessionist and communal conflicts.

“We are not going to lecture them, but there are best practices experiences that we can share, so it is necessary for Indonesia to take part in pushing for peace process in conflict-torn countries,” Muna said.

“Facilitating a place for conflicting parties to meet is a step to build peace and for conflict resolution,” he said.

The story was first published in Arab News

 

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 sailors survived six months held captive by Benghazi militia

Embun Diarsih had been used to being in touch once a week with her husband Ronny William, a sailor for 35 years.

But in September 2017, after William did not contact her for two weeks, she became a bit anxious and her worries were confirmed when one of his fellow sailors told her that the Malta-flagged fishing vessel on which William was working was hijacked near Benghazi, Libya.

“I hadn’t heard from my husband for two weeks, then I had a call from his friend, an Indonesian sailor who was also working on a fishing vessel in Europe, he told me that the boat in which my husband was working on had been hijacked near Benghazi,” Embun said at the foreign ministry on Monday where Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi officially handed over William and five other crew members to their families.

Embun said she immediately contacted the Indonesian authorities and told them about the abduction.

Ronny, who was speaking on behalf of his five fellow crew members Joko Riadi, Haryanto, Waskita Idi Patria, Saefudin, and Mohamad Abudi, said they sailed from Malta looking for fishing grounds in the Mediterranean Sea with seven people onboard including an Italian captain.

The Salvatur VI vessel was seized by Benghazi-based militia on Sep. 23 last year about 23 miles off the Libyan coast. The militiamen seized everything, including communication devices and the crew members’ personal belongings.

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Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and ministry’s director for protection of Indonesians abroad Lalu Muhammad Iqbal had a chat with the crew family members at the foreign ministry on Monday, April 2, 2018. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

“Since the vessel didn’t have any means of communication, the Indonesian government only found out about the hijacking on Sep. 28 from the vessel’s owner, who contacted the Indonesian Embassy in Rome,” said Foreign Ministry’s director for protection of Indonesians abroad, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal.

Indonesian authorities, including officials from the state intelligence agency BIN tried to contact the militia to gain access to the crew.

In December, the Indonesian embassy in Tripoli finally secured direct access to the militia in Benghazi, which gave approval for communication with the crew.

“The communication access enabled us to get proof of lives and to monitor their condition,” Iqbal said.

Embun said that was when she was finally able to talk to her husband again after waiting for three months.

“I just waited and waited. I understand it’s a conflict area and the process was difficult,” she said.

Following months of intensive communication with various parties in Benghazi, Indonesian officials reached an understanding with them on how to extract the hostages.

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Indonesian sailors rejoiced as they were released from their captors in a Benghazi port on Mar. 27, 2018 after being held captive in one of the vessels there for six months. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“On March 27, at 12.30 local time, the six crew were handed over to us at the port of Benghazi,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi adding that the whole process was delicate given the complex political situation in Libya.

“There were no ransom paid,” she added.

William said they survived on the run-down boat by fishing, and they asked one of the militiamen assigned to guard them to sell some of the fish they caught in the market, and to use to the money to buy rice and other provisions.

“Until December, we witnessed clashes between militia group that tried to take over Benghazi with Islamic State (IS) militants. A bomb fell not far from the boat where we were held captive,” he added.

“The port and the city are in ruins. It’s like a dead town. Decayed boats and damaged buildings were everywhere,” he said, adding that the Italian captain, who was ailing, had been rescued in October.

Retno said the Foreign Ministry is continuing to communicate with the boat’s owner in Malta.

“We will make sure that the crewmen’s rights are fulfilled,” she said.

The original story was published in Arab News

 

With a temperamental volcano looming, Bali beckons ready to welcome global financiers, bankers

Indonesia is gearing up to host the 2018 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group (AM 2018) in Bali in October, and despite the looming threat of volcano Mount Agung erupting, the government is convinced that all contingency plans are well in place as it looks forward to hosting up to 20,000 participants.

The volcano’s alert status has been lowered to level three or the second highest level, which means that the danger zone is reduced to a two-kilometer radius from the crater. The government also launched in August the official website for the event: www.am2018bali.go.id. Indonesia is the fourth Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member country to host the global meeting, after the Philippines (1976), Thailand (1991), and Singapore (2006).

Tasked to chair the organizing committee of the AM 2018 by President Joko Widodo is the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Resources Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, whose office oversees ministries and government agencies crucial to playing host to heads of governments, finance ministers, senior bankers, global CEOs and foreign journalists.

Dr Safri Burhanudin, the Deputy Minister for Human Resources, Sciences and Technologies and Maritime Culture at the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and Resources, who is in charge of supervising the preparations go as planned, explained the latest updates on the plan.

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Safri Burhanudin planted a tree at Suwung landfill in Bali, in preparation to welcome delegates attending IMF-WB Annual Meetings in Bali, October this year. Photo: Kemenko Maritim/maritim.go.id

How are the preparations going so far?

Preparations in terms of venues in Nusa Dua are all ready. We are going to have a meeting with the organizer in February to evaluate the preparation. There will be a team from the IMF and the World Bank that will come to check and evaluate everyting. We are also finalising side events. Indonesia is only hosting and providing the venues, but the main organizer is the IMF and the World Bank, so they are the ones that develop the event program. We will be in charge of hosting and ensuring security for the VVIPs and servicing them.

How many VVIPs will attend the meetings?

All finance ministers from 189 countries will attend, and 32 of the ministers also serve as prime ministers so the treatment will be different for finance ministers and heads of government. We also plan to welcome leaders of ASEAN countries. There could be a meeting of ASEAN leaders on the sidelines but it is still being discussed, and we are waiting the final decision. We hope the ASEAN leaders will attend the opening session, and prior to that they would be meeting the managing director of the IMF and the president of the World Bank.

How many participants do we expect to welcome in Bali?

About 17,000 participants are expected to come, but there could be more if they bring their spouses and their families, about 20,000 people. We’ve heard that since the event will be in Bali, their families will come along later for a vacation. There are 21 official hotels appointed in Nusa Dua, Tanjong Benoa, Jimbaran and other areas outside Nusa Dua. There are 4,000 rooms available in Nusa Dua hotels for this event, while we are going to welcome 17,000 participants. We also heard that Bank of America already booked 200 rooms in The Mulia in Nusa Dua.

Why is the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Resources in charge of the event, instead of the Coordinating Ministry of Economic Affairss?

President Joko Widodo appointed Coordinating Minister Luhut as the head of the organizing committee, because we focus on the tourism part of this event, while the main program is already handled by the IMF and World Bank. We want to benefit the most from the annual meetings as a platform to promote Indonesia’s tourism and the tourism ministry is under the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Resources. That’s why we launched the Voyage to Indonesia (VTI) drive as a promotional program  with a number of activities such as seminars, public discussions and art exhibitions underway. We also offer the participants seven main tourist destinations that they can go to after the meetings, namely Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Mandalika in Lombok, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara if they want to see the Komodo dragons, Banyuwangi in East Java where they can choose to go to Mount Ijen for example, Yogyakarta and the Borobudur Temple, Toraja in South Sulawesi and of course Bali itself.

What about concerns regarding Mount Agung’s volcanic activity?

There were initial concerns regarding the volcano but it was because we didn’t communicate about it the right way. It made the public think that if the volcano erupts, the whole of Bali will be closed. So, we explained that technically if Mount Agung erupts, the farthest area affected will be 10 kilometers away from the crater, while Nusa Dua is 70 kilometers and the airport is 68 kilometers away. Even if there was some volcanic ash, the wind patterns would be mainly blowing to the east, not to the airport which is southwest of the volcano. If it erupts, it won’t affect the airport’s operations much.

What are the side events that Indonesia will organize?

There will be an economic forum that the Investment Coordinationg Board will coordinate and events to promote investment and the ease of doing business in Indonesia. Some of our main agenda will be to set up the Indonesia pavilion at the Westin Hotel and organize the Indonesia Gourmet and Food Festival, cultural performances, ASEAN Leaders Retreat and Host Country Reception at the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park. The final rundown, however, will be released in April, as it is still now being discussed and will be evaluated during the spring meetings in Washington, DC.

Indonesia is footing the huge bill with Rp 868 billion to host this event, how are we going to benefit from it?

The cost we bear, including to organize major events such as the welcoming party and other promotional events, is not much compared to what we are going to get, which is a lot more. The participants are paying for the hotels, at least 17,000 hotel rooms and the increasing foreign exchange reserves through participant visits. We will be taking back most of the costs we spend for playing host.

What other special preparations are taking place, and is there any special infrastructure being built for this event? 

The infrastructure we built for this event is the underpass at the airport intersection before the entrance to the toll road, Tanjung Benoa cruise terminal, and Suwung landfill. The latter is already finished and it doesn’t emanate a stench anymore. We are also expediting the completion of the Garuda Wisnu Kencana statue. It should be finished by September. If all goes well, it will be the largest event we have ever hosted.

This article was first published in AmCham

Queen Silvia highlights Indonesia-Sweden sustainable fashion cooperation

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Queen Silvia of Sweden drew on a batik pattern during her visit to Jakarta Creative Hub on 23 May, 2017. Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

Indonesia’s up-and-coming fashion designers have a lot to learn from their Swedish counterparts in practising sustainable fashion if they want to make their marks in the global fashion industry.

Lenny Tedja, the director of annual fashion showcase Jakarta Fashion Week (JFW), said since sustainable fashion was introduced here about three years ago, JFW has been encouraging young designers that JFW grooms to practise it in their production.

“We are still at the beginning of sustainable fashion practices, but we are going there. If these young designers want to go international, they have to pay more attention to sustainable fashion,” she said, adding that they could start by using materials that are eco-friendly, paying their workers in accordance to the minimum wage requirement, providing a humane workplace, to exercising better waste management.

JFW turned to Sweden, through its embassy in Jakarta, to learn more about the practise since the Swedes are very much advanced in producing sustainable fashion, Lenny said.

This cooperation was highlighted during Swedish Queen Silvia’s recent visit to Jakarta Creative Hub in Central Jakarta.

The queen was welcomed by Happy Farida Djarot, the wife of acting Jakarta governor Djarot Syaiful Hidayat and Svida Alisjahbana, the chief executive of Femina Group, who both then accompanied Silvia to browse through the display of products made by small and medium enterpreneurs, including handicrafts and fashion items made from recycled material of used hotel bed sheets produced by housewives who live in North Jakarta’s Marunda housing blocks.

Silvia also took a few minutes to draw on a traditional Jakarta batik pattern.

The queen said it was really inspiring to see the works of Indonesian designers displayed at the co-working space, which included elements of sustainable practices in their production.

“Like Indonesia, Sweden has a rich traditional culture in design,” Silvia said.

“We have a lot to learn from each other,” she added.

Svida said having the queen in the hub marked a symbol to Indonesia-Sweden cooperation in sustainable fashion.

“Being eco-friendly is what we strive to do and we would very much like to learn from Sweden,” Svida said.

The visit to Jakarta Creative Hub was part of the first-ever state visit of Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia to Indonesia on 22-24 May 2017. The royal couple’s three-city visit to Jakarta, Bogor and Bandung focused on trade, sustainability, research and innovation and it was aimed to strengthen the political, economic and cultural relations between Sweden and Indonesia.