Friday, October 30, 2015

1) Indonesia is burning. So why is the world looking away?


1) Indonesia is burning. So why is the world looking away?
George Monbiot
Friday 30 October 2015 18.00 AEDT

 A great tract of Earth is on fire and threatened species are being driven out of their habitats. This is a crime against humanity and nature

I’ve often wondered how the media would respond when eco-apocalypsestruck. I pictured the news programmes producing brief, sensational reports, while failing to explain why it was happening or how it might be stopped. Then they would ask their financial correspondents how the disaster affected share prices, before turning to the sport. As you can probably tell, I don’t have an ocean of faith in the industry for which I work. What I did not expect was that they would ignore it. A great tract of Earth is on fire. It looks as you might imagine hell to be. The air has turned ochre: visibility in some cities has been reduced to 30 metres. Children are being prepared for evacuation in warships; already some have choked to death. Species are going up in smoke at an untold rate. It is almost certainly the greatest environmental disaster of the 21st century – so far.
And the media? It’s talking about the dress the Duchess of Cambridge wore to the James Bond premiere, Donald Trump’s idiocy du jour and who got eliminated from the Halloween episode of Dancing with the Stars. The great debate of the week, dominating the news across much of the world? Sausages: are they really so bad for your health?
What I’m discussing is a barbecue on a different scale. Fire is raging across the 5,000km length of Indonesia. It is surely, on any objective assessment, more important than anything else taking place today. And it shouldn’t require a columnist, writing in the middle of a newspaper, to say so. It should be on everyone’s front page. It is hard to convey the scale of this inferno, but here’s a comparison that might help: it is currently producing more carbon dioxide than the US economy. And in three weeks the fires have released more CO2 than the annual emissions of Germany.
But that doesn’t really capture it. This catastrophe cannot be measured only in parts per million. The fires are destroying treasures as precious and irreplaceable as the archaeological remains being levelled by Isis. Orangutans, clouded leopards, sun bears, gibbons, the Sumatran rhinoceros and Sumatran tiger, these are among the threatened species being driven from much of their range by the flames. But there are thousands, perhaps millions, more.
One of the burning provinces is West Papua, a nation that has been illegally occupied by Indonesia since 1963. I spent six months there when I was 24, investigating some of the factors that have led to this disaster. At the time it was a wonderland, rich with endemic species in every swamp and valley. Who knows how many of those have vanished in the past few weeks? This week I have pored and wept over photos of places I loved that have now been reduced to ash.
Nor do the greenhouse gas emissions capture the impact on the people of these lands. After the last great conflagration, in 1997, there was a missing cohort in Indonesia of 15,000 children under the age of three, attributed to air pollution. This, it seems, is worse. The surgical masks being distributed across the nation will do almost nothing to protect those living in a sunless smog. Members of parliament in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo) have had to wear face masksduring debates. The chamber is so foggy that they must have difficulty recognising one another.
It’s not just the trees that are burning. It is the land itself. Much of the forest sits on great domes of peat. When the fires penetrate the earth, they smoulder for weeks, sometimes months, releasing clouds of methane, carbon monoxide, ozone and exotic gases such as ammonium cyanide. The plumes extend for hundreds of miles, causing diplomatic conflicts with neighbouring countries.
Why is this happening? Indonesia’s forests have been fragmented for decades by timber and farming companies. Canals have been cut through the peat to drain and dry it. Plantation companies move in to destroy what remains of the forest to plant monocultures of pulpwood, timber and palm oil. The easiest way to clear the land is to torch it. Every year, this causes disasters. But in an extreme El Niño year like this one, we have a perfect formula for environmental catastrophe.
The president, Joko Widodo, is – or wants to be – a democrat. But he presides over a nation in which fascism and corruption flourish. As Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary The Act of Killing shows, leaders of the death squads that helped murder a million people during Suharto’s terror in the 1960s, with the approval of the west, have since prospered through other forms of organised crime, including illegal deforestation.
They are supported by a paramilitary organisation with three million members, called Pancasila Youth. With its orange camo-print uniforms, scarlet berets, sentimental gatherings and schmaltzy music, it looks like a fascist militia as imagined by JG Ballard. There has been no truth, no reconciliation; the mass killers are still treated as heroes and feted on television. In some places, especially West Papua, the political murders continue.
Those who commit crimes against humanity don’t hesitate to commit crimes against nature. Though Joko Widodo seems to want to stop the burning, his reach is limited. His government’s policies are contradictory: among them are new subsidies for palm oil production that make further burning almost inevitable. Some plantation companies, prompted by their customers, have promised to stop destroying the rainforest. Government officials have responded angrily, arguing that such restraint impedes the country’s development. That smoke blotting out the nation, which has already cost it some $30bn? That, apparently, is development.
Our leverage is weak, but there are some things we can do. Some companies using palm oil have made visible efforts to reform their supply chains; but others seem to move more slowly and opaquely. Starbucks, PepsiCo and Kraft Heinz are examples. Don’t buy their products until you see results.
On Monday, Widodo was in Washington, meeting Barack Obama. Obama, the official communiqué recorded, “welcomed President Widodo’s recent policy actions to combat and prevent forest fires”. The eco-apocalypse taking place as they conferred, which makes a mockery of these commitments, wasn’t mentioned.
Governments ignore issues when the media ignores them. And the media ignores them because … well, there’s a question with a thousand answers, many of which involve power. But one reason is the complete failure of perspective in a de-skilled industry dominated by corporate press releases, photo ops and fashion shoots, where everyone seems to be waiting for everyone else to take a lead. The media makes a collective non-decision to treat this catastrophe as a non-issue, and we all carry on as if it’s not happening.
At the climate summit in Paris in December the media, trapped within the intergovernmental bubble of abstract diplomacy and manufactured drama, will cover the negotiations almost without reference to what is happening elsewhere. The talks will be removed to a realm with which we have no moral contact. And, when the circus moves on, the silence will resume. Is there any other industry that serves its customers so badly?
A fully linked version of this article can be found at

Jayapura, Jubi – The freedom of the press in Papua province is a stepping stone so that the relationship between Jakarta and Papua can always be resolved based on facts.
“When the name was Irian Jaya, people were not allowed to use the term of Papua, even if it was written in media. It raised a problem; the freedom of the press in Papua was automatically to obey Jakarta. Papua was like a stepping stone,” said Abdul Munib in his paper “The Problems in Papua and Papuans: Issues Escape from Media Coverage”.
The Chairman of the Indonesian Press Council, Bagir Manan claimed about three months ago the council has issued an official statement to urge the freedom of the press for journalists in Papua. According to him, later in the meeting with the Commission I of the House of Representatives, legislators asked the considerations behind it.
“I said there are several considerations. At first, the independence of press is a choice. Since the era of reform, our country has emphasized the independence of press, it was proven by the Press Law No. 40/1999 that applied to the entire regions in this country,” Manan told reporters after the Seminar on The Freedom of the Press Protrait in Province Papua in Jayapura on Wednesday (28/10/2015).
Secondly, the Press Council believes that the Government, Military and Police have capability to handle the press if they were misconducted. “The third, covering or restricting the freedom of the press in Papua would reveal the hidden issues. And fourth, using technology to prevent the access of journalist is useless, because in technically they were not here, but they could get information about what was going on here,” he said.
He said, as a part of the freedom of the press, the openness is exactly to simplify the problem resolutions. Based on this fact, the council asked the freedom of the press in Papua, both for domestic and foreign journalists. “It’s the basis of our statement. It would not change,” he said. (Abeth You/rom)
Jayapura, Jubi – The Jayapura Immigration Office said it had found cases of visa misuse by foreign citizens during raids in four locations in Jayapura Municipality and Jayapura Regency last week.
The head of Jayapura Immigration Office, Gardu Tampubolon, who led the operation at Pondok Pesantren Serambi Madinah, Jayapura Selatan sub-district of Jayapura Municipality, said his men discovered 16 students from Papua New Guinea studying at the pesantren (Islamic boarding school) but had visitor visas.
“They should have applied for a student visa. While at the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), we discovered a foreign citizen who works as mechanic while on a visitor visa. But, the airline stated the culprit has not yet signed a contract. He must change his visa,” Tampubolon said on Wednesday (28/10/2015).
He explained the MAF is hiring 112 foreign nationals. In addition to MAF, the immigration officers also visited the Associated Mission Aviation (AMA) in Sentani, Jayapura Regency that employs approximately 25 foreigners who nine are the pilots.
“At PLTU Holtekamp, Muara Tami Sub-district of Jayapura Municipality, we met a Chinese national. But we didn’t find any violation conducted by MAF or PLTU Holtekamp,” he said.
Further Tampubolon remind the companies or those who employ the foreign citizens to provide legal documents for their employees. The Jayapura Immigration Office will not hesitate to take action against those who conduct violations.
“Foreign citizen who is proven on visa violation would be subjected to the Article 122 of the Immigration Law No. 6/2011. The penalty is Rp 500 million. The process will be done in the Court,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Head of Supervision and Enforcement Department of Jayapura Immigration, Rahmat Arya said the surveillance conducted by his department instead of subject the foreigners with accusing; it is to reduce the misuse of visa and refer to the instruction of the Directorate General of Immigration. (Arjuna Pademme/rom)

Jayapura, Jubi – The head of Papua Transportation Office, Yusuf Yambe Yabdi, said there has been no response form the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation about a permit for a flight linking Papua and Papua New Guinea.
“The Provincial Government has sent a letter to the Minister of Transportation but the decision has not been set,” Yambe Yabdi said in Jayapura on Wednesday (28/10/2015).
He furhter said, the Governor Lukas Enembe is looking forward to a Papua-PNG flight route because both countries have good cooperation, especially in the economic partnership. “The governor instructed the letter must directly deliver to the minister and subject to the Directorate General of Air Transportation,” he said.
When asked whether the airlines were settled, Yusuf said, it is the Directorate General of Air Transportation to decide where will they offer the airlines who are interested. “That’s the point. The approval would be followed after the airlines’ interest. However, any relevant administration arrangments have been prepared,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Head of Papua Border and Foreign Partneship, Suzanna Wanggai in the 12th Border Liason Meeting (BLM) involved the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Government of Papua New Guinea agreed to endorse the land, sea and air connectivity.
“So through this meeting both countries agreed to discuss about the connectivity to the northern and southern sectors. Hopefully this flight connectivity could be realized immediately,” said Wanggai. (Alexander Loen/rom)

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