Category: General

Jakarta’s first metro line sparks enthusiasm, but not traffic panacea

Commuting in traffic-clogged Jakarta is not for the faint-hearted, but the journey to and from work will be less dreadful for some after the launch of the city’s first metro system.

Jakarta’s Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), the first metro system to be built in Indonesia, began its public trial run on March 12 and was greeted with enthusiasm by many in the city of 10 million people.  

“My impression riding MRT Jakarta? It’s very fast and comfortable,” said Helen Heldawati, an office worker in central Jakarta.

“Security is also very good. There are guards in all entrances and around the stations,” said Helen who, like about 200,000 other people, registered online to be the among the first to try the service.

Officials hope that the 16-kilometre MRT line will reduce Jakarta’s legendary traffic jams, which each year get worse as a growing middle class buys more and more cars and motorcycles.

A study by the app-based transportation firm Uber and the Boston Consulting Group released in 2017 revealed that Jakarta residents spent 22 days a year in traffic, longer than residents in any other major Asian city.  

The study also found that 74 per cent of Jakartans had missed important events such as wedding parties, appointments with doctors, job interviews and funerals because of difficulty finding a parking space.

President Joko Widodo, who tried the service for the first time last week, said it would motivate people to use public transportation instead of private cars or motorcycles.

He said this month that traffic jams in the greater Jakarta area, home to about 30 million people, cost 4.5 billion dollars a year.

“I’m pleasantly surprised that members of the public are very enthusiastic in trying the MRT,” Joko told reporters.

“This is the beginning of a new culture of commuting,” said Joko, who officially launched the service on Sunday.  

Joko, who became president in 2014, has made improving the country’s dilapidated infrastructure a priority during his first five-year term in office.

He is seeking re-election in the April 17 presidential poll and is eager to tout his achievements to voters.  

After years in the pipeline, construction on the 16-kilometre line, funded by Japan, began in 2013 and cost 16 trillion Indonesian rupiah (1.1 billion dollars).

The line, stretching from Lebak Bulus in southern Jakarta to the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in the city’s centre, consists of six underground and seven elevated stations.   

Construction will begin this year on a second line, extending 8.6 kilometres to the city’s north, officials said.  

A light train service is being built to connect Jakarta and the satellite cities of Bogor and Bekasi and is expected to be completed by 2022. 

The city administration has to heavily subsidize MRT Jakarta’s operations to keep fares low and affordable to commuters.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan estimated that the MRT cost 1 trillion Indonesian rupiah in subsidies a year.

Fares have not been set despite the planned April l commercial launch, but Baswedan said he expected commuters to be charged 1,000 rupiah per kilometre.

“Money is tight, so there’s no way we will make it free,” Baswedan said, commenting on suggestions from some city councillors that Jakarta residents not be charged.    

Some experts are sceptical that the new train service will reduce traffic congestion.

“It was long overdue and it should have been built many years ago,” said Djoko Setijowarno, a transportation analyst at Soegijapranata University.

“A 16-kilometre line won’t make a dent in traffic. The network has to be widened and it has to be more integrated with other modes of transport,” he said.    

MRT Jakarta chief executive William Sabandar agreed.

“The MRT alone won’t solve the problem of traffic jams, but with integration with other modes of transport, such as the rapid bus system, hopefully congestion can be reduced,” he said. 

Nonetheless, some Jakarta residents are relieved that their wait for a modern metro system is over.

“Jakarta is now on par with other modern cities,” said Albert Hendrik, a university student.

“The subway stations are very modern, like in Japan,” he said.  

Akbar Mapaleo, a 35-year-old graphic designer, brought his wife and two young children to ride one of the shiny new trains.

“It’s very comfortable. I feel like I’m in Singapore. I’m going to ride it to and from work,” he said.

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Garuda Indonesia cancels order for 49 Boeing 737 Max 8s

Indonesian national carrier Garuda has requested to cancel an order for 49 Boeing 737 MAX 8 passenger jets following recent deadly crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia involving the same type of aircraft, the company said Friday.

Garuda has sent a letter to Boeing requesting the cancellation, said Garuda spokesman Ikhsan Rosan. 

“Our passengers have low confidence in the aircraft since the accidents and avoided using the MAX 8,” he said, referring to the Lion Air crash on October 29 and the Ethiopian Airlines crash on March 10. 

Garuda currently has one Boeing 737 Max 8 jet in its fleet. 

Ikhsan said a Boeing team was expected in Jakarta on March 28 to discuss the matter. 

“It is possible that we’ll opt to order a different model of Boeing aircraft,” he said. 

Lion Air, Indonesia’s largest budget airline, has 10 Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft.  

All Boeing 737 Max 8 planes operating in Indonesia have been grounded by the Transportation Ministry pending inspections. 

A Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 plane plummeted into the sea 13 minutes after taking off from Jakarta’s international airport on October 29, killing all 189 people on board. 

A preliminary report on the accident released in November revealed that the pilots of the doomed flight tried to pull the aircraft back up repeatedly as the aircraft’s automatic nose-down manoeuvre was activated. 

On March 10, a Boeing 737 Max 8 operated by Ethiopian Airlines crashed minutes after taking off, killing all 157 people on board.

Ethiopian Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges said Sunday there were “clear similarities” between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash.

Lion air crash: Third pilot was on plane’s next-to-last flight

A third pilot was on a Lion Air flight that encountered technical problems the night before the same plane crashed into the sea on October 29, Indonesia crash investigators said Thursday. 

A different crew piloted the Boeing 737 Max 8 on its fatal last flight and was unable to fix reportedly similar problems, causing the plane to plummet into the Java Sea, killing 189 people.   

“It is true there was another pilot in the cockpit during the flight [from Bali to Jakarta],” said Soerjanto Tjahjono, head of the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT). 

The third pilot was an off-duty staffer who was returning from Bali to Jakarta and was qualified to fly the Max 8. 

“The pilot has been interviewed by KNKT but we will not disclose the content of the interview,” Soerjanto said. 

The news agency Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing two unnamed sources, that the extra pilot correctly diagnosed the problem and told the crew how to disable a malfunctioning flight-control system and save the plane.

The off-duty pilot told the crew to cut power to the motor in the trim system that was driving the nose down, the report said.

A preliminary report on the accident released in November revealed that the pilots of the doomed flight tried to pull the aircraft back up repeatedly as the aircraft’s automatic nose-down manoeuvre was activated. 

Investigators have focused on the role of a new feature in the Boeing aircraft, known as the manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), in the crash.

The system has been installed by Boeing on its latest generation of 737 to prevent the plane’s nose from getting too high and causing the aircraft to stall.

But in the fatal incident last month, it appeared to have forced the nose down after receiving erroneous information from sensors.

On March 10, a Max 8 operated by Ethiopian Air crashed, killing all 157 people on board. There are concerns that a similar malfunction may have caused the crash.

Tjahjono declined to comment on remarks by Ethiopian Transport Minister Dagmawit Moges that there were “clear similarities” between the Ethiopian Airlines crash and the Lion Air crash.

“If there’s a new development and KNKT has access to information on the ET302 accident, we will look into and analyse it thoroughly to complement our investigation into the Lion Air crash,” he said. 

Tjahjono also denied that KNKT had leaked the contents of the cockpit voice recorder (CVR), after Reuters reported quoting anonymous sources that the pilots scrambled through the handbook to save the aircraft.

“They are not the same as the contents of the CVR. The accounts are someone else’s opinion,” he said.

Another KNKT investigator, Nurcahyo Utomo, said: “Based on the CVR, we can assume that for the most part of the flight, they were calm.”

“In the last few seconds of the flight, it seemd they panicked after they realized they could not recover the aircraft,” he added. 

Indonesia’s HIV medication muddle

HIV patients in Indonesia have been forced to adjust their daily medication routine because of problems with the government’s medication procurement program.

They are now taking single-dose medication twice a day for their antiretroviral (ARV) therapy regime, as the country is facing a scarcity of the fixed-dose combination medication in one tablet that only needs to be taken once a day.

The ordeal began when a tender from the health ministry to procure the drugs in 2018 failed twice because of agreements over pricing issue, according to Indonesia AIDS Coalition (IAC), a non governmental organization.

The limited tender process, which only involved two state-owned pharmaceutical companies, became deadlocked, and as a result the available supplies in inventory ran out last year.

Selvin Pancarina, a HIV/AIDS activist based in Surabaya, East Java, said she had to switch to the single-dose medication two months ago after using the fixed-dose combination ARV medication that contains tenofovir, lamivudine and efavirenz (FDC TLE) since 2012.

Even though supplies of the single dose drugs remain steady and she continues the medication, she admitted that it has not been easy to switch her routine after six years taking medication just once a day before she goes to bed.

“I have to be more disciplined with the new regime, by taking them in the afternoons and the evenings,” she said. “Sometimes I forget to take the afternoon medication, not to mention that each drug is said to have side effects if taken separately and there are contradictions to certain foods, so we have to be stricter in our diet and really pay attention to what we eat before we take the drugs.”

“One of the drugs we take separately is said to cause a side effect on the kidneys if we don’t take it with a lot of water. So, we keep wondering if the water we are drinking with the drugs is ever enough,” she added.

Selvin said members of her organization, Ikatan Perempuan Positif Indonesia (IPPI) or Association of Positive Women Indonesia had also experienced discomfort and irregularities in their daily routines after switching from fixed-dose to single-dose medications.  “The effect of single-dose medication is different in every patient. Some really have a hard time adjusting, some even experience hallucination or insomnia. They can’t sleep well at night and it causes them to feel dizzy and exhausted the next day,” she said.

The ARV medication is fully subsidized by the government and available to HIV patients at 895 distribution points such as hospitals and healthcare centers in all 34 provinces. In 2017, the government allocated about 800 billion rupiah for the medication.

Aditya Wardhana, the IAC executive director, said that changing medication to single doses poses risks that some of the drugs may not be available at the same time for every patient. As well, there are some patients that can only take two drugs instead of all three, resulting in sub-optimal treatment.

He added that although the fixed-dose combination drugs are still available, they are now in very limited supply, which constitutes an “emergency”.

“The safe benchmark to ensure drugs availability is for there tobe enough supply for at least six months at the national and regional levels. Now, it’s only available for less than one month at the national level and three months at the regional level,” he said.

Even though a tender for drug procurement is being processed, it will be a while before the drugs are available again.

“If the process goes well and no glitches in the process, we can have the stock back to normal by June,” he said.

The health ministry has reassured patients that the ARV medication supplies will be in adequate quantities for the rest of the year.

“The procurement tender for next year’s supply of fixed-dose combination is being processed,” ministry spokeswoman Widyawati said.

The ministry’s pharmaceutical and medical devices director general, Engko Sosialine Magdalene, said the availability of ARV supply has taken into account the average growth in the number of patients by about 1-3% per month.

She also said the ministry had taken steps to ensure the drugs are available by receiving a grant to import 222,000 bottles of fixed-dose ARV medication in December last year from the Global Fund, a financing group that fights AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Each bottle contains 30 tablets.

”These 222,000 bottles are enough to meet patients’ needs for the next five to six months,” she said, adding that the ministry has also prepared 564,000 bottles of ARV medication by the end of 2019 and that the government continues to provide and allocate spending to procure ARV medication.

HIV/AIDS case in Indonesia was first found in Bali in 1987. According to health ministry data, the number of HIV patients in the country as of October 2018 was 305,000, and 107,000 of them were on medication.

According to UNAIDS, the key populations in Indonesia that are most affected by HIV are sex workers, with a HIV prevalence of 5.3%, gay men and other men who have sex with men, with an HIV prevalence of 25.8%, people who inject drugs (28.76%), transgender people (24.8%), and prisoners (2.6%). New HIV infections have decreased by 22% and AIDS-related deaths have increased by 68% since 2010.

Wardhana of IAC said without the ARV medication, it would be hard for HIV patients to maintain their stamina at the same level as the non-HIV people.

“Their health condition can deteriorate. About 95% of people with HIV/AIDS died because they failed to take the medication,” he said.

“By taking the medication regularly, HIV patients can live normally and have the same life expectancy as the non-HIV people.”

This story was first published on Bangkok Post

Jokowi Remains Favorite One Month Before Indonesian Election

Incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is still the frontrunner one month before Indonesia’s presidential election, with the most recent surveys indicating that he is favored by more than 54 percent of voters.

Four surveys released this month put Jokowi’s electability at between 54 and 57 percent, compared to around 34 percent for the opposition candidate, former general Prabowo Subianto.

About 11 percent of voters were still undecided, according to the surveys.

A poll released on Sunday by the private pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC) predicted that Jokowi would win 57.6 percent of the votes if the election were held now.

“The gap between Jokowi and Prabowo continues to widen,” SMRC director Djayadi Hanan said.

“Is it going to change in one month? We don’t know,” he added.

Rising conservatism

Next month’s election is a rematch of the 2014 contenders. That year, Jokowi beat Prabowo narrowly.

Jokowi picked Ma’ruf Amin, the conservative 76-year-old chairman of the Indonesian Council of Muslim Scholars (MUI), for his running mate, apparently aiming to bolster his religious credentials amid accusations from hardline Islamic groups that he is hostile to them.

Islamist groups such as the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI) have rallied around Prabowo in their short-term goal to prevent Jokowi from being re-elected, but they are unlikely to succeed, said the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) in a report released last week.

“Their support for [Prabowo] is conditional and half-hearted, but measures taken by the Jokowi government to try to weaken, co-opt and stigmatize them as extremists have only strengthened what otherwise would be a fragile alliance,” IPAC said.

“Their fear of a Jokowi victory is much stronger than their reservations about Prabowo,” it said.

While Ma’ruf has moderated his comments to appeal to more liberal voters, the Prabowo camp has sought to portray its vice presidential pick, Sandiago Uno, a wealthy 49-year-old businessman educated in the United States, as a pious Muslim.

“The idea of Prabowo as a strongman and Sandi, the charming, pious entrepreneur as his right-hand man, embodies two trends in Indonesia: nostalgia for the Suharto-led New Order and rising conservatism of the middle class,” IPAC said.

VP candidates face off

During a televised debate between Ma’ruf and Sandiaga on Sunday, the two avoid engaging in heated arguments on key policy issues.

Ma’ruf peppered his talk with Arabic and Islamic phrases to impress conservative religious voters during the debate, which focused on education, health, employment and culture.

Sandiaga sought to appeal to younger voters by emphasizing his entrepreneurship prowess, but also tried to demonstrate his knowledge of Islamic terms while showing reverence to his rival by calling him kyai, a Javanese honorific for a Muslim cleric.

It was the third in a series of televised debates involving presidential and vice-presidential candidates ahead of the election.

“Leaders must work for the benefit of their people,” Ma’ruf said in his opening speech.

“Our vision is for Indonesia to be an advanced nation. The key to achieve this lies in its people, a population that is intelligent, productive and has good morals,” Ma’ruf said, using an Islamic term, “akhlaq.”

Ma’ruf said that if he and Jokowi were elected, the government would establish a national research council, build a Sydney-style opera house to show case Indonesia’s arts, and provide free training for job seekers.

“We will conserve our culture and we will globalize our culture so that it becomes known and developed,” he said.

Ma’ruf said wider internet coverage had allowed the country to produce more business startups and “unicorns,” a term for companies with capital valued at U.S. $1 billion or more.

Sandiaga for his part promised that a Prabowo-Sandiaga government would solve problems that have dogged the country’s national health insurance scheme; provide incentives for research; and require foreign workers to master the Indonesian language.

“Stories like that of Ms Lies who had to stop treatment because she had no coverage must not be allowed to happen, even more so when we’re going to be among the world’s five biggest economies in 2045,” Sandiaga said, referring to a cancer patient he met while campaigning.

“Health workers must be paid on time. Drugs must be paid on time. There should not be long queues for patients,” he added.

Indonesia introduced universal health coverage in January 2014, with the aim of having all Indonesians covered by 2019.

But the agency that administers the national insurance scheme, BPJS Kesehatan, has grappled with a deficit of 16.5 trillion rupiah ($1.2 billion).

Sandiaga’s promise to require foreign workers to master Indonesian appears to be intended to allay concerns among some Indonesians about the perceived influx of Chinese laborers amid Jokowi’s focus on building infrastructure.

“There was no debate where one candidate argues and the other attacks the arguments,” Idil Akbar, a political analyst at Padjadjaran University, said of the encounter.

Wasisto Raharjo, a researcher on politics at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said Sandiaga appeared to be reluctant to argue strongly against Ma’ruf due to the latter’s stature as an elderly cleric.

“There was no constructive debate where the candidates correct each other. Maybe Sandiaga was too reverent with Ma’ruf,” he said.

“But Sandi was good at using catchphrases that resonate with many people, such as the issue of foreign workers,” he added.

Ma’ruf was instrumental in the jailing last year of former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, on charges of blasphemy.

Conservative Muslim groups held large protests against Ahok in 2016 and 2017 in the run-up to a gubernatorial election in which he was a front-runner, after an edited video made it appear like he said that the Quran deceived people.

An MUI fatwa declaring Ahok’s remarks blasphemous bolstered Muslim opposition to him and paved the way for his prosecution.

Ahok lost the Jakarta gubernatorial election to a Muslim candidate, Anies Baswedan, and was later sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy. He was released in January.

The article was originally published on http://www.benarnews.org/english

50 killed in Papua flash floods, landslides

At least 50 people were killed after flash floods and landslides hit the capital of Indonesia’s Papua province, officials said Sunday.

“There are 50 bodies at the hospital as a result of floods and landslides,” Papua police spokesman Suryadi Diaz said. 

Waters began inundating nine villages in Papua’s capital Jayapura late Saturday following heavy rain, said National Disaster Management Agency spokesman Sutopo Nugroho. 

More than 150 houses were submerged in the Sentani area, he added. 

A video released by the disaster agency showed a Twin Otter plane damaged after being swept away by floodwaters.

Sutopo said the scale of damage was still being assessed, but that waters had largely receded. 

“Rescue and recovery efforts are still being carried out while aid is being distributed,” he said.  

Wounded orangutan found in Indonesia with 74 airgun pellets in body

 A severely wounded orangutan has been found with 74 airgun pellets in her body in Indonesia’s Aceh province, officials said Wednesday.

The orangutan, estimated to be 30 years old, was rescued on Saturday in Subulussalam district with broken bones, bruises and cuts to her legs, said Sapto Aji Prabowo, the head of the government-run Nature Conservancy Agency in Aceh on Sumatra island. 

“An X-ray photo showed 74 airgun pellets spread all over its body,” he said.

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Kritis, Orangutan Sumatera Ditembak 74 Peluru di Aceh Balai Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam (BKSDA) Aceh melakukan evakuasi orangutan sumatera (Pongo abelii) di kebun warga tepatnya di Desa Bunga Tanjung Kecamatan Sultan Daulat Kota Subulussalam setelah mendapat laporan dari masyarakat, Sabtu (9/3). Tim BKSDA Aceh bersama dengan personel WCS-IP dan HOCRU-OIC turun ke lokasi dan berhasil mengevakuasi dua individu orangutan terdiri dari anak dan induknya, Minggu (10/3). Dari pemeriksaan awal di lapangan, diketahui bahwa induk orangutan dalam kondisi terluka parah karena benda tajam pada tangan kanan, kaki kanan serta punggung. Selain itu didapati juga kedua mata induk orangutan terluka parah karena tembakan senapan angin. Sedangkan bayi orangutan yang berumur 1 bulan, dalam kondisi kekurangan nutrisi parah dan shock berat. Tim kemudian bergegas membawa kedua orangutan tersebut ke Pusat Karantina Orangutan di Sibolangit, Sumatera Utara, yang dikelola Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL) melalui Program Konservasi Orangutan Sumatera (SOCP), untuk dilakukan perawatan intensif. Namun dalam perjalanan anak orangutan mati diduga karena malnutrisi. Dari hasil pemeriksaan x-ray di Pusat Karantina Orangutan, ditemukan peluru senapan angin sebanyak 74 butir yang tersebar di seluruh badan. Kondisi orangutan masih belum stabil sehingga masih akan berada di kandang treatment untuk mendapatkan perawatan intensive 24 jam. Induk orangutan sumatera berusia sekitar 30 tahun tersebut selanjutnya diberi nama HOPE yang berarti “HARAPAN”, dengan harapan, Hope bisa pulih dan bisa mendapatkan kesempatan hidup yang lebih baik. KLHK mengecam keras tindakan biadab yang dilakukan oleh orang-orang yang tidak bertanggung jawab yang menganiaya satwa liar yang dilindungi. BKSDA Aceh telah berkoordinasi dengan Direktorat Jenderal Penegakan Hukum LHK, untuk mengusut tuntas kasus kematian bayi orangutan sumatera dan penganiayaan induknya, di Subulussalam ini. KLHK mengucapkan terima kasih kepada seluruh mitra dan masyarakat yang membantu dalam evakuasi orangutan HOPE. . Sumber foto: YEL SOCP, OUC, dan BKSDA Aceh #saveorangutan

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A one-month old baby orangutan found with her died from malnutrition while being transported to a rehabilitation centre in North Sumartra province, the Forestry and Environment Ministry said.

The adult orangutan is in stable condition and has been given the name Hope, it said.

“We condemn the savage attack on orangutans carried out by irresponsible people,” the ministry said in a statement. 

Classified as “critically endangered” species, orangutans number around 111,000 in the wild on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, according to the World Wildlife Fund conservation group.

Conservationists have said the species’ survival is threatened by poaching and the destruction of their habitat through the logging industry.