From social media to parliament: Young Indonesians enter politics

 The political views of Indonesian millennials used to be limited to social media posts, but now the youth are taking charge by seeking parliament seats in their country’s upcoming election.

Univesity student Tsamara Amany Alatas is a social media star who often voices critical views on issues ranging from gender equality to religious freedom.

Now the 22-year-old has thrown her hat into the political ring, vying for a seat in the national parliament in the legislative election scheduled for April 17.

Like any media-savvy politician running for office, she has visited slums and talked with locals about their aspirations and posed for photographs with babies.

“I believe politics can be a force for good when people who are elected are good,” the 22-year-old told dpa during a recent visit to a central Jakarta slum.

Tsamara is one of the young legislative candidates fielded by the newly-established Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), which claims to be the bearer of progressive politics in a largely conservative nation.

The party,which backs incumbent President Joko Widodo, is led by 36-year-old former television newscaster Grace Natalie, a Christian of Chinese descent in mainly-Muslim Indonesia.

The party has an uphill battle, with polls indicating it is unlikely to win more than 1 per cent of the vote, which would be short of the 4 per cent threshold required by Indonesian electoral laws to get seats in parliament.  

Poll numbers, however, have not discouraged Tsamara, who has nearly 170,000 followers on Twitter.

“This party represents the values I’m fighting for and it’s where people with idealism are,” she said.

Lucius Karus, a researcher with the Indonesian People Forum for Parliament Monitoring, said that 21 per cent of candidates whose ages are known are categorized as millennials, meaning they were born after 1980.   

Nearly 8,000 candidates are competing for seats in the 560-member House of Representatives. 

Lucius said even though women account for 40 per cent of legislative candidates – exceeding a quota of 30 per cent set by electoral laws – it’s not likely they will be elected.

“Many young or female candidates are listed on the bottom on their parties’ lists on ballot papers, and candidates on top of the lists are usually well known and more likely to be elected,” he said.

Currently, about 20 per cent of national legislators are women.

British-educated engineer Faldo Maldini is another millennial running for a parliamentary seat.

The 28-year-old is a spokesman for opposition candidate Prabowo Subianto and is a deputy secretary general of the National Mandate Party.  

“I represent the young generation, but I talk to old and young people alike about their problems,” Faldo told dpa on the sidelines of a campaign stop in a village outside Jakarta.

“You can be famous on social media but if you don’t go to your constituents, they won’t vote for you,” said Faldo, whose Twitter account has more than 88,000 followers.

Sitting cross-legged on the front porch of a villager’s house in Bogor, a city south of Jakarta, Faldo appeared at ease talking to the elderly host, who complained about unpaved and potholed roads in front of his house.

“People here complain that despite many factories around here, jobs are going to people from outside, and prices of basic commodities are expensive,” he said.

“My focus is how I can help young people here get jobs,” he added. 

Faldo said he wants to prove that running for office does not have to be expensive.

“I’m not from a rich family and I just got married, so clearly I don’t have much money,” he said.

“I want everyone to have a level playing field so it’s not only people with money who can run for parliament,” he said.

Didi, a voter in Bogor, praised Faldo’s plan to promote entrepreneurship in his village.

“I make dolls and after he promoted my business on Instagram I received a lot of orders from different places,” he said.  

Ari Nurcahyo, executive director at local think tank Soegeng Sarjadi Syndicate, said the fact that many young people aspire to be politicians is good for Indonesia’s future.

“They are technologically literate and highly educated. We need people like them to face the digital economy era,” he said.

“But they need a new political party that isn’t beholden to oligarchic interests and care about issues such as anti-corruption,” Ari said.

Ross Tapsell, an expert on Indonesian politics at the Australian National University (ANU), said only a small number of Indonesian millennials are middle-class and politically savvy.

A survey released last year by ANU found that fewer than 10 per cent of millennials living in Jakarta and the surrounding areas had a university degree.

“The usual depiction of a millennial is someone who is inner city, on Instagram, active about politics in social media,” Tapsell said.

“In fact that’s really only a small proportion of what a lot of people aged between 17 and 35 are actually doing in this election,” he said.

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Indonesia’s HIV medication muddle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This story was first published on Bangkok Post

Jokowi Remains Favorite One Month Before Indonesian Election

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rising conservatism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VP candidates face off

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

50 killed in Papua flash floods, landslides

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

74 peluru senapan angin bersarang di tubuh orangutan Sumatera


Seekor orangutan ditemukan terluka parah di provinsi Aceh dengan 74 peluru senapan angin bersarang di tubuhnya, kata para pejabat pada hari Rabu (13/3).

Orangutan yang diperkirakan berusia sekitar 30 tahun tersebut, telah diselamatkan pada Sabtu pekan lalu di kabupaten Subulussalam dengan kondisi patah tulang, memar dan luka di kakinya, kata Sapto Aji Prabowo, kepala Badan Konservasi Alam (BKSDA) pemerintah daerah Aceh.

“Foto X-ray menunjukkan 74 peluru senapan angin tersebar di seluruh tubuhnya,” katanya.

Sementara itu, keterangan dari Kementerian Kehutanan dan Lingkungan juga menambahkan bahwa bayi orangutan berusia satu bulan yang ditemukan bersama induknya tersebut telah mati karena kekurangan gizi ketika dibawa ke pusat rehabilitasi di provinsi Sumatra Utara.

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

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Induk orangutan dengan 74 peluru tersebut saat ini berada dalam kondisi cukup stabil dan telah diberi nama Harapan (Hope). Beberapa peluru juga bersarang di salah satu mata Hope, sehingga menyebabkan kebutaan total.

“Kami mengutuk serangan biadab terhadap orangutan yang dilakukan oleh orang-orang yang tidak bertanggung jawab,” kata Kementerian Kehutanan dan Lingkungan dalam sebuah pernyataan di Instagram.

Kelompok konservasi World Wildlife Fund (WWF) mengklasifikasikan orangutan sebagai spesies yang “sangat terancam punah”. Jumlah mereka sekitar 111.000 di alam liar, terutama di pulau Sumatra dan Kalimantan.

Para pakar konservasi mengatakan, kelangsungan hidup spesies orangutan sangat terancam oleh perburuan liar dan perusakan habitat mereka melalui proses deforestasi yang dilakukan oleh pihak-pihak yang tidak bertanggung jawab.

Wounded orangutan found in Indonesia with 74 airgun pellets in body

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jakarta’s zero tariff move to lift Palestinian imports

The Indonesian market could be a testing ground for Palestinian exports’ competitiveness following the introduction of a zero tariff policy.

An agreement with Indonesia on import tariff waivers for Palestinian products came into effect in mid-February after 2.5 years since the idea was floated in Oct 2016.

The initial waiver will apply to fresh and dried dates, and virgin olive oil. Palestine has asked for about 20 export products to be included in the policy.

Tariffs previously were set at 5 percent.

Djatmiko Bris Witjaksono, director of foreign trade analysis and trade center at the Ministry of Trade, said the agreement offers preferential treatment for Palestinian imports, but it will be up to the business community to show its willingness to buy the products.

“Palestine may have to compete with similar products imported from other countries. If the supply and product continuity is reliable, importers will eventually buy from them,” he said.

“The tariff exemption is significant and should be reflected in the products’ pricing in the market. Eventually it will boost the competitiveness of Palestinian products in Indonesia.” Witjaksono said.

Shinta Widjaja Kamdani, vice chairwoman of international relations at the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the zero tariff policy will boost trade between the two countries.

“Now we have to look at the market opportunity to identify the goods from Indonesia we can export and vice versa. It looks like there is a market there for our food and beverage products,” she said.

Trade Minister Enggartiasto Lukita said the elimination of Indonesian tariffs on Palestinian dates and olive oil began on Feb. 21, when Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry sent a diplomatic note to Palestine.

Zuhair Al-Shun, Palestine’s ambassador to Indonesia, was also told about the tariff move in a meeting with Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla on Feb. 28.

“We hope we will be able to enjoy Palestinian dates in the upcoming Ramadan,” Lukita said in a joint press conference with Palestinian Ambassador to Indonesia Zuhair Al-Shun after meeting the vice president on Feb. 28.

Both countries are considering expanding the policy to create a preferential trading agreement, the trade minister said.

Al-Shun said Palestine has provided a list of products to be considered for preferential treatment by Indonesia.

“The list is being reviewed by the Indonesian government. We also welcome Indonesian products that will be exported to Palestine,” Al-Shun said.

Lukita said the trade agreement is part of Indonesia’s unwavering support for Palestine.

Trade between Indonesia and Palestine was worth $3.5 million in 2018. Indonesian exports to Palestine include coffee, tea, bread and other foodstuffs, while dates and olive oil make up the bulk of its imports.

According to data from Statistics Indonesia, trade between Indonesia and Palestine reached US$3.5 million in 2018. The zero tariff policy is expected to boost date imports by 11.62 percent within a year.

Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, AM Fachir said the idea to provide preferential treatment for Palestinian products was first floated by members of Palestinian trade delegation attending an international trade expo in Jakarta in Oct 2016.

Lukita and his Palestinian counterpart formalized the idea in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) they signed on the sidelines of the 11th World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina in Dec 2017, during which Indonesia also endorsed Palestine to be a WTO member.

The MoU was then ratified in Indonesia into a presidential regulation in April 2018, followed by Lukita and Al Shun signing the formal agreement in Jakarta in Aug 2018.

Ministry of Finance then issued two ministerial regulations — on import tariff waivers for Palestinian products and on the technical direction for customs offices to execute the policy.

Issuing the two regulations was the last phase along Indonesia’s legislation process to allow the full implementation of the agreement since they will be circulated to all ports of entry so that customs officers can identify products from Palestine and exempt them from any import duties.

Read the original story here in Arab News