Old rivals face off in Indonesia’s presidential election

 When Indonesian voters go to the polls on Wednesday, they will have to choose between an incumbent whose man-of-the people image has been tarnished and a nationalist former general with a questionable human rights record.

The election pitting Joko Widodo and Prabowo Subianto is a repeat of the 2014 poll, which Joko narrowly won.

Joko appears to be on track for re-election, with most recent polls suggesting he has a comfortable two-digit lead, but analysts say Prabowo could still pull off a surprise.

When Joko won the election five years ago, he was an outsider with no ties to the country’s political and military elite, having risen from obscurity as a furniture businessman who later became the mayor of the mid-sized town of Solo in Central Java. 

Today he counts former generals with ties to the country’s autocratic past among his trusted aides.

Joko has touted his successes in improving the country’s dilapidated infrastructure by building new roads, ports, airports and dams.

His government has completed a trans-Java highway stretching about 1,000 kilometres and built or renovated airports and seaports. He also recently inaugurated the first metro line in the capital, Jakarta. 

But Joko’s human rights record still leaves much too be desired, activist groups and analysts say. 

Rights activists say he has not pursued meaningful policy initiatives to address past human rights violations, a key campaign promise.

The president also appears to be increasingly thin-skinned in the face of criticism. 

Joko “has allowed human rights, the rule of law and the protection of minorities to weaken since he was elected in 2014,” said Ben Bland, an Indonesia expert at the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank.

“Law enforcement has become politicized, with government critics arrested and jailed on questionable charges,” he wrote on the institute’s website.

The president has failed to stem the anti-gay hysteria that has gripped the country over the past three years.

Police have raided places frequented by gay people and briefly detained hundreds suspected of being homosexual.

The Pariaman city government on Sumatra island last year issued a bylaw that imposes a fine of up to 1 million rupiah (71 dollars) on gay and transgender people “who conduct activity that disturbs public order” or commit “immoral same-sex acts.”

Joko’s choice as his running mate of senior Muslim cleric Ma’ruf Amin, who is known for his anti-gay views, has raised concerns that he is pandering to the religious right.

Ma’ruf, the head the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), the country’s semi-official clerical body, has said that homosexuality should be criminalized and that the Ahmadiyya Muslim sect is not part of Islam.

On the economic front, growth has been stagnant, at around 5 per cent annually, falling short of Joko’s campaign promise of 7 per cent. 

Analysts said Indonesia’s economy needs to grow faster than 5 per cent to escape the so-called “middle income trap,” a phenomenon in which a country’s growth slows after reaching certain levels.

The country has also struggled with a widening account deficit and a weak currency, which fell in September to the lowest level since the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.

Corruption in the government remains rampant despite Joko’s reputation as incorruptible. Several of his political allies have been jailed or arrested for corruption.

Setya Novanto, chairman of the Golkar party, a member of the ruling coalition, was last year sentenced to 15 years in jail for receiving 7.3 million dollars in kickbacks for garnering parliamentary support for a 440-million-dollar government project to issue electronic ID cards.

Prabowo has promised to treat all citizens equally, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. 

“Our teachers, our Islamic clerics have always taught us that Indonesia’s Islam is one that brings good to all things in the universe,” Prabowo told more than 100,000 supporters during a rally in Jakarta recently.

But many remain suspicious of the challenger. 

Prabowo, a firebrand nationalist, counts among his supporters conservative Muslim groups that have persecuted minority Islamic sects and are opposed to gay rights.

“Minority groups like us can’t expect much of either candidate,” said a spokesman for the Ahmadiyah Indonesia Community, Yendra Budiana.

“But it’s especially so for Prabowo, as he is supported by hardline groups,” he said.

Prabowo himself has been accused of human rights violations during his time in the army in the 1990s, including over the kidnappings and disappearances of pro-democracy activists in the dying days of the Suharto regime in 1998.

He has denied the allegations.

This year’s election will be held simultaneously with parliamentary polls, which are being contested by 16 national parties.

Nearly 250,000 candidates are vying for more than 20,000 seats in the national, provincial and municipal parliaments.

About 193 million people, including 80 million people born after 1980, are eligible to vote, making it the world’s biggest direct presidential election, according to the General Election Commission. 

There will be around 800,000 polling stations and six million election workers.

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Jokowi favoured for re-election, but Prabowo closing in

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was in a combative mood during a campaign rally over the weekend, as he made late pitches to voters ahead of next month’s presidential election.

“I have been slandered, I have been accused of things, I was vilified and looked down on and I have been silent,” he said at a campaign stop in the central Java city of Yogyakarta on Saturday.

“But today, in Yogyakarta I say, I will fight!” he said to the cheers of his supporters who shouted: “Fight! Fight!”

Jokowi was alluding to accusations from his critics that he is anti-Muslim, that he would ban the Islamic call to prayer if he wins a second five-year term in the April 17 election, and other attacks on his character.

The president has reason to worry.

A new poll suggested that his opponent, former general Prabowo Subianto, is gaining ground.

A survey by the private pollster Litbang Kompas released last week found that Jokowi was likely to win 49.2 per cent, while Prabowo was favoured by 37.4 per cent. About 13 per cent of respondents were undecided.

It was a wake-up call for Jokowi, who had a comfortable lead of nearly 20 per cent in October.

Analysts say Jokowi appears on track for re-election if various polls are anything to go by, but Prabowo could still pull off a surprise.

“Anything can happen during the remaining campaign period,” said Adi Prayitno, a political analyst at Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic University in Jakarta.  

“The Kompas survey shows that the gap is narrowing and this should be a cause for concern for Jokowi,” he said.

Prabowo, a former special forces commander and now a wealthy businessman, has portrayed himself as a champion of the poor.

At a campaign rally on Monday in Papua province, one of the country’s poorest regions, he lambasted what he called “the Jakarta elite,” which he said has failed to bring prosperity to the people.

“The elite are only concerned about their own interests,” Prabowo told the crowd who shouted his name. “Their only motive is to enrich themselves and their relatives.” 

Jokowi has touted successes in improving the country’s dilapidated infrastructure by building new roads, ports, airports and dams.

Meanwhile, the Prabowo camp has accused the current administration of failing to shore up the economy, currently growing at 5 per cent annually, and of having a penchant for debt.

The country has also struggled with a widening current account deficit and a weak currency, which fell in September to the lowest level since the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.

The April election is a repeat of the 2014 poll, when Jokowi beat Prabowo narrowly after a divisive campaign period marked by mudslinging from both sides, including accusations that Joko was an ethnic Chinese communist.

This year’s election will be held simultaneously with the parliamentary polls, which are contested by 16 national parties.

Nearly 250,000 candidates are vying for the more than 20,000 seats in national, provincial and municipal parliaments.

About 193 million people, including 80 million people born after 1980, are eligible to vote, making it the world’s biggest direct presidential election, according to the General Election Commission. 

There will be around 800,000 polling stations and six million election workers.

Jokowi has chosen Ma’ruf Amin, a conservative Muslim cleric and chairman of the semi-official Indonesian Ulema Council, as his vice presidential candidate, apparently to fend off accusations that he is insufficiently Islamic.

But conservative Muslims appear determined to prevent him from being re-elected by rallying around Prabowo, according to the the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) in a report released this month.

“The Islamists already have had a major impact on the campaign by forcing Jokowi to defend allegations that he is anti-Islam and anti-poor and by moving the definition of what constitutes moderation to the right,” the report said.

“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,” it said.

Ada cerita di balik MRT Jakarta

Tidak seperti kota-kota besar lainnya di dunia, Jakarta tidak punya daya tarik khusus yang bisa menjadikannya sebagai tujuan utama bagi para wisatawan asing. Kecuali ada agenda bisnis untuk dilakukan di Jakarta, banyak turis asing yang hanya sempat melihat bandara, sebelum pada akhirnya melanjutkan perjalanan ke kota lain di negara ini.

Kenapa begitu? salah satunya karena kemacetan lalu lintas Jakarta yang sangat terkenal, ditambah jaringan transportasi umum yang membingungkan dan kurang bisa diandalkan. Tidak heran jika hanya sedikit orang asing yang ingin menghabiskan waktunya di Jakarta.

Namun hal tersebut bisa jadi berubah seiring dengan peluncuran MRT pada bulan Maret ini. Sebuah sistem kereta cepat massal pertama yang kehadirannya sudah lama ditunggu-tunggu oleh banyak orang.

Saat dilakukan tes uji coba pada 30 Januari lalu, wartawan diberikan kesempatan untuk mencoba MRT dengan perjalanan bolak-balik antara bundaran Hotel Indonesia di Jakarta Pusat ke Lebak Bulus di Jakarta Selatan. Kereta berjalan tepat waktu selama 30 menit dengan pemberhentian selama 30 detik di stasiun bawah tanah dan stasiun atas yang keseluruhannya berjumlah total 13 stasiun.

“Kami melakukan pengujian dengan skenario keberangkatan terlambat di salah satu halte, serta bagaimana sistem bisa mengejar waktunya supaya semua jadwal kereta akhirnya bisa berjalan normal,” ujar Direktur Utama PT. MRT Jakarta, William Sabandar, dalam perjalanan tersebut.

Pada 25 Januari, pembangunan jalur MRT sudah selesai 99 persen dan perusahaan kemudian menjalankan pengujian secara terintegrasi. Delapan kereta dijalankan secara bersamaan dengan interval 10 menit untuk menguji ketepatan waktu operasi normal, juga untuk memastikan bahwa pintu platform bekerja sesuai dengan keberangkatan dan kedatangan kereta api.

Pada akhir Februari, perusahaan melakukan uji coba penuh bersama dengan simulasi untuk situasi darurat hingga 11 Maret. Uji coba tersebut terbuka untuk partisipasi publik terbatas, sebelum akhirnya layanan penuh perdana diluncurkan pada akhir bulan Maret.

Muhammad Kamaluddin, kepala strategi perusahaan MRT Jakarta mengatakan, selama operasi awal enam kereta latih yang dibangun oleh Nippon Sharyo dan Sumitomo Corp dari Jepang tersebut akan mampu mengangkut hingga maksimum 1.900 penumpang. Jam operasional MRT akan dimulai sejak 5.30 pagi setiap harinya, dengan keberangkatan dari kedua ujung jalur, serta keberangkatan terakhir sampai 10.30 malam.

Terdapat beberapa gerbong kereta yang didedikasikan khusus untuk penyandang disabilitas, dimana gerbong tersebut akan berhenti sangat dekat dengan lift di stasiun. Selain itu, juga akan ada petugas yang ditunjuk secara khusus untuk melayani penumpang wanita di jam-jam sibuk.

“Secara bertahap kita akan meningkatkan jumlah kereta menjadi 14. Kereta akan berjalan dengan kecepatan 30 kilometer per jam untuk perjalanan sejauh 16 kilometer,” tambah Kamaluddin.

Pengerjaan tahap kedua untuk memperluas jalur MRT ke bagian utara kota juga akan segera dimulai, dimana konstruksi diharapkan akan selesai pada 2024 dan operasionalnya akan dimulai pada 2025.

“Kami masih dalam persiapan. Peletakan batu pertama bisa berlangsung kapan saja, tetapi tidak ada yang menghambat atau menunda pembangunan fase kedua, semua berjalan sesuai rencana,” kata William Sabandar.

Fase kedua akan memperpanjang jalur dari bundaran hotel Indonesia ke Kampung Bandan di Jakarta Utara dan setelah selesai akan menjadi jalur lengkap yang terentang dari ujung selatan ke ujung utara Jakarta.

“Kami menetapkan target untuk menyelesaikan proyek tersebut dalam lima tahun,” kata Kamaluddin, sambil menambahkan bahwa delapan stasiun di jalur kedua akan berada di bawah tanah dan beberapa akan diintegrasikan dengan jaringan bus Transjakarta milik pemda DKI. Tapi pembangunan untuk tahap kedua tersebut akan menemui sedikit kesulitan karena harus melewati Monumen Nasional atau daerah Monas, yang disebut sebagai daerah ring satu di Jakarta Pusat, dimana istana presiden dan kantor-kantor pemerintahan berada.

Januar Wibisono, seorang pekerja yang berkantor di salah satu gedung di kawasan bisnis Sudirman-Thamrin di mana jalur MRT beroperasi di bawah tanah, mengatakan dia bersemangat untuk mencoba layanan ini dan berharap MRT akan membuat perjalanan hariannya dari sebuah lokasi di pinggiran selatan Jakarta jauh lebih mudah. ​​

“Gedung kantor saya berada di dekat stasiun Bendungan Hilir. Saya akan memarkir motor saya di dekat stasiun Lebak Bulus dan naik kereta dari sana. Jika total 30 menit hingga akhir jalur, saya perkirakan akan membutuhkan waktu 20 menit untuk sampai ke tujuan saya,” katanya.

Stasiun Bendungan Hilir adalah salah satu dari enam stasiun bawah tanah di area bisnis, yang dimulai dari stasiun Sisingamangaraja. PT MRT Jakarta menawarkan sponsorship untuk hak memberikan nama bagi setiap stasiun sesuai dengan nama asli stasiun, dalam upaya menghasilkan pendapatan diluar tarif. “Tapi stasiun Sisingamangaraja akan menjadi pengecualian. Stasiun itu akan diberi nama Sisingamangaraja Asean untuk menandai gedung Sekretariat Asean di dekat stasiun,” kata Sabandar.

Bersama dengan sistem light rail transit (LRT) yang diperkirakan akan mulai beroperasi tahun ini, diharapkan dapat menggeser orang dari pemakaian kendaraan pribadi ke transportasi umum, sehingga akhirnya dapat mengurangi kemacetan lalu lintas di Jakarta. Di beberapa lokasi, moda transportasi umum akan melintasi jalur stasiun terintegrasi, seperti stasiun Dukuh Atas di Jakarta Pusat, yang terintegrasi dengan kereta api bandara, kereta komuter, dan bus reguler, juga Transjakarta.

Jalan-jalan di Jakarta tersumbat melebihi kapasitas karena terjadi peningkatan pertumbuhan sepeda motor yang dipicu oleh mudahnya mendapatkan kredit motor serta hadirnya aplikasi ojek online. Menurut data dari Badan Perencanaan Pembangunan Nasional, kemacetan di Jabodetabek diperkirakan menyebabkan kerugian ekonomi sebesar 100 triliun rupiah per tahun.

Untuk mendukung peralihan ke MRT, pemerintah kota DKI juga telah memperbaiki trotoarnya yang tidak rata agar mendorong lebih banyak pejalan kaki dan memungkinkan penumpang yang keluar dari stasiun berjalan kaki ke tujuan mereka.

Jakarta juga dijuluki sebagai salah satu kota yang paling tidak ramah bagi pejalan kaki. Menurut hasil sebuah studi yang dilakukan oleh Universitas Stanford yang diterbitkan pada tahun 2017, orang Indonesia termasuk dalam kategori pejalan kaki paling malas di dunia dengan rata-rata 3.513 langkah setiap harinya, dibandingkan rata-rata di seluruh dunia, yaitu 5.000 langkah.

“Saya sudah menyerah nyetir mobil kalau bepergian sehari-hari sekitar 15 tahun yang lalu, karena saya benar-benar tidak tahan dengan kemacetan,” kata Rani Cahyawati, seorang karyawan yang bekerja di kantor dekat bundaran Hotel Indonesia.

“Setiap hari saya mengandalkan apa saja yang ada, baik itu bus kotor, bus tua, bus Transjakarta, taksi, atau ojek. Jadi, saya benar-benar menantikan MRT dan LRT untuk beroperasi. Sudah waktunya bagi Jakarta untuk dimodernisasi dan lebih beradab bagi masyarakat dan pengunjungnya,” tambahnya.

*Pertama kali diterbitkan dalam versi bahasa Inggris di Bangkok Post

Indonesia threatens retaliation over EU palm oil ‘intimidation’

Biofuel producers in Indonesia called on the Indonesian government and European Union to find a “win-win solution” to a dispute over an EU legislation that will phase out palm oil-based biofuel manufacturing in the bloc, risking jobs and billions of dollars in Indonesia’s revenue.

Last week, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, warned that if the EU implements a ban on palm oil imports, Indonesia would retaliate strongly with possible bans on European products, including passengers jets, train coaches, and motor vehicles.

“We want a win-win solution. Retaliation is not a favorable option but, eventually, what else can we do? It could become necessary if we keep being intimidated,” said Master Parulian Tumanggor, chairman of the Indonesia’s Biodiesel Producers Association.

“If they stop biofuel, millions (of workers and farmers) will become unemployed. We don’t want that,” he added.

ILT-Riau haze 177

Pandjaitan said that with Indonesia’s aviation industry expected to expand threefold by 2034, the country will require about 2,500 aircraft in the next two decades — a big market for European companies.

Aircraft demand from Indonesia is worth more than $40 billion and it will create millions of jobs.

“It’s a matter of survival. If they treat us like this, we will retaliate strongly. We are not a poor country, we are a developing country and we have a big potential,” Pandjaitan said in a briefing with the EU ambassador to Indonesia, Vincent Guerend, and European investors.

Darmin Nasution, chief economic minister, said Indonesia is considering a challenge to the EU legislation via the World Trade Organization, and will seek support from the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Indonesia and Malaysia together produce about 85 percent of the world’s palm oil.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi spoke with her Malaysian counterpart, Saifuddin Abdullah, on the sidelines of Organization of Islamic Cooperation emergency meeting in Istanbul on Friday.

“We agreed to work together to fight against discrimination of palm oil in the EU,” she said via Twitter.

Nasution said palm oil contributed $17.89 billion to Indonesia’s economy in 2018 and almost 20 million workers depended on the plantations for their livelihood.

On March 13 the European Commission adopted new rules on biofuels based on sustainability criteria with a two-month scrutiny period. The EU said “best available scientific data” show palm oil plantations are a major cause of deforestation and climate change.

Palm oil plantations in Indonesia have resulted in massive deforestation on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Guerend acknowledged the importance of palm oil to Indonesia in terms of jobs, but said that there was some flexibility in the regulation.

“It will be further modified in a few years’ time. It’s not cast in stone forever as the industry is dynamic, expanding, and reforming, and we take that into account,” he said.

“Our invitation for everyone is to work on sustainability because it’s in everybody’s interest,” he added.

This story was first published on Arab News

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.

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.