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by Brendan Thomas-Noone
This week, The Interpreter concluded former Fairfax Indonesia correspondent Michael Bachelard's seven-part series on the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua. Here is the introduction, part 1 and part 2 from last week. Below are extracts from the rest of this outstanding series. First, on Papua's 'education malaise':
In part 4, Michael concentrated on health care in the provinces:
Michael interviewed several journalists in Papua and West Papua:
The reasons why Papuans want independence are often misunderstood in the West, as Michael discovered:
In the conclusion to the series, Bachelard examined Papua's relationship with the central government in Jakarta, what has happened since the election of Jokowi and what local activists believe needs to be done:
Stephen Grenville wrote on investor-state dispute settlement and the TPP:
The 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo was last week. Matthew Dal Santo makes a connection between the peace that was achieved afterward and the end of the Cold War in 1991:
In another anniversary, it was the 50th year since Japan and South Korea established formal relations. Robert Kelly took the opportunity to argue that now is the time for Shinzo Abe to end the region's history wars:
In an excellent piece, former intelligence analyst David Wells talks risk assessment in counter-terrorism:
What are the possible outcomes from the dissolution of the opposition alliance in Malaysia? Anneliese Mcauliffe:
Why does Southeast Asia have a strange obsession with Hitler and Nazi iconography? Elliot Brennan argues it's a lack of awareness of European history among the region's youth:
Visiting scholar to the Lowy Institute Ye Yu wrote on the New Development Bank:
Finally, Leon Berkelmans with five points on the Greek debt crisis. Here's one:
(Photo: Michael Bachelard/November 2014)
by Sam Roggeveen
Lord Michael Williams is the Lowy Institute's guest today as part of the Australia-UK Asia Dialogue. He is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Chatham House and a former senior British diplomat with vast experience in Asia.
We talked this morning about China's land reclamation and its ultimate intentions in the South China Sea, and about whether Beijing is really in control of all this activity (that got an emphatic 'yes' from Lord Williams). At the end of the interview we shifted to Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi's little noticed recent visit to Beijing. 'This visit is one of the most important things that's happened in the region in 2015' says Lord Williams matter-of-factly.
by Lauren Williams
Fear of ISIS, faltering economies and resentment over rising immigration from war-torn Iraq and Syria has resulted in a surge in right-wing populism in Europe and the UK.
Here in the UK, following the departure of three sisters with their nine children to join ISIS, and the emergence of the first British suicide bomber in Iraq, newly re-elected conservative Prime Minister David Cameron stirred controversy when, in an address to a security conference in Slovakia and coinciding with the beginning of the Islamic Holy month of Ramadan, said that parts of the Muslim community are 'quietly condoning' ISIS ideology.
Echoing the wording of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Cameron issued a message to Muslim families and leaders that they must do more to combat the lure of ISIS ideology among young people. 'The cause is ideological. It is an Islamist extremist ideology, one that says the West is bad, that democracy is wrong, that women are inferior, that homosexuality is evil, ' he told the conference.
In Australia, debate continues over controversial moves to suspend the citizenship of those involved in terror, however broadly that may be defined. Abbott has consistently called on Muslim leaders to do more to counter extremism and called on Muslims to get on board with Australian values. In February, Abbott outraged Muslim leaders when he told journalists: 'I've often heard western leaders describe Islam as a "religion of peace". I wish more Muslim leaders would say that more often, and mean it.'
France, with Western Europe's largest Muslim population of around 7 million, is still reeling from the attack in January by radical Islamists against the satirical cartoon Charlie Hebdo. Marine Le Pen's far right National Front is making gains campaigning on a platform emphasising the threat Islam poses to French secular nationhood.
When times get tough, it's not surprising that we blame 'the other'. But as more radical right wing parties with an anti-immigration and anti-multicultural agendas gain momentum in Europe and the West, so do dangerous levels of Islamaphobia. It's no coincidence that alongside this increase in anti-Muslim rhetoric we have seen a surge in the number of radical Islam-inspired terror attacks and plots in the West. Minority Islamic populations in Europe, already feeling marginalised and economically and socially disadvantaged, will feel increasingly alienated, leading to greater levels of anger and more polarised communities.
Research on radicalisation has shown that those who choose to join the fight in Syria and Iraq present a varied profile. Some are highly religiously and ideologically driven, others have a violent predisposition or criminal history, but by far the most easily identifiable signal is a sense of alienation and disenfranchisement with their current environment and a lack of a sense of belonging.
If we really want to stop the radicalisation of young Muslim men and women, we need to stop goading them.
ISIS recruiters thrive on the vulnerabilities created by divisive rhetoric coming from the far right. The narrative pushed by ISIS recruiters is of a functioning alternative state that welcomes those feeling alienated and unwelcome in their Western homes. By reinforcing a perception of 'Islam versus the West', right-wing politicians create exactly the right conditions for the appeal of reactionary and violent rejectionist groups to grow. We are playing right into their hands.
In countless interviews with Muslims in Australia, France and the UK, I have heard the same dismay over the perception of negative stereotyping and demonisation, fueled by a media frenzy over their apparent guilt by association with a radical group whose numbers are minuscule in comparison to the millions of Muslims practising a peaceful version of the religion. Australia is not a comfortable place for Muslims right now. Nor is France, and nor is the UK.
These are dangerous times. Our terror threat levels are set to severe, yet our rhetoric continues to feed the beast. The best way to get tough on terror would be to tone down the rhetoric and embrace policies that promote social cohesion and remain steadfast in the face of extremism on both sides of this growing political divide.
by Michael Bachelard
After new Indonesian president Joko Widodo appointed his self-consciously titled 'working cabinet' late last year, activist Andreas Harsono from Human Rights Watch took calls from no fewer than nine of Jokowi's ministers or their staff. All of them had listened to Jokowi's promises during the election campaign to pay more attention to Papua and West Papua, and wanted to learn more.
Harsono was just one of what he says was a number of sources for these ministers, yet the level of ignorance they displayed in these conversations was acute.
Only weeks later, they proved it in spades. In late October, the Minister for Development of Disadvantaged Regions Marwan Jafar blundered into one of the most sensitive issues in Papua — the influx of non-Papuans — by announcing there was 'still a lot of land in Papua' and that he wanted to encourage many more Javanese people to migrate there as happy 'homesteaders'.
Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo followed the next day, saying his 'priority' was to split the half-island into even smaller administrative units. Tjahjo is a loyalist of Jokowi's patron, Megawati Sukarnoputri, and it was her decision as president in 2003 to split the province into three (later revised to two, Papua and West Papua). Her military intelligence gurus had told her it would weaken the independence movement and make it more difficult for foreign invaders to occupy.
Tjahjo said his proposed split would also be for security reasons, to guard this 'huge area' against 'foreign intervention'.
The influence of Megawati's dead hand was also quickly evident in Jokowi's appointment of former general Ryamizard Ryacudu, Megawati's ally, as defence minister. Ryamizard in 2001 had praised the killing of a key ethnic Papuan politician Theys Eluay, saying the Indonesian soldiers who murdered him were 'heroes because the person they killed was a rebel leader'.
In December, Jokowi himself also stumbled when he failed to comment, or to order an independent inquiry, into the killing of four young highland protesters by soldiers. It took three weeks, and a threat by churches to boycott his Christmas trip to the province, before he spoke up.
To the extent that Indonesians think of Papua at all, they think of a huge, rich, empty land mass that's vulnerable to exploitation and interference from foreign powers. The blame, they believe, rests with 'ABDA': Americans, British, Dutch and Australians. Australia, thanks to perceptions of its role in East Timor's independence, and the noisy pro-Papua activist movement it hosts, is especially suspicious.
How do Indonesians regard Papuans? They are broadly thought of as greedy, corrupt drunkards who need a good dose of Javanese sophistication. Racism is rife. Many sincerely believe that Papuans remain cannibals. Jakarta-based newspapers, even the English language ones, use the words 'stone-age' and 'backward' when referring to them. At soccer matches, according to jailed independence activist Filep Karma, Indonesian crowds make noises like monkeys in the direction of the Papuan team and throw bananas onto the field.
Australian lawyer and Aboriginal activist Noel Pearson said 'Only those who have known discrimination truly know its evil'. At all levels, discrimination is what Papuans face.
Two questions confront Indonesia when it comes to its easternmost provinces: economic rights and political rights.
Successive Indonesian presidents including Jokowi have emphasised economic empowerment, but the brief Abdurrahman Wahid-era experiment at more political empowerment (the so-called 'Papuan Spring') was quickly squashed by Megawati and her advisers. Papua now has 'special autonomy' status in Indonesia under which its local political elite (Papuans, to a man) are funded richly by Jakarta to govern it as part of the Indonesian system. The money is routinely rorted. But the other symbols and attributes of an independent state — the right to tax, to display flags or to sing anthems of independence — are denied.
Papua also has Indonesia's largest and most uneasy Indonesian military and police presence, edgy young men living far from home in a place they fear. Institutionally, the police and military are desperate to maintain their outsized presence because their control of the fuel- and timber-smuggling trades, as well as the trade in drugs and prostitutes, is so lucrative.
In his conversations with Jokowi's ministers, Harsono had three suggestions to make to improve the situation in Papua. Firstly, open it up to international monitors, including the Western media; secondly, release the political prisoners; and thirdly, throw some kind of bone to the military — perhaps a grace period to wind up their financial affairs and improve their performance.
In May, 2015, Jokowi, visiting the province for the second time in six months, made a start. He announced the release of five prisoners and said Western journalists would be allowed free transit to and within Papua. Both measures, however, were immediately watered down. The fate of dozens of other political prisoners, including the iconic Filep Karma, who has grown old in prison after serving 10 years of a 15-year sentence for raising the banned Morning Star flag, was left unclear. Karma has refused to be released unless he is fully exonerated and declared innocent. And the head of the Indonesian armed forces, General Moeldoko, also began immediately placing conditions on journalists' access. Officials have since confirmed that the old media registration and permission process will remain, more or less intact.
I told Andreas Harsono what journalist Victor Mambor had told me: that whatever Jokowi's heart said about developing Papua, he would fail because the old guard that surrounds him would not allow him to succeed.
'I'm afraid I agree,' Harsono said. 'He's got the right intentions, but he's just surrounded by hardliners.'
Photo by Michael Bachelard, November 2014.
by Catriona Croft-Cusworth
Jakarta in 2015 is one of Asia's biggest megacities, with a population in its greater area close to 28 million. It's hot, it's crowded, it's deeply unequal, it has arguably the worst traffic in the world and it is in real danger of sinking into the sea. Yet the Indonesian capital continues to function and even grow. This week the city marked its 488th anniversary, sparking discussions on its past, present and future.
As a port, Jakarta's history goes back to the 4th century CE, but commemoration of the city proper is marked from the year 1527, when the port of Sunda Kelapa was reclaimed from the Portuguese and renamed Jayakarta. Since then it has taken on several names under several powers, including Batavia under the Dutch, Jakarta Toko Betsu Shi under the Japanese, and finally Jakarta as the capital of independent Indonesia.
Governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama led celebrations for this year's anniversary with a theme that encapsulates his vision for the capital: 'Jakarta: Modern, Creative and Cultural'. Public celebrations included food, fashion and craft fairs, as well as a million-dollar street parade called 'Jakarnaval', complete with decorated floats and cultural performances. The main festivities were held a few weeks prior to the anniversary date out of respect for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which started last week. Still , the ethnic Chinese Christian Ahok was criticised for including on the anniversary logo a red Chinese dragon, and not the official mascot of Jakarta, which is a white-headed eagle carrying snake fruit in its talons.
Speaking on the anniversary on Monday, Ahok highlighted his government's progress in pushing ahead with large-scale infrastructure projects started under Jokowi before he ran for president. These achievements are mainly related to the 'modern' and 'cultural' goals of the anniversary slogan, such as the construction of new flyover roads, adding more buses to city fleets, starting work on a much needed mass transit system, and revitalising heritage buildings in the Dutch-era Old Town.
Less focus was given to Jakarta's creative potential, yet this will be the crucial element that keeps the city afloat in the years to come. The reason the city continues to function today is because of the myriad creative solutions Jakartans have come up with to navigate the challenges it throws their way. Many of these solutions are informal, and not all of them are entirely legal: for example, the territorial parking attendants who charge for space they don't own, but who nonetheless provide a service for motorists.
An international urban planning summit hosted by Jakarta earlier this month held a contest for 18- to 35-year-olds to find innovative solutions to the city's mobility and traffic problems. Entries included smartphone applications to measure air quality, or to enable women to report assault on public transport, as well as offline infrastructure such as cyclist 'hubs' with useful amenities. The winning idea was an app to find shorter, safer routes for walking and cycling through non-motorised residential streets.
As Jakarta's population continues to grow, so will the need for innovative solutions to the city's problems. Like megacities around the world, Jakarta will face huge challenges in meeting the needs of its citizens, managing resources sustainably and maintaining social harmony. The good news is that among its tens of millions of inhabitants, there are bound to be more than a few good ideas.
Photo by Flickr user tripletrouble.
by The Interpreter