Religious minorities unite for freedom

Iron: Pondok Gede sub-precinct head Comr. Dedy Tabrani speaks to an Ahmadi behind the locked gate of the Al Misbah Mosque in Bekasi on April 5. (Antara/Widodo S. Jusuf)
Iron: Pondok Gede sub-precinct head Comr. Dedy Tabrani speaks to an Ahmadi behind the locked gate of the Al Misbah Mosque in Bekasi on April 5. (Antara/Widodo S. Jusuf)

Next to a sealed Ahmadi mosque in Bekasi is a plot of land with leafy trees and damp earth. To get in one has to squeeze through a gap between a tall iron gate and the wall of a residence on the other side.

From this bit of land, Ahmadiyah members send food over the gate to the 19 Ahmadis staying inside the mosque, which was sealed in early April by Bekasi public order officers.

When the officers put up the corrugated iron fence to seal the Al Misbah Mosque, about 40 people were inside, including women and children. The women and children have since been taken out.

The remaining 19 stayed behind, giving away their freedom for an indefinite time as a symbol, an
act of protest, toward the Bekasi municipality and the central government for meddling with their freedom to worship.

The lot became a gathering place on Saturday night for Sobat KBB, a solidarity group of victims of religious intolerance and violence, a collective of minority groups — Christians, Shia Muslims, Ahmadis and those of other beliefs — that have experienced discrimination and persecution. Sobat translates as friend in English.

The national coordinator of Sobat KBB is Palti Panjaitan, the Filadelfia Batak Christian Protestant Church pastor whose church in Bekasi was also sealed by the Bekasi city administration.

Palti said about 10 people came to the gathering. Liberal Islam activist Mohammad Guntur Romli, who in a pluralism rally that turned violent in 2008 had his nose and cheekbone fractured by blows from members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), and Nong Darol Mahmada were among the attendees.

Over grilled fish, the group shared their thoughts about the state of religious minorities in Indonesia.

Rahmat Rahmadijaya, an Ahmadiyah cleric who remains inside the shuttered mosque, joined the discussion through a small opening in the mosque’s black iron door.

Ahmadiyah spokesperson Firdaus Mubarik said they wanted to bring Palti into their campaign because they saw the creative ways the Filadelfia church had promoted their cause, such as holding mass in front of the presidential palace.

Firdaus said the Ahmadis collaborated with Filadelfia for the Saturday night gathering — aimed at becoming a regular meeting — to continue to voice their cause.

“We don’t want the people remaining in the mosque to be forgotten,” he said.

Palti, meanwhile, said they might make the gathering more regular, not only in the lot next to Al Misbah but in other places where religious minorities are persecuted.

The group was established in February after a workshop by the Setara Institute, a human rights organization that monitors religious freedom across the country, and is also open to agnostics and atheists, the priest said.

“Sobat KBB is open to any victims [of persecution] including atheists. We fight for all victims who have been victimized or discriminated against in the name of religion, either those who adhere to religion or those who do not. We will fight hand in hand, to support each other,” Palti said.

Local and international organizations have criticized Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration for the increasing religious intolerance and violence in the country, even as he recently received the World Statesman Award from the US-based Appeal of Conscience Foundation. The award has been deemed a publicity stunt by rights groups who say the president does not deserve the award because of his track record in dealing with religious minorities.

Setara has documented 264 cases of violent attacks against religious minorities, up from 244 cases in 211 and 216 cases in 2010. Meanwhile, non-believers are criminalized, as in the case of atheist Alexander Aa, who broadcast his thoughts about the non-existence of God and was put behind bars in 2012.

“We want to enlighten people that religion should not be used to judge other religions or beliefs,” Palti said of Sobat KBB.
Struggling: Nineteen Ahmadis are staying inside the Al Misbah Mosque in Bekasi, which was sealed by Bekasi public order officers in April. (JP/Prodita Sabarini)Struggling: Nineteen Ahmadis are staying inside the Al Misbah Mosque in Bekasi, which was sealed by Bekasi public order officers in April. (JP/Prodita Sabarini)
In the case of Ahmadiyah, a 2008 joint ministerial decree banned the sect from proselytizing and the decree became the base for the regional government to ban Ahmadiyah outright. The West Java administration banned Ahmadiyah activities in 2011, the same year the Bekasi mayoralty announced its ban.

From across the corrugated iron fence, Rahmat, 33, who has been living on the grounds of the mosque for a decade, said Islamic hardliners from the FPI started to intimidate and harass Ahmadis at Friday prayers after Bekasi mayor Rahmat Effendi announced the ban.

“They threatened us, roaring their motorcycle engines, disturbing our prayers,” he said.

Except for Rahmat and a resident living next to the mosque, the neighbors of the mosque are not Ahmadis.

Ahmadis from other parts of Bekasi come and pray there on Fridays. But a resident living nearby said people were nonplussed with them. “For us here, to each their own”.

Rahmat said the Bekasi administration’s sealing of the mosque was the latter’s idea to protect the Ahmadis from religious hardliners. “But they did it without consulting us first, there was no dialogue,” he said.

The mosque is now guarded by three police officers, who take shelter from boredom in the house in front of the mosque where they can watch television when nothing is happening. The police presence ensures no-one enters the mosque, either Ahmadis or hardliners. A number of times after the mosque was sealed hardliners have arrived, but were cordoned off by the police.

“We feel shackled, it’s tough being here,” Rahmat said. The young cleric is living separately from his wife and two children. The youngest was born in February.

His days are used to pray, he said. They also entertain themselves with badminton and ping pong.

Rahmat said they have sent letters of protest to the president and the mayor. The Ahmadis are also taking their case against the Bekasi administration to the administrative court.

Even though the government is not keeping the Ahmadis inside the mosque, Rahmat said he would stay locked inside until the government reopened it.

“Forever, we will stay here forever,” he said.

But, he doesn’t wish for that. Rahmat is instead hoping for divine intervention to help the embattled Ahmadis win their case.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Bekasi | Feature | Fri, May 24 2013, 2:48 PM

Female candidates rush to learn campaign strategies

Female candidates running for next year’s legislative election are feeling the pressure to learn the ropes of campaigning fast, while fighting the stigma that their presence in parties’ candidate lists are mere formalities.

All 12 parties contesting the 2014 general election have fulfilled the 30-percent-quota for female legislative candidates, according to the General Elections Commission (KPU). But as parties have complained about the difficulty in finding high quality female candidates to reach the quota, many still view female candidates as unworthy contenders, Democratic Party legislative candidate Umi Farida said.

Umi, 35, a former NGO worker whose work focuses on women, labor and minority rights, is a first time candidate for the House of Representatives, contesting in the Central Kalimantan electoral district (dapil).

Following the Constitutional Court ruling early this year that upheld the 30 percent quota requirement for women, party leaders, such as United Development Party chairman (PPP) and Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali complained about the difficulties in reaching the quota. Syarif from the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party also commented that while the party can guarantee quantity, it could not guarantee the quality of many first time female candidates.

Female candidates say that many of their male counterparts have more experience and are more confident in campaigning, while the women still need support in campaign strategies.

The Democratic Party, in collaboration with the University of Indonesia, supported its female candidates by holding a course for them, Umi said. She said the program introduced female candidates to strategies such as mapping out voters and issues specific to voter’s needs; as well as fund raising and campaign budgeting.

Binny Buchori, a Golkar candidate focusing on universal health care access, said her party also had training for female candidates. Golkar focuses on legislation processes and development issues such as the Millenium Development Goals. Binny will run in the East Java VII electoral district, covering Ponorogo, Pacitan, Trenggalek and Tulungagung.

Meanwhile, Tunggal Pawestri, an activist running for the Yogyakarta Council with the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said female candidates had discussed the need for specific training that covered constituent outreach and voter targets.

“Male candidates may be more familiar with election strategies, but women need training,” she said. For example, they need to know how many votes are needed to win a seat based on the number of voters in an electoral district. For example in her electoral district in Kulonprogo, Tunggul would need at least 25,000 votes to secure a seat in the Yogyakarta Council.

Nihayatul Wafiroh, 33, from the National Awakening Party (PKB), who will run in East Java III — Situbondo, Bondowoso, Banyuwangi — said that some very qualified women had been assigned the numbers one to three on the candidate list. She was listed as number two, which matches the PKB’s number on the party list. Despite an open-proportional system, which means those who win the most votes will enter regardless of the rank, Nihayatul said the top numbers still had a psychological effect on voters.

“Many of the voters are still party-oriented and not figure-oriented, so they would choose the top numbers on the list,” she said.

Similarly, Tunggal is listed as number four on the list, the same as the PDI-P, which she hopes would help her campaign. Umi from the Democratic Party meanwhile is at the bottom of the list due to it being her first time.

An anonymous source running for the House, from one of the winning parties in the 2009 election, said that competition is rife between candidates from other parties and within the parties themselves. Back-door deals between candidates, in which underdog candidates are asked to donate their won votes, occur often.

“So women just fill the quota and are not considered ‘real contestants’ in the race, and other candidates will ask them to give their votes to them,” the source said.

— JP/Prodita Sabarini

The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Tue, May 14 2013, 11:32 AM

Few voters research legislative candidates


Life is all about choices and Indonesians will have a chance to decide in next year’s legislative election on who should make rules for them.

In the last elections for representatives in the local and provincial councils as well as the national parliament, many voters made questionable choices, judging from the track record of the country’s lawmakers.

The Constitutional Court has received many judicial reviews for flawed laws. Elected councilors have also produced hundreds of discriminative bylaws that have been blamed, among other things, on councilors’ legal incompetence.

Meanwhile, the Home Ministry reported that some 3,000 legislative councilors and House of Representatives members were implicated in legal cases, around 1,000 of them in graft cases.

Indonesian Parliament Watch (Formappi) head Sebastian Salang said that it was difficult to rely on voters to do research and pick the right candidate.

To push people to take care about who represents them is hard as they don’t feel any benefit from having legislators, he said.

Sebastian says the General Election Commission (KPU) shares the blame, as they list candidates without any explanation. “In the end [voters] tend to choose people that they’re familiar with such as celebrities, who they have seen on television,” he said.

But Priska Siagian from the Send Books Movement (GKB), a civil movement that sends books to legislators as a critique to use common sense and better references in their work, said she believes that there are smart voters out there, who want smart representatives.

Priska herself says she seeks potential representatives with a similar vision to hers. “Because for five years after they are sworn into office all our political and legal matters will be represented by these legislators,” she said.

Priska said that the Internet helps her track the record of prospective candidates in her electoral district. After checking their track record she would scrutinize the candidate list. “The good thing is in this digital era, [we can] find information on people, especially legislative candidates.”

Ika Karlina Idris, a Jakarta-based-voter, said she was guilty of not doing research for the last legislative election. She said she only found out the names of the candidates when she opened the ballot paper in the voting booth. But this year, Ika said she wanted to scrutinize each candidate in her election commentary blog

The Election Commission has posted on their website the prospective legislative candidate list (DCS) from the 12 parties contesting the elections. The website also has the maps of each province’s electoral district. There will be 77 electoral districts (dapil) for the 2014 election. Some Regional Election Commissions (KPUD), such as the West Java KPUD, have posted the DCS for the provincial and regional councils.

Voters can check which dapil they should vote in according to their residence, listed on their ID card. For example, those with an ID based in Bandung would vote in dapil West Java I. Those living in East Jakarta would vote in Jakarta I. A Surabaya resident would vote in East Java III.

After finding one’s dapil, a voter can start checking the nominated legislative candidates for the respective regency or municipality, provincial councils and the House of Representatives.

For example, the choices for residents of West and North Jakarta, as well as the Seribu Islands ( DKI III), will include current House speaker Marzuki Alie from the Democratic Party, who suggested women in the House to be banned from wearing miniskirts to save them from sexual harassment; retired policeman Adang Daradjatun of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), who failed in his bid for Jakarta governor in 2007 and whose wife has been implicated in a graft case; the son of business tycoon and Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra) Party Hashim Djojohadikusumo, Aryo P.S. Djojohadikusumo, also the nephew of the party’s presidential candidate, former Special Forces (Kopassus) chief Prabowo Subianto; former athlete and newsman Richard Sambera from the Indonesia Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), incumbent legislator and former TV presenter Tantowi Yahya from Golkar, and the secretary general of a hardline religious group Islamic Peoples Forum (FUI) Muhammad Alkhathkhath, from the Crescent Star Party (PBB).

— JP/ Prodita Sabarini

The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Tue, May 14 2013, 11:26 AM

Tried, tested strategies: Incumbents, dynasties and celebrities


The National Mandate Party (PAN) was one of 12 political parties that submitted lists of proposed candidates for the 2014 legislative elections to the General Elections Commission on April 22. The commission will vet the lists to determine a final list of candidates to run for the 560 seats in the House of Representatives. JP/Jerry Adiguna
The National Mandate Party (PAN) was one of 12 political parties that submitted lists of proposed candidates for the 2014 legislative elections to the General Elections Commission on April 22. The commission will vet the lists to determine a final list of candidates to run for the 560 seats in the House of Representatives. JP/Jerry Adiguna

The General Elections Commission (KPU) posted on its website the provisional legislative nominees list from the 12 political parties eligible to contest the 2014 legislative elections. The parties can still make changes to their lists until May 22 while the KPU finalizes the list for Aug. 22. The Jakarta Post’s Prodita Sabarini looks at how the parties compiled their lists for the House of Representatives and related issues, in the following report. 

For the electoral district of East Java VI, once the winning ground of former Democratic Party chairman Anas Urbaningrum when he ran for parliament in 2009, the number one spot on the Democrat’s prospective legislator candidates list (DCS) is held by a former soap-star — lawmaker Venna Melinda.

Next on the list — for the electorate district comprising Tulungagung, Kediri and Blitar — is incumbent lawmaker writer-psychiatrist Nova Riyanti Yusuf, who ran for Jakarta II district in 2009.

In the same electorate district (dapil) as Venna and Nova, the Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) has current House deputy speaker and the former party secretary general Pramono Anung. The vocal lawmaker Eva Kusuma Sundari is also running in the same dapil.

With the 2014 legislative elections looming, political parties are preparing their strategies to win the most seats in the House of Representatives, the local and provincial councils. Using old faces and reshuffling dapil for some incumbent lawmakers appears to be the strategy of choice for the Democratic Party. Besides Nova, incumbent Ramadhan Pohan and Ruhut Sitompul were also moved to different electorate districts, and are now running in the same dapil in North Sumatra I.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s party won the most seats in the 2009 election, garnering 150 from the 560 available. But it is currently facing a plunge in popularity after a series of graft cases involving its party officials.

After the scramble of political parties to submit their candidate list on April 22, the General Election Commission (KPU) finished verifying the nominee paperwork on Tuesday. The political parties now have 14 days to revise their list; the final candidate lists are scheduled for August 22, following input from the public.

Political parties are setting optimistic targets, especially those ahead in the opinion polls. The PDI-P was most popular according to a survey in March by the National Survey Institute (LSN). According to Idham Samawi, PDI-P head of recruitment, the party aims to win the election nationally by winning in at least 17 provinces.

At the last election, the PDI-P won in five provinces and came third after the Democratic Party and Golkar. Idham attributed this to the party being without representatives in seven provinces.

Golkar set a confident 30 percent target, or 168 of the House’s 560 seats, higher than 2009 when it won 107 seats, and higher than the Democratic Party’s current 150 seats.

Firman Subagyo, head of Golkar’s election team for Java, said their target would be at least 17 seats each in East and Central Java and at least two seats in Yogyakarta. At the last election, East Java had 87 seats from 11 electoral districts up for grabs, Central Java had 77 seats from 10 dapil and Yogyakarta had eight seats.

Also in the March LSN Survey, the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) was ranked the third most popular party, after Golkar. Gerindra deputy chairman Fadli Zon said that they would target at least 20 percent of total votes in 2014. The party won 4.5 percent of the vote last election and secured only 26 seats.

With a lower number of incumbents compared to the winning parties of the 2009 last election, Gerindra is relying on celebrities. These include television culinary personality Bondan Winarno, racing driver Moreno Suprapto and dangdut singer Yenny Khaidir, popularly called Tessa Mariska.

“We can’t have someone who’s popular but disliked by many,” Fadli reflected.

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), all too aware that its image has been sullied by the beef graft case that implicated former chairman Luthfi Hassan, set the “moderate” target of at least 15 percent of the vote. In 2009 the PKS won 7.9 percent of the vote

“The leadership [of the PKS] was quickly addressed and it was not like the Democratic Party who let their case linger,” PKS party spokesperson Mardani Ali Sera said, referring to the Democratic Party’s leadership uncertainty after Anas was removed from his post as party chairman. The party eventually elected Yudhoyono as chairman, a controversial issue as he already holds a high position in the party.

“With the appointment of Anis [Matta, as chairman] low morale in regional areas can be prevented,” Mardani said, referring to the former PKS secretary general, adding that even after the graft case the PKS won the gubernatorial elections in West Java and Medan.

Similar patterns can be seen across many of the parties; most have renominated their incumbents, encouraged a “passing of the baton” within political dynasties and the nomination of celebrities.

The strategies taken by Islamic parties are interesting and sometimes controversial. The PKS, an Islamic party, nominated non-Muslims in the eastern provinces. The Crescent Star Party (PBB) nominated a graft convict, former chief detective Susno Duadji, despite the KPU ruling that convicted individuals were disqualified from running. Susno recently surrendered to the police, leaving the PBB to prepare a replacement.

The National Mandate Party (PAN) is, for the second time, nominating Eurico Guiterres, its East Nusa Tenggara chapter party head and a former pro-Indonesia militia leader during Timor Leste’s independence fighting in 1999.

Indonesian Parliament Watch (Formappi) said recently that 90.5 percent of incumbent lawmakers from nine major political parties had been nominated for reelection, including those implicated in graft cases. One example is Democratic Party deputy executive chairman Max Sopacua, who was questioned by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) after former party treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin, a lawmaker until his graft conviction, alleged that Max accepted funds embezzled from a state-funded construction project.

Other names tarred by graft scandals are Setya Novanto and Kahar Muzakir, from Golkar, both of whom were implicated in the National Games (PON) project case.

Like the dynasties of bigger parties, Gerindra has similarly signs of cultivating a “keep it in the family” culture. The offspring of Hashim Djojohadikusumo — brother of Gerindra’s presidential candidate and party chief patron Prabowo Subianto — 29-year-old businessman Aryo P.S. Djojohadikusumo and 26-year-old actress, presenter and philanthropist Rahayu Saraswati Djojohadikusumo, have been nominated.

For the PDI-P, the Sukarno clan nominees are chairwoman Megawati Soekarnoputri’s daughter Puan Maharani, Puan’s uncle Guruh Sukarnoputra, and cousin Puti Guntur Sukarnoputri. In the Democratic Party, there are 15 names related to Yudhoyono— including son Edhi Baskoro Yudhoyono; cousin Sartomo Hutomo; in-laws Hartanto Edhi Wibowo and Agus Hermanto; Agus’ daughter Lintang Pramesti; and niece Putri Permatasari.

The candidates of 2014’s newcomer, the National Democrats (NasDem), founded by news channel Metro TV owner Surya Paloh, include noted journalists and presenters. Desi Fitriani, renown for her coverage of Aceh, will run in Aceh I and Virgie Baker in North Sulawesi. NasDem has also listed actress Jane Shalimar, model Noni Chirilda Kelling and actor Doni Damara.

Next year’s election uses an open and proportional system, meaning candidates who win the most votes will enter the House. In the last election the parties ranked their candidates by number, thus, those of a higher rank were prioritized though another candidate from the same party might have received more votes — a source of frustration for the losers. But following a ruling by the Constitutional Court those with the most votes will secure legislative seats.

“The parties still determine the ranking on the list — but now the effect is merely psychological”, Fadli of Gerindra said.

The result is that candidates now have to really put themselves out there so their constituents are familiar with them, PDI-P’s Idham said.

The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Tue, May 14 2013, 11:16 AM