Sunday, October 19, 1997

Asian companies threatened with court action over fires

October 19, 1997

Andreas Harsono

JAKARTA-- Journalist Fikri Jufri of the Jakarta-based Matra magazine has some good advice for any Indonesian who wants to travel to either Singapore or Malaysia. Don't say that you're an Indonesian! They hate Indonesians nowadays," laughed the editor in a recent conversation.

Jufri has his reasons for giving such advice. Over 1,000 forest fires on the Indonesian major islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan have created a thick haze over Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and even some southern parts of Thailand and the Philippines since July.

Environmentalists say it is one of the most widespread human-made disasters that the region has ever known. More than 30 million Indonesians are affected, especially those living on the two islands where the fires had burned more than 600,000 hectares of bushes and forests (an area slightly larger than Saskatchewan).

Flights have been canceled and schools closed around the region. The busy shipping lanes of the Strait of Malacca have been disrupted by low visibility. Millions of people are coughing and wheezing.

Tonnes of cargo are stored in warehouses. Some international courier services, which intended to charter private planes to deliver packages, can do nothing but wait as pilots and air traffic controllers refuse to allow flights to take off.

“They hate Indonesians. They blame the government here for the fires," said Jufri who travels regularly to Singapore to visit his teenage daughter.

For the most part, the fires are intentionally set. Hundreds of Indonesian and Malaysian companies—mostly large agricultural concerns, and some with high-placed government or military connections--are using fire as a cheap and illegal means of land-clearing. They used the slash-and-burn method in the expectation that the monsoon rains would begin not later than August.

They miscalculated and the fires spread faster than what Indonesian fire fighters could combat. Malaysia sent more than 1,200 fire fighters and airplanes equipped with rain-bombs to help douse the blaze, but their efforts made only minimal difference.

For much of August and September, the Pollution Standard Index--a standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency that measures carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, dust, ash, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide-rose between 200 and 800 in cities like Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Kuching in the Malaysian state of Sarawak.

Normally the Index stays below 100. In Sarawak, the worst hit area, the index climbed to a high of 830 for some days in September--far above the "hazardous" level of 500 at which people are advised to stay inside with doors and windows closed.

In mid-September, Indonesian President Suharto publicly apologized to Indonesia's neighbours in a speech he delivered in front of environmental ministers from Southeast Asia who had gathered in Jakarta to discuss the fires. “We are fully aware that these bush and forest fires have disrupted communications and created an impact on all of us," said Suharto.

Newspapers in the region reported that the apology came after Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad wrote to Suharto expressing deep concern over the smoke haze. The letter was presented personally to Suharto by Malaysian Science, Technology and Environment Minister Law Hieng Deng who was attending the meeting in Jakarta.

Critics say the Indonesian government did too little too late to overcome the problem. Environmentalist Emmy Hafild says the regional meeting failed to deliver plans to snuff out forest fires and stop the spread of smoke. The outspoken environmentalist calls for concerted action to prosecute people and corporations responsible for setting forest fires that blaze uncontrollably across Indonesia.

“We are planning a court action ourselves because we think these fires can be treated as arson. We're consulting our lawyers and gathering evidence for it now," she says, adding that about 80 per cent of the fires are thought to have been set by 176 plantation and forestry companies on the government environmental blacklist. Some of them are owned by Indonesian's wealthiest individuals, including its two top business tycoons, Liem Sioe Liong and Eka Tjipta Wijaya. Wijaya's PT Indah Kiat is in Riau, next door to Singapore across the Malacca Strait.

Some companies in the Salim Group, which is controlled by. Liem Sioe Liong, are also on the blacklist. Liem is a longtime associate of Indonesian President Suharto. They have been friends since the 1950s when the young lieutenant colonel Suharto was a military commander in Central Java and Liem had just started his business in the province.

Other major players with blacklist ties are timber baron Bob Hasan, whose PT Kiani Lestari operates in Kalimantan, and Prayogo Pangestu of the widely diversified Barito Pacific Group. (Pangestu's PT Musi Hutan Persada is in southern Sumatra.)

Hasan plays golf two or three times a week with the Indonesian president, who has been in power since 1965, prompting claims that Hasan meets Suharto more often than government ministers. Hasan is also a close business adviser to the president and runs the day-today affairs of the Nusamba Group, owned by private foundations controlled by Suharto.

Prayogo is a younger tycoon who has close ties to the eldest daughter of Suharto, Siti Hardlyanti Rukmana. Prayogo and Rukmana have shared interests in some businesses. Ironically, the blacklist also includes the names of some state-owned plantation companies operating in Kalimantan such as PTP XVIII, PTP Pelaihari, PTP Pamukan, and FTP Muara Badak. Companies owned by an army foundation also appear on the list.

According to Fikri Jufri, the Malaysians and the Singaporeans hate Indonesian people because the people here do not fight enough to oppose a government with such bad practices. “My advice is just don't say that you're an Indonesian. It's a shame to be an Indonesian," the journalist laughed again.

Copyright 1997 Micromedia Limited
Canadian Business and Current Affairs
Copyright 1997 New Catholic Times Inc.
Catholic New Times

Wednesday, October 01, 1997

Love at first sight, Slorc meets Abri

Inside Indonesia no. 52 October-December 1997

ANDREAS HARSONO visits Burma and is intrigued by the respect its military show for the Indonesian model.

The mouthpiece of the Burmese military regime, the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, in mid-1996 dubbed the relationship between Indonesia and Burma 'two nations with common identity'.

Official visits between the two governments have increased sharply since 1993. They marked not only the progress in Burma-Indonesia diplomatic ties but also the growing eagerness of the Burmese junta to copy the political system of its more established neighbour.

'No other country is closer to the regime than Indonesia,' said a senior Asian diplomat in Rangoon, adding that Indonesia is like 'a big brother' in the eyes of the Burmese generals.

The newspaper repeatedly praised the positive economic and political development in Indonesia, where the Indonesian military has the dual function of protecting the security of the state while dominating party politics as well.

High profile visits
Foreign Minister Ali Alatas and Defence Minister Edi Sudrajat visited Rangoon in February 1994 and November 1995 respectively. In August 1994 businessman Hutomo Mandala Putra of the Humpuss business group, the youngest son of President Suharto, also led a high-profile business delegation to Rangoon.

The Indonesian patriarch himself visited Burma in February 1997 in a high-profile tour during which Suharto again reiterated the fundamental creed of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean): 'We should not interfere in the affairs of our neighbours.'

His eldest daughter, Siti Hardiyanti Rukmana, who is also an influential political figure in Indonesia, accompanied her father to sign some business deals in Rangoon. Suharto even went to have a chat with Burmese behind-the-scene strongman Gen Ne Win, whom he once visited in 1974.

In return, earlier Slorc leader Senior Gen Than Shwe met Suharto in Jakarta in June 1995, while his aide, Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt, who heads the intelligence service, traveled more frequently to Jakarta.

The Burmese embassy in Jakarta is the largest among Burmese embassies in Southeast Asia, demonstrating that Jakarta is a crucial relationship for the Slorc. The Burmese ambassador to Jakarta, U Nyi Nyi Tant, a close associate of Khin Nyunt, is portrayed as the spearhead of his nation's lobbying efforts in Jakarta, which also hosts the secretariat, or headquarters, of Asean.

Why does Burma do it? Why does the Slorc want to copy the Indonesian New Order?

The easiest explanation is that both countries are ruled by military men. Southeast Asia, to which Burma belongs, has several authoritarian governments but only one military ruler to duplicate: Indonesia.

Despite homework still to solve a serious socio-economic gap, and despite the potential for a major religious conflict and political unrest, Indonesia is widely seen as one of Asia's success stories.

Burma, on the contrary, is a pariah, one of the most brutal regimes in the world. It is currently under stiff international criticism and sanctions after its refusal to transfer power to opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy, who won the general election in 1990.

The Slorc is trying to show the international community that it is also a responsible government which is going to bring order and prosperity in Burma. But, the junta argues, first they need to silence the opposition to create political stability in Burma - just as the Indonesians did in the 1970s.

Indonesian ambassador to Burma, A Poerwanto Lenggono, said in November 1996 that the Burmese government would like to imitate the New Order of President Suharto's government in three key areas: the Indonesian state ideology, Pancasila, the 1945 constitution and the dual function of the military.

Dual function
'We didn't ask them. They imported the whole lesson, saying that they would like to learn from us. They are welcome, but we told them that each country has its own characteristics. Our experience could be adopted here [only] in accordance with the local values,' said Lenggono.

Burmese veteran journalist M C Tun confirmed that the Slorc had published the Indonesian constitution in Burmese. 'They asked people to learn from it while drafting the Burmese constitution,' he said.

Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt once indicated that as soon as the new constitution was drawn up, the Burmese armed forces, tatmadaw, which is currently ruling by decree, would hand over power to a civilian government.

One of his close associates, Brig-Gen David O Abel, said that the Slorc learns not only from Indonesia but also the 'miracle' of South Korea and other Newly Industrialised Countries. 'We can learn many good things on these studies especially Indonesia. We fought against the colonialists also to establish Myanmar. With that objective and inspiration we look at Indonesia as a model. How Indonesia gets the people united over 200 million.'

Despite skepticism over whether the Slorc intends to hand over power to the National League for Democracy of Suu Kyi, it is believed in Burma that the Indonesian constitution provides room for the military to be involved in politics.

Suu Kyi and Megawati
Of course Suu Kyi has a 'counterpart' in Indonesia. Both Suu Kyi and Indonesian opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri are leading pro-democracy activists in the region. And both are the daughters of charismatic fathers - President Sukarno and General Aung San - who helped free Indonesia and Burma respectively from their colonial masters after World War II.

Both daughters have emerged from the shadows of their fathers to lead opposition to two of the strongest military rulers in Southeast Asia: Megawati against President Suharto's 'New Order' in Indonesia, and Suu Kyi against the State Law and Order Restoration Council (Slorc) in Burma.

'Perhaps the similarity is that we are trying to contribute something for the future of our nations,' said Megawati, admitting that most people recognise a woman like her because of their fathers and their womanhood.

She said that both she and Suu Kyi have not only their fathers' name but also their own political struggles, stamina and determination. 'Who is Megawati without the name of Sukarno? I cannot deny that, but it is not only a matter of the surname. It depends on our personal abilities and opportunities as well,' said Megawati.

Their opponents, however, often fail to realise that these women have their own political strength. In a bid to downgrade their political influence, their military opponents pressured their media to use the names of Mrs Megawati Taufik-kiemas and Mrs Michael Aris, after their respective husbands Indonesian businessman, Taufik Kiemas and British scholar Dr Michael Aris, rather than their maiden names, which connect them to their fathers in the public's mind.

Suu Kyi herself said that one of the most visible differences between the Slorc and the New Order is the employment of western-educated technocrats such as economists and social engineers. 'The Slorc does not trust intellectuals,' the winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace prize said. 'Intellectuals who are trying to say something rational could be easily accused of planning a plot against them. They could end up in jail.'

President Suharto has worked closely with Indonesian technocrats since he rose to power in 1965. He led the military's work on political issues while the economists drafted all monetary and economic policy.

Most of those, like Prof Widjojo Nitisastro, who headed the economic team, were alumni of University of Berkeley of the United States.

Critics later called them 'Berkeley Mafia' because of their shrouded but effective influence over the national development policy. The Slorc, however, has nobody like Prof Nitisastro on their team. Asian diplomats to Rangoon call most of the Slorc generals 'ignorant,' although Khin Nyunt and Minister for National Planning and Economic Development Brig-Gen David Abel have both won kudos because of their workaholic personalities.

'Abel is the smartest guy within the Slorc. Khin Nyunt is not really smart, but he is a workaholic. He knows a lot because he heads the intelligence service,' said a diplomat.

An observer in Jakarta said it is impossible for the Slorc to follow the Indonesian path if they do not use technocrats. 'As long as we are talking about free markets and capitalism, which I believe is being implemented by the Slorc now, we have to use the technocrats.'

Bandung 1955
Megawati cautiously said that the Slorc brought Burma far from the spirit of the Asia-Africa Declaration signed in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955 by world leaders from Asia and Africa.

'Democracy is partly the idea of independence. It is true now that Burma has no democracy and that we should help Burmese people to fight for democracy.'

'It doesn't mean that I want to interfere in Burma's internal affairs, but the common platform is the Asia-Africa Declaration. We have to remind the Slorc about the spirit of the declaration.'

'If we compare Burma and South Africa in 1955, we realise that now Burma is left far behind, while South Africa under President Nelson Mandela has already solved its most crucial problem and prepared to face globalisation.'

Others said that the Slorc's attempt was merely a tactic to seek help from Indonesia to sponsor Burmese membership in Asean, which was opposed by several member nations.

The Slorc was believed to be 'more than eager' to join Asean in a bid to get a measure of regional support while it faced international condemnation from Western countries like the United States, and European countries that have sometimes imposed official bans to discourage investment in Burma.

Asean members - which include Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam - were divided on the timing of the Burmese membership.

Indonesia and Malaysia agreed on letting Burma join Asean in 1998, while the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore had reservations. But they finally agreed in an informal meeting in November 1996 in Jakarta to welcome Burma as well as Cambodia and Laos in 1998.

When Asean countries officially accepted Burma to join their ranks in an Asean summit in Kuala Lumpur in July 1997, many felt it would send a dangerous signal to Rangoon that it could continue to ignore demands for the transfer of power to civilians and to abuse human rights. Indonesia, at that point, would share the responsibility and blame.

Andreas Harsono is a freelance journalist in Jakarta.

Makna Kehadiran Ne Win di Jakarta

JAKARTA (SiaR, 1/10/97) -- Orang kuat Burma Ne Win, yang hidup dalam kerahasiaan dan tidak pernah muncul sejak tahun 1989, tiba-tiba berkunjung ke Jakarta, makan malam dengan Presiden Soeharto dan ziarah ke makam keluarga Suharto di Surakarta (23-25/9).

Menurut keterangan Sekretariat Negara, kedatangan Ne Win adalah atas undangan pribadi Soeharto. Bukan sebagai tamu negara. Undangan secara lisan disampaikan kepada Ne Win ketika Soeharto berkunjung ke Rangoon bulan Febuari 1997. Belakangan undangan tertulis juga dikirimkan lewat Dutabesar Indonesia untuk Burma Poerwanto Lenggono.

Ne Win datang ke Jakarta dengan menumpang sebuah pesawat jet yang dikirim dari Jakarta. Dalam rombongan sebanyak 12 orang itu juga termasuk anak perempuan Ne Win, Daw Khin Win, menantu U Aye Zaw Win, cucu laki-laki Maung Kyaw Ne Win, dokter pribadi dan para pengawal.

Selama tiga hari di Jakarta, Ne Win menginap di Hotel Borobudur Intercontinental, Lapangan Banteng, Ne Win yang didampingi oleh keluarganya serta Dutabesar Burma untuk Indonesia U Nyi Nyi Tant sempat memenuhi undangan makan malam di Istana Merdeka.

Soeharto sendiri hanya ditemani oleh ketiga orang puterinya --Mbak Tutut, Mbak Titiek, Mbak Mamiek-- serta menantu, Mayor Jendral Prabowo Subianto dan Menteri Luar Negeri ad interim Edi Sudrajat.

Namun tak seperti kebanyakan tamu-tamu asing, Ne Win menyempatkan diri terbang ke Solo dan berkunjung ke makam Ibu Tien Suharto. Konon dalam ziarah ke makam di pinggir kota Solo ini kaki Ne Win keseleo sehingga acara berikutnya di Taman Mini Indonesia Indah terpaksa dibatalkan.

Kehadiran Ne Win ini ternyata menggemparkan Burma. Beberapa pengamat Burma terus-terang mengatakan dalam internet bahwa ini benar-benar kejutan. Mereka kebanyakan juga tidak bisa menerangkan ada apa di balik kejadian yang langka ini walau pun ada yang menyamakan kemunculan Ne Win dengan mantan orang kuat Khmer Merah Pol Pot yang pertengahan tahun lalu muncul di Kamboja bagian utara.

Aung Zaw, seorang wartawan Burma yang tinggal di Chiang Mai, Thailand, mengatakan bahwa orang-orang Burma yang melarikan diri dari negaranya bahkan sangat terkejut ketika suratkabar-suratkabar Thailand mencetak gambar Ne Win berpakaian batik sedang bersalaman hangat dengan Soeharto.

"Dia masih segar bugar. Padahal the old man" pernah diisukan sakit-sakitan dan mau mati," kata Aung Zaw. Radio Free Asia yang berpusat di Washington dan dipancarkan ke Burma juga bertanya-tanya ada apa di balik kunjungan misterius tersebut. Mengapa Ne Win memilih keluar dari misteri dan datang ke Jakarta?

"The old man" adalah sebutan yang lazim diberikan kalangan elit Burma kepada Ne Win, salah satu pejuang kemerdekaan Burma pasca Perang Dunia II, yang lantas mengkudeta pemerintahan sipil hasil pemilihan umum Perdana Menteri U Nu 1952 dan mendirikan rejim militer.

Rejim inilah yang kemudian membunuh ribuan mahasiswa Burma secara brutal tahun 1988. Sadar dirinya tidak populer, Ne Win lantas mengundurkan diri dan digantikan oleh jendral-jendral yang lebih muda dan menamakan diri SLORC (State Law and Orderliness Restoration Council) bulan September 1988.

Ada dua analisa yang saling bertentangan mengenai kunjungan Ne Win. Spekulasi pertama, ini hanya kunjungan persahabatan antara dua senior yang sudah saling mengenal sejak tahun 1970-an. Ne Win sudah dianggap tidak berkuasa lagi namun Soeharto masih menghargainya dan mengundang Ne Win "jalan-jalan" ke Jakarta. Analisis ini mengandaikan bahwa kunjungan ini sama sekali tidak politis. Ne Win hanya dianggap figur senior yang sudah tidak berperan dalam pengambilan keputusan SLORC.

Analisis kedua mengatakan justru Soeharto yang dengan jeli melihat bahwa cara yang masih berdayaguna untuk mempengaruhi rejim militer Burma adalah lewat Ne Win, bukannya ketua SLORC Jendral Tan Shwe atau Sekretaris Pertama Jendral Khin Nyunt.

Burma memang dianggap sebagai "bermasalah" oleh kebanyakan negara ASEAN, termasuk Indonesia, yang menerimanya sebagai anggota penuh bulan Juli 1997. Walau pun "bermasalah" --terutama karena SLORC tidak mau mengakui hasil Pemilu 
1990, yang dimenangkan tokoh oposisi Aung San Suu Kyi-- namun negara-negara ASEAN merasa SLORC adalah rekan yang bisa dihandalkan dalam menghadapi Barat, bekerja sama dalam bisnis dan setidaknya bisa dibuat "lebih beradab."

Soeharto boleh jadi mendekati Ne Win agar orang tua ini bisa mempengaruhi jendral-jendral SLORC untuk bersikap lebih diplomatis bila berhadapan dengan negara-negara Barat dalam soal Suu Kyi yang memenangkan Hadiah Nobel Perdamaian 1991.

Analisa kedua ini mengandaikan bahwa Ne Win datang ke Indonesia karena Indonesia adalah "saudara tua" Burma. Indonesia adalah negara yang didominasi oleh pemerintahan militer namun tidak menerapkan hukum dan peraturan militer yang kaku. Bahkan oleh banyak negara, pemerintahan Presiden Soeharto dianggap berhasil membangun ekonomi Indonesia sejak tahun 1965.

Burma pada sisi lain adalah contoh sebuah rezim militer yang diasingkan oleh masyarakat internasional. Amerika Serikat memberikan sanksi ekonomi. Negara-negara Eropa melarang diplomat Burma berkunjung ke daratan Eropa. Sementara prestasi ekonominya juga amburadul. Ne Win membawa ekonomi bekas koloni Inggris dan gudang beras Asia ini kepada kebangkrutan.

Wajar apabila SLORC hendak meniru ABRI. Dalam beberapa kunjungan resmi sebelumnya, Khin Nyunt dengan terbuka mengatakan ingin belajar soal Dwifungsi ABRI, UUD 1945 maupun GBHN Indonesia. Ia ingin mendapatkan "resep Indonesia." Ne Win datang ke Jakarta terutama untuk memperkuat hubungan ABRI-SLORC sekaligus melihat langsung keberhasilan pembangunan di Indonesia. Dalam hal ini, asumsi analisis ke dua bahwa Ne Win masih mempunyai gigi, tampaknya lebih 
mendekati kebenaran.

"Presiden Soeharto setidaknya mencium hal ini," ujar seorang pengamat. Namun ada laporan lain yang menyebutkan bahwa kehadiran Ne Win ini juga dimanfaatkan oleh puteri-puteri Soeharto untuk bicara bisnis. Daw Khin Win selain merupakan dokter ayahnya, juga seorang pengusaha perhotelan. Ia memiliki dua buah hotel di Rangoon.

Beberapa pengamat mengatakan bahwa investasi keluarga Suharto di Burma sudah bukan ukuran kelas ringan. Mereka bergerak di bidang industri semen, kayu, perdagangan dan sebagainya. Adik kandung Prabowo, Hasyim Djojohadikusumo, 
berkehendak mendirikan pabrik semen di luar kota Rangoon.

Di pihak lain, Mbak Tutut dan Mbak Titiek juga sedang dalam persiapan menanamkan investasi mereka di negeri longji tersebut. Tutut saat menemani Soeharto berkunjung ke Burma juga menandatangani MOU untuk investasi. Siapa tahu lewat jamuan makan malam itu mereka bisa memperoleh partner bisnis yang tepat.

Yang punya kepentingan juga bukan hanya mereka. Prabowo dan Edi Sudrajat boleh jadi juga ingin mengenal Ne Win lebih jauh. Kedua orang ini termasuk mereka yang kurang senang apabila ABRI disamakan dengan SLORC. Menurut seorang pengamat militer, Prabowo pernah dalam satu kesempatan menyatakan kepadanya tentang ketersinggungannya apabila ABRI disamakan dengan SLORC.

"Pandangan ini bukan hanya pandangan Pak Prabowo. Saya tahu kebanyakan perwira menengah kita tidak suka direndahkan derajatnya dan disamakan dengan militer Burma," ujar sang pengamat pada SiaR.

Prabowo, yang sebenarnya agak jarang menemani mertuanya, mungkin melihat jamuan makan malam ini sebagai sesuatu yang penting. Ia ingin melihat dari dekat "the old man" yang dengan darah dingin sudah membunuh beratus ribu rakyat 
Burma. Mudah-mudahan bukan Prabowo yang nantinya belajar pada Ne Win.