Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Indonesia’s political system has ‘failed’ its minorities – like West Papuans

By David Robie
Asia Pacific Report

A human rights defender and researcher has warned in a new book published on the eve of the Indonesian national elections tomorrow that the centralised political system has failed many of the country’s 264 million people – especially minorities and those at the margins, such as in West Papua.

Author Andreas Harsono also says a “radical change is needed in the mindset of political leaders” and he is not optimistic for such changes after the election.

Harsono is author of Race, Islam and Power: Ethnic and Religious Violence in Post-Suharto Indonesia, a book based on 15 years of research and travel between Sabang in Aceh in the west and Merauke in West Papua in the East.

Founding President Sukarno used the slogan “from Sabang to Merauke” when launching a campaign – ultimately successful – to seize West Papua in 1961.

But, as Harsono points out, the expression should really be from Rondo Island (an unpopulated islet) to Sota (a remote border post on the Papua New Guinean boundary).

Harsono, a former journalist and Human Rights Watch researcher since 2008, argues that Indonesia might have been more successful by creating a federation rather than a highly centralised state controlled from Jakarta.

“Violence on post-Suharto Indonesia, from Aceh to West Papua, from Kalimantan to the Moluccas, is evidence that Java-centric nationalism is unable to distribute power fairly in an imagined Indonesia,” he says. “It has created unnecessary paranoia and racism among Indonesian migrants in West Papua.

‘They’re Melanesians’

“The Papuans simply reacted by saying they’re Melanesians – not Indonesians. They keep questioning the manipulation of the United Nations-sponsored Act of Free Choice in 1969.”

Critics and cynics have long dismissed what they see as a deeply flawed process involving only 1025 voters selected by the Indonesian military as the “Act of No Choice”.

Harsono’s criticisms have been borne out by a range of Indonesian activist and watchdog groups, who say the generals behind the two presidential frontrunners are ridden with political interests.

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and the Mining Advocacy Network (JATAM) have again warned that both presidential candidate tickets — incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and running mate Ma’ruf Amin as well as rival Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Uno — have close ties with retired TNI (Indonesian military) generals.

These retired officers are beholden to political interests and the prospect of resolving past human rights violations will “become increasingly bleak” no matter who is elected as the next president.

Kontras noted that nine out of the 27 retired officers who are behind Widodo and Ma’ruf have a “problematic track record on human rights”.

“Likewise with Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Uno where there are eight retired officers who were allegedly involved in past cases of HAM violations”, said Kontras researcher Rivanlee Anandar.

Prabowo himself, a former special forces commander, is implicated in many human rights abuses. He has been accused of abduction and torture of 23 pro-democracy activists in the late 1990s and he is regarded as having knowledge of the killing hundreds of civilians in Santa Cruz massacre in Timor-Leste.

90,000 killed post-Suharto

Harsono’s 280-page book, with seven chapters devoted to regions of Indonesia, documents an ”internally complex and riven nation” with an estimated 90,000 people having been killed in the decade after Suharto’s departure.

“In East Timor, President Suharto’s successor B. J. Habibie agreed to have a referendum [on independence]. Indonesia lost and it generated a bloodbath,” says Harsono.

“Habibie’s predecessors, Megawati Sukanoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, refused to admit [that] the Indonesian military’s occupation, despite a United Nations’ finding, had killed 183,000 people between 1975 and 1999.”

Harsono notes how in 1945 Indonesia’s “non-Javanese founders Mohammad Hatta, Sam Ratu Langie and Johannes Latuharhary wanted an Indonesia that was democratic and decentralised. They advocated a federation.”

However, Sukarno, Supomo and Mohammad Yamin wanted instead a centralised unitarian state.

“Understanding the urgency to fight incoming Dutch troops, Latuharhary accepted Supomo’s proposal but suggested the new republic hold a referendum as soon as it became independent. Sukarno agreed but this decision has never been executed.”

The establishment of a unitarian state “naturally created the Centre”, says Harsono. “Jakarta has been accumulated and controlling political, cultural, educational, economic, informational and ideological power.

Java benefits

“The closer a region to Jakarta, the better it will benefit from the Centre. Java is the closest to the Centre.

“The further a region is from the Centre, the more neglected it will be. West Papua, Aceh, East Timor and the Moluccas are among those furthest away from Jakarta.”

The centralised political system needed a “long and complex bureaucracy” and this “naturally created corruption”, Harsono explains.

“Indonesia is frequently ranked as the most corrupt country in Asia. Political and Economic Risk Consultancy Ltd listed Indonesia as the most corrupt country in Asia in 2005.”

Harsono also notes how centralised power has helped a religious and ethnic majority that sees itself as “justified to have privileges and to rule over the minorities”.

The author cites the poet Leon Agasta as saying, “They’re the two most dangerous words in Indonesia: Islam and Java.” Muslim majority and Javanese dominance.

Harsono regards the Indonesian government’s response to demands for West Papuan “self-determination” as “primarily military and repressive: viewing Papuan ‘separatists’ as criminals, traitors and enemies of the Republic of Indonesia”.

He describes this policy as a “recipe for ongoing military operations to search for and destroy Papuan ‘separatists’, a term that could be applied to a large, if not overwhelming, portion of the Papuan population”.

Ruthless Indonesian military

“The Indonesian military, having lost their previous power bases in east Timor and Aceh, ruthlessly maintain their control over West Papua, both as a power base and as considerable source of revenue.

“The Indonesian military involvement in legal businesses, such as mining and logging, and allegedly, illegal businesses, such as alcohol, prostitution, extortion and wildlife smuggling, provide significant funds for the military as an organisation and also for individual officers.”

Pro-independence leaders have called on West Papuans to boycott the Indonesian elections tomorrow.

Andreas Harsono launched his journalism career as a reporter for the Bangkok-based Nation and the Kuala Lumpur-based Star newspapers. In the 1990s, he helped establish Indonesia’s Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) – then an illegal group under the Suharto regime, and today the most progressive journalists union in the republic.

Harsono was also founder of the Jakarta-based Institute for the Studies on the Free Flow of Information and of the South East Asia Press Alliance (SEAPA).

In a separate emailed interview with me in response to a question about whether there was light at the end of the tunnel, Harsono replied: I do not want to sound pessimistic but visiting dozens of sites of mass violence, seeing survivors and families’ who lost their lost ones, I just realised that mass killings took place all over Indonesia.

“It’s not only about the 1965 massacres –despite them being the biggest of all– but also the Papuans, the Timorese, the Acehnese, the Madurese etc.

“Basically all major islands in Indonesia, from Sumatra to Papua, have witnessed huge violence and none of them have been professionally understood. The truth of those mass killings have not been found yet.”

Professor David Robie is director of the Pacific Media Centre.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

"Race, Islam and Power" Book Commendations

"I have long anticipated a book that gives this kind of perspective on Indonesia: half journalistic, and half exploration through various literature, woven together in a narrative resembling a travelogue. This has enabled Andreas to gaze into some frequently-overlooked corners, such as his dialogues with pilgrims visiting Sukarno’s grave, or with the step-sibling of Aceh’s charismatic leader. With this approach he has the freedom to delve into some big conflicts, such as the Indonesian revolution and the tragedy of 1965, but also local sectarian conflicts that are breaking out everywhere. It's an extraordinary testimony of the interrelationship that results when power intertwines with racial and religious sentiments."

Author Beauty Is a Wound and Man Tiger

"‘There’s never been a book so thoroughly covering various sufferings and violence in the vast Indonesian archipelago. Andreas Harsono uncovered the black veil that wraps gross human rights violations as well as religious and ethnic violence in Indonesia. He moves from one tribe to another, from Sabang to Merauke, shocking our humanity. He visited mass graves, framing them in this book. It’s about the importance of upholding human rights in governing Indonesia. His moral message is very clear, stop all violence, never again!"
Professor, Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, Jakarta

"A masterful craft of eye-witness narration."
Professor, Monash Herb Feith Indonesian Engagement Center, Melbourne

"President Suharto’s resignation in May 1998, after three decades in power, triggered political changes in multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multilingual Indonesia. Many ethnic and religious groups demanded more of a say in their political, economic and cultural domains. Some of them became involved in bloody conflicts. Andreas Harsono captured those efforts to find a new equilibrium with his travelogue."
Australia Director, Human Rights Watch

"Andreas Harsono is a human rights defender with a deep understanding of Indonesia, spending decades in his research and writing on various mass violence. He’s often misunderstood. Many Indonesians consider him a “traitor” or “a foreign agent”. In Papua, he’s often seen to be a supporter of West Papua independence but some see him to be a “government adviser”. I have known him since 2008 when he was visiting my prison in Jayapura, writing and campaigning to release many Papuan political prisoners. He’s actually a true Indonesian patriot who wants to see Indonesia’s pimples and gangrenes to be cured. He dares to take the risk – arrests, detention even murder – to write what he believes: that Indonesia should act on these serious human rights abuses. This book is all about that."
West Papua independence activist, jailed for 11 years (2004-2015)

"Andreas Harsono is not well known to the public but he is very well known among a small network of human rights activists, dissident scholars, Indonesian journalists, and foreign correspondents. He is often the fixer behind their stories – unacknowledged, unassuming, unselfish. Now he has shown just what a superb chronicler he is in his own right."
Professor, University of New South Wales

New Book on Ethnic, Religious Violence

Government Repression and Communal Attacks in Post-Suharto Era

(Jakarta) – Political changes in post-Suharto Indonesia have triggered ethnic and religious violence across the country, says a book by Andreas Harsono, a veteran Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, that was published today.

The 280-page book, Race, Islam and Power: Ethnic and Religious Violence in Post-Suharto Indonesia, was published by Monash University Publishing a week before Indonesia’s general elections on April 17, 2019. Harsono spent five years travelling around Indonesia, from the westernmost island of Sabang to its easternmost city of Merauke in West Papua, from Miangas Island in the north, near the Philippines border, to Ndana Island, near the coast of Australia. Harsono’s journey took him to more than 90 locations, including 41 small towns and 11 remote islands. Many of those locations were the sites of either state or communal violence.

“Indonesia is not only the largest country in South East Asia – but also the most populated predominantly Muslim country in the world,” said Nathan Hollier, the director of Monash University Publishing. “We hope this book will contribute to a deeper understanding of the social dynamics on the ground within this highly diverse, complex, and important nation.”

President Suharto’s momentous resignation in May 1998, after three decades in power, triggered political changes in multiethnic, multireligious, and multilingual Indonesia. Many ethnic and religious groups promptly tried to find new equilibrium, demanding more say in their political, economic, and cultural domains. Some became involved in bloody conflicts within their borders.

Harsono spent 15 years researching and writing his book, documenting how race and religion have come to be increasingly prevalent within Indonesia’s politics. He estimates that at least 90,000 people were killed in mostly communal violence in the decade after Suharto’s departure.

Today, impunity remains a huge problem in Indonesia. Many candidates for local and national office in the upcoming election, including a presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto, and a vice presidential candidate, Ma’ruf Amin, were implicated in notorious human rights abuses but never brought to justice.

“When Andreas Harsono returned from his Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University in 2000, he introduced long-form reporting in Indonesia, writing and editing literary news reports,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “In 2008, he joined Human Rights Watch, researching human rights violations across Indonesia. He combines his literary reporting skills and human rights training in this travelogue, seamlessly integrating his visits to many mass graves with academic analysis.”

Human Rights Watch is an international organization with its head office in New York, working in nearly 100 countries, uncovering facts that create an undeniable record of human rights violations. Its staff are experts on the countries and human rights topics that they cover. Some have published books to reflect at greater length on relevant themes and events.

Monash University Publishing is the publication arm of Australia’s largest university with four campuses in Victoria (Clayton, Caulfield, Peninsula, and Parkville), one in Selangor (Malaysia), and one in Johannesburg (South Africa). Monash also has a training center in Prato (Italy), a research academy in Mumbai (India), and a collaboration with China’s Southeast University in Suzhou (China). It publishes books on humanities and social sciences, specializing in Asian Studies and the study of Australian history, culture, and literature.

The book is divided into seven chapters and an epilogue. Each chapter centers on a major island in Indonesia:

Sumatra: Aceh militants fought against Indonesian rule since 1976. Many outer islands, such as Sumatra, had to adopt Javanese culture if they wanted to get financial support from the government in Jakarta. But the devastating 2004 tsunami in Aceh, led to a peace agreement between militants and the Indonesian government, ending the three-decade conflict. Aceh also adopted Shariah (Islamic law), introducing discriminatory regulations against religious and gender minorities.

Kalimantan: In 1997, ethnic Dayak militants killed ethnic Madurese, who originally came from Madura Island. In 1999, a bigger massacre took place around Sambas, western Kalimantan, in which ethnic Malay militants killed about 3,500 Madurese settlers. In 2001, that deadly ethnic violence spread to Sampit in central Kalimantan, where Dayaks killed about 2,500 Madurese settlers.

Sulawesi: Ethnic Minahasans rebelled against Indonesia in the 1950s. This Christian-majority area has managed to avoid the sectarian violence experienced in neighboring Moluccas provinces and around Lake Poso in Central Sulawesi.

Java: Indonesia’s most populous island but also the arena where Islamists and Indonesian nationalists have battled over the philosophical basis for the country since the 1920s. The idea of formalizing Sharia took root then, resulting in discrimination against religious and gender minorities, and challenging the idea of Indonesian nationalism. After Suharto’s fall, Islamist politicians in Java revived the idea of recreating Indonesia as an Islamic state. They wanted to change the Constitution to obligate Muslims to follow Sharia, proposed bans on non-Muslim leaders in majority Muslim areas, sought greater enforcement of Sharia provisions, and pressed for nominating candidates sympathetic to Islamist objectives. Some extremist Islamists have used violence to advance their agendas, including bombings in Jakarta and Bali in 2002 and 2005 that killed hundreds of people.

The Moluccas: These islands were the scene of the bloodiest violence in post-Suharto Indonesia between 1999 and 2005. The violence took place on the islands of Ambon, Halmahera, Tidore, and Ternate, involving at least 3,000 militants from Java under the Laskar Jihad group.

Lesser Sunda Archipelago: These islands span from Timor in the east to Bali, near Java. Those living in the archipelago have experienced violence, especially in East Timor, which was under Indonesian occupation until a United Nations-organized referendum in May 2002. The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor documented at least 102,800 deaths under Indonesian occupation.

West Papua: The history of West Papua centers on racism, human rights abuses, and the manipulation of the 1969 Act of Free Choice. The American mining company Freeport-McMoRan has long played a role that has affected conditions for indigenous people in Papua and West Papua provinces.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Indonesia: Buku Baru soal Kekerasan Suku, Agama

Represi Pemerintah dan Kekerasan Komunal Sesudah Kemunduran Soeharto

(Jakarta) – Perubahan politik di Indonesia pasca-Soeharto memicu kekerasan etnis dan agama di seluruh negeri, menurut sebuah buku karya Andreas Harsono, peneliti senior Human Rights Watch di Indonesia, yang diterbitkan hari ini.

Buku setebal 280 halaman, Race, Islam and Power: Ethnic and Religious Violence in Post-Suharto Indonesia, diterbitkan oleh Monash University Publishing seminggu sebelum pemilihan umum pada 17 April 2019. Harsono lima tahun berkeliling Indonesia, mulai dari Sabang, paling barat hingga kota paling timur Merauke di Papua Barat, dari Pulau Miangas di utara, dekat perbatasan Filipina, hingga Pulau Ndana, dekat pantai Australia. Perjalanan tersebut membawanya ke lebih dari 90 lokasi, termasuk 41 kota kecil dan 11 pulau terpencil. Banyak dari lokasi tersebut merupakan lokasi kekerasan negara atau komunal.

“Indonesia bukan hanya negara terbesar di Asia Tenggara – tetapi juga negara dengan populasi mayoritas Muslim terpadat di dunia,” kata Nathan Hollier, direktur Monash University Publishing. “Kami berharap buku ini dapat berkontribusi pada pemahaman yang lebih mendalam mengenai dinamika sosial di negara yang sangat beragam, kompleks, dan penting ini.”

Pengunduran diri Presiden Soeharto pada Mei 1998, setelah tiga dekade berkuasa, memicu perubahan politik di Indonesia yang memiliki ribuan suku serta bahasa, ratusan agama dan kepercayaan. Banyak kelompok etnis dan agama berusaha mencari keseimbangan baru (equilibrium), menuntut peranan lebih besar dalam bidang politik, ekonomi, dan budaya di wilayah mereka. Beberapa dari golongan ini terlibat dalam konflik berdarah di wilayahnya.

Harsono menghabiskan waktu 15 tahun untuk meneliti dan menulis bukunya, yang mendokumentasikan bagaimana ras dan agama menjadi lazim dalam politik Indonesia. Ia memperkirakan setidaknya 90.000 orang terbunuh dalam sebagian besar kekerasan komunal dalam satu dekade setelah kepergian Soeharto.

Saat ini, impunitas masih menjadi masalah besar di Indonesia. Banyak politisi lokal dan nasional pada pemilihan umum mendatang, termasuk calon presiden, Prabowo Subianto, dan calon wakil presiden, Ma’ruf Amin, terlibat dalam pelanggaran hak asasi manusia yang terkenal namun tidak pernah diadili.

“Ketika Andreas Harsono kembali dari Nieman Fellowship di Universitas Harvard pada tahun 2000, dia memperkenalkan penulisan narasi yang panjang dan mendalam di Indonesia, bicara soal liputan sastrawi,” kata Elaine Pearson, direktur Human Rights Watch Australia. “Pada tahun 2008, dia mulai bergabung dengan Human Rights Watch, melakukan penelitian tentang pelanggaran hak asasi manusia di Indonesia. Dia menggabungkan keterampilan liputan sastrawi dan riset hak asasi manusia dalam catatan perjalanan ini, memadukan kunjungannya ke banyak kuburan massal dengan analisis akademis.”

Human Rights Watch adalah organisasi internasional yang berkantor pusat di New York, bekerja di hampir 100 negara, mendokumentasikan pelanggaran hak asasi manusia yang tak terbantahkan. Para peneliti mereka adalah pakar soal berbagai negara yang mereka liput dalam masalah hak asasi manusia. Beberapa dari mereka menerbitkan buku untuk merefleksikan tema dan peristiwa yang relevan secara lebih mendalam.

Monash University Publishing adalah perusahaan penerbitan dari universitas terbesar di Australia dengan empat kampus di Victoria (Clayton, Caulfield, Peninsula, dan Parkville), satu di Selangor (Malaysia), dan satu di Johannesburg (Afrika Selatan). Monash juga memiliki pusat pelatihan di Prato (Italia), akademi penelitian di Mumbai (India), dan kolaborasi dengan Universitas Tenggara di Suzhou (Tiongkok). Ia menerbitkan buku-buku tentang humaniora dan ilmu-ilmu sosial, yang mengkhususkan diri pada Asia serta sejarah, budaya, dan sastra Australia.

Buku ini dibagi menjadi tujuh bab dan sebuah epilog. Setiap bab berpusat pada sebuah pulau besar di Indonesia:

Sumatra: Militan Aceh melawan pemerintah Indonesia sejak tahun 1976. Banyak pulau seberang, seperti Sumatra, harus menyesuaikan diri dengan cara pandang dari Jawa jika ingin mendapat dukungan finansial dari pemerintah di Jakarta. Namun bencana tsunami tahun 2004 di Aceh dan Pulau Nias menghasilkan kesepakatan damai antara Gerakan Acheh Merdeka dan pemerintah Indonesia, mengakhiri konflik selama tiga dekade. Aceh lantas memperkenalkan syariah Islam, memperkenalkan bermacam peraturan daerah yang diskriminatif terhadap minoritas agama, gender dan orientasi seksual.

Kalimantan: Pada tahun 1997, militan Dayak membunuh orang Madura, yang berasal dari Pulau Madura. Pada tahun 1999, pembantaian yang lebih besar terjadi di daerah Sambas, Kalimantan Barat, di mana militan Melayu membunuh sekitar 3.500 pemukim Madura. Pada tahun 2001, kekerasan etnis yang mematikan tersebut menyebar ke Sampit di Kalimantan Tengah, ketika militan Dayak membunuh sekitar 2.500 warga Madura.

Sulawesi: Banyak orang Minahasa, termasuk dengan background militer, terlibat dalam gerakan bersenjata Permesta terhadap negara Indonesia pada 1950-an. Daerah yang mayoritas penduduknya beragama Kristen ini berhasil menghindari kekerasan sektarian yang terjadi di provinsi tetangganya: Kepulauan Maluku dan sekitar Danau Poso di Sulawesi Tengah.

Jawa: Pulau terpadat di Indonesia namun juga merupakan arena di mana kelompok Islam dan nasionalis Indonesia saling berebut dasar filosofis negara ini sejak tahun 1920-an. Gagasan formalisasi Syariah Islam mulai berakar pada saat itu, yang mengakibatkan diskriminasi terhadap kelompok minoritas agama dan gender, serta menentang gagasan kebangsaan Indonesia. Setelah jatuhnya Soeharto, golongan Islam politik di Pulau Jawa menghidupkan kembali gagasan untuk menjadikan Indonesia sebagai negara Islam. Mereka ingin mengubah Konstitusi untuk mewajibkan umat Islam mengikuti Syariah, mengusulkan larangan terhadap pemimpin non-Muslim di wilayah mayoritas Muslim, mengupayakan penegakan peraturan Syariah yang lebih luas, dan mendesak untuk mencalonkan kandidat yang bersimpati dengan golongan Islamis. Beberapa kelompok Islam ekstrimis menggunakan kekerasan untuk memajukan agenda mereka, termasuk pemboman di Jakarta dan Bali, pada tahun 2002 dan 2005, yang menewaskan ratusan orang.

Maluku: Kepulauan ini tempat terjadinya kekerasan paling berdarah di Indonesia pasca-Soeharto antara tahun 1999 dan 2005. Kekerasan terjadi di Ambon, Halmahera, Tidore, dan Ternate, yang melibatkan setidaknya 3.000 militan Muslim dari Jawa di bawah payung Laskar Jihad.

Sunda Kecil: Pulau-pulau ini terbentang dari Pulau Timor di timur hingga Pulau Bali, dekat Jawa. Mereka yang tinggal di kepulauan ini pernah mengalami kekerasan, terutama di Timor Timur, yang berada di bawah pendudukan Indonesia hingga referendum yang diselenggarakan Perserikatan Bangsa-bangsa pada bulan Mei 2002. Komisi Penerimaan, Kebenaran dan Rekonsiliasi di Timor Timur mencatat setidaknya 102.800 kematian di bawah pendudukan Indonesia.

Papua Barat: Sejarah Papua Barat berpusat pada rasisme, pelanggaran hak asasi manusia, dan manipulasi Penentuan Pendapat Rakyat tahun 1969. Perusahaan pertambangan Amerika, Freeport-McMoRan, telah lama berperan dalam mempengaruhi kondisi masyarakat adat di provinsi Papua dan Papua Barat.