Category: Main Stories

A coal road project could put endangered Sumatran tigers’ habitat in peril

Conservationists on Tuesday slammed a decision by the Indonesian government to allow a mining contractor company to build a road through a restoration forest in South Sumatra.

Critics claim the project could damage the sensitive ecosystem and threaten the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, the only tiger subspecies left in the country after two other subspecies became extinct in Java and Bali.

“This is contradictory to the government’s said commitment to restore forests and rehabilitate the ecosystem, that could serve as the natural habitat for wild species and a top predator such as the Sumatran tiger,” Yoan Dinata, a member of Forum Harimau Kita (Our Tiger Forum), in Jambi, said.

Once completed, the road would cut across the Harapan rainforest, a 98,555-hectare wildlife haven in South Sumatra and Jambi provinces managed by Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (REKI) as the concession holder.

The forest is the first ecosystem restoration concession in Indonesia based on a collaboration led by Burung Indonesia, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and BirdLife International.

Dinata said the existing road network built by companies managing various concessions in nearby industrial forests had already put a barrier between conservation areas inhabited by tigers.

Opening the forest for a road project could escalate human-tiger conflicts in Sumatra, he added, as tigers often entered human settlements in search of food as a result of deforestation and habitat loss.

“Forest restoration is also aimed to increase the tiger’s population. If their natural habitat is shrinking, they would not be able to breed, and we would not be able to increase their population.”

There were at least 20 tigers in the Harapan forest based on a 2015 research, according to REKI data. But camera traps installed inside the forest, which represents 20 percent of the remaining lowland forest in Sumatra, have captured tiger sightings over the years.

01_Harimau sumatera, salah satu satwa kunci Hutan Harapan, tertangkap camera trap
A camera trap photo shows a Sumatran tiger was roaming the Harapan forest in Musi Banyuasin, South Sumatra in September 2019. Tigers are among the vulnerable and endangered species that inhabit the forest. Photo: Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia

Hospita Yulima, REKI’s spokeswoman, told Arab News that the company so far never received formal notification from the Forestry Ministry that they had permitted the coal transport company to build a road that cuts through their concession, allowing the company to use 424 hectares of land in the forest, on which some parts of the coal road project would be constructed.

The designated areas are part of the Asian elephants’ track and the tigers’ home roaming range.

“If this permit is really issued, it is difficult for us to say that the forestry ministry supports the Harapan forest restoration.”

Arab News tried to contact the ministry for confirmation but failed to receive a response in time. Meanwhile, Diki Kurniawan, a director at the Jambi chapter of the Environmental Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHL) said that activists had urged the company to use an existing road network that goes around the forest or has been constructed by other firms in the area.

“They could negotiate with those companies to use the road, instead of opening the forest just to construct their own road,” he said. The forest is also home to an indigenous, semi-nomad community, the Batin Sembilan, who have made the forest their home for centuries.

Although some members of the community have settled in permanent dwellings inside the forest, they still rely on the forest for their livelihood by harvesting non-wood produce such as honey, resin gum, or rattan. Kurniawan said the YLBHL and 36 other civil society organizations that formed a coalition called South Sumatra-Jambi Anti Forest Destruction to reject the plan is mulling over assisting the indigenous tribe – as the party directly impacted by the project – to challenge the ministry’s decision through a legal channel.

“The road project could open access to poachers and illegal logging. We have seen from previous practices that companies that open the forests could not prevent the forest from the devastating impact,” Kurniawan said.

Read the original story in Arab News

Lautze Mosque: A symbol of Chinese-Muslim assimilation in Indonesia

The bright red, yellow and green temple-like exterior of the Lautze Mosque in Jakarta’s Chinatown could be mistaken for a Chinese home.

However, the distinctive structure of the mosque reaffirms its role as a good example of how Indonesians of Chinese descent blended in with their predominantly indigenous Muslim neighbors.

“Many mistook the mosque for a Chinese temple, so two years ago, we put up signs bearing the name of the mosque,” Imam Naga Kunadi said.

The three-story mosque is part of a row of buildings in a busy trading area along Lautze Street, after which the mosque is named, in Central Jakarta. Because of its location, the mosque only opens during the day.

“In Ramadan, we usually open every Saturday, starting at Asr time, because we have a specific type of congregation — many of the members live far from the mosque. We would provide iftar and hold taraweeh prayers. But we cannot do that this year as we have to close due to the large-scale social restrictions in this time of coronavirus,” Kunadi said.

Kunadi, whose Chinese name is Qiu Xue Long, said the mosque would still operate in a subdued manner for alms collection and distribution, or to assist those wishing to convert to Islam, and that mosque officials would act in compliance with social distancing measures.

The mosque was established in 1991 by the Haji Abdul Karim Oei Foundation, named after a Chinese-Indonesian Muslim nationalist, the late Abdul Karim Oei Tjeng Hien.
It aimed to facilitate the assimilation of the ethnic Chinese community and indigenous Muslims, especially in cases where ethnic Chinese people wished to embrace Islam.

“We understand the specific needs of Chinese mualaf (convert). We understand what they go through because we’ve experienced it before,” said Kunadi, who converted to Islam in 2002.

The original mosque occupied a shophouse and, a few years later was expanded after acquiring an adjacent building to accommodate 300 congregation members.

“The Chinese-style exterior is also to show that we still maintain our Chinese heritage even though we converted to Islam,” Kunadi said.

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Muslim faithful gathered for a mass taraweeh prayer in Ramadan 2019 in front of Lautze Mosque 2 in Bandung, West Java. Photo: Instagram @masjidlautze2

Muhammad Ali Karim Oei, son of Oei Sr., said the facade was designed to make the mosque more welcoming for ethnic Chinese people wishing to come inside and ask about Islam.

“They are free to ask anything and learn about Islam here, even some burning questions they may be reluctant to ask in other mosques. It is another reason we chose the name Lautze — a Chinese word for teacher,” Oei Jr. said.

The mosque has seen more than 1,000 Chinese-Indonesians embrace Islam. In addition to making an ethnic Chinese person part of the country’s Muslim majority, it also makes the person a double minority for being a Muslim minority in an already small ethnic group.

Its reputation as a nonjudgmental place for Chinese-Indonesians who want to study Islam, and for the new converts, as well as other Chinese Muslims to observe the faith, led to the establishment of Lautze Mosque 2 in Bandung, West Java in 1997.

“There was a need for a mosque that accommodates the growing number of Chinese-Indonesian Muslims in the city. They felt like there was still a gap when they pray in regular mosques. People would look at them differently, even though they are already part of the Muslim brethren,” Hernawan Mahfudz, an official from Lautze Mosque 2 Foundation told Arab News.

To make them feel more at home, congregation members are encouraged to address each other as “koko” and “cici,” the Chinese words for brother and sister.

Like its Jakarta predecessor, the mosque maintains the Chinese-style facade accentuated by a row of Chinese red lanterns. The ground floor serves as the prayer hall for 200 people while the upper floor serves as a shelter for the mualafs who might be experiencing hardship as a result of their conversion.

Despite the mosque closures, Mahfudz said they would still keep the Ramadan tradition alive even without the communal gatherings.

“We still provide iftar meals every day but instead of having them at the mosque, we distribute the meals directly to the beneficiaries. We also conduct group Qur’an recitations and sermons using videoconferencing applications,” he said.

This story was first published in Arab News

Jokowi Lebih Favorit, tapi Prabowo Menempel Ketat

Presiden Joko Widodo agaknya sedang dalam suasana hati yang agresif selama kampanye belakangan ini. Ia sepertinya ingin menumpahkan perasaanya menjelang pemilihan presiden yang tinggal beberapa hari ini.

“Saya sudah difitnah, dituduh, dan direndahkan, dan saya selama ini diam,” katanya dalam sebuah kampanye di Yogyakarta beberapa waktu lalu.

“Tapi hari ini, saya katakan, saya akan melawan!” Katanya di depan pendukungnya yang menyambut dengan sorak-sorai dan teriakan terhadap ajakan tersebut. Jokowi menyebutkan berbagai tuduhan dari para pengkritiknya bahwa ia anti-Muslim, dan bahkan akan melarang azan jika terpilih lagi untuk masa jabatan lima tahun kedua setelah pemilihan 17 April nanti.

Sebenarnya cukup wajar jika Presiden Jokowi khawatir.

Berbagai jajak pendapat mendekati pemilu serentak kurang dari seminggu ini menunjukkan bahwa lawannya, mantan jenderal Prabowo Subianto, justru semakin menguat.

Survei jajak pendapat yang dilakukan oleh Litbang Kompas menghentak publik setelah memaparkan bahwa Jokowi kemungkinan akan menang dengan suara hanya 49,2 persen, sementara Prabowo meraih 37,4 persen. Sekitar 13 persen responden menyatakan belum memutuskan atau tidak menjawab.

Pasal 6A Ayat (3) UUD 1945 menyebutkan ”Pasangan calon Presiden dan Wakil Presiden yang mendapatkan suara lebih dari lima puluh persen dari jumlah suara dalam pemilihan umum dengan sedikitnya dua puluh persen suara di setiap provinsi yang tersebar di lebih dari setengah jumlah provinsi di Indonesia, dilantik menjadi Presiden dan Wakil Presiden”.

Survey Kompas tersebut menjadi semacam panggilan “untuk bangun” bagi Jokowi, yang selama ini sangat percaya diri karena memiliki keunggulan suara hampir 20 persen pada Oktober 2018. Padahal, untuk bisa memenangkan pilpres sesuai dengan amanat undang-undang, ia perlu lebih dari 50 persen suara.

Berbagai analis mengatakan, dengan trend yang ada dari berbagai survey yang sudah dipublikasikan, Jokowi kemungkinan besar akan terpilih kembali, tetapi Prabowo masih bisa memberikan kejutan.

“Apapun bisa terjadi selama masa periode kampanye yang tersisa,” kata Adi Prayitno, seorang analis politik di Universitas Islam Syarif Hidayatullah di Jakarta. “Survei Kompas menunjukkan bahwa selisih suara sudah menyempit dan ini harus menjadi perhatian bagi Jokowi,” katanya.

Prabowo, mantan komandan pasukan khusus TNI yang kemudian menjadi pengusaha, sering mengangkat tema kemiskinan dalam setiap kampanye yang dilakukannya.

Pada kampanye di Papua beberapa waktu lalu, ia kembali melancarkaan kritik keras kepada “elit Jakarta” yang katanya telah gagal membawa kesejahteraan bagi rakyat.

“Elite hanya peduli dengan kepentingan mereka sendiri,” kata Prabowo di hadapan banyak pendukung yang meneriakkan namanya. “Satu-satunya motif mereka adalah untuk memperkaya diri sendiri dan kerabat mereka.” katanya.

Sementara itu, Jokowi selalu mengangkat keberhasilan dalam memperbaiki infrastruktur negara dengan membangun jalan, pelabuhan, bandara, dan bendungan baru.

Akan tetapi, kubu Prabowo menuduh pemerintah telah gagal menggenjot perekonomian yang saat ini tumbuh sebesar lima persen per tahun, serta memiliki kecenderungan untuk berhutang yang sering dijadikan sebagai bahan untuk menyerang kebijakannya.

Pada kampanye presiden 2014, Jokowi berjanji untuk membawa pertumbuhan ekonomi Indonesia pada level tujuh persen.

Indonesia juga tengah berjuang untuk memperbaiki defisit neraca berjalan yang makin melebar serta nilai mata uang yang lemah, dimana pada bulan September 2018 pernah jatuh ke level terendah sejak krisis keuangan Asia 1997-1998.

Pemilu 17 April 2019 adalah sebuah episode pengulangan dari pemilu 2014, dimana Jokowi berhasil mengalahkan Prabowo dengan selisih angka yang tipis setelah kampanye yang memecah-belah masyarakat, termasuk tuduhan bahwa Jokowi adalah seorang komunis dan etnis Tionghoa.

Pemilu tahun ini akan dilaksanalan bersamaan dengan pemilihan anggota legislatif, yang diperebutkan oleh 16 partai nasional. Hampir 250.000 kandidat bersaing untuk mendapatkan lebih dari 20.000 kursi di parlemen nasional, provinsi dan kota.

Sekitar 193 juta orang, termasuk 80 juta orang yang lahir setelah tahun 1980 (generasi milenial) berhak memilih. Menurut Komisi Pemilihan Umum (KPU), hal ini menjadikan pemilihan 2019 sebagai pemilihan langsung terbesar di dunia, dimana akan ada sekitar 800.000 TPS dan enam juta orang yang terlibat.

Jokowi memilih Ma’ruf Amin, seorang ulama Muslim konservatif dan ketua Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) sebagai calon wakil presidennya, sebuah langkah politik yang disebut banyak pengamat sebagai upaya untuk menangkis tuduhan bahwa ia kurang Islami.

Institut Analisis Kebijakan Konflik (IPAC) menyatakan dalam sebuah laporan yang dirilis belum lama ini, nampaknya kelompok Muslim konservatif sudah bertekad agar Jokowi tidak terpilih kembali dengan menggalang dukungan di sekitar Prabowo.

“Kelompok Muslim memiliki dampak besar sehingga memaksa Jokowi untuk membela diri dari tuduhan bahwa ia anti-Islam dan anti orang miskin dengan melakukan tindakan-tindakan yang justru membuat definisi moderat menjadi terlalu ke kanan,” kata laporan itu.

“Dukungan mereka untuk [Prabowo] bersyarat dan setengah hati, tetapi langkah-langkah yang diambil oleh pemerintahan Jokowi untuk mencoba melemahkan, mengkooptasi dan menstigma mereka sebagai ekstremis justru malah memperkuat sebuah aliansi yang sebenarnya rapuh,” tambahnya.