Indonesia matters to us, and always has. Why the relationship will survive Morrison’s Jerusalem thought bubble



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Indonesia is an underappreciated market for Australian services.
Shutterstock

Tim Harcourt, UNSW

All hell broke loose during the Wentworth by-election when Prime Minister Scott Morrison suddenly announced that he was thinking of moving of Australia’s embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The main objections came, not on merits of the idea itself, but on whether it would upset Indonesia, the nation with whom Australia had just completed a landmark, but unsigned, free trade agreement and the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population.

The agreement is now unlikely to be signed for quite some time. In a face to face meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo last week that was intended to clear the way, Morrison was instead pressed about the Middle East.




Read more:
How will Australia’s plan to move its embassy to Jerusalem affect relations with Indonesia?


But how important is the Indonesian trade relationship really? And would it be folly to sacrifice it on the altar of Middle East politics?

Why the relationship matters

Australia and Indonesia have been entwined for a long time.

What is now Indonesia is almost certainly the Australian continent’s oldest trading partner.

Indigenous Australians fished and traded sea cucumber and other goods with their Makassan counterparts from at least the least the early 1700’s. Makassar is in the south-west corner of the Indonesian province of Sulawesi.




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What Indonesia expects from Australia’s new Prime Minister Scott Morrison


Australia provided critical support as what was then known as the Dutch East Indies fought for independence from the Dutch after the end of the second world war.

The Australian government provided medical supplies. Australian waterside workers refused to load Dutch ships.

Australia has helped in times of need

These close ties continued 50 years later during the late 1990s Asian financial crisis when the Reserve Bank of Australia clashed with the International Monetary Fund and Clinton administration, who wanted to impose tough conditions on Indonesia in return for bailing it out.

Australia’s Treasurer Peter Costello took the advice of Reserve Bank Deputy Governor Stephen Grenville, who had been a diplomat in Jakarta, and stared down the IMF and the United States.

As a result the Indonesian economy fared much better, recovered more quickly and avoided much of damage endured by other developing economies that had done as the IMF wanted.




Read more:
Australian universities to benefit in Australia-Indonesia free trade deal


Two decades on, Indonesia is one of Australia’s top 15 trade partners, worth A$16.5 billion in two-way trade, and one of the biggest markets for Australian education.

There’s room for growth

In many ways, Indonesia is underdone as a partner for Australia.

It houses abound 262 million people but only around 250 Australian companies of any size, compared to more than 3,000 in China.

Among the companies that do have a big presence are the ANZ, Leightons, the Commonwealth Bank, Orica and Bluescope.




Read more:
Indonesia’s knowledge sector is catching up, but a large gap persists


Its attractions are a massive and growing urban middle class and its need for infrastructure given the logistical challenges of connecting a huge population living across over 17,000 islands.

The relationship will survive Jerusalem

A free trade agreement is important to both sides, whatever political rhetoric President Widodo might need to employ to hold off his fundamentalist opponents.

Morrison told Widodo he would decide on the location of Australia’s Israel embassy by Christmas. The trade deal is likely to be signed soon after.The Conversation

Tim Harcourt, J.W. Nevile Fellow in Economics, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Why Indonesia’s tsunamis are so deadly



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MAST IRHAM/EPA

Anja Scheffers, Southern Cross University

The magnitude 7.5 earthquake, and subsequent tsunami, that struck Indonesia days ago has resulted in at least 1,200 deaths.

Authorities are still gauging the extent of the damage, but it’s clear the earthquake and tsunami had a devastating effect on the Sulawesi region, particularly the city of Palu.

It’s not the first time earthquakes have caused mass destruction and death in Indonesia. The tsunamis that follow are particularly damaging. But why?

A combination of plate tectonic in the region, the shape of the coastline, vulnerable communities and a less-than-robust early warning system all combine to make Indonesian tsunamis especially dangerous.




Read more:
Would a better tsunami warning system have saved lives in Sulawesi?


Tectonic plates

Indonesia covers many complex tectonic environments. Many details of these are still poorly understood, which hampers our ability to predict earthquake and tsunami risks.

The biggest earthquakes on Earth are “subduction zone” earthquakes, which occur where two tectonic plates meet.

In December 2004 and March 2005, there were a pair of subduction zone earthquakes along the Sunda Trench offshore of the west coast of Sumatra. In particular, the magnitude-9.1 quake in December 2004 generated a devastating tsunami that killed almost a quarter of a million people in countries and islands surrounding the Indian Ocean.

But only looking out for these kinds of earthquakes can blind us to other dangers. Eastern Indonesia has many small microplates, which are jostled around by the motion of the large Australia, Sunda, Pacific and Philippine Sea plates.

The September quake was caused by what’s called a “strike-slip” fault in the interior of one of these small plates. It is rare – although not unknown – for these kinds of quakes to create tsunamis.

The fault systems are rather large, and through erosion processes have created broad river valleys and estuaries. The valley of the Palu river, and its estuary in which the regional capital Palu is located, have been formed by this complex fault system. Studies of prehistoric earthquakes along this fault system suggests this fault produces magnitude 7-8 earthquakes roughly every 700 years.

The sea floor shapes the wave

Another important factor for tsunamis is the depth and shape of the sea floor. This determines the speed of the initial waves. Strong subduction zone earthquakes on the ocean floor can cause the entire ocean water column to lift, then plunge back down. As the water has momentum, it may fall below sea level and create strong oscillations.

The bulge of water moving outward from the centre of a earthquake maybe of limited height (rarely much more than a metre), but the mass of water is extremely large (depending on the surface area moved by the earthquake).

Tsunami waves can travel very fast, reaching the speed of a jet. In water 2km deep they can travel at 700km per hour, and over very deep ocean can hit 1,000km per hour.

When the wave approaches the shallower coast, its speed decreases and the height increases. A tsunami may be 1m high in the open ocean, but rise to 5-10m at the coast. If the approach to the shoreline is steep, this effect is exaggerated and can create waves tens of metres high.

Despite the fact that the waves slow down near the coast, their immense starting speeds mean flat areas can be inundated for kilometres inland. The ocean floor topography affects the speed of tsunami waves, meaning they move faster over deep areas and slow down over submarine banks. Very steep land, above or below water, can even bend and reflect waves.

The coastlines of the Indonesian archipelago are accentuated, in particular in the eastern part and especially at Sulawesi. Palu has a narrow, deep and long bay: perfectly designed to make tsunamis more intense, and more deadly.

This complex configuration also makes it very difficult to model potential tsunamis, so it’s hard to issue timely and accurate warnings to people who may be affected.




Read more:
Explainer: after an earthquake, how does a tsunami happen?


Get to high ground

The safest and simplest advice for people in coastal areas that have been affected by an earthquake is to get to higher ground immediately, and stay there for a couple of hours. In reality, this is a rather complex problem.

Hawaii and Japan have sophisticated and efficient early warning systems. Replicating these in Indonesia is challenging, given the lack of communications infrastructure and the wide variety of languages spoken throughout the vast island archipelago.

After the 2004 Indian Ocean disaster, international efforts were made to improve tsunami warning networks in the region. Today, Indonesia’s tsunami warning system operates a network of 134 tidal gauge stations, 22 buoys connected to seafloor sensors to transmit advance warnings, land-based seismographs, sirens in about 55 locations, and a system to disseminate warnings by text message.

However, financing and supporting the early warning system in the long term is a considerable problem. The buoys alone cost around US$250,000 each to install and US$50,000 annually for maintenance.

The three major Indonesian agencies for responsible for earthquake and tsunami disaster mitigation have suffered from budget cuts and internal struggles to define roles and responsibilities.

Lastly, the Palu tsunami event has highlighted that our current tsunami models are insufficient. They do not properly consider multiple earthquake events, or the underwater landslides potentially caused by such quakes.

No early warning system can prevent strong earthquakes. Tsunamis, and the resulting infrastructure damage and fatalities, will most certainly occur in the future. But with a well-developed and reliable early warning system, and better communication and public awareness, we can minimise the tragic consequences.

With earthquakes that occur very close to the beach – often the case in Indonesia – even an ideal system could not disseminate the necessary information quickly enough. Indonesia’s geography and vulnerable coastal settlements makes tsunamis more dangerous, so we need more and concerted efforts to create earthquake and tsunami resilient communities.The Conversation

Anja Scheffers, Professor, Southern Cross University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Would a better tsunami warning system have saved lives in Sulawesi?


Jane Cunneen, Curtin University

The death toll from the magnitude 7.5 earthquake and resulting tsunami that struck near Palu, Indonesia, on Friday evening continues to rise, with several regions yet to be reached by rescue teams.

But the size and location of the earthquake should not have come as a surprise. Palu is situated at the end of a long, narrow bay which is the surface expression of a very active fault, the Palu-Koro fault.

The area is at high risk of tsunami, with several large earthquakes and tsunamis occurring along the fault within the past 100 years.




Read more:
Explainer: after an earthquake, how does a tsunami happen?


Details of Friday’s incident are limited, but already there are questions being asked about the effectiveness of Indonesia’s tsunami warning system.

It was developed after the devastating 2004 Boxing Day tsunami that occurred after an earthquake near Sumatra, but in this recent event the warning did not reach many of the people who were affected.

The tsunami occurred in an area where there are no tide gauges that could give information about the height of the wave. There are reports that a more high-tech system could have saved lives if it had been fully implemented.

Most of Indonesia’s deep ocean tsunameter buoys, specially designed to detect tsunamis in the open ocean, have not been working since 2012.

The Indonesian Tsunami Warning System issued a warning only minutes after the earthquake, but officials were unable to contact officers in the Palu area. The warning was cancelled 34 minutes later, just after the third tsunami wave hit Palu.

Tsunami history of Palu

Large earthquakes are not uncommon in Palu, with 15 events over magnitude 6.5 occurring in the past 100 years. The largest was a magnitude-7.9 event in January 1996, about 100km north of Friday’s earthquake.

Several these large earthquakes have also generated tsunamis. In 1927, an earthquake and tsunami caused about 50 deaths and damaged buildings in Palu. In 1968 an earthquake with magnitude 7.8 near Donggala generated a tsunami wave that killed more than 200 people.

Despite this history, many people in Palu were not aware of the risk of a tsunami following the earthquake. Ten years on from the 2004 Boxing Day tragedy that killed at least 226,000 people, there were concerns about tsunami warning systems across the region.

An advanced warning system currently only in the prototype stage may not have helped the people of Palu, as the tsunami struck the shore within 20 minutes of the earthquake.

Such early warning systems are most useful for areas several hundred kilometres from the tsunami source. In regions like Palu where the earthquake and tsunami source are very close, education is the most effective warning system.

It is not yet clear whether Friday’s tsunami was caused by movement on the fault rupture from the earthquake, or from submarine landslides within Palu bay caused by the shaking from the earthquake.

The sides of the bay are steep and unstable, and maps of the sea floor suggest that submarine landslides have occurred there in the past.

If the tsunami was generated by a submarine landslide within the bay, tsunami sensors or tide gauges at the mouth of the bay would not have sensed the tsunami wave before it struck the shore in Palu.

Communication networks

High tech tsunami warning systems are able to send out warnings through phone networks and other communications channels, and reach the community through text messages and tsunami sirens on the beaches.

But in areas where a devastating earthquake has occurred, this infrastructure is often too damaged to operate and the warning messages simply can’t get through. In Palu, the earthquake destroyed the local mobile phone network and no information was able to get in or out of the area.

Timing is also crucial. Official tsunami warnings require analysis of data and take time – even if it is only minutes – to prepare and disseminate.

This time is crucial for people near the earthquake epicentre, where the tsunami may strike within minutes of the earthquake. Those living in such areas need to be aware of the need to evacuate without waiting for official warnings, relying on the earthquake itself as a natural warning of a potential tsunami.




Read more:
Be prepared, always: the tsunami message from New Zealand’s latest earthquake


The need to raise awareness of the risk becomes even more challenging when large tsunamis occur infrequently, as in Palu. Many residents would not have been born when the last tsunami impacted the town in 1968.

So high tech warning systems may not be effective in areas close to the earthquake epicentre. Ongoing awareness and education programmes are the most important part of a tsunami warning system in coastal areas at risk of tsunami, no matter how infrequently they occur.The Conversation

Jane Cunneen, Research Fellow, Curtin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Lombok earthquakes: different building designs could lessen future damage



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A 6.9 magnitude earthquake led to the collapse of thousands of houses in the northern parts of the Indonesian island of Lombok.
Adi Weda / AAP, CC BY-SA

Graeme MacRae, Massey University

The series of earthquakes in North Lombok and others further east goes on. But hopefully the worst is over and the intensity will recede from now.

Hundreds of people have been killed and a lot more injured, many of them seriously. Nearly all this human suffering was caused by collapsing buildings. The subsequent homelessness will go on for many months for hundreds of thousands of people.

But a lot of this suffering need not have happened.




Read more:
After devastating earthquakes, Indonesia must embrace radical change


Changing building standards

The strongest quake on August 5, 6.9 in magnitude and at a relatively shallow depth, is large by any standard. But, as photos and video footage show, not all buildings collapsed. Among the landscape of devastation are many buildings that appear to have suffered little if any damage.

According to one estimate, 70% of buildings suffered serious damage, which means 30% did not. In many parts of the world, such as Japan, New Zealand and Chile, buildings are designed to withstand earthquakes of this scale and many of them do, repeatedly.




Read more:
Two types of tectonic plate activity create earthquake and tsunami risk on Lombok


About 70% of buildings suffered serious damage in the Lombok earthquakes, but some stood up to the shaking.
AAP, CC BY

Traditional buildings in most of Indonesia, including northern Lombok, were built of timber framing with thatched roofs. In an earthquake they flex and sway but rarely collapse. If they do, it is likely to happen slowly and incompletely and any falling roofing is relatively light and soft.

But over recent decades, building materials and methods have changed. Timber and thatch have become scarce and expensive and popular tastes have shifted towards houses that look, at least superficially, like those of the global modern middle class – little villas with plastered walls, glass windows and tiled roofs.

But underneath the (often picturesque) facades, the construction is of brick or concrete blocks, held together only with weak mortar and supported by little or no framing. The better ones may have some concrete framing, but the quality of the concrete is usually poor and the steel reinforcing, especially at joints, is minimal. These facades do not reliably support infill materials and they are heavy when they fall.

Roof tiles are only loosely secured and ceilings below them are too light to catch them. If one had to design a system of construction for easy collapse and maximum injuries, this would be the perfect model.

Learning from past earthquakes

In Yogyakarta, in central Java, in May 2006, at least 150,000 houses of exactly this kind collapsed in less than a minute of shaking caused by a lesser earthquake than the largest in Lombok. Nearly 6,000 people were killed and thousands more injured. Farm animals housed in traditional buildings mostly survived.

A massive international humanitarian aid response and significant government programmes followed and within a year Yogyakarta was largely rebuilt – an astonishing result in the circumstances. Both government and international agencies went to considerable lengths to design safer methods, educate people about them and offer support, materials and incentives to “build back better”.

An expert report ten years later (unfortunately not yet published) concluded that:

The overall poor quality of construction however has almost certainly placed more people at increased risk of larger, heavier building elements collapsing upon them.

Northern Lombok has not had this kind of experience in recent decades and, because it is a relatively poor part of Indonesia, until 20 years ago, many people outside the urban areas lived in traditional houses. However, over recent years, partly as a result of tourism revenues, many houses have been built or extended in the new style and construction.

Here too, construction standards tend to be low, and even lower for poorer households. The video evidence shows exactly the kind of failures as in Yogyakarta 12 years ago, because of exactly the same basic weaknesses of design. The next earthquake, wherever it may be in Indonesia, will almost certainly have the same effects.

Houses in Lombok collapsed because of design failures similar to those in Yogyakarta 12 years ago.
AAP, CC BY

No easy solutions

A recent article makes similar points and blames inadequate enforcement of building codes and lack of government commitment. Unfortunately the reality is not so simple.

The Yogyakarta experience shows that even with a massive campaign by government and international agencies, and with the fear of earthquakes still fresh in people’s minds, the rebuilding was little better than what it replaced. Building codes do exist in Indonesia, but they are rarely followed, easily evaded, and rarely enforced, least of all at the level of owner-built local housing.

Even if there were a serious effort to implement codes, it would be undermined by well-known levels of bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption, as well as public resistance and evasion. It would also have unintended consequences, including making decent housing even less affordable, especially for poorer people.

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The Conversation

There will be no easy solutions, but national education in basic structural design principles, subsidised design, production and distribution of cheap and simple hardware for mitigating the most common failures of design and financial incentives for appropriate construction might be worthwhile places to start.

Graeme MacRae, Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology, Massey University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

After devastating earthquakes, Indonesia must embrace radical change


Jonatan A Lassa, Charles Darwin University

An earthquake on Lombok island in Indonesia has left 98 people dead and 20,000 people homeless, according to the National Disaster Mitigation Agency.

Around 70% of North Lombok’s housing stock has either collapsed or been severely damaged. Just a week earlier, a 6.5-magnitude earthquake hit a nearby region, destroying tens of houses and claiming 10 lives, and injuring more than a dozen people.




Read more:
Two types of tectonic plate activity create earthquake and tsunami risk on Lombok


As the area recovers, we need to ask: how can Indonesia address its vulnerability to earthquakes?

We know that Indonesia can improve its response to natural disasters, which has happened with tsunami preparedness. The next challenge is to apply these lessons to seismic activity.

Prepare for tourists

Thousands of tourists were caught in panics after both earthquakes. It’s time for Indonesia’s emergency systems to address the vulnerability of foreign visitors as well as its own citizens.

With tourism on the rise in many earthquake-prone areas, solid preparation measures need to be put in place. Vulnerable hotels and fragile houses can jeopardise tourism’s future.

The past 30 years have been filled with wake-up calls. A 1992 earthquake that struck Flores island caused 15,000 houses to collapse in a single district alone. It took almost 20 years for tourism to recover.

More technology isn’t the answer

It’s often easier to attract international funding to sophisticated new technology for hazard prediction and monitoring – for example, the Australia-funded Inasafe, which has the potential to help government to develop scenarios for better planning, preparedness and response activities, and the US-funded Inaware which is a disaster management tool aimed at improving Indonesia’s risk assessment and early warning systems.

At the same time, it is not clear how these technological advancements will serve to help small hotels or households in earthquake-prone regions. What people really need is need help to build structures in accordance with proper construction codes, so that they don’t become death-traps during an earthquake.

This points to a deeper problem. Such building codes already exist, but local governments are currently showing little desire to comply with national building regulations.

For example, before 2011, less than 12% of local governments adopted and endorsed the Building Law 2002. By 2016 that figure had risen to 60% – an improvement, but still not enough.

In North Lombok, where most houses collapsed in the recent earthquakes, the local government only endorsed national building regulations in 2011. It will take years for the local administrators to actually implement them.

The no-regreat approach

To save lives, we need to move beyond the idea that perfect risk assessment exists.

Seismic mitigation measures need to start immediately, at the local level. Thousands building are built every day and right now, while many are rebuilding after disaster, is the time for local governments to put into practise the codes and standards that exist at a national level.

Local and central governments can embrace innovation. Central government and local governments in Indonesia must focus on transforming the way houses are built, including checking earthquake preparedness when issuing building permits.

Can local government radically audit all vulnerable houses? And can we create a machine of local bureaucrats who can deal with the risk assessment on every single house in earthquake prone regions?

It may seem hard, but good practices are already available. Apart from creating incentives for local engineers, contractors, and building consultants to be mindful of seismic measures, local governments can also gradually audit critical public buildings, which are particularly crucial to disaster to response (and may be especially dangerous if they collapse).

Indonesia could even follow California’s example and publicly shame the owners of buildings that the building code.

A sign from California alerting passers-by to a potentially dangerous building.

It will require radical reform in public administration, including construction at local level. Without this radical change, the status quo will remain and people will continued to be killed by their houses when moderate to big earthquakes hit their area.




Read more:
How earthquake safety measures could have saved thousands of lives in Nepal


The ConversationThe present approach is failing. Stronger political and administrative commitments are needed at all levels.

Jonatan A Lassa, Senior Lecturer, Humanitarian Emergency and Disaster Management, Charles Darwin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Two types of tectonic plate activity create earthquake and tsunami risk on Lombok


Jane Cunneen, Curtin University and Phil R. Cummins, Australian National University

Several large earthquakes have struck the Indonesian island of Lombok in the past week, with the largest quake killing at least 98 people and injuring hundreds more.

Thousands of buildings are damaged and rescue efforts are being hampered by power outages, a lack of phone reception in some areas and limited evacuation options.

The majority of large earthquakes occur on or near Earth’s tectonic plate boundaries – and these recent examples are no exception. However, there are some unique conditions around Lombok.

The recent earthquakes have occurred along a specific zone where the Australian tectonic plate is starting to move over the Indonesian island plate – and not slide underneath it, as occurs further to the south of Lombok.

This means there is earthquake and tsunami risk not only along the plate boundary south of Lombok and Bali, but also from this zone of thrusting to the north.




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Bali’s Agung – using ‘volcano forensics’ to map the past, and predict the future


Jammed subduction zone

Tectonic plates are slabs of the Earth’s crust that move very slowly over our planet’s surface. Indonesia sits along the “Pacific Ring of Fire” where several tectonic plates collide and many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes occur.

Some of these earthquakes are very large, such as the magnitude 9.1 quake off the west coast of Sumatra that generated the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. This earthquake occurred along the Java-Sumatra subduction zone, where the Australian tectonic plate moves underneath Indonesia’s Sunda plate.

But to the east of Java, the subduction zone has become “jammed” by the Australian continental crust, which is much thicker and more buoyant than the oceanic crust that moves beneath Java and Sumatra.

The Australian continental crust can’t be pushed under the Sunda plate, so instead it’s starting to ride over the top of it. This process is known as back-arc thrusting.

The data from the recent Lombok earthquakes suggest they are associated with this back-arc zone. The zone extends north of islands stretching from eastern Java to the island of Wetar, just north of Timor (as shown in map below).

Earthquake hazards along plate boundaries near Indonesia. The dates in the map show historical earthquakes, and Mw indicates earthquake magnitude.
Edited by P. Cummins from an original by Koulali and co-authors

Historically, large earthquakes have also occurred along this back-arc thrust near Lombok, particularly in the 19th century but also more recently. (Dates and sizes of past earthquakes are shown in the map above).

It is thought that this zone of back-arc thrusting will eventually form a new subduction zone to the north along from eastern Java to the island of Wetar just north of Timor.




Read more:
I’ve always wondered: do nuclear tests affect tectonic plates and cause earthquakes or volcanic eruptions?


Tsunami risk

Lombok’s recent earthquakes – the August 5 6.9 magnitude quake plus a number of aftershocks, and the 6.4 magnitude earthquake just a week before it – occurred in northern Lombok under land, and were quite shallow.

Recent earthquakes on Lombok were also felt on the neighbouring island of Bali.
US Geological Survey

Earthquakes on land can sometimes cause undersea landslides and generate a tsunami wave. But when shallow earthquakes rupture the sea floor, much larger and more dangerous tsunamis can occur.

Due to the large number of shallow earthquakes along the plate boundaries, Indonesia is particularly vulnerable to tsunamis. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed more than 165,000 people along the coast of Sumatra, and in 2006 over 600 people were killed by a tsunami impacting the south coast of Java.




Read more:
Explainer: after an earthquake, how does a tsunami happen?


The region around Lombok has a history of tsunamis. In 1992 a magnitude 7.9 earthquake occurred just north of the island of Flores and generated a tsunami that swept away coastal villages, killing more than 2,000.

Nineteenth century earthquakes in this region also caused large tsunamis that killed many people.

The areas around Lombok and the islands nearby, including Bali, are at high risk for earthquakes and tsunamis occurring both to the north and the south of the island.

The ConversationUnfortunately, large earthquakes like the ones this week cannot be predicted, so an understanding of the hazards is vital if we are to be prepared for future events.

Jane Cunneen, Research Fellow, Curtin University and Phil R. Cummins, Professor, Australian National University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Is Indonesia retreating from democracy?


Tim Lindsey, University of Melbourne

This is an edited extract from Tim Lindsey’s essay ‘Retreat from Democracy’, which appears in Australian Foreign Affairs #3, published 9 July.

For much of the past 20 years, Indonesia has been held up as a model of democratic transition for other countries, particularly those with significant Muslim populations.

Indonesia’s leaders like to present their nation as embodying an exemplary path away from authoritarianism. Their form of government, they say, is tolerant yet enshrines religious practice, offering a political alternative for Muslim communities that is more palatable to the West than the failed Arab Spring and the extremist catastrophes that have engulfed the Middle East since the US intervened in Afghanistan and Iraq.

This view of Indonesia now needs rethinking. The country’s hard-won advances towards liberalism and tolerance may be under threat. This nation of more than 260 million people – over 85% of them Muslim – has often been called the “smiling face of Islam”, but that label may no longer apply.

Indonesia’s recent questioning of its own liberal-democratic aspirations
has been accompanied by growing expressions of intolerance, including violence towards vulnerable minorities. As next year’s presidential election approaches, the temptation to resort to regressive identity politics and opportunistic populism will increase, and Indonesia’s departure from its post-1998 progressive tilt is likely to become more pronounced.

Sliding towards a ‘Neo New Order’?

In Indonesia today, reform has stagnated. Although the democratic transition in 1998 was presented as a national consensus, this was never entirely true. It always had opponents, some of whom felt politically constrained to accept democratisation as a necessary evil but never accepted it as a final settlement.

As well as the hardliners, today these include enormously wealthy oligarchs, tenacious survivors of former dictator Suharto’s regime and elements of the armed forces. These disparate forces that together form Indonesia’s revisionist and populist right have little in common and often compete with one another. However, they also create expedient alliances from time to time, motivated by a common desire to roll back at least some of the democratic system initiated by Reformasi, the reform era.

Together they can sometimes intimidate or outflank progressive civil-society leaders. Governments, local and national, seem uncertain about how to respond to these challenges, and vacillate between inaction, opaqueness or endorsement of reactionary policies. As a result, 20 years on from Reformasi, the spirit of reform that drove democratisation seems distant.

Most Indonesian champions of civil society would agree that Reformasi ended long ago – maybe well over a decade ago – but a new label to define what replaced it has not yet emerged. This reflects an uncertainty among many Indonesians about where their country is heading. Many prominent critics of the government believe that while electoral democracy seems entrenched, liberal democracy is under threat from populism, Islamism and renewed conservatism.




Read more:
Facing bumps, but on the right track: Indonesia’s democratic progress


For them, Indonesia seems to be sliding towards what some call the “Neo New Order”. Others say this is too harsh, arguing that electoral democracy
is now firmly entrenched and the critical change that marked the end of
Suharto’s system, the retreat of the military from government, has not
been reversed.

However, it is increasingly difficult to argue that all is well with Indonesian democracy. The forthcoming elections aside, rampant corruption is perhaps Indonesia’s single biggest political issue. The courageous Corruption Eradication Commission is under continual attack from politicians and police. The human rights courts are virtually defunct and rarely hear cases.

The National Commission on Human Rights is ineffective; the Constitutional Court has faced its own corruption scandals; the press is confronting increasingly prohibitive defamation laws that assist politicians and oligarchs; and civil society is under pressure from elite push-back and Islamist provocation.

Indonesia’s alt-right: trolls, hackers and vigilantes

The tensions over Islam are part of a much older struggle in Indonesia
to determine who controls the interpretation of the religion, and thus
religious power. However, the recent rise of conservative Islamist
hardliners also resembles the rise of populism and conservative politics
elsewhere in the world. Islamist conservatives are in many ways
the local equivalent of America’s alt-right – and they are just as adept
at online disruption and manipulation.

Research by State Islamic University Jakarta links the rise of religious
intolerance among young Muslims to their increased access to the internet and social media. Indeed, Jakarta tweets more than any other city in the world, and Indonesians are very big users of Facebook, as well as WhatsApp, Instagram and Telegram, an encrypted-messaging service.

One of the best-known examples of online disruption involves the so-called Muslim Cyber Army, the most prominent of a number of tags adopted by Islamist trolls in Indonesia. Active across all platforms popular in Indonesia, Muslim Cyber Army members enjoy building an atmosphere of mystery, threat and self-importance, sometimes using the Guy Fawkes mask, popularised by the graphic novel and film V for Vendetta, of the hacktivist group Anonymous in their postings.




Read more:
Why hundreds of thousands of Muslims rallied against the Jakarta governor


This is deeply ironic, given the distance between their ideological objectives and the libertarian ambitions of most Western hacktivist groups. The Muslim Cyber Army does, however, share a willingness to exploit online anonymity to enable criminal activity – for example, by hijacking the social media accounts of the dead.

An Indonesian researcher, Damar Juniarto, has shown that Muslim Cyber Army trolls are highly effective, working collectively and using tools such as Twitbots to flood Twitter with coordinated messages. They target their more liberal opponents by “doxing”: publishing their personal information and contact details. This often triggers physical attacks from groups such as the notorious vigilante organisation Islamic Defenders Front, or Front Pembela Islam (FPI), within a few days and, in some cases, police attention on suspicion of blasphemy.

A list of such targets went viral in a video produced by the “Blasphemer Hunter Team”. These groups have attacked President Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”), former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (known as “Ahok”), foreigners and LGBTI Indonesians – targets they share with some prominent hardliner “buzzers”, or social media opinion leaders, many of whom are keyboards for hire.

Juniarto also suggests that many of these groups have close ties to politicians and senior military figures. Certainly, social media manipulation and “fake news” hoaxes produced by Islamist groups were powerful factors in the campaign that led to Ahok’s defeat in last year’s Jakarta gubernatorial elections. The winner was Anies Baswedan, a protégé of former general Prabowo Subianto, Jokowi’s possible rival in the 2019 presidential election.

It would be naive to think this won’t happen again in next April’s crucial legislative and presidential races. During the 2014 presidential campaign, Jokowi, a Muslim, endured claims he was a closet Christian and ethnic Chinese (his detractors chose to ignore the fact that his opponent, also a Muslim, has a Christian mother and siblings).

The ConversationThe upcoming presidential election  – which may well be a rematch between Jokowi and Prabowo, but for the first time held simultaneously with legislative elections  – is expected to see the most vicious cyber campaigning yet.

Tim Lindsey, Malcolm Smith Professor of Asian Law and Director of the Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How Indonesia is dealing with the new threat posed by returning Islamic State fighters


Joshua Roose, Australian Catholic University

It was no coincidence that Sunday’s suicide attacks on three Catholic churches in Indonesia came as Muslims began the holy month of Ramadan.

For the observant, this is a time of charity, introspection, renewal and closeness to God. For Islamic State, however, Ramadan has become a strategic time in which to strike, inspired by the Battle of Badr in the year 624, when the Prophet Muhammad and his army defeated a vastly superior force and laid the foundation for the growth of Islam.

Around the time of Ramadan last year, the Islamic State claimed over 300 separate attacks worldwide.

The gruesome church attack on Sunday, which involved using children as suicide bombers and left 13 people dead and more than 40 injured, also follows another pattern – an uptick of violence linked to the terrorist group in Southeast Asia.




Read more:
To fight terrorism, Indonesia needs to move beyond security measures


As Islamic State has lost vast swathes of territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria, it has actively sought to mobilise support with Jihadist groups in other countries such as Libya, Yemen, Nigeria and Bangladesh.

Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines and Indonesia, was also identified as a core target of the group in an article in the Islamic State magazine Rumiyah in 2017. And in a worrying sign for the region, the number of attacks has been on the rise, driven in part by the return of fighters from the front lines of Islamic State’s battles in the Middle East.

Returning foreign fighters

Conservative estimates suggest more than 1,000 fighters have travelled to the Middle East from Southeast Asia to join Islamic State over the past five years. Of these, [700 are estimated] to have come from Indonesia, about half of whom were male fighters, the other half women and children joining their husbands. Another 75 Indonesian fighters were deported from Turkey before they could travel to Syria.

Considering Indonesia is home to 225 million Muslims, the number of Indonesians who fought in Iraq and Syria is remarkably low. (Australia, with just over 604,000 Muslims, has seen more than 100 of its citizens join the fight, with up to 87 deaths at last count).




Read more:
Should we worry about Islamism in Indonesia?


Journalists and scholars have argued that Indonesia’s pluralism has played a significant role in limiting the outflow of fighters to the Middle East.

However, as has been made painfully clear in attacks like the one on the Bataclan theatre in Paris in 2015, the actions of just a handful of trained Islamic State fighters can have a devastating impact – both in terms of casualties and the wider political fallout.

Though Indonesian intelligence forces are well-trained and have been working with countries like Australia to improve the sharing of information across borders, there are no laws prohibiting Indonesians from travelling overseas to join the Islamic State. Nor is it illegal to express support for the group.

Adding to the problem is the fact that Indonesia’s borders are exceptionally porous, making it almost impossible to prevent returning fighters from slipping back into the country unnoticed.

The threat from within

It was initially reported by media outlets that the family responsible for the church bombings on Sunday had also fought in Syria, a claim that has now been retracted.

But they were linked with Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an umbrella organisation consisting of up to two dozen affiliated militant groups. The leader of JAD, Aman Abdurrahman, is being held at the prison that was the scene of deadly riots by Islamic State followers a week ago and led to the deaths of several prison guards.

The militant groups operating within the JAD umbrella are relatively autonomous and don’t have a great deal of interaction with one another. However, it is almost certain, though difficult to substantiate, that fighters returning from Iraq and Syria have joined up with a number of them, bringing their battlefield experience and militant skill sets with them.




Read more:
Insecure jobs and incomes carry risk of radicalisation for young Indonesian workers


JAD has also pledged its support to the Islamic State. This pledge of allegiance, or bayat, to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi requires followers to follow Al-Baghdadi’s orders but gives them autonomy to conduct terrorist operations against the state, rejectionists and apostates.

The Islamic state continues to enjoy a sizeable level of support among everyday Indonesians, as well. A Pew Research study found that 4% of Indonesians have a favourable opinion of the group, which may seem small, but in numerical terms, constitutes over 9 million people. As Indonesian society has slowly become more conservative in recent years, this support is sure to grow.

The Indonesian government faces a significant challenge overcoming the simultaneous problems of returning foreign fighters and home-grown violent extremism.

The ConversationBut no nation can battle terrorism alone. Though Australia and Indonesia have been working well together on counter-terrorism initiatives, a senior Australian government official told The Australian on Monday that Canberra would “double down” on its cooperation with Jakarta to tackle the issue of returning foreign fighters.

Joshua Roose, Director, Institute for Religion, Politics and Society, Australian Catholic University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Defeated in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State is rebuilding in countries like Indonesia


Greg Barton, Deakin University

Even after the recent arrests and deaths of dozens of its members, the Islamic State-linked network of militant groups in Indonesia organised under the umbrella Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) clearly remains a potent force.

In the past week, five bombings have rocked the island of Java, killing at least 26 people and injuring more than 50 – the deadliest series of terrorist attacks in the country since the Bali bombings in 2002. These attacks included the bombings of three churches in the city of Surabaya, carried out by a family that used its children as suicide bombers.

The latest attack came on Wednesday when four assailants wielding swords stormed a police station in Sumatra. One officer was killed and two others were injured. The alleged militants were shot dead.




Read more:
To fight terrorism, Indonesia needs to move beyond security measures


Formed in 2015, JAD achieved notoriety in January 2016 with a military-style attack in the centre of Jakarta that resulted in the deaths of four people and four attackers. Dozens of other potential attacks were foiled in the two years that followed, but several smaller ones were carried out, directed largely against the elite Detachment 88 counter-terrorism police unit – the arch-nemesis of JAD.

Formed in the wake of the 2002 Bali bombings, with assistance from the Australian Federal Police, Detachment 88 has emerged as one of the world’s most effective counter-terrorism units, having arrested more than 1,000 militants.

Last year, 172 suspected terrorists were apprehended and 16 shot dead, following 163 arrests in 2016 and 73 in 2015. Most of the militants recently arrested have been linked with JAD and the related Islamic State support network of Mujahidin Indonesian Timur (MIT).

Returning fighters

Since it declared its caliphate in Syria and Iraq in 2014, the Islamic State has perversely given special attention to planning and inspiring terrorist attacks during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began this week.

This is the first Ramadan since the group lost control of large swathes of its territory centred around Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. As the Islamic State is clearly desperate to maintain its brand and prove its continuing potency around the globe, there are now concerns the recent attacks in Indonesia are a sign the group has extended its reach eastward to the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

Ever since the Islamic State shot to prominence with the fall of Mosul in 2014, there have been fears about its potential to reenergise the decades-old jihadi network in Indonesia.

Since 2013, it’s estimated between 600 and 1,000 Indonesians have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join the conflict, most drawn to the Islamic State and its fabled caliphate. (Others were aligned with al-Qaeda affiliates such as Jabhat al-Nusra.)




Read more:
How Indonesia is dealing with the new threat posed by returning Islamic State fighters


Indonesian police estimate 400-500 of these fighters subsequently returned home, either from Syria and Iraq, or from Turkey on their way to join the conflict. Many have been met at the airport by authorities and taken into rehabilitation programs. But others returned unannounced. With a lack of appropriate laws in Indonesia, these returning fighters cannot be prosecuted for travelling overseas to join the Islamic State.

After the recent JAD attacks in Indonesia, local police have spoken of sleeper cells of returnees from the Middle East and their associates, who lay low and give the appearance of having no inclination to violence, even while they prepare for an attack at an opportune time.

Initially, it was reported by the respected head of the Indonesian police, General Tito Karnavian, that a family of six involved in the bomb attacks on the churches in Surabaya had returned from the Middle East. Later reports suggested this was not the case. Nevertheless, they and the other two families involved in the attacks were close associates of Islamic State returning fighters.

Defeat in the Middle East

The world rejoiced when Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State caliphate, was finally liberated in October 2017, following a four-month siege. With the fall of the city, the last holdout of its tens of thousands of local and foreign fighters was also defeated.

Months earlier, Mosul, the last city held by the Islamic State in Iraq, fell after nine months of the most brutal urban warfare since the second world war. With the caliphate destroyed, it was believed the Islamic State itself had been eliminated, too.

As it turns out, the fall of Raqqa did not see the final destruction of the Islamic State army. Rather, under a secret deal brokered by the Kurdish-led, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces who led the campaign to liberate Raqqa, thousands of Islamic State fighters and their families were allowed to leave the city in convoys of busses and trucks.

Many made their way to Turkey, where it seems some remain. But thousands more drove into the desert of eastern Syria, occupying territory along the Euphrates River and linked to others across the border in rural northern Iraq.




Read more:
Out of the ashes of Afghanistan and Iraq: the rise and rise of Islamic State


Many Islamic State fighters, especially local Arabs, have gone to ground, blending into villages and Sunni desert communities. Even in liberated Mosul, which is largely Sunni, many locals still express support for the militant group.

The election of a Shia-dominated government in Baghdad and the failure to rebuild Mosul and other destroyed Sunni cities, mean that in Iraq, as in Syria, all the social and communal grievances that supported the emergence of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) remain in place.

Even as the Islamic State was losing territory in Iraq in recent years, its leaders spoke with the conviction of an apocalyptic cult, confidently asserting that even if they lost the caliphate, the insurgency would rebuild.

Today, the group has active affiliates and supporters across the Muslim world, including in the southern Philippines, and a “virtual insurgency” throughout the many Western countries that contributed around one-quarter of the group’s total of 40,000 foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria.

The ConversationThe insurgency is far from over, and in Indonesia it may well be that the worst is yet to come.

Greg Barton, Chair in Global Islamic Politics, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation; Co-Director, Australian Intervention Support Hub, Deakin University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

United Nations: Weakness on West Papua


The link below is to an article that reports on the snub given at the UN towards West Papua.

For more visit:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/30/west-papua-independence-petition-is-rebuffed-at-un