Thursday, August 29, 2013

1) Solomons prime minister says Indonesia will meet all trip costs


Posted at 16:40 on 29 August, 2013 UTC
The prime minister of Solomon Islands has defended his recent visit to Indonesia, saying it was a breakthrough moment and benefits will come over time.
Gordon Darcy Lilo has faced strong criticism from civil society groups which allege he lied when he claimed the trip was paid for by Indonesia when in fact several hundred thousand dollars had been provided by the Solomons’ government.
The Solomon Star reports Mr Lilo as telling local media that it misinterpreted his explanation last week.
He says while his government met some of the costs he expects these to be reimbursed by Jakarta.
He says he only agreed to the trip if Jakarta allowed a Solomon Islands delegation to also visit the Papua region.
Mr Lilo says he was told it was the first time Indonesia’s president had accepted such a request.


2) New Pacific islands development bloc takes on Australian dominance

11:19 August 26, 2013

Analysis – By Kalinga Seneviratne in Singapore
A new Pacific islands forum will seek to challenge the dominance of Australia and New Zealand in a regional body. The new grouping’s approach is being billed the “Pacific Way”, and also the “green and blue” way for its commitment to environmentally sustainable oceans as well as land.
The new Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) challenges the Pacific Island Forum (PIF), a 16-member inter-governmental organisation which includes 14 Pacific Island countries plus Australia and New Zealand.
The PIF is headquartered in Fijian capital Suva. Fiji itself was suspended from the PIF in 2009 after naval commander Voreqe Bainimarama grabbed power in a coup in 2006 and refused to hold elections.
Bainimarama, now prime minister of Fiji, said at the launch of the PIDF earlier this month that people “have largely been excluded from the decision-making process,” and that the PIDF would do it differently.
“It has been no secret that Commodore Bainimarama has great distaste for the Pacific Islands Forum, especially over the hypocritical way that the Forum has treated Fiji since the military coup,” says Professor David Robie, director of the Auckland-based Pacific Media Centre.
“Attempts by the Forum to destabilise Fiji have backfired. For all the criticisms of the Fiji regime, there are positive moves to ‘open up’ the region for greater development partnerships with Asia.”
Bainimarama is riding resentment among Pacific island nations that the PIF is dominated by highly-paid Australian, New Zealand and other Western expatriates, trying to impose developed country solutions on Pacific problems.
‘We’re sheltered’
“We’re so sheltered away from the rest of society,” Kiribati President Anote Tong said in an interview with Radio Australia. “We’re a club of our own in retreat and away from questions from people demanding answers.”
At closed-door PIF meetings, leaders usually come dressed in suits, while at the PIDF meeting they were all dressed in the colourful short-sleeve Pacific-style, or bula, shirts, and all discussions were in open forum.
For the first time in a major Pacific Island forum, business, church and civil society leaders sat alongside national political leaders, and spoke at the same forums. Such interaction is being projected as a “Pacific Way” of consultation.
The PIDF is gaining support, Dr Robie told Inter Press Service in an interview.
“Bainimarama achieved a coup in successfully getting Timor-Leste Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao to the PIDF in spite of Australian attempts to prevent him going. Having the East Timorese leader there was an important bridge for Asia-Pacific relations.”
The launch of the PIDF reflects new realities in the region, where Australia and New Zealand no longer have a stranglehold on aid handouts.
In the past decade, China and many other Asian countries have begun to give aid to and invest in the region. The PIDF meeting was funded by grants from China, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
Wide representation
The leaders of the Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Nauru attended the meeting along with the deputy prime minister of Vanuatu and the Vice-President of Micronesia. Senior ministers from most other Pacific nations and territories also attended.
While Australia and New Zealand sent observers to the meeting, special envoys came from China, Russia and a range of countries such as Chile and Cuba. Government ministers were sent to represent the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar.
A clear division between Melanesian and Polynesian nations of the Pacific seems to have opened up, with leaders of Polynesian countries like Samoa, Tahiti and French Polynesia boycotting the meeting.
Polynesians are believed to be a mixture of Malay and Taiwanese who moved into the South Pacific islands more than 3,000 years ago. Melanesians are of Papuan stock, and are believed to have moved from parts of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea to other Pacific Islands like Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu more than 4000 years ago.
The Polynesian nations have a tendency to side with Australia and New Zealand in regional affairs, but Melanesian nations make up about 90 percent of the Pacific Islands population, and the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) is an influential grouping in the region.
Australia blocked Commodore Bainimarama taking over the leadership of the MSG spearhead group within the PIF in 2010 – a decision that seems to have backfired.
“MSG is the real economic powerhouse of the Pacific and is a serious challenge to the old Forum (largely dominated by the Polynesian islands and Australia and New Zealand),” Dr Robie says. “And now the PIDF is a new threat.”
Pacific perspectives
In an interview with IPS from Suva, executive director of the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO), Emele Duituturaga, said many now expected the PIDF to give more value to Pacific expertise and to be founded on Pacific perspectives.
“More importantly the governing and secretariat structures will include all sectors, especially civil society, which the PIF has been overlooking,” she said.
“The new organisation should ensure that the process and structures that are put in place are inclusive,” she added.
“It will be a mistake for the governments to just set it up and expect us to go along with it.”
3) ‘The Act of Killing’ to Be Released for Free Online in Indonesia
By Ethan Harfenist on 4:05 pm August 29, 2013.

Director Joshua Oppenheimer will make his acclaimed documentary on Indonesia’s 1965 communist purge “The Act of Killing” available as a free download in the hopes that the controversial film, which was previously only seen in underground screenings, will reach a wider domestic audience.
“We did not release the film immediately online, because we wanted a national conversation to develop,” the director said. “We wanted people to see the film together, to experience it together, to discuss it together. After all, the 1965 genocide is a shared history — it belongs not to individuals, but to Indonesia as a nation, and to humanity as a collective aspiration.
“Now that the national discussion has begun, now that more people have probably seen it in screenings than ever would have attended a regular cinema release, it is time to ensure all Indonesians, across the archipelago, can access the film.”
The chilling documentary made waves at film festivals worldwide and, after a series of secret viewings, has spurred interest at home in a period of Indonesian history many would be happy to forget. The film focuses on Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry, two Medan-based preman, or “gangsters,” who re-enact their brutal roles in the mass killings that left more than 500,000 dead nationwide. The self-described thugs play themselves and their victims, addressing their violent history through the lens of popular American films in the disturbing, and often surreal, documentary.
While Indonesia’s Film Censorship Board (BSF) has not banned the film, “The Act of Killing” (“Jagal”) was not officially released in domestic theaters. The documentary will be posted for free online by Drafthouse Films and Vice on September 30 in commemoration of the failed coup attempt blamed on the PKI that eventually sparked the massacres.
The film’s wider availability will hopefully foster a larger discussion on the events that served as a prelude to then-president Sukarno’s fall and push the Indonesian government to address the mass killings head-on, Oppenheimer said.
“The film has come to Indonesia like the child in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes,’ pointing at the king and saying ‘Look, the king is naked,’” he said. “Everybody knows that Indonesian democracy suffers from corruption, thuggery, apathy and the rule of fear… Everybody knows they were being lied to in school, at least at some level.
“Hopefully, the film will continue to help open a space for people to finally discuss the problems they long have known about, if only unconsciously, but been too afraid or uncomfortable to address. That is, after all, the function of art: not to show us things we did not know, but to give us the courage and the language to reflect upon our most painful truths.”
The film attempts to describe in detail a time that many in Indonesia have largely chosen to forget, and it has drawn comparisons to Hannah Arendt’s seminal work on Adolph Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem and the theory of the “banality of evil” for its almost disturbingly normal portrayal of wicked men seemingly unaware of the volume of their deeds.
Despite its subject matter, Oppenheimer doubted Indonesia would block the online release of the film.
“The problem is that if the BSF were to ban the film formally, it becomes a crime to hold any screening,” he said. “If it’s a crime to screen the film, that becomes an excuse for paramilitary and preman groups, as well as the military itself, to physically attack screenings… [but the film's] support has been fairly high-profile.
“There would be consequences if the government were to openly ban the film — it would send a signal to the whole world that Indonesia has no commitment to freedom of expression, and consequently cannot be considered a genuine democracy.”
Andreas Harsono, an Indonesian researcher with international NGO Human Rights Watch, welcomed the free release and called it a necessary step in the archipelago’s healing process.
“It is very important for Indonesians to know about [the mass killings],” he said. “Legally, it is difficult to prosecute those involved in the killings because they happened almost 50 years ago. But it provides a good perspective about what happened at the time.
“I think that it’s normal for the country to start acknowledging these events now. If you look at Germany’s experience after World War II, it took the country decades to truly reflect on its actions and acknowledge what really happened.”
Olin Monteiro, a writer and an activist for women’s rights who organized a screening at the office of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) last year, also embraced the release, but urged Indonesians to continue to discuss the film’s content.
“[Viewings] should be followed by conversations and exchanges of knowledge [as they were during the screenings], so people can more readily accept the film’s messages,” she said. “There are a number of people who are not ready to accept a film like this.
“Some people in Indonesia aren’t mature enough to see it or do not have an adequate understanding of human rights issues. There is the possibility that some people could take it the wrong way.”
The 1965 massacres are still a controversial issue in Indonesia and are steeped in a history of New Order-era whitewashing, latter-day conspiracy theories and refusal by many of the organizations allegedly involved to accept blame for the deaths. When the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), the author of a report on the mass killings, urged the Attorney General’s Office to investigate what it called evidence of gross human rights violations, the law enforcement agency declined, saying the testimonies of 349 eyewitnesses was not substantial enough to warrant legal action.
The nation’s coordinating minister for political and security affairs Djoko Suyanto showed little interest in meeting calls for an official government apology, stating “we can’t just apologize without looking at what really happened in the 1965 incident.”
An eye-opening book on the killings by historian John Roosa titled “Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Suharto’s Coup d’Etat in Indonesia,” was officially banned until the decision was overturned by the Constitutional Court, Andreas said. The release of “The Act of Killing,” will mark another small step toward the nation’s acknowledgement of its past sins, he added.
“I’d like to see politicians in areas that experienced the brunt of the killings to make known whatever information they have about that era,” he said. “I’d like to see public acknowledgments of the killings in the forms of monuments and photos on the streets of Jakarta, of Surabaya, of Denpasar, like they have in Berlin for the Holocaust.
“Such things would allow Indonesia to move forward and move on from its tradition of self-denial.”
— Additional reporting by Abdul Qowi Bastian

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