YANGON – Gusmão’s tenure saw economic growth hit double digits on the back of oil and gas revenues. New roads have been built, linking isolated mountain villages to nearby towns, and electricity has been provided to 60 per cent of the population in what remains one of Asia’s poorest countries. “He kept the peace and investment increased,” said Tony Jape, a leading Timorese businessman and founder of Dili’s largest shopping mall. But two of Gusmão’s ministers were charged with corruption during his time as prime minister, while connected cadres from the resistance era have often had the first options on juicy government contracts for new roads.
PELABUHAN RATU, INDONESIA — This small fishing town on Java’s southwest coast is best known for the legendary sea queen Nyi Roro Kidul, a spurned princess turned mermaid who is said to snatch whatever man takes her fancy from the miles of beach that forms the town’s frontier with the Indian Ocean. But the predatory queen is not the only marine enigma swimming through the turbulent undertow off the rain-swept coast. For Hisayasu Ishitani, a chain smoking 72-year old Japanese, now in his 5th decade in Indonesia, the local waters mean a plentiful supply of eel — and the opportunity to fill a growing market gap in his Japanese homeland.
JAKARTA – Xanana Gusmao, the former leader of East Timor’s separatist revolt against Indonesian rule, resigned as the young country’s prime minister on Friday morning. The move follows a year of speculation that Gusmao would step down before the end of his term in 2017 due to ill health. At one point, he had said he would resign in September 2014. A replacement for Gusmao, 68, has not been named. Speculation centers on Rui Araujo, a former health minister. Former President Jose Ramos-Horta called Araujo “an outstanding leader – honest, experienced, humble,” in comments to the Nikkei Asian Review.
JAKARTA – In a darkened university classroom in east Jakarta earlier this week, 50 or so students looked straight ahead, silent. On screen in front, a shriveled, twitchy old man recounted how he killed, often gruesomely, a half century before. “Human blood tastes both salty and sweet, did you know that?” Inong, the murderer, said. He was recounting a half century old memory – that of his own savagery carried out during Indonesia’s mass killings of 1965-66. The footage appears in director Joshua Oppenheimer’s latest, The Look of Silence, which was given a rare airing in the Indonesian capital.
JAKARTA – Indonesia’s government hopes to double infrastructure spending in the coming year. China recently established a new regional infrastructure investment bank. “China can bring both finance and project skills to Indonesia,” said Peter McCawley, an infrastructure focused economist at Australian National University. “In the last 20 years, China has shown a truly astonishing ability to construct infrastructure investments within China.”
JAKARTA – The power struggle surrounding Indonesia’s search for a new chief of police escalated Friday morning with the arrest of prominent anti-graft official Bambang Widjojanto on charges of inciting perjury. Widjojanto is deputy head of the Corruption Eradication Commission, known by its Indonesian initials as the KPK. The agency had earlier indicted Budi Gunawan, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s nominee for police chief, on charges of accepting gifts and bribes.Nursyabani Katjasungkana, a lawyer with the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, said that Widjojanto’s arrest was a retaliation against the KPK by the police. “This cannot be separated from the context of the KPK investigation into the nominee for chief of police, Katjasungkana said, speaking at the Jakarta police station where Widjojanto was being detained.
JAKARTA – Despite his election on a reformist platform, Jokowi, as he is widely known, has made it clear that ending Indonesia’s death penalty for drug traffickers is out of the question. “Wars against drug mafia can’t be half-hearted, because drugs have ruined the lives of both the users and family of the users,” he posted on Facebook on January 18. David Mcrae, senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute, believes Jokowi’s uncompromising stance is a disappointment, given that he came to office with “a blank slate” on capital punishment.
JAKARTA – Indonesia’s capital punishment policy leaves it open to charges of double standards, given that the Jakarta government is seeking a pardon for Satinah Binti Jumadi Ahmad, an Indonesian domestic worker who has been on death row in Saudi Arabia since 2010. “It is ironic to see how we strive to save lives of Indonesians abroad from death penalty executions while in its country Indonesia practices the execution to other countries’ citizens,” said Indri D. Saptaningrum, executive director of ELSAM, a Jakarta-based human rights group.
JAKARTA – On July 3 last year, The Jakarta Post published a cartoon critical of the Islamic State (IS) militant group. The first reaction to the cartoon surfaced only the week after the publication, when a group called the Jakarta Muslim Preachers Corps filed a police complaint calling the cartoon blasphemous. But how would Indonesia’s roughly 200 million Muslims react to a local newspaper running some of Charlie Hebdo’s output? “Even though the majority of Indonesian Muslims are moderate, some can be offended by this caricature,” said Taufik Abdullah, a prominent scholar of Islam and a member of the Indonesian Academy of Sciences.
JAKARTA – Indonesia’s government has proposed boosting capital spending on infrastructure to Rp 290 trillion (US$23 billion) this year, a doubling of last year’s Rp139 billion that is intended to drive much-needed development across the archipelago. Aziz Pane, chairman of Indonesia’s Tyre Manufacturers Association, blames lagging investment in infrastructure for problems including inefficiencies and high costs in Indonesia’s rubber and other agricultural sectors. “We need roads, we need harbors,” Pane said. “That is both for farmers getting raw material to producer, and for producer distributing later on.”