Sukumaran’s last painting and final words from those likely to be executed tonight at Nusakambangan

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The last painting by Myuran Sukumaran, ‘Satu Hati, Satu Rasa di Dalam Cinta (One heart, one feeling in love),’ also signed by other prisoners facing likely facing execution tonight at Nusakambangan, around four hours from here (which really gives me a chill):

Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, the sole woman in the group of nine, wrote: “Jesus always love us until the eternal life. Mary Jane. Keep smiling.” Okwudile says: “God Bless Indonesia.” And Sylvester Nwolise wrote: “Am covered with the blood of Jesus Christ.”
Steven wrote: “One love”. Todung Mulya Lubis said Sukumaran’s final words to him were: “Thank you for believing in us and please fight for abolition of the death penalty.”

As Camus said, “Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders.” And it has been proven not to prevent drug crimes. What a terrible waste of human life this will prove to be, and to kill them by firing squad, what a terribly inhumane and undignified way to end another human’s life.

May they all remain steadfast and strong until the very final second of their lives.

President Jokowi’s Cabinet Line-up

My contribution to last month’s Kashmir Walla Magazine on Jokowi’s Cabinet line-up, focussing on some of the 8 female Minsters in the Cabinet

Pudjiastuti, Indonesia's mew Minister of Marine and Fisheries.
Susi Pudjiastuti, Indonesia’s mew Minister for Marine and Fisheries has an incredible rags-to-riches story that rivals even Jokowi’s inspiring story

Jokowi Widodo was sworn in as president of the world’s third-largest democracy, Indonesia, on October 20 amid an atmosphere of high hopes amongst supporters, winning a narrow victory over former Military Prabowo in July. The Jokowi Presidency marks the first time a member outside of the political and military elite has been elected as President and his campaign promised a government who would represent hope and change.

Jokowi announced his Cabinet line-up on Sunday October 26. After delaying the announcement for three days, speculation arose that Jokowi was wrangling with leaders in his coalition who were insisting on nominating problematic candidates.

There has been a level of disappointment expressed by some observers and analysts with what some see as political compromises in the final Cabinet line-up. Aspinal, a Professor of Politics at the Australian National University argued that Jokowi has “failed his first test” at promoting a truly reformist government stating that, while it is “possible that some of the ministers will emerge as strong reformers […] at first glance, this cabinet is far from being the fresh start that Jokowi promised”. Connelly from the Lowy Institute claims there are signs of “both of principle and compromise” in the appointments.

In a move that has drawn wide praise however, Jokowi has appointed eight female ministers to his cabinet, including the first female foreign minister in Indonesia, career diplomat Retno Marsudi.

Professor Yohana S. Yambise who became the first woman from Papua to become a professor, now represents the first Papuan woman to become a minister. She has been appointed to the position of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection.

One of the female appointees to the Cabinet who has been the subject of much discussion in Indonesia is Susi Pudjiastuti‎. With an incredible real rags-to-riches story that rivals even Jokowi’s, Pudjiastuti’s career began in the fish markets of Pangandaran West Java where she began work as a high-school dropout. Opening her business with a start-up capital of only $75 USD, Pudjiastuti’s business continued to grow, and in 1996 she set up a fish processing plant. As the fish processing business expanding into Asia and America, Susi created an air transportation company that quickly became one of the largest export companies in Indonesia. Pudjiastuti is the Minister of Marine and Fisheries.

The appointment of these women, amongst several others, represents a great opportunity for Indonesia to bridge the gender divide in representative politics. Particularly given the non-elite background of the selectees. While these appointments indicate positive change for Indonesia, several studies indicate that there generally needs to be at least 30 per cent women for them to have the confidence to support one another and to support issues important to women [1]. However, this 25 per cent is very pretty close to that 30 per cent and these female representatives have a much better chance of getting things done than most governments in the world. Particularly those represented by Indonesia’s closest Southern neighbour, Australia, who only has one female Minister in parliament.

Despite disappointment expressed by observers and analysts at the purported lack of reform-oriented Ministers in the newly announced Indonesian cabinet, the line-up of women represents a real change for Indonesia. With Indonesia’s thriving civil society, these new ministers however will now not only have to face the challenges of managing their portfolios, but also must face heavy scrutiny from Indonesian society and media. From the fundamentalist religious right, to the progressively democratic wings of civil society, these highly engaged groups will utilize the many channels available to them in post-Suharto Indonesia to voice their opinions and demands of their leaders.

[1] United Nations, Platform for Action and the Beijing Declaration, United Nations Department of Public Information, New York, 1995, clause 190.d.

Indonesia’s Presidential Election and the Battle Between Campaign Strategists

Joko Widodo greets supporters on Wednesday after an early vote count put him in the lead in Indonesia. Zuma Press
Joko Widodo greets supporters on Wednesday after an early vote count put him in the lead in Indonesia. Image Zuma Press

“I would not be willing to promote a win by making the culture of discrimination in Indonesia worse. That would be a poison that would continue to undermine the public even though the election is over. A mature political consultant should also concerned with the growth of democracy and the rights of the nation” – Denny JA


A Presidential election is not only a battle between two presidential candidates and two political machines, it is also a battle between strategists. This was also true in the case of the Indonesia’s 2014 Presidential campaign, where we saw the playing out of  a battle between campaign strategies prepared by an American PR consultant in camp Prabowo, and those of an Indonesian expert in public opinion and voting behavior in camp Jokowi.

Rob Allyn joined the Prabowo campaign team this year and is a political consultant who studied under Henry Kissinger at Georgetown, helped George W. Bush become governor of Texas in 1994 and consults for large corporations like Coca Cola. Denny JA at camp Jokowi is an anti-discrimination campaigner and also known as the founder of the tradition of political consultancy to Indonesia.

It has been widely reported in Indonesian media that Prabowo hired the American political consultant who is a well-known expert in negative and smear campaigning, with Tempo.com confirming the fact with Prabowo’s Gerindra Party on July 5, 2014.

Negative Vs Positive Campaign Tactics

The Prabowo versus Jokowi battle became increasingly colourful in it’s last weeks, as it also involved a battle between two political consultant types: between “black” or smear campaign tactics, and “positive grassroots and targeted” campaigning.

The most decisive part of the battle between Prabowo and Jokowi really happened in the last 20 days. Based on an LSI survey (Indonesian Survey Foundation) done in early June 2014, the margin to victory in the Jokowi camp was at 6.3%. But at the end of June 2014 it plunged again to only 0.5%, below the margin of error. Under these conditions, losing and winning became dependent on penetrating the intelligence of the voters until the final days before the election.

The Black Campaign

The alleged “Black Campaign” involved the spreading of lies about Jokowi’s ethnic and religious identity and, according to Denny JA, saw a marked drop in Jokowi’s popularity throughout the period in which they were employed.

These stories described Jokowi as a non-indigenous Indonesian, from a religious minority (some described him as begin a “secret “Chinese Christian”), and later accused him of having a PKI (Indonesian Communist Party) background.

Stories about Jokowi were circulated to remote villages. Even small children in slum alleys  were heard shouting:” Jokowi hasn’t been circumcised yet.” And false news like this is enough to influence voters who come from conservative Muslim backgrounds, regional voters, and those from middle to lower socio-economic groups, according Denny JA and the LSI.

Based on the LSI survey between January – June 2014, support to Jokowi in the segment of voters was down from 50 percent to below 40%. Not surprisingly, there was a shift of support from Jokowi to Prabowo.

The black campaign against Jokowi was systematic, and could only be carried out by leaders who understand the behaviour of voters.

Denny JA Joins Team Jokowi

Denny JA spoke by phone with Jokowi on Saturday April 26 around 20:30, and it was at this time that Jokowi accepted his offer to join his team to prepare a strategy outside the official campaign team.

The next day, on Sunday, April 27, 2014, Denny JA met face with Jokowi in Luhut Pandjaitan. At that time they discussed how the Jokowi team would utilise the strength of civil society and volunteers, rather than relying on political parties and the media.

As support for Jokowi continued to decline, opinions had formed amongst Indonesia’s elite that Jokowi was going to lose the election. At this point, the team strategized a positive campaign against “black campaign” devised by Rob Allyn. This campaign was targeted at grassroots voters and the upper middle class.

The Strategy of Team jokowi

The strategy employed by Team Jokowi and Denny JA utilised networks in 11 provinces of Indonesia, more than 70% of the Indonesian population. Thousands of trained volunteers engaged voters in door-to-door campaigning. Through this strategy, Denny JA says millions were reached. Concentrated effort were also focussed on Indonesia’s 3 largest provinces: West Java, Central Java and East Java.

To program this strategy, Denny JA cooperated with Timses Volunteers under Eriko. Denny asked Eriko provide 30 volunteer groups in every province. Focus was also made on the campaign trail.

The first strategy was the Jokowi “First 100 Days” Promise. During this period Jokowi promised to focus on addressing three major issues: economic, political/legal and cultural.

These election promises were then advertised. First through Kompas Media and then extended to mainstream media advertising, including billboards, banners and flyers. The team also engaged social media.

Second,  Jokowi’s 5 point political contract with the “small folk” (orang kecil) was made concrete with the pledge of providing one million rupiah per month to poor families, increasing the salaries of civil servants, teachers, police and military, and the promise of creating 10 million new jobs. This contract was also widely advertised.

Black Campaigning “A Poison” in a Country with a History of  Ethnic and Religious Discrimination

Denny JA countered the Allyn orchestrated “black campaign” with positive campaign to attract grassroots and upper middle class engagement in the Jokowi campaign. As Denny JA explained, ” I could have also used a black campaign style to detract from Prabowo’s edge. However, I was not willing to do so. I have been a long time campaigner for an Indonesia Without Discrimination,” he said.

Denny JA denounced the use of religion and ethnicity in political campaigning, although these tactics can engage voters through the politics of fear. As he explained, “I would not be willing to promote a win by making the culture of discrimination in Indonesia worse. That would be a poison that would continue to undermine the public even though the election is over. A mature political consultant should also concerned with the growth of democracy and the rights of the nation,” he said.

Denny JA claims he joined the Jokowi camp “without any official request” but out of a personal wish “to help Jokowi. Willing to spend from his own pocket if needs be, this was a matter of ideals”, he said.

Exit Poll counts show Mr. Widodo with a lead of 3-6 percentage points.

More commentary on the Jokowi strategy, see Inspirasi.co

We Vote for Peace: A message from the Indonesian community in Melbourne

A message from members of the Indonesian community in Melbourne : We Vote for Peace 

In this election, we are proving that the power of civil society determines what leadership means to our country. We, the people of Indonesia, determine the journey of our democracy. We demand a leader who would protect and listen to our needs.

Either which candidate wins the election, we, the Indonesian people, are the real winners.

We are winning, once again, in establishing leadership through democracy
It is yet a perfect process, we still see faults and fraudulence. But our democracy is growing.

Please watch and share! English subtitles available

Pesan Damai Dari Melbourne
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[Video] Pesan Damai dari Melbourne

Melalui pemilu ini, kita telah menunjukkan bahwa kekuatan rakyat sipil bisa menentukan sikap calon pemimpin kita. Masyarakat sipil-lah yang menentukan arah demokrasi kita. Siapapun pemimpinnya, kita butuh kepala negara yang melindungi dan mendengarkan aspirasi masyarakatnya.

Kandidat manapun yang memenangi pemilu, rakyat indonesia adalah pemenang sesungguhnya.

Kita telah dengan berhasil, sekali lagi, melahirkan pemimpin negara dari proses demokrasi. Meski masih terdapat beberapa kekurangan di sana-sini, kecurangan di sana-sini, demokrasi kita sedang menuju kematangan dan kedewasaannya.

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Please watch and share! English subtitles available

The ‘Military Strongman’ Vs ‘The Man of the People’ – A Tired Narrative

In reading foreign coverage of the presidential election campaign I’ve increasingly seen descriptions of potentially two very different Indonesia’s emerging under two “very different” leaders. Coverage from expat journalists out of Jakarta is inevitably following the same tired narrative of an election between the ‘Military Strongman’ and the ‘Man of the People’, images that have, in fact, been constructed and exploited by strategists and marketeers from each candidate’s election campaign team.

At the moment, polls are showing an increase in the popularity of Prabowo, whose controversial human rights record from his years as a general has not seemed to be a major problem in the election race.

As Asia Sentinel reported, “with very few policy differences between the two campaigns, the more potent factor in Prabowo’s favor seems to be a rising perception that he looks more like a “leader” than Joko”. Or as Dr Dave McRae pointed out on Election Watch:

“At a fundamental level, Indonesians face a choice between a president who promises to govern with them, and one who would govern over them. Neither candidate is concealing this choice – it is fundamental to their respective image and appeal.

Whereas Jokowi is a product of Indonesia’s democratic era, springboarded to his current position by his popularity as a small-town mayor and Jakarta governor, Prabowo is firmly part of the authoritarian-era establishment”.


The Prabowo appeal is causing many Western commentators to wring their hands, and for good reasons. I’ve been following coverage from the Australian National University’s New Mandela website with articles written by very well qualified and respected academics, but all of the articles have also followed the same tired “goodie vs baddie” narrative, with less analysis of the electoral appeal of the leader than I would have liked to have seen.

Whilst I have absolutely no hard data about the reasons behind the emerging poll trends in favour of Prabowo, during this election period I have asked Prabowo many supporters about why they support him, despite his shady past. The reasons they cite are usually the following: A) Whilst they like Jokowi, they feel he is not ready for the role B) Prabowo represents a strong leadership figure C) They don’t like Jokowi’s running mate, former President Megawati D) Indonesia needs a more authoritarian government and E) With the exception of Gus Dur, they are exceedingly dissapointed with Indonesia’s Presidents following the fall of Suharto, and feel that democracy did little to change Indonesia’s situation for the better F) They don’t know “who’s interests” are behind Jokowi.

This discusion of the so-called “interests” behind Jokowi has probably come from some of the smear campaign tactics we have seen emerge of late, claiming Jokowi is a “Secret Christian/Chinese/American lackey”. The conspiracy theories abound, and it will be interesting to eventually see who was behind this election tactic. But back to the point..

Whilst I have not heard one Indonesian say they would like to go back to a military dictatorship, and this is about perception over reality, many Prabowo voters also say that they feel Indonesian democracy has served the interest of the elite more than anyone.

From what I have gathered through everyday conversations, it seems some supporters of the Prabowo camp represent a section of Indonesian society fondly remember the certainty and prosperity of life under a military dictatorship. Whilst other supporters, particularly the younger ones, explain that they look to Prabowo as a leader capable of making hard decisions and leading Indonesia from the top down.

Consequently, the Indonesian people are not choosing between vastly different candidates on a policy basis. There aren’t actually major differences between the two candidates on a policy basis. Indonesians are choosing between two opposing regimes which represent vastly different views on the role of the president and his relationship with the nation. And of late, that appeal is to the leader with a well-constructed-by-the-PR-team “tough man” image.

May Day in Jakarta

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Protests in downtown Jakarta (image courtesy Asia Foundation)

More than 100,000 workers are expected to fill the streets of Jakarta today to demand an increase to the minimum wage, workplace protections, and basic healthcare as Indonesia marks May Day as a public holiday for the first time.

Workers will march from several areas across Jakarta from the Pulogadung Industrial Area, KBN & Cakung converging at HI roundabout before heading towards the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta, and will probably shut down the city – as May Day protests did last year. And I won’t be going into the city until later, so I should be spared the chaos.

US university dumps adidas: first-ever contract loss over sweatshop abuse

Yup! Pay up, pricks!

Ex-Adidas workers who continue to protest their mistreatment will also march alongside unions. Women who worked at the Adidas factory in Jakarta reportedly earned around 50 cents an hour making shoes until they were sacked without severance pay. Adidas still hasn’t paid them.

For one day of of protest, Indonesia’s workers are not asking for all that much 

The minimum wage in Jakarta is 2,441 Rupiah or $209.00 USD per month, and is highest in the country. It is calculated as a workweek comprised of 7 hour days at 40 hours a week as a 6 day workweek, or as 8 hour a days at 5 a days a week. But most at the minimum wage end of the labour market do not receive the minimum, particularly in the informal and unskilled sectors. Those that do receive the minimum wage still struggle find it hard to survive with the cost of living in Jakarta rising each month.

Selamat hari buruh kawan-kawan!

 

Indonesia’s 2014 Elections – Ready, Set, Go!

Well here we are. Today the world’s third-largest democracy, Indonesia, will hold its’ parliamentary elections as precursor to the country’s third direct presidential vote in July

As those living in Indonesia may have noticed, parties here will employ incredible, sometimes ridiculous tactics to gain votes. For this year’s elections there are some pretty colourful candidates including a former Miss Indonesia, five former models, at least eight actresses, and nine dangut singers. Googling their names may bring up “leaked” nude photos, swimsuit or lingerie ads, and softcore sex scenes. Parties that recruit these sexy celebrity women as their candidates believe that their famous faces and public notoriety will win votes in a country where name recognition is low and campaign posters remain the best way of reaching voters.

Joko Widodo, expected by many to be Indonesia’s next president, is current governor of Jakarta, a former furniture salesman, former mayor of the central Javan city of Solo or Surakarta and heavy metal fan. His main contendor from the Gerindra Party (Greater Indonesia Party) is businessman, politician and  ex-special forces commander Prabowo.

For most people I talk to, many aren’t overly impressed with the quality of candidates on offer, even when it comes to the most popular. Some feel that Jokowi hasn’t finished his duties as Governor of Jakarta and should have waited until the next elections and for this reason, feel that he is too much of a career politician. For Prabowo, his’ past as a commander under the Suharto regime continues to haunt him.

Initial results from the parliamentary race will most likely be released tonight or tomorrow and after that, the formation of the presidential candidate line-up will move into full motion, and the presidential campaigns will really begin.

To all my Indonesian friends in politics, Good luck!

PS. To my Indonesian friends, kalau Anda gak tahu apa-apa tentang calon-calonnya pemilu ikut link ini untuk data lengkap http://portalkbr.com/kenalicaleg/ 🙂