Tag: indonesia

Push for all things halal divide opinion in Indonesia

After an official suggested that the Lake Toba area on Indonesia’s Sumatra island could be turned into a halal tourism destination, activist Togu Simorangkir came up with the idea of holding a pork festival as an act of resistance.

The event from October 25-26 involved pork cooking and pig catching competitions and was attended by 300,000 people from all over the country, according to Simorangkir.

“It was a big success even though it was just a spontaneous response against making North Sumatra a halal destination,” says Simorangkir, a British-educated activist who founded Alusi Tao Toba, a foundation dedicated to improving the communities around Lake Toba.

“The festival is not about religion, but about maximizing local tourism potential,” he says, adding that most people in the area make a living as farmers.

Muslims are forbidden from eating pork under Islamic rules because the meat is considered unclean.

The Indonesian government established a new halal certification agency under the Ministry of Religious Affairs in 2017. Since then, everything from refrigerators and microwaves to cat food can be certified as halal, or religiously permissible.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but is also home to several other religions. About 63 per cent of North Sumatra’s 15 million people are Muslim, but members of the indigenous Batak tribe, to which Simorangkir belongs, are mainly Christian.

Simorangkir says the idea of halal tourism in North Sumatra is divisive.

“I think there’s no need to divide people based on religion,” he says. “Here there are many mosques and people from all over the world come.”

“If they want tourism to thrive here, they should crack down on companies that destroy the environment,” he adds.

Simorangkir says the pork festival was initially opposed by local leaders and tour operators because of fears it would offend Muslims and hurt tourism.

“The word ‘pig’ has negative connotations in our society, when in fact it’s just an animal, like cows and buffaloes,” he says.

Critics fear that halal tourism, intended to attract Muslim visitors from wealthy Middle Eastern countries and all over the world, could mean a ban on alcohol, separate facilities for men and women and other restrictions.

North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi has denied suggestions he wants to turn the Lake Toba area into a sharia-compliant destination.

“It’s a misunderstanding,” he was quoted as saying by Detik.com, adding that he was simply suggesting that infrastructure be improved to serve visitors from Muslim countries such as Malaysia.

“So, when Muslims come to a place, […] there’s halal food,” he said. “Even in Thailand, where Buddhists are the majority, there are halal restaurants.”

The head of the Religious Ministry’s Halal Certification Administering Agency, Sukoso, says food and drinks, cosmetics, drugs and other consumer products will have to be certified halal by 2026 according to a 2014 law.

“As for household goods, it should be determined what materials they are made of,” he says, adding that products made of leather are subject to halal certification to ensure they do not contain materials from pigs.

The country’s first halal certified corrective glasses were launched in early November by PT Atalla Indonesia, according to the state Antara news agency.

“Even though glasses are not yet among products that need to be halal certified, the company has done it. I appreciate the effort,” Industry Ministry official Gati Wibawaningsih said at the launch event.

Japanese consumer electronics maker Sharp last year launched what it described as the first line of halal refrigerators in Indonesia.

The company expects sales in the segment to grow between 10 and 20 per cent with the introduction of halal products.

“We want our customers to have peace of mind when using our products,” Sharp Electronics Indonesia sales general manager Andri Adi Utomo said in a statement.

But some Indonesians have questioned why consumer products needs to be certified halal, with many taking to social media to ait their views.

“Now that there are halal glasses, watching porn will no longer be sinful,” one Twitter user joked.

Talk of introducing halal tourism to cater to Muslim visitors in the popular resort island of Bali, a mainly Hindu enclave of Indonesia, has also faced opposition from locals.

Earlier this year, vice presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno sparked controversy after he said he would promote halal tourism in Bali if he and his presidential running mate Prabowo Subianto were elected.

They were defeated by incumbent President Joko Widodo and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin in the April election.

Bali Governor I Wayan Koster rejected the idea.

“Bali is a cultural tourism destination,” he told local media. “There’s no need for such narrow branding.”

Jerinx, the frontman of popular Bali-based rock band Superman Is Dead, said the concept was irrelevant.

“Bali has always been friendly to Muslims. What the f*** is wrong with you people?” he wrote on Twitter.

Garuda sues YouTube reviewer over handwritten menu post

 An Indonesian YouTube personality said on Tuesday he had been sued by national airline Garuda over a social media posting about a hand-written business-class menu.

Rius Vernandes, a popular vlogger, posted an Instagram photo showing the menu written on a piece of notebook paper on Saturday with the caption: “The menu is still being printed, sir.”   

The post went viral and prompted Indonesian social media users to mock the airline. 

Rius said he has received a summons from the police in connection with the post.   

“We’ve been reported for defamation. I’m sure you know I had no intention whatsoever to defame anyone,” he said on Instagram. 

“I hope you can support me because I don’t want anyone to be prosecuted for an honest review and constructive criticism,” he said. 

Garuda said the handwritten menu was made by a cabin crew member for personal use and not intended to be handed out to passengers.

Police confirmed that Garuda had filed a defamation case against Rius. 

Garuda came under more criticism on Tuesday after a circular instructing the cabin crew to prohibit passengers from taking photos or videos mid-air circulated on social media. 

The airline later clarified that the directive had been withdrawn, but said that passengers are advised to respect other people’s privacy by not taking their photos.     

“Passengers can take photos for personal use such as selfies as long as they do not inconvenience other passengers,” the company’s spokesman Ikhsan Rosan said in a statement. 

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.

Prabowo tells pollsters to move to Antarctica as he rejects unofficial election results

Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto on Friday accused pollsters of lying after unofficial counts showed he lost this week’s election to incumbent President Joko Widodo, telling them to move to Antarctica.

Prabowo has rejected the so-called quick counts, released by private pollsters from samples of polling stations, that give Joko an 8-percentage-point lead over Prabowo.

“Ladies and gentlemen, do you trust fake pollsters?” Prabowo asked more than 1,000 supporters gathering outside his house in south Jakarta.

The crowd responded in unison: “No!”

“You cheating pollsters may be able to lie to penguins in Antarctica, but Indonesia doesn’t want to listen to you anymore,” Prabowo said.

Supporters gathered outside Prabowo’s spacious house and chanted religious songs after Friday prayers.

Quick counts have proved accurate in predicting winners in past Indonesian elections.

But Prabowo said that actual votes at more than 300,000 polling stations showed him leading with 62 per cent.

Prabowo said Thursday that he had won the presidency and urged his supporters to monitor the official vote count to stop cheating.

“We are declaring our victory early because we have proof that there have been various attempts at fraud in many villages, sub-districts, districts and cities across Indonesia,” he said.

Official results will not be announced until later next month. 

He made a similar claim of victory in 2014 after unofficial counts showed that he lost narrowly to Joko.  

Joko, for his part, said that he had “99 per cent” confidence in the quick count results pointing to his victory.

Indonesia’s armed forces chief, Air Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto, warned that any unrest would be dealt with sternly. 

“We will not tolerate and will take stern action against attempts to disturb public order or unconstitutional acts that undermine the democratic process,” he said. 

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.

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. 

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.