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Lessons of yet another Indonesian blasphemy case

When an ethnic Chinese woman in Medan named Meliana was sentenced on 21 August* to 18 months on blasphemy charges for complaining about the volume of the call to prayer (azan) in the mosque next door, outrage erupted across Indonesia. More than 50,000 people joined an online petition to free

The chance to urge religious freedom in Indonesia

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is visiting Indonesia this week on his first international trip as Australia’s leader. The two governments will announce a new trade deal and Australia is keen to show this as a deepening of ties between the two nations. But in his meetings with Indonesian President

Indonesia: running mates spark controversy

The confirmation by President Joko (Jokowi) Widodo’s of conservative Islamic cleric Ma’ruf Amin as running mate for the April 2019 presidential contest evoked disappointment among constituencies in Indonesia committed to democracy and pluralism. Interpreted as a forced compromise, a Jokowi-Ma

The dark side of the Asian Games

While some may argue that sport and politics should never mix, many governments have perfected the art of the sport–politics cocktail. It has a name: sports diplomacy.  Countries such as Australia even have a “Sports Diplomacy Strategy” that explains how this heady concoction is meant to

Indonesia: speaking for rights

Last month, Amnesty International held a major press conference for the release of its first research report on Indonesia since opening a dedicated office in Jakarta. Representatives of all major local and international media outlets, including newswires, Al Jazeera, the ABC, and The Australian,

Indonesian tourism booms, Australia misses out

It didn’t even make the news in Australia, but two weeks ago India announced it will now allow Indonesian tourists to visit without having to apply or pay for a visa. This development allows Indonesian nationals to choose India, in addition to all the ASEAN nations, as a holiday destination

Indonesia’s elections and the local result

Regional elections took place across Indonesia on 27 June, when local voters went to the polls to elect governors, regents, and mayors. The results offer a fascinating insight into the current political landscape, albeit one that analysts need to approach with caution.  It is always

Indonesia’s LGBT crackdown

Last month, Indonesia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community was buoyed by a decision to remove the phrase “same-sex” from the article on fornication in the proposed Criminal Code (KUHP) bill, amid a raft of contentious legal changes that have sparked much debate

Australia can help Indonesia kick the habit 

Australia is an undisputed world leader in tobacco control. From massive wins with plain packaging to widely enforced bans on smoking in public places, it is easy to see why. Australia is successfully creating a generational shift in tobacco use, with its youngest generation growing up in a

Quitting cigarettes in Indonesia

Nearly two-thirds of Indonesian males smoke. This is said to be the highest rate in the world, and includes the notorious case of the two-year-old with a forty-a-day habit. The government has enacted various anti-smoking measures, but the powerful tobacco lobby makes this effort half

Broad strokes: Indonesian art and 20 years of Reformasi

This month, Indonesia commemorates 20 years since the fall of strongman Suharto and two decades of the Reformasi era. Today, the strife of 1998 serves as inspiration for the country’s burgeoning contemporary arts. Suharto’s New Order period was marked by mass-centralisation of powers in

Indonesia: a concrete block and a hard case

It was an astonishing sight. Nine women dressed in batik sarongs and wearing the traditional, conical hats of Indonesian farmers sat on the edge of the road in front of the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, their feet encased in wooden boxes filled with cement. Kendeng farmers protest, March 2017 (

Surabaya and the ISIS family

Indonesia has again exploded in a paroxysm of terrorist violence, but with a new twist: family suicide bombers. This may be the first time in the world that parents took their children on a family outing to blow themselves up. The three families included the six killed in the bombings of

Beyond scandal: Facebook and Indonesian politics

In social media-loving Indonesia, Facebook is big business. As one of the biggest markets for the platform, it’s little surprise that Indonesia was the third most affected country in the Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal. Facebook estimates that 748 Indonesian accounts hosted a personality

Caught in a pincer

China, China, China. All the talk is of increasing Chinese influence in our region. But this is to wilfully ignore the elephant in the room.  Contrary to most commentary, the biggest destabilising player in Melanesia over the past five years has not been China, but Indonesia. Through its

A new take on violence in Indonesian Papua 

Last year’s “hostage stand-off” in Indonesian Papua had hardly ended before more armed clashes began. Most violence in Papua is assumed to be an issue of indigenous people threatened by the state. But this assumption is anecdotal. Despite the wealth Indonesia earns through Papua’s

Entrepreneurial traffic in the Jakarta jam

Given the number of green helmets and jackets marking out ride-hailing app drivers amid Jakarta’s notorious traffic, it’s easy to think the digital start-ups have conquered the market once and for all. But behind the cacophony of cheap motorcycle travel, the familiar chugging of Bajaj three

Borneo oil spill costs Indonesia’s poor

“We believe this is the worst oil spill to catch fire since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster,” said Fathur Roziqin Fen, Director of WALHI East Kalimantan. WALHI is Indonesia’s largest environmental organisation and is closely monitoring the consequences of last week’s large oil spill

Indonesia’s fishy furore

“Indonesia’s fishing industry was broken for many years,” says Amhar, who, like many Indonesians, goes by only one name. “Then Susi came along and she fought for us.” Amhar is a fisherman with a small boat he runs out of Panah Hijau, a fishing community in Medan, North Sumatra.

Indonesia: millennials’ party

The young in Indonesia are finding a voice. The Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), formed to win over a generation of millennial voters, is a response to what is seen as an oligarchy – political parties led by “old” people, particularly figures related to the New Order regime of

Timor Trough: the rumpled carpet on the sea floor

John Carlson says Australia approached maritime boundary negotiations with Indonesia in 1972 by arguing the Timor Trough was the meeting point of two geologically distinct continental shelves at a subduction zone. But the trough does not constitute two separate shelves any more than a rumpled carpet

Indonesia: countering a message of hate

After the Bali bombings of 2002, security forces within the Government of Indonesia, like their Western counterparts, worked towards incorporating “ideological” or “soft” approaches into counterterrorism portfolios. This approach later became commonly known as Countering Violent

Australia–Indonesia: strangers next door

At the weekend, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will meet with President of Indonesia Joko Widodo (Jokowi) on the margins of the Australia-ASEAN Special Summit. Although Turnbull seems to have built the positive personal relationship with Jokowi that eluded Tony Abbott, managing the bilateral

The Timor Trough – two separate shelves

In her article “How Australia crossed a line in the Timor Sea”, Kim McGrath claims that Australia had evidence supporting Indonesia’s claim in maritime boundary negotiations – but buried it. This serious charge is not substantiated by the 1970 report from then Bureau of

Quality over quantity: Indonesia’s education challenge

Two enduring ideological themes have informed Indonesian education policy almost since the Repulic was founded. The first has been an “education for all” approach, and the second has been to use the education system to promote a sense of an “Indonesian identity”. Largely absent from

Shrugging Indonesia’s inferiority complex

Under President Joko (Jokowi) Widodo, Indonesia has been accused of lacking a coherent foreign policy, particularly when compared to the overtly internationalist outlook of previous president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Despite bold early claims to set up Indonesia as a “global maritime fulcrum”,

Indonesia–US relations: sweating the small stuff

The US and Indonesia have declared an overarching “strategic partnership” to meet broader challenges, from regional architecture building to global governance. At least, this was the case under the Barack Obama (2008–16) and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004–14) presidencies. But under

Addressing global capital flows

International capital flows present serious policy challenges. In textbook economics, such flows are unambiguously beneficial. But volatile flows were a key cause of the 1997 Asian crisis, cross-country financial linkages exacerbated the 2008 global crisis, and capital flows were once again central

Indonesian democracy: Down, but not out

The imprisonment on blasphemy charges of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok, has been a blow to hopes that his earlier success in public office represented the emergence of a more pluralist politics in Indonesia. There is little question that the accusation that Ahok had

Capital flows to emerging economies: Still unresolved

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Asian Financial Crisis. Many factors were involved in that disaster, but grossly excessive foreign capital inflows were the key macro-economic problem during the boom years preceding the crisis. These flooded out when 'euphoria turned to panic without

Refugee detention in Indonesia

It was a morning like any other until Mohammed, the 16-year-old refugee, was arrested by Indonesian immigration officials at a local market. In order to support his family, who had fled Afghanistan to seek asylum in Indonesia, he had taken up work assisting a shopkeeper. Before he had a chance to

Indonesian prosperity needs certainty on resource regulation

Among the many floral tributes to Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who lost his bid for a second term in last month's religiously-charged election, one in particular struck me. 'Mr Ahok,' it read, using the governor's nickname, 'we are waiting for you to become minister of energy and

Infrastructure: How Indonesia could shift up a gear

Next year Indonesia will host the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Nusa Dua, Bali. This is a big deal: these meetings leave Washington only once every third year and involve thousands of high-level participants. In announcing that Indonesia would host the 2018

Democracy in Indonesia: A cause for celebration

Prior to Indonesia holding 101 local elections across the nation, Islamic leaders and the National Police publicly urged citizens to stay united. National Police Chief General Tito Karnavian asserted that differences 'are common in a democracy'. He said: 'You may have different candidate preferences

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