Category: Politics

Jakarta residents ponder future as city sinks

Irma Susanti lives a few metres away from a concrete wall that barely keeps seawater from inundating her slum neighbourhood in the north of the Indonesian capital.

A few years ago, authorities raised the wall by nearly a metre, to 2.3 metres high. But even that is sometimes not enough to prevent the dark brown smelly water from entering her house during torrential rain.

On the other side of the wall, the water is covered in a thick carpet of rubbish: tyres, flip-flops, used plastic cups, plastic bags and condoms.

Irma sits on a bench in the scorching sun, her 1-year-old daughter in her arms and an older woman next to her.

“We are always on the lookout for flooding, because the wall can’t always keep the water out,” the 30-year-old mother of two says.

The flooding is worst in January and February, she says, when rain is frequent or when the tide is high.

“My husband works here as a fisherman, so we have no choice but to stay,” Irma says.

No other city in the world is sinking faster than Jakarta. Twenty per cent of the territory is below sea level, and that figure is set to nearly double by 2050, according to researchers at the Bandung Institute of Technology.

The situation is most dire in Jakarta’s northern neighbourhoods, which researchers say will be nearly completely flooded in three decades.

That’s the case at the Wall Adhuna mosque in the harbour district, about 10 minutes by foot from Irma’s neighbourhood. Built during the Dutch era as a small mosque for Muslim sailors, it was abandoned in 2005 after it was flooded, and a wall was built to separate it from dry land. The mosque now stands like a monument to a flood apocalypse, its roof half-collapsed and its walls covered with mould.

Jakarta was founded in 1527 by the sultan of the Sunda Kingdom, who conquered the area from the Portuguese and named it Jayakarta, or Great Victory.

Dutch colonial rulers later renamed the city Batavia as they set out to create a tropical Amsterdam with a dense network of streets and canals. Today, it bears little resemblance to the Dutch capital, with hundreds of thousands of cars idling in hours-long traffic jams, few pedestrians and only a handful of green spaces.

Over 30 million people live in Jakarta and its larger metropolitan area today. Nearly all of the 13 rivers that criss-cross Jakarta are dirty and foul-smelling. Apartment buildings now tower where mangrove forests once stood. In nearby landfills, plastic is burned.

But why is Jakarta sinking? Sea levels are rising, and serious city planning has been absent for a long time. The city is mostly paved with asphalt and concrete, which means that water has nowhere to go during heavy rainfall. But Jakarta’s sinking has less to do with what happens above ground than what happens below.

Around half of Jakarta’s households are connected to the privatized piped water network, but others are forced to pump their water out of the ground by hand or with electric pumps. The continuous extraction of groundwater means that the land above it sinks.

“It’s like a quiet, very slow murder,” says urban planner Nirwono Joga, who advises the government of President Joko Widodo. “You do not even see the bottom sinking in most neighbourhoods. This happens so slowly that most of them are not aware of it.”

Large hotels, factories and shopping malls also have their own pump systems. “The problems are man-made and not nature’s,” Nirwono says.

For households that are neither connected to the water supply system nor able to pump, clean water has to be delivered by truck. This is the case for Irma’s family, whose two blue 250-litre tanks are located directly on the protective sea wall. Irma cooks, washes and bathes using the water. One hundred litres cost about one dollar – not an insignificant sum for Irma or her neighbours.

“None of us has a pump,” she says. “The water here is disgusting. Filters don’t help either.”

Jakarta’s sinking is visible in other areas. In the North Jakarta subdistrict of Penjaringan, houses that used to be at ground level are now about one metre lower. Residents who used to look down on the street from their homes now live below it.

“The last time I had a flood, water as high as 20 centimetres inundated the kitchen,” says Abdul Mukti, a Penjaringan resident.

Water is seeping from the ground in front of the 62-year-old’s salmon-coloured house, but he says has no intention of moving elsewhere and does not believe that the area could sink further.

“I’m not afraid,” he says. “Flooding is only a few days a year. The rest of the year I can live without problems.”

In the nearby neighbourhood of Akuarium, dozens of houses were demolished in 2016 because of flooding, but some residents have stayed put, making do with life in makeshift shelters.

The continual sinking is not for a lack of bold ideas among city leaders. After a major flood in 2007, the city commissioned a Dutch company to build a 57-kilometre seawall several kilometres offshore, and artificial islands called Kita (We), Maju (Progress) and Bersama (Together) have been built. But the houses built there are just as empty as the streets, and the island project has been dogged by corruption allegations.

The latest plan to address Jakarta’s sinking problem is perhaps the most ambitious yet: to build a whole new capital outside Java, some 1,200 kilometres from Jakarta.

Under the proposed plan, the new capital will be built in the jungles of Borneo island, somewhere halfway between the cities of Balikpapan and Samarinda.

The cost of the move to the new unnamed capital is estimated at more than 30 billion dollars. The first officials are scheduled to move into their new offices as early as 2024 – the last year of the president’s final term in office. Some Indonesians joke that the new capital should be named Jokograd, after the president.

Despite the national efforts, hardly anyone in the poor neighbourhoods along the protective walls is perturbed by the prospects of sinking.

“I know it costs a lot of money,” Irma says. “But if the government think it’s for the best, I have no problems. We are only small people.”

Attorney General’s Office says gay people need not apply

The Indonesian Attorney General’s Office said on Thursday it would not hire gay or transgender people to work at the institution.

“We want to hire only normal, proper people,” a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, Mukri, told reporters.

“We don’t want unusual things,” said Mukri.

A listing for jobs posted on the office’s website, including prosecutor, doctor and computer expert, says applicants “must not be mentally disabled, including deviant sexual-orientation and behaviour (transgender).”

Activists condemned the requirement as a rights violation and noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) has removed homosexuality from its list of mental illness.

“Rejecting applicants on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity is a blatant form of discrimination,” said Ricky Gunawan, director of the Community Legal Aid Institute.

Homosexuality is not a crime in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, except in Aceh province where sharia – strict Islamic law – is in force.

But the LGBT community has been under increased pressure in recent years as growing advocacy for sexual minorities has been met with homophobic rhetoric from officials and conservative Muslim groups.

In recent years, police have occasionally raided places frequented by gay people and briefly detained them on suspicion of engaging in prostitution and pornographic acts.

Last year, the city of Pariaman in the devoutly Muslim province of West Sumatra passed a by-law that imposes a fine of 70 dollars for “homosexual and transgender activities.”

Second student dies after anti-government rally turns violent in Sulawesi

 A second student has died after protesters clashed with police on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island during a rally against legislation that critics fear would undermine freedoms and anti-corruption efforts, an official said Friday.

Police fired tear gas to quell rock-throwing protesters who gathered outside the legislative council building in Kendari, the capital of South-east Sulawesi on Thursday. 

One student died of a bullet wound during the violence, authorities said.

“This morning, another student, who was critically injured, died because of bleeding in the head,” said the chief provincial ombudsman, Mastri Susilo.   

This week tens of thousands of students across the country have been holding daily protests, which have often turned violent, against revisions to the criminal code which include the criminalization of sex outside marriage, co-habitation and insulting the president.

The violence in Kendari followed clashes on Tuesday in Jakarta that left more than 260 students and 39 police injured as security personnel and protesters faced each other outside the national parliament building, police said.

The proposed changes to the criminal code would see consensual sex outside of marriage punishable by up to one year in prison, while a couple living together without being married could be jailed for up to six months.

Anyone who insults the president or vice president could be handed a prison term of up to four-and-a-half years. This was decriminalized by the Constitutional Court in 2016 after a legal challenge by citizens.

The protesters also demanded the government revoke recent revisions to a law governing the country’s anti-corruption commission that activists warn could severely threaten the body’s independence.

The protesters also demanded the government revoke recent revisions to a law governing the country’s anti-corruption commission that activists warn could severely threaten the body’s independence.

President Joko Widodo on Thursday sought to reassure the public that he remained committed to democracy. “Don’t you ever doubt my commitment on this,” he told reporters.

He said he was considering issuing a decree in lieu of law to replace the recently passed bill on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

“We will decide and inform the public soon,” he said. KPK commissioners and activists have criticized Joko for agreeing to the revision, saying that the changes could spell the end of the independent body.

Since it was established in 2002, the KPK has arrested and prosecuted former ministers, governors, central bankers and legislators with a conviction rate of nearly 100 per cent.

The agency’s success has made it one of the most respected institutions in a country where confidence in law enforcement agencies is low.

Earlier this month, the parliament also picked a new board of commissioners for KPK, led by a police general accused of ethic violations when he was an investigator at the commission.

The appointment of the police general, Firli Bahuri, prompted the current board of commissioners to tender their resignation to Joko.

KPK officials said that Firli was dismissed as an investigator last year after he met with two suspects being investigated by the agency.

Since it was established in 2002, the KPK has arrested and prosecuted former ministers, governors, central bankers and legislators with a conviction rate of nearly 100 per cent.

The agency’s success has made it one of the most respected institutions in a country where confidence in law enforcement agencies is low.


Hundreds escape from West Papua prison during rioting

 At least 258 inmates escaped from a prison in Indonesia’s West Papua province during a rally against the treatment of Papuan students on the main island of Java, an official said Tuesday.

Thousands of people marched in West Papua on Monday and set fire to several government buildings in response to a crackdown on Papuan students in East Java who were protesting for self-determination for their homeland on Friday. 

Prisoners at the state penitentiary in Sorong city, which held 547 inmates, rioted and set parts of the building ablaze after they were provoked by protesters, said the director general of corrections, Ade Kusumanto. 

The demonstrators tore down an outer wall and escaped, he said. 

“The protesters threw rocks at the prison, causing the prioners to riot and attack guards,” Ade said, adding that one guard was injured in the fray. 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for calm on Monday, saying that the government respects Papuans’ dignity and is committed to their welfare. 

Police arrested dozens of the Papuan protesters during the rally in East Java but later released them. 

Papuan activists said they were subjected to harsh treatment and racist abuse. 

Indonesian security forces have intensified operations in Papua  after separatist rebels killed about two dozen construction workers building a road in December. 

Separatists have fought for independence for the region since the 1960s. 

Papua and West Papua provinces make up the Indonesian half of New Guinea island.  

More than 300 election workers in Indonesia die of exhaustion

At least 287 polling station workers and 18 police officers have died mainly from exhaustion and illnesses associated with overwork after Indonesia’s elections this month, officials said Monday.

The world’s fourth-largest country held the legislative and presidential elections in a single day for the first time on April 17, but the high death toll prompted public calls for the polls to be held separately. 

“So far, 287 election workers across the country have died and 2,095 have fallen ill,” said Arief Priyo Susanto, spokesman for the General Election Commission.

“The main cause of the deaths is exhaustion and some accidents and illnesses caused by exhaustion,” he added.

The electoral commission said a total of 150 workers died from similar causes during the 2014 presidential and legislative elections, which were held three months apart. 

More than seven million workers were involved in what many experts described as the world’s largest and most complicated single-day election, with voting and vote-counting conducted manually. 

Nearly 193 million Indonesians were eligible to vote, with the turnout estimated at 81 per cent.

Voters elected a president, 575 members of the House of Representatives, 136 members of the Regional Representative Council and almost 20,000 members of local legislatures.

Officials said holding the elections simultaneously was a cost-saving measure, but it has proved to be a massive logistical challenge to distribute ballot papers and ballot boxes across the far-flung archipelago. 

National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said 18 officers also died from working long hours during the elections. 

The government has promised to provide compensation of up to 36 million rupiah (2,500 dollars) for surviving families.

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 are 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 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 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 in 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 to 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?

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?