February 14, 2018

Islamic hardliners in Indonesia push to outlaw premarital sex

Unmarried tourists could face jail in Bali if they have sex, under proposed Indonesian laws after a petition from Islamic hardliners to change the criminal code will be put forward to Indonesia’s Constitutional Court this year. Riding a tsunami of moral conservatism and anti-gay prejudice, Indonesia’s Islamic political parties appear on the cusp of a major victory: outlawing all sex outside marriage. Revisions to Indonesia’s criminal code being considered by Parliament would allow prison sentences of up to five years for sex between unmarried people. Those changes would also criminalize gay sex, the bugbear of Indonesia’s Islamic and secular political parties. Rights groups and legal experts fear a profound setback to human rights and privacy in Indonesia, one of the world’s largest democracies, and the spread of vigilantism, already common in parts of the sprawling Muslim-majority nation of more than 250 million people. They are racing to organize opposition. An online petition launched this week has gathered more than 20,000 signatures.

“Indonesia, whose constitution guarantees human rights and has ratified many human rights covenants, will be ridiculed by the world for creating a law that is potentially violating many of those rights,” said Said Muhammad Isnur, head of advocacy at the Indonesian Legal Aid Institute Foundation. While the possible criminalization of sex between unmarried consenting adults has grabbed attention, the revised criminal code, which has nearly 800 articles, also contains changes that could weaken checks and balances in Indonesia’s young democracy. One article potentially makes criticism of the president defamation and other articles could be used to weaken the Corruption Eradication Commission, one of Indonesia’s most effective public institutions. Asrul Sani, a lawmaker from the Islamic-based United Development Party, has told reporters that a 25-member parliamentary working committee agreed on nearly all the articles in the revised code. It and another Islamic party are seeking longer prison sentences for gay sex in circumstances that involve force, public acts or pornography and that is still being argued, he said.

Statements from different committee members indicate there isn’t total agreement but a majority of parties appear to support criminalizing gay sex. Bambang Soesatyo, the speaker of Parliament and a lawmaker from the major secular party Golkar, said same-sex relationships should be criminalized because they could “corrupt the morality of the nation.” A few politicians outside the committee have raised concerns about the fundamental threat to privacy. One of the obstacles in the way of the Islamic parties is President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s power of veto. But with provincial elections due this year and a presidential race in 2019, it’s unclear whether Jokowi would risk political capital on protecting a hated and misunderstood minority or being seen as soft on morality issues. “The Islamic parties are really using this issue as their marketing going into the political years, this year and next year,” said Bivitri Susanti, a constitutional law expert who helped establish the   Indonesian Center of Law and Policy Studies. “The only thing we can do is to push the government, the president, to stop this,” she said. “Because if we see how the political parties, both the secular ones and the Islamic ones discuss this, I think this draft law will be passed as it is now.”

Islamic parties make up four of the 10 factions in Indonesia’s Parliament and due to the popular vote threshold being raised to 4 percent, are at risk of losing their seats in Parliament next year if they can’t rouse their bases. They have typically commanded far less votes than secular parties, but their concerns resonate with a broad cross-section of Indonesians. Hard-line Muslim groups considered fringe a decade ago, such as the Islamic Defenders Front, have moved into the mainstream and shook Jokowi’s government last year with a mass movement against the minority Christian governor of Jakarta, who was subsequently imprisoned for two years for blasphemy.

Conservative groups such as the Family Love Alliance believe Indonesia is being overwhelmed by immoral behavior such as sex between unmarried young couples, and in December nearly succeeding in convincing Indonesia’s Constitutional Court to outlaw gay sex and sex outside marriage. Moderate groups, meanwhile, have struggled to muster their forces. While many speak out online, that has little impact compared with the ability of Islamic groups to summon tens of thousands for mass protests. The Islamic parties’ message is perhaps at its most politically potent when aimed at Indonesia’s besieged LGBT minority, which for the past two years has been the target of an escalating campaign of raids, arrests, hateful rhetoric from government officials and vigilante attacks. Police in the conservative province of Aceh, which practices Shariah law, over the weekend rounded up 12 transgender people who worked in hair salons and publicly humiliated them by forcing them into men’s clothing and cutting their hair. Susanti and other legal experts said enforcement would be a huge and impossible burden on police and encourage vigilante acts from self-appointed “guardians of morality,” undermining an already fragile rule of law in Indonesia. She said people who practice religions not recognized by the state could also be criminalized because their marriages aren’t recognized. “The president should say no to this law,” Susanti said. “But looking at how Jokowi is handling issues related to Islam I think he wouldn’t do that.” [Associated Press February 2, 2018]


oBike looking to change the way Indonesians commute

Homegrown startup oBike announced on Wednesday (Jan 31) that it has launched the service in Indonesia, becoming the first dockless bicycle-sharing platform to enter the market in South-east Asia’s largest economy. oBike is currently available in Bandung and parts of Bali, including Kuta, Legian and Seminyak. It will soon be made available in other major Indonesian cities. For the launch, oBike partnered with various agencies such as the Bandung city government’s transport department, IHGMA (Hotels Association in Bandung) and EcoTransport – a non-government organisation based in Bandung that encourages people to use eco-friendly modes of transportation.

Country Manager of oBike Indonesia William T said that the bicycle-sharing solution would give Balinese and Bandung residents “an alternative mode to commute from home to work, school, and public transport stations”, as well as give tourists and residents a “fun bike ride”. “We developed oBike to provide a sustainable and convenient short-distance commuting solution that will save people time and money, while in the same time, embracing healthier lifestyle and supporting (the) government’s policy to reduce carbon emission,” he said. The use of oBike is priced at 4,000 rupiah (S$0.39) for every 30-minute block. In conjunction with the launch, every new user in Indonesia will get three free rides with oBike.

In Singapore, oBike costs S$0.50 for 15 minutes of use. But the pricing can vary depending on promotions. Responding to TODAY’s queries about the challenges faced, given that Indonesians commute mostly by motorbikes, the country manager said: “oBike’s service will complement the current transportation network in Indonesia by improving the way Indonesians commute and providing a sustainable and flexible option to help ease traffic woes.” He noted that Jakarta has been listed as the 22nd most congested city in the world. “By having more people switch over to oBikes, we’ll be effectively contributing to the development of a car-lite and environmentally-conscious city,” he added.

Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest carbon polluters, has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions growth by at least 29 per cent by 2030. One of the key priorities for oBike in Indonesia include education for commuters on bike-sharing, so that the company can eventually “build a sustainable public transportation network” in the cities it enters, Mr William said, adding that this would include working closely with local government bodies and the authorities. He said that “these conversations and education may take some time”, but the company is committed to it as part of a long-term strategy. oBike has deployed 14,000 bikes in Singapore. The service is available in over 70 cities in 20 countries, including Australia, Germany, Malaysia, South Korea and the United Kingdom. [Today January 31, 2018]


Eight Taiwanese fraud suspects remain detained in Indonesia

Eight Taiwanese suspects in a cross-border fraud ring recently busted by the Indonesian authorities remained detained on the island of Bali Friday, while 55 other Chinese ring members were returned to China that same day, Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) reported. According to Indonesian police, the eight Taiwanese suspects are members of a telecom fraud ring composed of 55 Chinese, eight Taiwanese, four Indonesians and one Malaysian, who were tracked down by Indonesian law enforcement officials at four locations in Bali January 11 and accused of swindling money out of people in Taiwan and China.

The Taiwanese suspects are being held at a detention centre in Bali rather than being sent to China along with the 55 Chinese suspects, Bali immigration chief Ari Budijanto told CNA over the phone. According to Ari, the 55 Chinese have been blacklisted by Indonesia and deported to Tianjin in China. Taiwan’s representative office in Jakarta was reported to be in talks with the Indonesian authorities, in the hope that the eight men can be sent back to Taiwan.

It will not be the first time that Indonesia has deported Taiwanese suspects to Taiwan rather than to China. In August last year, four Taiwanese telecom fraud suspects were deported to Taiwan by Indonesia on charges of breaking the country’s immigration laws. They were among a total of 143 suspects from Taiwan and China nabbed by Indonesian police in separate raids in Jakarta, Surabaya, Badan and Bali earlier that same year. [malaysiandigest.com February 2, 2018]


Bali tourism 90 percent ‘recovered’ since volcanic eruption disruption: Tourism Minister

The condition of tourism in Bali has recovered 90 percent of where it was before Mount Agung started rumbling, erupting, and disrupting the island’s biggest money-making industry in late 2017, according to Indonesia’s tourism minister. “It’s at 90 percent recovery,” minister Arief Yahya told Tempo on Tuesday in Jakarta. The so-called recovery is based on the number of daily visits to the resort island from foreign tourists. “Now it’s 14,000 per day, normally was 15,000,” he said. For those of you following along at home, that’s actually closer to 93 percent, but we all get what he means.

Mount Agung, which hadn’t erupted since 1963, stirred back to life in September 2017. After months of close monitoring of fears of an explosive eruption, the volcano started erupting on a small scale in November 2017, forcing the airport to shut down for two and a half days when ash blew into the flight path. More recently, the volcano erupted four consecutive times on Jan. 23. But the country’s volcanology center insists the island is safe beyond the volcano’s designated six kilometer exclusion zone and tourists seem to be trickling back in.

Helping these numbers is that other countries have revoked travel advisories about Bali since the volcano has relatively quieted down, according to Yahya. The minister has even made personal visits to promote Bali as safe, to countries supplying significant tourism numbers to Bali, such as China. “At the end of the year, it was just China that wasn’t satisfied (to come to Bali),” Yahya explained. Visits from Chinese tourists to Bali fell to near zero when the Middle Kingdom issue a travel warning, but the fear of traveling to Bali no longer apparently persists. “But now foreign tourists from China are willing to come. Today there is a new flight from China to Bali with as many as 250 passengers,” said Yahya. The Tourism Ministry estimates that at least 15,000 Chinese will travel to Bali to celebrate the Chinese New Year this February. [Coconuts Bali January 6, 2018]


Airport ground handler caught illegally shipping Rp.3.68 billion in larval lobsters

Airport security at Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport managed to thwart the shipment a massive quantity of larval lobster on Friday. February 2, 2018. As reported by Balipost.com, Airport                 Security discovered 15,998 larval lobsters that were destined for illegal export to Hong Kong. Police have taken into custody two individuals and evidence that includes 27 plastic bags containing 13,250 larval lobsters, 7 bags containing 2,478 “mutiara” larval lobsters, 2 cooling bottles and 2 hand phones.

According to the general manager of the Bali Airport, Yanus Suprayogi, the attempt to smuggle the lobsters was done by a ground handler working at the airport. With the ground handler’s arrest, the Airport Authority permanently confiscated his security clearance badge. Yanus said the two men intended to ship the undocumented larval lobsters that originated in Lombok to Vietnam via Singapore. The commercial value of the larval lobsters is estimated by custom’s authorities at Rp. 3.68 billion. [www.balidiscovery.com February 4, 2018]


Bali police capture most-wanted fugitives of Moldova, China

Two fugitives, originating from Russia and China, who were long hunted by Moldovan and Chinese police, have been detained by Bali Police on separate raids, an official stated during a press conference here on Wednesday. The two fugitives reportedly were part of the Interpol`s most-wanted lists.

“The first suspect was a Russian national named Balmus Petru, and the second suspect named Xiao Xiaofei was from China. The two fugitives have allegedly committed fraud (in Russia and China),” Police Superintendent (AKBP) Sugeng Sudarso, Deputy of General Crimes Investigation Department stated at Bali Police Headquarter on Wednesday.

Following a request by Moldovan and Chinese governments, through the Indonesian Interpol, the Bali Police went straight to raid the fugitives, who reportedly were in the island for vacation. According to Sudarso, the police are still awaiting the extradition requests filed by the Moldovan and Chinese governments.

Petru was detained last Monday (Jan 16) in Bali. The Russian national had entered Indonesia as a tourist. According to the police, Petru had committed a fraud in Moldova, the deputy noted. Meanwhile, Xiaofei was captured on Sunday (Jan 21) at 1 a.m. local time in Kuta, Badung District. Xiao was suspected to have defrauded cash worth US$21.5, or Rp280 billion. He marketed a phony financial product, which was claimed to generate 6-12 percent interest per year. Xiao escaped from Macau last December and entered Indonesia through Bali on Jan 18, 2018. The Bali Police had been monitoring Xiao`s activity during his stay for two days, before the raid. On Thursday (Jan 25) at 1 a.m. local time, Bali Police will return Xiao to the Chinese Police at Ngurah Rai International Airport. [Antara January 31, 2018]