1) Meet Tommy Suharto, son of a dictator turned democrat
By James Massola & Karuni Rompies 24 July 2018 — 10:01am
Bogor: He has beaten corruption charges, spent time in jail for ordering the assassination of a Supreme Court judge, made a fortune that once ran to $US800 million ($1 billion) off the back of government concessions and grown up in the shadow of a nearly-all powerful father who ruled and shaped Indonesia for 31 years.
And now Hutomo Mandala Putra, much better known as Tommy Suharto, wants Indonesians to vote for him.
The youngest son of Indonesia's longest-serving president, recently confirmed as a parliamentary candidate in Papua province for the April 2019 elections, has a new(ish) party machine, Berkarya, and has his sights set on winning 80 seats in the 575 member national parliament (they plan to stand a candidate in every seat).
Suharto told Fairfax Media on Monday that he had broken with Golkar, the party of his father and still a formidable machine in Indonesia's electoral politics, because "first of all, Golkar has moved away from its initial mission because they no longer put people's interest as priority".
"Instead, they fight more for the interest of the party elite and for power. In the end pragmatism is high so party ideology and character are no longer there," he said.
"Indonesia must become a strong agrarian country supported by strong industry. It means we should not only work to be self-sufficient, rather Indonesia, with such huge land, should become a world food barn [an exporter of food].”
Like so many other candidates, Suharto's message is tightly-targeted one for the orang kecil, the so-called little people of this sprawling nation.
Both Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and the man considered most likely to challenge him again, the failed 2014 presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, stress the need for food security, too - a popular aspiration in Indonesia, where memories of the 2011 live cattle export ban imposed by Australia still linger.
But Suharto's dose of nationalism is measured with a dash of reassurance for an international audience wondering whether Australia's near neighbour might be about to turn further inward.
"I think Indonesia and Australia can co-operate because Indonesia has a huge need for meat, however we should have actual self-sufficiency in meat, especially beef, because we have a very big land. But cattle farming in Indonesia is not as good as in Australia," he said.
"So we should work together so that Indonesia can learn about the technology from Australia on how to run cattle farming."
Suharto's party has targeted 80 seats - one for each of the 80 electoral districts in the country - which amounts to about 13.9 per cent of the national vote, but "as a new party, it's quite challenging", he conceded.
In fact, according the Australian National University's Indonesia expert Associate Professor Marcus Mietzner, Suharto's new party could struggle to claim any seats in Parliament at all.
That's because to claim seats a party must also reach a threshold of four per cent of the national vote.
Mietzner said that was unlikely to happen because "he doesn’t connect with the electorate, he doesn’t connect with political elites and the electoral threshold is quite high this time".
Other "equally unappealling" potential candidates own TV stations or newspapers, Mietzner said.
"[Suharto] lacks all of that. He would have to do really well to win 40 seats, about half of what he wants."
Four per cent of perhaps 200 million registered voters is a tall order for any political party, Mietzner said, particularly one running candidates for Parliament for the first time, and in an environment where there is "no particular [president] Suharto nostalgia at the moment".
Under Indonesia's election laws, Suharto is not banned from running for Parliament because his corruption conviction was overturned.
And the prohibition on people convicted of crimes that carry a jail term of more than five years (he received 15 years but served about four for his role in ordering the murder of judge Syarifuddin Kartasasmita) also contains a get-out clause that lets people stand for Parliament if they are up front about their track record, according to the Jakarta Post.
Suharto has been famously litigious when the details of his past have been raised in the media.
He successfully sued national flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia, in 2011 after a translator for the English-language version of the airline's magazine added a footnote to an article about one of his resorts that noted his previous conviction.
Given his legal problems in the past, does this son of an autocrat-turned-democratic candidate support freedom of the press?
"Very much, that's why you are here, you are free to talk to me," he said with a laugh.
James Massola Facebook Twitter Google+ James Massola is south-east Asia correspondent, based in Jakarta. He was previously chief political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based in Canberra. He has been a Walkley and Quills finalist on three occasions.
2) Indonesia passes anti-terrorism law after suicide attacks on churches
Nithin Coca July 24, 2018
5 Min Read
JAKARTA, Indonesia (RNS) — Weeks after a radicalized Muslim family committed suicide attacks on churches in the city of Surabaya, Indonesia, the country passed an anti-terror law meant to prevent more attacks and foster the majority-Muslim country’s tolerant culture.
The May 13 attack, which killed 13 churchgoers and a security officer and took place days before the start of Ramadan, was the deadliest terrorist attack in Indonesia since a 2002 bombing in Bali. Then, the target was foreign tourists. This time it was Indonesian Christians, a minority who make up about 10 percent of the population, according to the 2010 census. Many feared that the attacks were a sign that the country’s religious diversity is under threat.
“Indonesia prides itself on its tradition of moderation, but intolerance is growing in a way that is making some fear for their hard-won democracy,” said Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, based in Jakarta.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo — a moderate Muslim who campaigned for the presidency with an image of a clean, populist politician — responded swiftly to the attacks, vowing a tough crackdown on terrorists. Key to that was his strong call for the passing of an anti-terror law.
“President Widodo promoted the importance of a stronger state capacity to respond to radicalism,” said Rafiqa Qurrata A’yun, a lecturer in the department of criminal law at the University of Indonesia. “One of his statement(s) in the media indicated the attacks were a result of the weak coercive power and preventive measures in countering terrorism.”
The anti-terror law expands the power of Indonesia’s military and police to take further actions against potential terrorists and those spreading radical ideology. Under the law, the Indonesian National Police can conduct pre-emptive arrests and detain people for being members of a group declared a terrorist organization. The law makes it an official offense to join a militant group overseas, such as the so-called Islamic State. It also expands the role of the Indonesian armed forces into domestic security.
In the weeks following Surabaya, government forces used their expanded power under the new bill to arrest dozens of suspected terrorists across the country. On June 22, Aman Abdurrahman, an Indonesian recruiter for the Islamic State, was sentenced to death for his role in inspiring the Surabaya bombers. The country last conducted a terror-related execution a decade ago. Days later, the police said they foiled two planned terrorist attacks, killing three suspects.So far, Jokowi’s crackdown seems to be working politically. In regional elections on June 26, after both the attacks and the passing of the bill, Jokowi’s coalition defeated Islamist candidates in four of the country’s five most populous provinces, putting him in a strong position ahead of presidential elections in April 2019. Jokowi enjoys strong support from many of Indonesia’s religious minorities, some of whom told Religion News Service that things are back to normal and that they feel safe attending church.
Jokowi has worked tirelessly to brandish his Islamic credentials while also tackling the rise of right-wing Islamism, which he has called anti-Indonesian. Last July, he issued a government regulation that expands the power of the Ministry of Law and Human Rights to disband groups that have ideologies deemed threats to national security and unity. The regulation was used to disband Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, an organization with ties to the Islamic State.
The anti-terror bill was introduced in Parliament more than two years ago, after an attack in a Jakarta shopping area, but it stalled for various reasons, including concerns by human rights watchers that the bill could be used to suppress peaceful activists. Some human rights groups do not support the new law.
“It is obviously an overreaction to the Surabaya attacks,” said Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch. “The quick deliberation … allowed a definition of terrorism that could be used to target peaceful political activities of indigenous groups, environmental advocates and religious or political organizations.”
The concerns are ones Indonesia knows only too well. It was just 20 years ago that the country became a democracy, after the strongman rule of Suharto, a general who was in power for more than three decades. Empowering the military and having a loose definition of terror could put too much power in the hands of those who perpetuated atrocities in the not-so-distant past, said Harsono.
“Indonesia has many areas with deep roots of violence and impunity,” said Harsono. “We still have not sought the truth of the 1965-66 massacres (nor what happened in) Aceh, Papua and East Timor.”
Others believe that the new law mostly addresses the concerns of human rights groups, but worry about its focus on security.
“The passed law seems to be more receptive to human rights principles compared to the first draft bill,” said Abdil Mughis Mudhoffir, a Ph.D. candidate in politics at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute. “Unfortunately, this new law still promotes the security approach that will not be effective and even counterproductive in addressing religious radicalism.”
For Jones, the key to reducing terrorist attacks in Indonesia and stemming rising intolerance will be the efficacy of deradicalization efforts, which need to be reformed due to the fact that women and children participated in the most recent attacks — something unprecedented in Indonesian history.“The Surabaya bombings may be a one-off horror, and we may not see family suicide bombers again anytime soon,” said Jones. “But they could also be a useful wake-up call to seriously evaluate existing programs to make them more effective by involving whole families.”