Category: Opinion

2019 elections: Another test of Indonesian democracy?

Dozens of people involved in the 2019 election have died. They were members of the polling station working committee (KPPS) and police who had reportedly suffered from exhaustion after working long hours to count the ballots after”the most complicated single-day election in the world”.

The news is shocking because the election went peacefully. The question worth asking is: Why? Is the sacrifice worth it?

The simultaneous elections, in which voters had to cast five ballots at once, were intended to save cost and time, but it appears that the General Election Commission (KPU) did not anticipate how long the counting process would take at the polling station level.

The KPU conducted a simulation on how long it would take for each voter to cast five ballots in each booth, which is about five minutes. But it seems they did not anticipate how long it would take for each polling station to count all the ballots.

If at least 190 million people voted in the April 17 elections, there are at least 950 million ballot papers that must be counted. The results from each polling station is recorded in the C1 form, to make its way into KPU’s total ballots count.

Imagine just how daunting the work must have been.

Some friends who helped at the polling stations said that they had to work around the clock. Although it is clear that their dedication is inspiring, the high death toll should prompt the KPU to reevaluate the conduct of a simultaneous elections such as this.

Should the next legislative and presidential elections be held on the same day again? One life lost is too many.

What is at stake?

The 2019 presidential election is a repeat of 2014 elections, in which Joko “Jokowi” Widodo beat Prabowo by a narrow margin. This time around, Jokowi is expected to win 54%, a slight improvement from 53.15% in 2014.

Just like in 2014, Prabowo claimed that he won the election and alleged widespread attempts of fraud throughout the elections. Even in the lead-up to the elections, the opposition camp has raised publicly the prospect of the elections being rigged in favour of Jokowi.

Tensions have risen in recent days amid fears that Prabowo will resort to mobilising his supporters to revolt over the election fraud allegations, which remain unproven.

Although for some people, the plot thickens.

Rumours about seven containers of ballots pre-marked for Jokowi went viral on social media during the campaign period. A week before voting day, the Election Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu) reported that bags of ballots pre-cast for Jokowi had been found in two warehouses in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

As an icing on the cake, former People’s Consultative Assembly chairman Amien Rais went so far as threatening for “people power” if the elections were rigged.

Fearing for a possible post-election unrest, chiefs of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) and the National Police issued a joint warning that “anarchic acts” and attempts to undermine the electoral process would be dealt with sternly.

Prabowo has been an active participant of national elections three times, but this year’s election appeared to have been the last straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.

After the reformasi movement brought down Soeharto in 1998, Prabowo was forced to end his military career due to accusations that he was involved in the disappearances of pro-democracy activists. He moved to Jordan after being dismissed from the military and returned to Indonesia two years later to start a new life as a businessman.

In the 2009 election, Prabowo was picked as the running mate of Megawati Soekarnoputri, reportedly on the agreement that she would back Prabowo as a presidential candidate in 2014. But instead, Megawati picked Joko Widodo (whom she often referred as “the party’s officer), who successfully ran in the gubernatorial election two years earlier, on Prabowo’s backing.

It appears that the perceived betrayal has angered Prabowo, who during campaign rallies often railed against what he called the “untrustworthy political elite in Jakarta”.

Prabowo’s political failures over the past decade could reach a boiling point when combined with the dissatisfaction of some hardline Islamic groups with the current government’s policy which they perceived as anti-Islam.

Black flags with the shahada inscription often associated with the Hizbut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) could be seen during Prabowo’s campaign rallies, despite the government’s decision to ban the organization.

It was for this reason former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose Democratic Party backed Prabowo in the election, reportedly expressed concerns about visible religious symbols at Prabowo’s rally at the Bung Karno stadium on April 7 and called it “too exclusive.”

It is our hope that Prabowo’s grudges, coupled with the encouragement of Islamic groups who also feel oppressed by Jokowi’s government, will not degenerate into “people power.” After all, despite the 21 years of experimenting with democracy, the memories of 1998 unrest continue to haunt us.

The 2019 election will be a test: has Indonesia as a nation grown more mature in exercising democracy? Can allegations of fraud and other irregularities be resolved constitutionally and with dignity?

These coming days will be recorded in the annals of history. Are we moving forward or backward?

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Pemilu serentak 2019: ujian bagi demokrasi Indonesia?

Sampai saat opini ini ditulis, sudah puluhan orang yang terlibat dalam pelaksanaan pemilu 2019 meninggal dunia. Mereka adalah anggota KPPS maupun POLRI yang kabarnya didera oleh kelelahan karena harus bekerja secara simultan menghitung hasil suara dan mengamankan jalannya pemilu yang disebut sebagai “paling rumit di seluruh dunia” ini.

Kabar duka tersebut sungguh membuat kita terhenyak dan prihatin. Puluhan orang meninggal bukan dalam konflik atau kekerasan, melainkan justru dalam sebuah pemilu yang berlangsung relatif damai. Mengapa bisa sampai demikian? Apakah ini sesuatu yang normal dan layak dianggap sepadan?

Saya kira Komisi Pemilihan Umum (KPU) pun tidak menyangka bahwa pemilihan yang awalnya dirancang untuk menghemat biaya dan waktu dengan cara menggabungkan pemilihan legislatif dan presiden secara bersamaan, justru akan memakan banyak korban karena proses penghitungan yang sangat lama, mengingat 190 juta lebih pemilih harus mencoblos lima surat suara sekaligus.

Seingat saya, dalam persiapannya KPU hanya melakukan simulasi tentang berapa lama waktu yang diperlukan bagi setiap pemilih untuk mencoblos di setiap bilik, yaitu sekitar lima menit. Sepertinya KPU tidak melakukan simulasi berapa lama setiap TPS akan menghitung surat suara yang sudah dicoblos tersebut.

Jika minimal ada 190 juta pemilih pada pemilu kemarin, maka setidaknya ada 950 juta lembar surat suara yang harus dihitung! Untuk kemudian dibuat rekapitulasi dalam bentuk formulir C1, dan sesudahnya harus dikawal sampai hasilnya bisa dihitung oleh KPU pusat.

Bayangkan betapa lelahnya para petugas KPPS.

Beberapa teman yang membantu di TPS mengatakan bahwa mereka bekerja dari pagi sampai pagi lagi agar bisa menyelesaikan tugasnya. Sungguh luar biasa dedikasi dan pengorbanan mereka bagi kelanjutan demokrasi Indonesia.

Kejadian ini harus menjadi perhatian khusus dan evaluasi bagi KPU, apakah pemilihan legislatif dan presiden selanjutnya akan kembali digabung? karena sesungguhnya, satu nyawa pun tidak boleh menjadi korban untuk suatu hal yang seharusnya bisa diperkirakan sebelumnya.

Peserta pemilu dan Pertaruhan Demokrasi Indonesia

Pemilihan presiden 2019 merupakan kilas balik pemilu 2014, baik pesertanya maupun yang terjadi sesudahnya. Kita semuanya seperti mengalami de já vu.

Seperti yang diperkirakan oleh beberapa lembaga hitung cepat, petahana Presiden Joko Widodo diperkirakan menang dengan kisaran suara 55%, sementara Prabowo Subianto mendapatkan sekitar 45%. Hasil ini sebenarnya sebuah peningkatan, karena ketika memenangkan pemilihan presiden 2014, Jokowi hanya mendapatkan 53,15% suara.

Seperti pada tahun 2014, Prabowo yang saat itu berpasangan dengan Hatta Rajasa juga melakukan klaim kemenangan yang disertai dengan sujud syukur. Pada pemilu kali ini, Prabowo bahkan sampai melakukan tiga kali pidato kemenangan, dengan klaim telah meraih 62% suara.

Yang mengkhawatirkan pada pemilu 2019 adalah semakin menguatnya isu SARA, penyebaran kabar bohong (hoax) dan kemungkinan konflik akibat pengerahan massa (people power) atas klaim kecurangan pemilu.

Seperti sebuah pra-kondisi sebelum pelaksanaan pemilu 17 April, narasi bahwa pemilu akan diwarnai dengan kecurangan sudah dimunculkan ke publik. Dimulai dengan kabar hoax tentang tujuh kontainer surat suara yang sudah dicoblos, disusul dengan beredarnya video surat suara yang dicoblos untuk Jokowi di Malaysia, sampai ancaman untuk pengerahan people power dari politisi senior Amien Rais.

Sebagai jawaban, panglima TNI memberikan warning cukup keras kepada publik, bahwa pengacau pemilu yang disebutnya akan “mengancam jalannya demokrasi” akan berhadapan langsung dengan kekuatan TNI.

Prabowo yang sudah tiga kali menjadi peserta aktif pemilu sepertinya sudah “sangat geram” dengan kompilasi situasi politik yang dilaluinya sejak 1998. Ketika gelombang gerakan yang menuntut terjadinya pergantian pemimpin nasional akhirnya berhasil menurunkan Presiden Suharto (yang juga mantan mertuanya), karir militernya terhenti akibat tuduhan penculikan aktivis pro-demokrasi sehingga ia harus pindah ke Yordania memulai hidup baru sebagai pebisnis.

Pada pemilu 2009, Prabowo maju sebagai calon wakil presiden Megawati Soekarnoputri, dimana terdapat sebuah perjanjian antara keduanya bahwa pada pemilu 2014, Megawati akan ganti mendukungnya maju dalam pilpres sebagai calon presiden.

Namun seperti yang kita semua ketahui, alih-alih mendukung Prabowo maju sebagai capres pada pilpres 2014, Megawati justru memunculkan Joko Widodo (yang sering disebutnya sebagai “petugas partai”), dimana ironisnya pada pemilihan gubernur Jakarta 2012 lalu, Jokowi berhasil terpilih setelah dibiayai oleh Prabowo.

Saking geramnya dengan tikung menikung dalam dunia perpolitikan, dalam berbagai sesi kampanye-nya Prabowo sering menghujat “elite politik Jakarta” yang bahkan disebutnya sebagai bajingan.

Kegeraman Prabowo yang sudah berkali-kali gagal dalam pemilu selama satu dekade terakhir ini, sepertinya bisa saja berakhir tragis karena “bersambut gayung” dengan gerakan lain yang juga kesal dengan pemerintahan Jokowi selama hampir lima tahun terakhir ini.

Seperti kita ketahui, bendera hitam yang identik dengan lambang Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) sering berkibar dengan bebas di kampanye Prabowo, walaupun telah dilarang keberadaannya sebagai sebuah organisasi di Indonesia. Pasca pelarangan HTI, Jokowi sering disebut sebagai “pemimpin anti Islam”, sehingga pendukung dan gerakan yang menonjolkan identitas Islam yang makin menguat mengambil posisi di kubu Prabowo.

Dalam kampanye akbar terakhir sebelum pemilu (7/4) di Gelora Bung Karno, mantan presiden Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono yang berada dalam barisan partai politik pendukung Prabowo juga dikabarkan tidak setuju dengan konsep kampanye Prabowo yang disebut sebagai “terlalu eksklusif” dan tak lazim, dimana kampanye tersebut dimulai dengan sholat berjamaah pendukung yang memenuhi GBK, dilanjutkan dengan zikir dan shalawat.

Koleksi kegeraman Prabowo terhadap sekumpulan elite yang disebutnya sebagai bajingan, ditambah dengan dorongan kelompok Islam yang juga merasa dizalimi oleh pemerintahan Jokowi, semoga tidak berlanjut dalam bentuk people power. Walaupun selama 21 tahun kita sudah memilih jalur demokrasi dan melaksanakan reformasi, ingatan akan sejarah kelam 1998 sepertinya masih sangat lekat, sehingga setiap ada pihak yang menyebut “people power”, otomatis ingatan kita menuju pada memori 1998.

Mungkin dalam sejarah pemilihan umum di Indonesia, tidak ada satupun pemilu yang diawasi dengan sangat ketat oleh masyarakat secara langsung seperti pemilu 2019 ini. Media sosial penuh dengan kekhawatiran akan kecurangan, sehingga foto formulir C1 bertebaran dimana-mana. Bahkan selisih suara di beberapa TPS pun membuat KPU harus segera mengakui dan memperbaiki, karena kredibilitas KPU sebagai penyelenggara pemilu yang sedari awal sering dituduh berpihak, akan menjadi taruhannya.

Pemilu 2019 akan menjadi sebuah ujian: apakah Indonesia sebagai bangsa telah semakin dewasa dan matang dalam berdemokrasi? Apakah kecurangan, ketidakpuasan, dan sebagainya dapat diselesaikan secara konstitusional dan bermartabat?

Hari-hari ini, sampai dengan dilakukannya evaluasi pelaksanaan dan diumumkannya hasil resmi pemilu oleh KPU secara aman dan damai, akan menjadi sebuah catatan dalam sejarah demokrasi Indonesia.

Apakah kita akan maju, atau malah mundur?

Freddy Budiman’s tale of law enforcement corruption

By Haris Azhar*

As Indonesia was preparing the third set of executions under President Joko Widodo, I recalled a 2014 encounter with Freddy Budiman on Nusa Kambangan, which led me to believe that the executions have not been carried out to uphold justice but merely to boost popularity.

Freddy’s drug smuggling case showed just how flawed the legal system is, for reasons which I describe as follows.

During the 2014 presidential election campaign, I received an invitation from a church organization that is active in providing spiritual assistance to inmates in the Nusa Kambangan prison complex.

I had a chance to meet with a number of death-row inmates who were convicted of terrorism and those who were believed to be victims of miscarriages of justice.

I met among others, John Refra, also known as John Kei, and drug convicts on death row Freddy Budiman and Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte, who was executed in April 2015.

I thank Mr. Sitinjak, the prison chief warden at that time, for giving me an opportunity to talk to him and exchange ideas about his work. I think Mr. Sitinjak was very strict and disciplined in managing the prison.

Almost every day, Mr. Sitinjak ordered his staffers to confiscate cellular phones and weapons that were in the inmates’ possession. I witnessed prison guards seizing many cell phones and sharp weapons.

But instead of being appreciated for his hard work to build the integrity of the prison, including installing two security cameras to monitor Freddy around the clock, Mr. Sitinjak admitted to me that officials from the National Narcotics Agency (BNN), who often visited the prison, had asked him to remove the cameras.

I thought this was odd and I asked him why BNN would object to the cameras. Didn’t Freddy’s status as a drug lord require close monitoring? I then had my question answered by Freddy himself who told me his story.

According to the church member who took me to the prison, Freddy was eager to meet and talk directly with me. I, accompanied by two servants of the church and John Kei, chatted with Freddy for two hours.

This is what he told me.

“Mr. Haris, I’m not a person who is afraid to die. I am ready to be executed because of my crime, I know the risk of the crime I have committed. But I am also disappointed with the officials and law enforcers.”

“I am not a dealer. I am the operator of a large-scale drug smuggling network. I have a boss who is not from Indonesia. He is in China. When I want to smuggle drugs, I would arrange it, I called the police, BNN, Customs officials and those people who I called, would chip in and named their prices. Can you guess the actual price of the drugs I sell in Jakarta for around Rp200.000 – 300.000 in the market?” Freddy asked me.

I answered Rp50.000. Freddy immediately replied:

“Wrong. It costs only Rp5.000 straight out of the factory in China, so I was never afraid if some people quoted their prices to me. When I phoned a particular person, that person would chip in  Rp10.000 per pill, another would offer Rp30.000 and I never refused. Do you know why Mr. Haris?”

“Because I could sell Rp200.000 per item, so if you simply give from the proceeds around Rp10.000 – 30.000 to each of people of certain institutions, it was no big deal. I only need Rp10 billion and the goods will arrive. From the sale profits, I could share tens of billions with some officials in certain institutions.”

Freddy said police often sold confiscated drugs themselves. “When I smuggled the stuff, I was arrested. My goods were confiscated. But from my informants, the confiscated goods were sold.

“So my boss (in China) asked: ‘You said that you already greased the palms of the police, how come you got arrested? And if you are captured, why are the goods available in the circulation. Who is playing the game? You or the police?’”

Freddy went on: “I know because every drug plant has its own characteristics such as a unique shape, color and taste. So if my goods are being sold, I know. And my networks discovered that.”

Freddy continued again. “And why have I been singled out? Where are those people? I calculated that over several years of smuggling drugs, I had given Rp450 billion to BNN and Rp90 billion to certain officials at the national police headquarters. I even drove the official car of a two-star army general, with the general sitting next to me from Medan to Jakarta with the car fully loaded with drugs. My trip was smooth and safe without any trouble.”

“I am concerned with such officials. When I was arrested, I was asked to confess and tell all about where and who the dealer was. I said, my investor was the son of a high-ranking official in Korea (Not sure if Freddy meant North or South Korea – Haris). I was ready to show where the factory was, and I went there with BNN officers (not sure if it was one or more officials – Haris). We went to China and we got to the front of the factory. Then I asked the BNN people: Now what?”

“In the end, they didn’t know [what to do], so we returned. I have always been cooperative with law enforcement officials. If [they] want to uncover, just do it. But they misused my being cooperative.”

“When they said I escaped, actually I did not escape. When I was in custody, I was approached by the police who offered me to escape. But I did not want to run away because I still could control my business from inside the prison. But I knew the police needed money, so I accepted the offer. But I told him I had no money. Then the police looked for about Rp1 billion loan out of the agreed price of Rp2 billion. Then I escaped. When I was already on the run, I paid the other one billion. But a few days later I was arrested again. I understand that I was arrested again because from the beginning I knew he was just going to blackmail me.”

Freddy also expressed that he was sorry for the ordinary people such as the drivers of trucks in which the drugs were loaded and could not accept the fact that they were the ones who are punished, instead of the high-profile actors who enjoyed protection.

I then asked Freddy where I could get [more of] this story? Why not just publicise this story? Freddy replied:

“I had already told my lawyer, if I want to publicise this, to whom? That is why it is important to you, Mr. Haris. So you can tell the story to the wider public, that I am ready to be executed, but I am concerned with the current state of law enforcement. Why don’t you read my plea, Mr. Haris, the story I am telling you now is all in the plea.”

So I looked for Freddy’s written plea. I could not find it on the Supreme Court website. I could only find the verdict on the website. The verdict however does not provide any information of what Freddy had told me about allegations of state, law enforcement officials involvement in the case.

We at KontraS then tried to look for Freddy’s lawyer’s contact, but interestingly, despite the abundance and wealth of information on the internet, we could not find any information that mentioned who Freddy’s lawyer was and his whereabouts. Eventually we failed to meet the lawyer through whom we hope to dig this information deeper, whether such information was included in Freddy’s dossier and ask further information about the progress of the case.

Note: Haris’ testimony made rounds on social media and messaging apps just before midnight on July 28, 2016. Freddy was executed shortly after midnight on July 29, 2016 along with Seck Osmane from Senegal and Michael Titus and Humphrey Jefferson Ejike from Nigeria.

Haris Azhar is the coordinator of The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) 

 

Does MUI fatwa on homosexuality help shape how Indonesians see LGBT community?

By Irwan Martua Hidayana*

Talking about religion and homosexuality can be like mixing water with oil. They don’t go well together.

Discourses on homosexuality are part of religion’s long history, particularly among Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Broadly speaking, these religions do not tolerate homosexuality and consider it a sin. Although there are exceptions within those faiths. Even Pope Francis, who has spoken out against same-sex marriage, has said that people “shouldn’t be marginalised” just because of their sexuality.

Last year, Indonesia’s top Muslim clerical body, the Council of Indonesian Ulema (MUI) issued a fatwa (an Islamic legal edict) condemning homosexuality. This came around the time the Indonesian government carried out a flurry of executions of drug traffickers on death row, which prompted international pressure against Indonesia’s policy on the death penalty. In its edict, the MUI suggested that same-sex relations to be added to the list of crimes punishable with death.

The MUI also recommended the government to set up rehabilitation centres to cure “perverts”. They argued that perversion is increasing in the society. Aside from sexual molestation, the MUI included homosexuality as perverted.

Reaction from LGBT community

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Indonesia has responded to the fatwa in a calm manner. Suara Kita (Our Voice), an LGBT rights organisation, wrote on its website that the MUI has a right to its opinion as much as Suara Kita has the right to dismiss the fatwa.

Aside from the calm response from the LGBT community, what are the implications of the MUI’s edict in the struggle for LGBT rights in Indonesia?

Indonesia and LGBT rights

While more and more countries acknowledge the rights of LGBT people through same-sex marriage laws, Indonesia actively obstructs international advancement of LGBT rights.

In 2014, Indonesia, along with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, was one of the countries that opposed the passing of a UN Human Rights Council LGBT resolution.

Indonesia does not explicitly ban same-sex relations in its criminal code. However, under Indonesia’s anti-pornography law, homosexuality is defined as a sexual deviance.

The sharia-ruled Aceh province in Sumatra bans same-sex relations, with a sentence of up to 100 public floggings. Palembang, another province in Sumatra, also criminalises same-sex relations with a penalty of up to six months imprisonment.

Fuel for discrimination

The MUI’s fatwa will most likely not be implemented in Indonesia’s legal system. Indonesia’s religious minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said he did not agree with the MUI. He argues homosexuality is an individual’s choice.

But the fatwa’s existence may be used by religious vigilante groups to attack Indonesia’s LGBT community. Islamic edicts from the MUI are not legally binding. However, the state and Muslim society in Indonesia often use a fatwa to solve Islam-related matters. Lawmakers often refer to MUI fatwas in drafting many state laws, such as the law on halal products and hajj management.

Even though the fatwa is not legally binding, for some Muslim conservatives it is more than enough to ban homosexuality in public spaces. It can become a foundation for many policies and practices that reinforce hetero-normative and binary gender systems.

Religious vigilantes have previously attacked events organised by LGBT groups. In 2010, they attacked the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) conference in Surabaya and the Q!Film Festival in Jakarta. In October 2010, the MUI urged the national censorship board to ban any movies that promote homosexuality.

Through the fatwa, the MUI label homosexuality as a sin, unnatural and immoral. By releasing edicts, the MUI tries to play a role as Indonesia’s morality police and the guardian of the faith of Muslim society.

For the MUI, the objection to homosexuality is definite, without room for critical discussion. Many Muslim people follow the MUI’s line of thinking and believe that homosexuality has no place in Islam. Criticising its view of Islam can be perceived as opposition to Islamic law.

The change role of the MUI

The MUI is a non-government Islamic organisation established by the late president Suharto in 1975. Suharto used the organisation to gain political support from diverse Islamic organisations.

When Suharto established the MUI, there were many Islamic groups that were political with the intention to replace the state ideology Pancasila with Islam. A key role of the MUI was to convince other Islamic organisations to accept Pancasila as state ideology. Accepting Pancasila would mean abandoning their political intention of establishing Islam as a state ideology. The Islamic groups would have to recognise pluralism as inherent in Indonesian society.

After the fall of Suharto’s dictatorial rule in 1998, political Islam began to re-emerge. This has affected the way the MUI responds to socio-religious problems in Indonesia.

The MUI has since become more in favour of Islam and moved away from the notion of pluralism. It seems to ignore Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity), the national motto. It attempts to impose its authoritative interpretation of Islam on Indonesian society.

For instance, in 2005, the MUI issued a fatwa that banned pluralism, secularism and liberalism. The MUI view pluralism the same way as it views syncretism (the combination of different forms of belief or practices) and religious relativism: as a threat to Islamic belief, as it can lead to heresy.

Beyond dividing society into ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’

By issuing the recent fatwa, the MUI categorised members of the LGBT community as —to borrow philosopher Judith Butler’s term – the abject. The creation of the abject aims to ensure “normal” behaviour. The boundaries between “normal” and “abnormal” are always scrutinised by the family, school, community, state apparatus and religious institutions. To make the “abnormal” conform to social norms, they are stigmatised, marginalised and attacked.

However, LGBT communities and organisations in Indonesia have shown that they refuse to be labelled as the abject or “abnormal”. They continue to fight for their rights. What keeps them going are lessons from past experiences of other movements and solidarity from other human rights groups.

The MUI is not the only voice on Islamic interpretation in Indonesia. There are a number of Muslim scholars who are critical of the MUI’s strict interpretations of Islam. For example, noted Islamic scholar Musdah Mulia has proposed a humanist interpretation of Islam. In 2009, she argued that there is a room in Islam for gay, lesbian and other non-normative sexualities.

Mulia’s view on Islam is based on the central principles of justice, virtue, equality, wisdom, compassion, pluralism and human rights. These leave no place for discrimination and hatred. For Mulia, the reinterpretation of Islamic texts must be done contextually, not literally, with reference to the true objective of Islamic legislation.

By adopting this view of Islam, talking about religion and homosexuality will no longer feel like mixing oil and water

*This article was first published by theconversation.com

Indonesia needs to move beyond security measures to fight terrorism

By Noor Huda Ismail*

Indonesian police have named a convicted terrorist, Afif Sunakim, as one of five perpetrators of Islamic State-linked bombings and shootings in Jakarta that killed eight people, including four attackers, last month.

Indonesia is considering amending its counter-terrorism laws to respond to the phenomenon of returned foreign fighters from Syria.

But fighting terrorism purely through security measures will not be enough. Indonesia should devise policies to rehabilitate and monitor former convicted terrorists to prevent recidivism. The government should also work with civil society to counter the spread of extremism online.

Preventing recidivism by ex-terror convicts

The Indonesian police have arrested more than 1200 people on terrorism charges, according to data from the counter-terrorism unit. Some convicted terrorists seemed to become more radical behind bars. At least 40 convicted terrorists have re-offended after release.

Afif Sunakim was arrested in 2010 and sentenced to seven years in jail for his role in a militant training camp in Aceh. In prison, he became the masseuse for Aman Abdurrahman, one of Indonesia’s most influential jihadi ideologues and a vocal promoter of Islamic State (IS).

My series of interviews with terrorist recidivists suggests that the majority of them believe that jihad is a religious obligation. In a purely linguistic sense, the word “jihad” means struggling or striving. It can refer to the internal as well as external struggle to be a good Muslim. However, for terrorists, jihad means to fight against Indonesia’s secular regime.

There is a common understanding among jihadists that if they are imprisoned, they are simply taking leave. Upon release, they will be ready to rejoin the movement. With this kind of belief, no matter the situation former terrorist inmates face, there is a big chance they will return to their terrorist groups and carry out further attacks.

A prominent terrorist, convicted in 2004, is an example of such recidivism. He was released in 2008. He was then involved in weapons training in Aceh in 2010. In his opinion, as long as what he believes in is right, he will have no other option than to act, whether inside or outside prison. He said: A committed mujahideen will not be limited by any condition or situation beyond himself.

Additionally, there is a desire among convicted terrorists to experiment or retry what they failed to achieve. A convicted terrorist now on the run after a prison break in Medan was involved in the Lippo Bank robbery in Medan in 2003 and again in the CIMB Niaga Bank robbery in 2010. He said: If jihad acts fail, it is most likely that improved jihad acts will be tried again later.

The choice for a released convicted terrorist is stark. Do I return to the pathway of jihad or do I re-enter society to follow a normal life? If he lives in a difficult social and economic situation, with a lack of education and a family that does not support him, it is most likely that a former terrorist inmate will return to the jihadist community, where he will be protected and cared for.

A 2013 report by the Institute of Policy Analysis of Conflict showed that Indonesia’s judicial system has insufficient funds, infrastructure and resources to handle the successful rehabilitation of former terrorists. This lack of post-detention care leaves terrorist inmates at risk of returning to violence, because they are not being properly assessed. They do not receive sufficient re-programming to prepare them to return to mainstream society.

Indonesia needs to set up special placement, supervision, development and rehabilitation programs for former terrorists. The government must train corrections officers to actively engage with former inmates, to support them in finding a new calling in life and to mentor them while doing so.

Countering radical narratives online

The second challenge is to stop IS spreading extremism over the internet.

IS propaganda has created a hype and fad among Muslim youths around the world about a fantasy idea that violent armed struggle against non-Muslims and Muslims identified as “enemies of Islam” is a “jihad” that requires urgent participation.

IS has also created a false hope and a perception that the perfect government system based on the purest Islamic principles has been implemented and is working – but that it still requires Muslims from “impure” Muslim and non-Muslim lands.

Until now the Indonesian government – let alone civil society – has made no systematic effort to challenge the arguments of jihadists on social media. The jhadists are cleverly targeting individuals at risk, mainly young people. These at-risk people tend to spend their time online rather than offline and enjoy being “liked” on Facebook.

If extremists have successfully employed social media to spread their message on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, we also need to create a campaign on social media to counter their movement. We can take a closer look at how “creative” extremists use technology to spread their ideology by monitoring their videos and reading their tweets and online posts.

With the help of civil society, the Indonesian government could launch campaigns on social media to challenge the extremist narratives.

Terrorism is rooted in a belief in an extreme ideology. If we want to prevent acts of terror from happening again, we should strive to prevent the young from being won over by extremists’ messages. We should also find a way to change the minds of those convicted of terrorism so they will not return to their old ways.

Noor Huda Ismail is a PhD Candidate in Politics and International Relations, Monash University. This article was first published by theconversation.com

Indonesia needs creative economy law to spur job creation

By Muhammad Faiz Aziz*

Indonesia should put in place a law on the creative economy to allow businesses in the sector to operate with legal certainty.

Supporting the growth of the creative economy will spur job creation, an answer to the country’s problems of rising inequality, youth unemployment and exploitation of Indonesian workers abroad.

What is the creative economy?

Indonesia lists 15 industries as part of the creative economy: architecture; art; craft; design; fashion; video, film and photography; interactive games; music; performing arts; publishing and printing; computer services and software; television and radio; research and development; and culinary.

These industries have the potential to provide much-needed jobs in Indonesia. The World Bank has reported that, despite sustained growth in the past decade, Indonesia is facing rising inequality between rich and poor. Only 20% of Indonesia’s population benefited from the country’s growth, while 200 million people are struggling.

Large numbers of Indonesians of productive age have low education levels. Many are stuck in low-wage informal jobs.

Some work as migrant workers in countries such as Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong. Indonesia migrant workers are overworked according to The International Labour Organisation. Some undergo torture and rape. More than 200 migrant workers are facing the death penalty abroad.

The growth of the creative economy may help reduce the unemployment rate in Indonesia, perched at around 7.39 million people or 6.35% of the total workforce. In 2014, 7.1% of Indonesia’s GDP came from the creative economy, absorbing up to 12 million workers.

The popularity of IT-based start-up businesses that provide apps for transportation services in Indonesia, such as Go-jek, Grab Bike, Grab Taxi, Uber, Blue-Jek and Lady-Jek, is a great example of the creative economy’s potential.

Go-jek, which connects motorcycle taxi drivers with passengers, has now attracted 200,000 motorists, half of them in Jakarta. Motorists who uses these apps have reported a two to three times increase in income.

Go-jek plans to expand the app for other services such as housecleaning, massage and salon services through Go-Clean, Go-Massage and Go-Glam. These three apps have potential to recruit domestic workers, therapists and hairdressers to provide house cleaning, massage and salon services on demand, and would potentially increase their incomes.

Countries such as Australia and the United States have expressed interest in investing in the growing digital creative industry in Indonesia.

Bill on creative economy

Currently, a bill on the creative economy is in the Indonesian parliament. Lawmakers should make it a priority to pass the bill into law.

To provide guidelines for the government, businesses and intellectuals to develop creative industries, Indonesia’s Ministry of Trade had published policy blueprints “Creative Economy Development Plan 2009-2015” and “Creative Industry Development Towards a Creative Economy 2025”. President Joko Widodo has also set up a Creative Economy Agency (BAKREF). The agency is tasked with policy making, program planning, coordination and synchronisation with other government agencies, guidance and supervision.

But this is not enough. Without legally binding regulation of the creative economy, industries are being subjected to rigid sector-based regulations. This is creating problems for IT-based referral businesses such as Uber and Gojek, which have been facing legal hurdles as the Transport Ministry deems them illegal.

A law on the creative economy would support business players who are looking to create innovative ways to provide goods and services. It would provide incentives for businesses, such as tax holidays, access to financing sources and intellectual property rights (IPR) facilities.

The legislation will also create rules and obligations for business players. These incentives can be taken away from them if violations occur.

Legislating for the creative economy will bring certainty for businesses and legally bind the government to support the sector. In the end, it could create wider employment opportunities in Indonesia.

Muhammad Faiz Aziz is a Researcher at the Indonesian Center for Law and Policy Studies (PSHK). This article was first published by theconversation.com

From haze to extortion allegations: Indonesia’s justice system is at stake

To the relief of many, the rainy season has finally arrived in Indonesia. “Divine intervention” seems to be the only thing that can put out forest fires that produced choking haze for months.

Millions of  Indonesians and those in neighbouring countries had to endure acrid smog as a result of deliberate burning of Indonesian forests and peatlands to make way for plantations.

After visits to the worst hit locations, President Jokowi decided to send thousands of soldiers to help extinguish the fires – a clear sign that local governments on Sumatra and Kalimantan islands are incapable of handling the long-standing problem.

Although a bit too late, the government finally accepted help from neighbours, after initially rejecting their offers. The scale of the problem was too big for Indonesia to handle alone, and obviously, public patience was running thin.

Even after deploying thousands of soldiers and getting all the help, the problem was clearly far bigger than the government had anticipated.

The blame game then began: fingers were pointed at large plantation companies and their suppliers, who in turn blamed small-time farmers and indigenous villagers for the fires.

It’s common knowledge among Indonesians that this problem stems from weak law enforcement. For too long, companies, big or small, have been allowed to open plantations in areas where they shouldn’t have.

Satellite images could have been used as evidence to bring those companies to court. But things are easier said than done. Few if any, perpetrators have been punished.

Indonesia’s legal system has consistently earned poor marks in various surveys. Our police, prosecutors, judges, advocates – those who are supposed to mete out  justice – are notorious for being corrupt.

Although Indonesians are known to have extra tolerance to the haze problem, our neighbors don’t.

Now that the haze is gone, people’ attention is being diverted to other issues.

The media have had a field day after it was revealed that House of Representatives  speaker Setya Novanto allegedly asked for 20 percent of shares from Freeport Indonesia, on behalf of President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

Setya Novanto was already the focus of public criticism after he met US presidential hopeful Donald Trump in New York in September. At the end of his speech, Trump briefly introduced Setya, asking him what Indonesians thought of him: “Do they like me in Indonesia?” To which Setya replied: “Yes, very much.”

Thousands have signed an online petition to have Setya Novanto removed from his position as the House speaker. Major media outlets have also repeatedly warned that the investigation should be open to the public, and that the matter shouldn’t be shoved under the rug.

The people are fed up with incompetent and corrupt  law enforcement in Indonesia. We want capable and honest law enforcement institutions that can deliver justice for all.

That is why I was shocked when I heard the news that Indonesia’s anti-narcotics agency chief Budi Waseso plans to build an island prison surrounded by croc-infested waters to keep drug kingpins isolated from convicted couriers and users.

Budi Waseso dismissed concerns over inmates’ rights, because “It’s not a human rights violation when a crocodile does the killing,”

I mean, shouldn’t the police be the one who make sure that law is enforced? why leave it to the hungry crocodiles? define irony.

If this kind of public insult to common sense continues, I am afraid people will be desperate and start taking matters into their own hands.

If things continue like now, we can expect the breakdown of law and order. We need to learn from the painful lessons of history.