Thursday, October 20, 2016

1) Reviewing Indonesia’s foreign policy, or lack of one

2) Two years after election, Widodo’s popularity surges

1) Reviewing Indonesia’s foreign policy, or lack of one
Tama Salim The Jakarta Post
Jakarta | Thu, October 20 2016 | 08:17 am

After two years at the helm of Southeast Asia’s largest economy, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo continues to face allegations that Indonesia is punching below its weight on the international arena.

Part of the reason Indonesia remains a relatively unknown middle power on the global stage might be due to the way foreign policy is shaped under Jokowi’s direction — or lack thereof.

“Compared to SBY, I believe the current government has a much lower [foreign policy] profile,” House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Fadli Zon said on Tuesday, referring to former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Unlike the internationalist flavor of foreign policy that Yudhoyono championed during his reign, Jokowi has puzzled the diplomatic community with his fragmented approach to global politics, leaving most of the legwork to Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi.

But even Retno’s influence has been questioned, as the inclusion of non-foreign ministry actors into the decision-making process further complicates the chain of command.

“Ultimately Jokowi calls the shots,” said Evan Laksmana, a researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

“But when it comes to influential voices of foreign policy, unfortunately the President does listen to other members of his inner circle outside the Foreign Ministry,” he said without elaborating.

In late 2015, President Jokowi was criticized for delegating 12 ministers the additional task of following up economic partnerships and investment plans, a move that critics have considered overstepping the authority of the Foreign Ministry.

In its actual implementation, these liaison ministers would represent the state at diplomatic occasions such as foreign national days and act as a go-between for country partners at times when they need to communicate directly with the Presidential Palace.

Such a move would not be warranted if Jokowi had a dedicated team on foreign policy within the rungs of the palace, as was the case in the previous government.

Unlike Jokowi, Yudhoyono appointed Teuku Faizasyah to stand in as spokesperson and information gatekeeper on international affairs.

While inside sources say Jokowi still relies on his top diplomat Retno to have the final say on global matters, things become less obvious when the government tackles cross-cutting issues that are likely to brush against competing interests.

On the allegation of past human rights violations in Papua, for example, the spotlight was on Luhut B. Panjaitan, who at the time was coordinating political, legal and security affairs minister.

In dealing with increasing pressure from the international community to resolve the Papua issue and subdue the brewing separatist movement in the resource-rich island, Luhut took the bold step of promising to resolve these issues by the end of this year.

On the foreign policy front, Luhut went on a tour of the South Pacific, accompanied by several regional heads from Papua, Maluku and Nusa Tenggara — representing Indonesia’s Melanesian population — in an effort to consolidate support in the region.

Follow-up efforts managed to prevent the separatists from crucially joining the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) — at least temporarily.

There were also too many talking heads in the ongoing hostage crisis in the Sulu Sea south of the Philippines, which had become a regional hotbed of terrorist activity.

After being hit by a string of kidnappings involving the notorious Abu Sayyaf militant group and its offshoots, Retno’s ministry launched its own rescue efforts but eventually had to deal with the military and several non-state actors, like retired Army general Kivlan Zein, getting involved.

Retno used the catch-all phrase “total diplomacy” to explain the seemingly disjointed rescue efforts.

Eventually a crisis center was formed at Luhut’s former office to serve as the sole gateway for rescue efforts, while Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu and Indonesian Military commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo worked to implement a trilateral security agreement in the region. Currently two Indonesian hostages remain captive.

International relations expert Beginda Pakpahan from the University of Indonesia (UI) noted that “as long as all efforts were coordinated by the Foreign Ministry and not taken over by other relevant agencies”, everything would be fine. (sha)
Ina Parlina and Nurul Fitri Ramadhani also contributed to the report.

2) Two years after election, Widodo’s popularity surges
October 19 2016 11:24 PM 
By Ahmad Pathoni/DPA/Jakarta

When Indonesian President Joko Widodo came to power two years ago after a closely fought election, he faced an opposition majority in the legislature bent on obstructing him. Today the tables have turned.
Joko’s coalition now holds some 67% of the parliamentary seats after two key coalition parties switched allegiance in a move attributed to his astute political manoeuvring.
“Jokowi has been very successful in consolidating his power,” said Emrus Sihombing, a political analyst at Pelita Harapan University.
“Now there’s hardly opposition to his policies,” he said.
Joko, a former furniture businessman, won the presidential election in 2014 promising to boost economic growth and eradicate corruption.
“We’re seeing progress in the infrastructure sector, with the construction of new power plants, roads and railway lines, and people appreciate that,” said Ari Kuncoro, an economics professor at the University of Indonesia.
“With the favourable political climate, Jokowi can implement his economic plans without hindrance,” he said.
Public satisfaction with Joko’s performance has also increased, according to a recent poll.
A survey released in September by the Jakarta-based private think tank Centre for Strategic and International Studies found that Widodo’s popularity rose nearly 16%, to 66%, from last year.
Joko enjoys high approval ratings for his perceived success in improving food security, strengthening the domestic industry and developing the country as a maritime power – among his key campaign promises, according to the poll.
He has also won plaudits for making healthcare and education more accessible for the poor.
The president has jetted across the far-flung archipelago to inaugurate and inspect various infrastructure projects, as part of his signature hands-on leadership style.
“God willing, Papua and West Papua (provinces) won’t be dark anymore by 2019,” Joko said after inaugurating six power plants in Papua on Monday.
Joko has courted China to help build the country’s infrastructure, whose dilapidated state is seen as an impediment to strong growth.
China is building a 140km high-speed railway connecting the capital Jakarta and Bandung in West Java, while direct foreign investment from China has also increased.
The Indonesia economy grew 5.2% year-over-year in the second quarter.
“Indonesia needs to achieve economic growth of more than 6% if it wants to create more jobs,” Ari said.
Joko is not without his critics. His appointment of a former military chief with a dubious human rights record has raised doubts about his commitment to solve cases of past rights abuses, including army excesses in the rebellious Papua region.
“In terms of human rights, I give him zero,” said Haris Azhar, the head of the local human rights group Kontras. “Not a single past rights abuse case has been solved,” he said.
Joko’s tacit alliance with the military has raised concerns about the return of military control over civilian life.
Under Joko, the military has been given non-combat roles including increased security functions, helping police in combating terrorism and drug trafficking, as well as serving as advisers in the government’s food self-sufficiency programme.
“Indeed, constrained within a tangle of oligarchic politics, Jokowi has to do what needs to be done to advance his political goals,” wrote Emirza Adi Syailendra, an analyst with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
“The puzzling question is, however, whether these political transactions will, in the long run, be worth it for Indonesia’s democratic progress,” he added.

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