Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Indonesia: Mobilizing Civilian Militias for National Defense


-- implications for security in the Papuan provinces

On the afternoon of Thursday 26 September, with only 73 of 283 members of parliament in the House, the Indonesian parliament passed a profoundly controversial Bill.

Indonesian parliament passes PSDN Bill, 26 Sept 2019

Agus Hermanto, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, chaired the session.

When he asked, “Can the second level discussion of decision making on the Draft Bill on Management of National Resources (PSDN) for National Defense be approved as a law?” all members present said, “Agree.”

With that, and a clap of the hammer, the Bill on Management of National Resources (PSDN) for National Defense officially became law.

The PSDN Bill 2019 on National Defense contains several controversial articles. However, the one that will trigger alarm bells for Christians is Chapter 4, Article 27 which makes it legal for the Indonesian military (TNI) to mobilise civilian forces for national defense.

[NOTE: I apologise from the outset that all the news reports referenced in this post are Indonesian language news reports. It seems this news is not being reported in English! My English translations come courtesy of Google Translate, albeit with some tweaking.]

The full text of the law on
Management of National Resources (PSDN) for National Defense
can be found here: PSDN Bill 2019 – full text, in Indonesian, pdf.

Article 1 provides some essential definitions.
Excerpts

In this Act we mean:

1. National Defense is all efforts to maintain state sovereignty, territory of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia, and the safety of the nation from threats and interference towards the integrity of the nation and state.

2. National Resources are human resources, natural resources, and artificial resources.

6. The Main Component is the Indonesian National Army [TNI] that is already used to carry out defense duties.

7. The Reserve Component is a National Resource that has been prepared to be mobilized through mobilization to enlarge and strengthen the strength and capabilities of the Main Components.

8. Supporting Components are National Resources that can be used to increase the strength and ability of the Main Component and Reserve Component.

10. Mobilization is an act of mobilization and uses, simultaneously, National Resources and Facilities and Infrastructure that have been prepared and fostered as components to strengthen the National Defense. [Resources are] to be used appropriately, integrated, and directed for overcoming every threat – both threats from abroad as well as threats to national unity and the survival of the Unified State of Republic of Indonesia [NKRI].

Chapter 4, Article 27 [BAB IV, Pasal 27]

(1) The Proposed Components include:
a. Citizens;
b. Natural Resources;
c. Artificial Resources; and
d. National Utilities and Infrastructure.

(2) The Proposed Components as referred to in paragraph (1) may be utilized in the service of National Defense.

(3) The Proposed Components as referred to in paragraph (1) may be utilized to assist with internal, State Defense efforts.

CONTROVERSY

For most Indonesians, the most controversial element of this article was the prospect that citizens would be conscripted into a Reserve Component. Controversy raged about whether the government was introducing compulsory military service or whether this law would result in the militarization of civil society.

In response, the Chairman of the Working Committee on the PSDN Bill for National Defense, Satya Widya Yudha, assured the public that, “Conscription for civil society is voluntary. This is clear, there is no coercion in the PSDN Act.

Chairman of the House of Representatives Commission, Abdul Kharis Almasyhari, also confirmed that citizen participation in Support Components and Reserve Components would be voluntary, adding that the law was made to strengthen Indonesia’s national defense, not to force citizens into military service. According to Abdul Kharis, precisely because the TNI and Polri (police) cannot be everywhere at once, they should not be expected to carry the whole burden of security. Now, with this regulation, community mobilization – if it is needed – will be legal.

ALARM

While these assurances might comfort most Indonesian citizens, Christians with memories of the violence in East Timor and the jihad in the Maluku Islands -- especially those in the Papuan provinces -- will be deeply alarmed.

Islamic jihadi and merah putih (red and white, ultra nationalist) militias have long served as proxies for the TNI which is known to arm militias and then turn a blind eye to their violence. By using the militias as proxies, the TNI has been able to maintain plausible deniability of gross human rights abuses. And deniability is essential if the TNI is to continue receiving weapons and training from the West.

Now however, with the passing of the PSDN Bill, the TNI will be able to mobilize civilian militias which will now be known now as Reserve Components. These militias/Reserve Components will now fight alongside and cooperate with the TNI for the purpose of “national defense” as defined by the Bill. Of course, they will be fighting not predominantly Christian (infidel) indigenous Papuans (“monkeys”) but “separatists”! And what could be more Islamic than defending the unity of Indonesia? For as far as Islam is concerned, Indonesia – including the Papuan provinces – is all part of the dar al-Islam (House of Islam).

PAPUAN PROVINCES: LOOMING NATIONALIST JIHAD

Since the 23 September riots in Wamena – in which at least 27 Muslim settlers died at the hands of invading marauding highlanders – several Java-based jihadist groups have begun calling for jihad. [For background see: Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 523 (9 Oct 2019).]

Islam Jihad Front (FJI) and Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) have both begun raising funds and enlisting recruits for jihad in the Papuan provinces.

recruiting for Papua jihad

A banner at an FJI recruitment post reads: “Islamic Jihad Front opens registration for Islamic paramilitary groups throughout Indonesia to send Islamic holy war fighters/militias [jihad qital] to Wamena, Papua, to defend Muslim brothers in Papua who were slaughtered by the waring infidels [kafir harby] and to maintain the integrity of the NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia] from the OPM [Organisasi Papua Merdeka / Free Papua Movement] separatist hordes.”

According to Indonesian human rights researcher Andreas Harsono (7 Oct), several “aggressive”, Islamist groups already have a foothold in the Papuan provinces. “We have one in Sorong; we are also seeing Laskar Jihad, a militant Muslim group, setting up a base in Keerom; also in Wamena . . .”

Further to this, previously, on 5 September, Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu informed members of the House of Representatives, “There is a group affiliated with the Islamic State [operating] in Papua that has called for a jihad there.” National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo confirmed Ryamizard’s statement and identified the IS-affiliated group as Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) – the group believed to be responsible for a string of terror attacks in and around Surabya, including suicide-bombings at three churches on Sunday 13 May 2018.

The PSDN Bill 2019 for National Defense changes the dynamic of the Papuan conflict dramatically. It seems the TNI, which is heavily invested in the Papuan provinces, will have no shortage of volunteers willing to serve in a Reserve Component.

As one observer ominously warns, “The possibility that all this could turn into a widespread, government supported ethnic cleansing in the guise of a religious war is now very real.”

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Papuans have had enough of racial-religious hatred and persecution.


By Elizabeth Kendal


Every 15 August, Papuans (mostly Christian Melanesians) hold demonstrations to protest the unjust New York Agreement, signed on 15 August 1962, which paved the way for West Papua and Papua (formerly known as Irian Jaya) to come under Indonesian rule.

Every 17 August, Indonesians (in particular, the mostly Javanese Muslims) celebrate Indonesia's 17 August 1945 Proclamation of Independence.

Unsurprisingly, every year there are clashes and arrests. Indeed, this year more than 100 Papuans were arrested, including “a 9-year old kid whose only crime was marching with his fellow West Papuans”.

What’s more, this year footage went viral which showed Indonesian soldiers using excessive force as police and radicals aligned with various nationalist and Islamist militia groups yelled racist abuse and threats at Papuan students in Surabaya, East Java.

Fed up and infuriated, Papuans rallied in 30 cities across Indonesia, including in Jakarta, in protest of years of unrelenting racial-religious hatred and persecution.

To appreciate the seriousness of incident in Surabaya, a report in the Jakarta Post is worth quoting at length.

Papuan students on Java face increased pressures from Islamist, nationalist groups
By Ivany Atina Arbi, Wahyoe Boediwardhana, and Benny Mawel
The Jakarta Post Jakarta, Surabaya, and Jayapura, Monday, August 19, 2019

Excerpt:

"Papuan students on Java Island have repeatedly become the target of intimidation by Islamist and nationalist groups.

"In the latest incident on Friday afternoon [16 Aug], scores of security forces along with civil militias from hard-line group Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and youth organization Pemuda Pancasila (PP) reportedly went to a Papuan student dormitory on Jl. Kalasan in Surabaya, East Java, and launched physical and verbal attacks against the students, following the finding of an Indonesian flag discarded near the dorm.

"According to the Surabaya Legal Aid Institute, which cited the account of a student staying in the dormitory, Indonesian Military (TNI) soldiers allegedly banged on the door of the dorm while uttering curse words such as 'monkey', 'dogs' and 'pigs' aimed at the students inside the dormitory.

"Dozens of FPI and PP members reportedly came not long after.

"Human rights lawyer Veronica Koman, who is also a representative of the National Committee for West Papua (KNPB), said Sunday that the angry mob purportedly damaged the dorm’s gate and threw stones at the building while chanting 'Kick out Papuans!' and 'Slaughter Papuans!' for hours, restricting the students’ movement.

"Two good Samaritan Indonesian students, who at midnight delivered food to the students trapped inside the dorm, claimed to have been assaulted and later arrested by police who were guarding the area.

Police storm dormitory (ABC)
"'This is beyond my comprehension, what could possibly be the crime of delivering food and water? Even prisoners have a right to eat,' Veronica said, adding that the pressure continued on the following day with the police shooting teargas into the dorm and arresting all 43 students inside the building.

"'[All the teargas and violence] is totally unnecessary. They are only unarmed, hungry, thirsty and tired students who have been rounded up by hundreds of racist civil militias and security forces for more than 24 hours,' she said."

Australia’s ABC reported that the police stormed the ‘dormitory full of Papuan students, firing around 20 tear gas canisters into the building, causing injuries, arrested 43 (later released) around nine hours after without charge, over claims that the Indonesian flag was found in the gutter by the building.’ They claim to have been concerned that the crowd/mob was ‘close to attacking’, and thus only acted to stabilise the situation.

Protests erupt in West Papua and Papua


On Monday 19 August, thousands of Papuans protested in West Papua’s Manokwari (where local parliament was torched,) and Sorong (where 250 inmates escaped after the jail was torched), as well as in Papua’s capital Jayapura.

Clashes have been reported in Fakfak, a Papuan regency known to harbour Indonesian nationalist and Islamist militias.

Several protesters were injured and dozens detained as Indonesian authorities cracked down on the Papuan “separatists”.

Victor Yeimo, a spokesperson for the West Papua National Committee (KNPB), told Al Jazeera that a member of his organisation has confirmed reports of injuries sustained by several West Papuans, some of whom were taken to a local hospital.

John Djonga, a prominent Catholic priest in Papua province, told Al Jazeera that he had sent an emissary to Fakfak, who confirmed that some injured protesters were being treated in a hospital there.

The police, however, deny that dozens were wounded in the crackdown, asserting that reports of injuries are nothing but “hoax news”.

Troops deployed; Internet shut down

The Indonesian government has deployed an additional 1,200 troops to Papua Province, a region long-closed to outsiders.

According to a report by Pacific Media Watch, Indonesia’s police chief, Tito Karnavian, has focused blame for the destruction in Manokwari on the people who posted about the Surabaya incident on social media, describing their posts as “hoax news”. Further to that, in a statement, the Ministry of Communication and Information said it had acted to “throttle” access to the internet in several areas because of the potential for disinformation to create social disorder. “We can say that the purpose of throttling is to prevent the wide spread of hoax (fake news) that trigger action,” the ministry said.

On Thursday 22 August, Indonesia’s Ministry of Telecommunication “temporarily” shut down the internet across Papua Province allegedly “to accelerate government efforts to restore order”. Of course, this not only prevents the flow of news into Papua, it also makes it very difficult to get news out.

CBC News 23 Aug 2019
 'Indonesia deploys thousands of troops to Papua region to quell protests'
(includes interview with exiled Papuan leader, Benny Wenda)

Protests continue; calls for referendum

On Monday 26 August, some 5000 Papuans took to the streets of Deiyai, a highlands town about 500 km south-west of Jayapura, carrying four banned Morning Star flags.

Papuans are calling for a new, fair and just referendum on Papuan Independence.

As Indonesian expert on Papua issues, Darmawan Triwibowo, told the Jakarta Post, “Papuans are often depicted [by the government and mass media] as anti-nationalists who want to separate themselves from the country. The media, however, fail to present the reason behind such aspiration. There’s a human rights issue behind the desire, which is a political problem that should also be addressed using a political approach instead of a security or economic approach.”

According to the Jakarta Post, “[Triwibowo’s] voice was echoed by Papua Peace Network coordinator Adriana Elisabeth, who said various human rights violations that occurred in Papua had not been resolved to this day, despite President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo’s 2014 campaign promise to do so.”

As Human Rights Watch declared, “The Indonesian government has a responsibility to ensure security in West Papua and Papua and to respect the human rights of everyone, including protesters. President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo, who plans to visit Papua, should condemn racist remarks and actions, promote tolerance, and direct the police to impartially investigate abusive militias and officers.”

President Widodo's shame 

To date, all President Widodo has done is call on Papuans to stay calm and forgive their fellow citizens. 

“I know that there are hurt feelings,” Widodo told a media conference, “but as fellow citizens the best thing is to forgive each other. It is okay to be emotional but forgiving is better. Being patient is also better. And be confident that the government will continue to safeguard your dignity and prosperity.”

But, as Evi Mariani observed in the Jakarta Post (19 Aug), “Papuans have long endured racial discrimination from the majority Javanese.” 

She notes that in July last year, Amnesty International Indonesia released a report which described Papua as “one of Indonesia’s black holes for human rights . . . a region where security forces have for years been allowed to kill women, men and children, with no prospects of being held to account."

Mariani continues, “Under the pretext of nationalism, [many Indonesians] may think Papuans have no right to be outraged. After all, some would say: ‘We give them roads, development and a lot of special autonomy funds. . .’

“However, we fail to give the Papuans respect they deserve and recognition that they are equal to us. As citizens of Indonesia, they have equal opportunity to protest when they think they are being treated unfairly. Of course, such failure only amounts to racism.

“Non-Papuans, the majority, would say Papuans, the minority, have no right to call for justice or determine their future after the relentless acts of violence, injustice and racism they have endured for decades. Unless they find peace, justice and prosperity, they will consider living in the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia merely a rhetorical statement.

“Papuans deserve peace and prosperity on their rich land and without eradicating our racism against them, there would never be peace in Papua.”

“Racism,” she concludes, will only fuel the Papuan “struggle for independence from ‘Indonesian occupation'.”

Indeed; Papuans have had enough of genocidal racial-religious hatred and persecution.

------------------------

On 30 August, East Timor will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1999 UN-managed referendum through which the mostly Catholic East Timorese people voted overwhelmingly to separate from Indonesia. As Jose Ramos Horta explains, ‘Between 150,000 and 200,000 people out of a population of 700,000 died during the 24-year Indonesian reign.’

Though marked by violence which saw more than 1500 East Timorese murdered at the hands of Indonesian nationalist and Islamist militias – violence ultimately subdued by troops from an International Force (INTERFET) organised and led by Australia – the 1999 referendum paved the way to independence. Today Jose Ramos Horta is incredibly proud of East Timor, and incredibly grateful for the referendum which has enabled the East Timorese to create ‘a new country, free of revenge and violence, a vibrant democracy with the freest media in the region’.

Do the Papuans deserve any less?

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com 

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Nigeria’s Fraudulent Election: Will Things Fall Apart?


By Elizabeth Kendal

Nigerians vote: 23 February 2019

“Massive, consistent, and comprehensive, deliberate manipulation and distortion preceded, attended, and followed the Nigerian Presidential and National Assembly elections of February 23, 2019, and gubernatorial elections of March 9, 2019.”

So reads the opening paragraph of a Staff Report entitled, “Options for Africa and Nigeria Moves into a ‘Post-Democratic’ Phase” in issue 4/2019 of Defense & Foreign Affairs (D&FA) Strategic Policy magazine (the official magazine of the International Strategic Studies Association).

Shocking they might be, but these words would come as no surprise to anyone who has been closely monitoring Nigeria over recent years.

As noted in Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletins 488 (6 Feb) and 489 (13 Feb) – written to facilitate strategic intercessory prayer – Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) came to power in 2015 promising to tackle corruption, improve security and revive the economy. Instead, the opposite has occurred.

Corruption has flourished. In particular, as has been revealed, there has been massive fraud in military procurement. Government funds have been secured on the basis of fake contracts for provisions and equipment which were never delivered – “everything from food and ammunition to firearms, helicopters and Alpha jets, totalling as much as US$15 billion”.  “Armsgate” is the reason why soldiers are being deployed into conflict zones with insufficient rations and malfunctioning weapons; and why those who survive return defeated and demoralised. It is why insecurity has escalated to crisis levels. It is why Boko Haram / Islamic State of West Africa has not been defeated. It is why soldiers mutinied in Maiduguri in August 2018 not long after Buhari’s APC party suffered a string of defections to the opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP). It is also why a catastrophic Christian crisis persists throughout Nigeria's North and Middle Belt.

Pleading for assistance,  Rev. Ezekiel Dachomo
World Watch Monitor, Sept 2018
For more news on persecution see Morning Star News / Nigeria

Of course corruption and insecurity are major reasons as to why the economy has stagnated and why there is such widespread disillusionment, displacement, poverty and despair.

Unsurprisingly, Buhari’s first term was widely believed to have been an unmitigated disaster. Indeed, any progress that was made, was made in Buhari’s absence – during his 170-days of “medical leave”.

Consequently, it seemed the risk was not that Buhari would win the presidential poll, but that his loss would trigger widespread religious violence, just as in April 2011 when Buhari lost to Goodluck Jonathan.

Buhari declared winner of presidential poll.

President Muhammadu Buhari,
winner of 2019 presidential poll.
When, on the morning of 27 February, Nigeria’s Independent National Election Commission (INEC) announced Muhammadu Buhari as the winner of the presidential poll, the news was met with disbelief in many quarters.

As the Council on Foreign Relations remarked (18 March): “Nigeria’s latest presidential election cycle has been bad news for democracy in Africa’s most populous country and across the continent. Though President Muhammadu Buhari won the election, it was marred by historically low turnout and credible allegations of rigging.”

In March, in an editorial in D&FA issue 2/2019 entitled “Democracy as Farce is the Prelude to Tyranny”, the president of the International Strategic Studies Association, Gregory Copley, commented that Buhari, “knowing the electorate had turned against him, could only sustain power by the direct, deliberate, and planned manipulation of voting mechanisms. Buhari controlled the levers of legalization: he ensured that the management of the ‘Independent’ National Election Commission (INEC) was no longer, in fact, independent, ensuring that the delivery and counting of ballots could be manipulated in the most blatant terms . . .

“Knowing such fraud would become known to the electorate, and that those defrauded would seek redress in the courts, Buhari unilaterally, unconstitutionally, and pre-emptively replaced the Chief Justice of Nigeria, on January 25, 2019, with Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed . . . presumably to position the highest Nigerian court to ratify a Buhari/All Progressives Congress (APC) victory in the Presidential, National Assembly, and probably state gubernatorial elections.”

According to the Staff Report in D&FA (4/2019), “The incumbent Government of Pres. Muhammadu Buhari, through manipulation of the electoral, military, and administrative processes, achieved the effect of a coup d’etat, institutionalizing corruption to a degree unseen before even in Nigeria, while all the stage settings of democracy appeared to continue in situ.”

According to D&FA (4/2019), the known steps undertaken by the cadre around President Buhari to co-opt the elections include:

1) The unconstitutional replacement by President Buhari on 25 January 2019, of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) – Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen (a southerner) – with Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed (a Muslim from the North) presumably to position the highest Nigerian court to ratify a Buhari win;

2) The now exposed and substantial under-delivery of ballot papers to voting stations around Nigeria. This means that even if 100 per cent of the delivered ballot papers were completed in favor of opposition candidates, there would still be sufficient ballots which could be illegally and secretly completed in favor of Buhari and the APC;

3) The disruptive postponement of the election from its scheduled dates (possibly to “test the waters” should a state of emergency or even martial law be declared), and

4) President Buhari’s threats against foreign governments if they “interfere” in the Nigerian elections.

The Staff Report in D&FA (4/2019) also noted that by 7 April claims were emerging that the “Presidential election result could be canceled due to the fact that INEC still was unable to produce full result sheets from the election, despite having called the Presidency in Buhari’s favor shortly after the election.”

D&FA (4/2019) laments that while Buhari “is ill, indecisive, and vindictive, and has become financially and morally corrupt”, he is “surrounded by officials who, to cling to their own wealth, are prepared to go to any lengths to sustain his Presidency”.

The report concludes: “Thus corruption continues in Nigeria with the notable compounding factor: there are no checks and balances left to constrain an administration which has essentially abandoned democracy.”

Court Challenge Commences in Abuja
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar
On 18 March, the presidential candidate for the People's Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar issued a legal challenge to the election results on the basis of irregularities.”

Atiku faced immense pressure to drop the case as stakeholders warned it could trigger violence. However, former President Olusegun Obasanjo defended Atiku's right to seek legal redress, noting that, if Buhari were permitted to seek redress over past losses (as he did in 2003, 2007 and 2011), then Atiku should be entitled to do likewise, as should any Nigerian who feels they have been denied justice. According to Obasanjo, those warning the case would trigger violence are simply those looking for an excuse to unleash violence.

On Wednesday 8 May, a panel of five judges at Nigeria’s appellate court fixed 15 May as the date to begin hearing a total of four petitions filed to challenge the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) party in the 23 February presidential poll.

On Wednesday 15 May, security was high around the Appeal Court in Abuja, venue of Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, as the pre-hearing session on the 139-page petition filed by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar commenced.

Claims INEC server was hacked 

It seems that Atiku Abubakar, having been alerted to the fact that President Buhari was preparing to rig the election, took precautions. At his instigation a whistle-blower from the INEC hacked into the INEC server and download the election results before they were announced.

In his submission to the Presidential Election Tribunal, Atiku Abubakar has supplied the “unique MAC address and Microsoft product ID of the INEC server” from where the results were allegedly obtained. INEC_PRES_RSLT_SRV2019 and its unique Mac address  94-57-A5-DC-64-B9 with Microsoft Product ID 00252-70000-0000-AA535.

According to the results downloaded from the server, Atiku Abubakar won the presidential poll by more than 1.6 million votes (and this was before the results from Rivers in the deep south – traditionally a PDP state – had been transmitted to the INEC server).

During the election campaign, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Festus Keyamo served as the Director of Strategic Communications (Official Spokesperson) for the Buhari Campaign Organisation. Upon hearing of Atiku’s claim, Festus Keyamo (SAN) wrote a petition to the Inspector-General of Police calling for Atiku Abubakar’s arrest for allegedly hacking the INEC server.

But this is self-defeating, as Atiku’s guilt would only prove Buhari’s fraud.

In his petition, Keyamo echos the INEC’s false and ludicrous claim that the data Atiku allegedly downloaded from the INEC server is data he first smuggled onto the INEC server. For according to the INEC, there was no data on the INEC server as all election results were transmitted manually, not electronically.

Unfortunately for Keyamo and the INEC, Atiku Abubakar’s petition also includes affidavits from 13 presiding officers, who, in their sworn statements, testify that during their training the INEC had instructed them on how to electronically transmit the results to its server.

An investigation by Nigeria’s THISDAY revealed that, “as Atiku publicised the INEC server ID to prove that he had genuine election results, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) arrested workers in the commission’s IT department for leaking information on the server.” THISDAY also revealed that “when the wives and families of arrested INEC staff threatened to protest publicly, the DSS quickly released the INEC staff”.

As public affairs analyst, Hamma Shehu, remarks: “INEC was clever by half. They played themselves, they think they can use technology and jettison it crookedly, unknown to them, everything digital has a footprint and cannot be deleted.”

Some of the most scathing commentary has come from popular columnist and social commentator Femi Aribisala. “I am of the opinion,” he writes in his weekly column, “that no election in Nigeria has been as fraudulent as the one we just witnessed.  Fortunately, no stolen mandate has also been so conclusively documented as this one. . .

“This blatant rape on Nigerian democracy must not be allowed to stand.”

[Commentary by Femi Aribisala: “The Courts Must Declare Atiku As Nigerian President,” Part 1 (7 May) and Part 2 (14 May).

INAUGURATION

President Buhari will be inaugurated in a “low-key” ceremony on Wednesday 29 May.  Celebrations will be held on 12 June, the day President Buhari wants recognised as National Democracy Day.

As PDP spokesman Kola Ologbondiyan remarks, no many how many global leaders are invited to this big event, it “cannot confer international recognition for a stolen mandate”.

These are watershed days for Nigeria. The future is anything but certain.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Militants destabilise Burkina Faso; but whose proxies are they?


-- by Elizabeth Kendal

Terror incidents 2018.
Africa Centre for Strategic Studies
Terror attacks have been escalating at an alarming rate in Burkina Faso, from 12 attacks in 2016, to 33 in 2017, to 158 in 2018 (BBC).  Furthermore, the insecurity is no longer confined to the capital, Ouagadougou and the northern provinces bordering Mali. Since early 2018, violence and terror have also become a feature of life in the east. 

On 31 December 2018, after a surge in terror attacks and high profile abductions, President Kaboré declared a state of emergency in several northern provinces bordering Mali. On 18 January, after months of spiralling insecurity, Prime Minister Paul Kaba Thieba resigned, along with his entire cabinet. Christophe Joseph Marie Dabiré has since been appointed Prime Minister.

More than 150,000 people have been displaced since July 2018. In the regions most effected by violence, 1111 out of 2869 schools have closed, affecting the education of more than 150,000 children.  The country is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

What is clear is that Islamic terror group are infiltrating and destabilising Burkina Faso. What must be remembered is that terrorists/jihadists are merely proxies. What is not clear, in the case of Burkina Faso, is whose proxies they are, although seasoned observers are increasingly pointing in the direction of ousted president, Blaise Compaoré.

Terror in the North
-- targeting of churches may portend a new and disturbing trend and strategy.  

On Sunday 28 April, around a dozen unidentified gunmen attacked an Assemblies of God church in Sirgadji village in Burkina Faso’s northern Soum province. They swept in on motorcycles at about 1p.m., firing their weapons in the air, as believers were mingling in the grounds after the worship service. Six believers were martyred that day, executed for refusing to convert to Islam. The day after the massacre, the gunmen returned, reportedly in search of more Christians. Locals describe them as “young men who have been radicalised”. [See, Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 501, Burkina Faso: Church Targeted for Terror, 8 May 2019.]

Then, on the morning of Sunday 12 May, up to 30 Islamic militants attacked a Catholic church in remote Dablo, not far from Silgadji. They killed the priest and five other worshippers before torching the church and several properties in the town, including the health clinic and pharmacy.

On Monday 13 May, unidentified gunman ambushed Catholics in nearby Singa, destroyed as they carried home a religious statue after a religious procession; after dispersing the minors, the gunmen executed four adult believers.

Fr Père Joël Yougbaré
Further to these killings, on Sunday 17 March a Catholic priest disappeared in Soum province.  Fr Père Joël Yougbaré, the local priest in Djibo, travelled to Bottogui to celebrate Mass there, but did not return. His fate and whereabouts remain unknown

The targeting of churches may portend a new and disturbing trend and strategy aimed at shattering Burkina Faso’s historical social cohesion. The church massacres come in the wake of Islamic State’s claim of responsibility for the Easter terror attacks in Sri Lanka and al-Baghdadi’s declaration that Islamic State will target “crusaders” to avenge the Caliphate’s territorial losses in Iraq and Syria.

Terror in the East

On 22 April, The Guardian published a feature article entitled “Kalashnikovs and no-go zones: east Burkina Faso falls to militants” by West Africa correspondent, Ruth Maclean.

Reporting from Ouagadougou, Maclean writes that much of eastern Burkina Faso is ruled not by the government, but by local militants backed by West African “extremist groups”. The locals, she explains, have taken up arms against the government, which they accuse of exploiting the mineral wealth of the region while giving little back in return. They attack security forces, schools and other state symbols, and execute suspected government spies.

The violence began in 2018. Since then, teachers have fled and rangers have been chased out by militants who, after moving in, planted improvised explosive devices (IEDs) around occupied areas.

According to Maclean, “Much of the east has been carved up under several local leaders, allied with Ansarul Islam, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahel (ISGS), and Mali’s al-Qaida affiliated Nusrat al-Islam (JNIM).”

Interestingly and unusually, “There appears to be no conflict between the factions; according to [Burkinabé researcher Mahamoudou] Savadogo, they use the same techniques, meaning they probably have common trainers.”

A resident of the eastern town of Bartiébougou told Maclean that while many residents have fled, the Fulani militants – formerly local farmers and herders – have actually revitalised the town. “The groups give people maize, medicine and money – a $600 (£459) monthly salary for those who work with them (triple a standard teacher’s salary), plus a $800 bonus for those who carry out attacks.”

 “These groups are successful,” explains Crisis Group’s Rinaldo Depagne, “because they have a double narrative. Hardline Islam, but also the social speech: ‘We are going to give you a much more egalitarian system and bring services the state doesn’t give you.’” [Actually, this is reminiscent of how al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar Dine took control of northern Mali in April 2012. See: Religious Liberty Monitoring, 11 April 2012]

Maclean writes: “In Bartiébougou, like in many parts of the east, the militants are hardline about some things and not others. ‘At 6pm, everyone has to go to the mosque, then home,’ said the resident, describing conditions reminiscent of those in ISIS-controlled Raqqa or Mosul. ‘In the middle of the night, you must go and listen to sermons. You’re forbidden to criticise them. Women have to cover their heads. There’s no talk of cigarettes, alcohol or music, no celebrations.’

“Punishments are harsh, he said: ‘If you smoke, at first they just tell you not to. The third time, they kill you. They’ve forbidden prostitution in the mines – they slit their throats. They kill someone about once a month, I’d say, and it’s always people they’ve warned. Except the prostitutes. They don’t warn them. They just kill them.’ School is banned.”

Interestingly and surprisingly, Maclean reports (22 April), “Christians – who make up a third of the population in traditionally tolerant Burkina Faso – are left alone”. A pastor from occupied village in the east told her, “We see them [the militants], we know them, but they never do anything to us. Every Sunday we hold a service. We can even sing.”

How long this remains the case remains to be seen. It should be assumed that Burkina Faso’s Christians are imminently imperilled.

Whose Proxies?

While it is clear is that Islamic militants and terror groups are infiltrating and destabilising Burkina Faso, what is not so clear is whose proxies they are and what agenda is being pursued. Many suspect, but cannot yet prove, that the terror groups and criminals destabilising Burkina Faso are being aided or even facilitated by ousted president Blaise Compaoré and elements loyal to his regime.

The timeline is telling:

On 31 October 2014, Blaise Compaoré – Burkina Faso’s president since 1987 when he seized power in a coup – stepped down from office in response to a tsunami of unrest.

As the BBC noted at the time, Compaoré had no-one to blame for his downfall, but himself.  An opposition coalition had urged him not to seek re-election in the 2015 presidential poll on the grounds that anger and discontent were rising and the people were yearning for change. Rather than heed the warnings, Compaoré and his ruling party moved to push a bill through parliament that would have amended the constitution and paved the way for Compaoré to run for his fifth term as president.

Protesters burn down Parliament House.
Images: The Atlantic, 30 Oct 2014
The public was having none if it!
Resistance was swift, determined and merciless.

With the assistance of colonial-power France, Compaoré fled to Ivory Coast, into the arms of his long-time allies President Alassane Ouattara and former-rebel leader, now President of the National Assembly, Guillaume Soro.

[France and Compaoré supported Ouattara and Soro in the civil war that divided Ivory Coast and ultimately in the regime-change operation that brought Islamists to power in Ivory Coast. For background see Religious Liberty Monitoring, label: Ivory Coast.]

Burkina Faso’s interim government requested Compaoré be extradited so he might face charges of murder; it was however in vain. Compaoré was instead honoured and protected with Ivorian citizenship.

Like all self-interested and megaomanic dictators, Compaoré had maintained his own personal security. Known as the Régiment de sécurité présidentielle (RSP, Regiment of Presidential Security) it was led by General Gilbert Diendéré.

Joe Penney, an expert on security in the Sahel explains: “As a special unit of roughly 1,300 soldiers with separate living quarters, equipment, training, and pay from the regular army, the presidential guard protected the interests of the party in power, rather than the country at large. The RSP was particularly potent, too — it had its own counterterrorism unit that received training from both France and the U.S.”

Of course, the ousting of Compaoré left this elite military unit out of work. Consequently, the interim/ transitional government formulated a plan to completely dissolve the RSP.

The RSP was having none of it!

On 16 September 2015, just a month before Burkina’s elections (slated for 11 October) were to be held, the RSP staged a countercoup in the capital, Ouagadougou. They stormed a cabinet meeting of the interim government at the presidential palace, which is close to the RSP camp, taking the interim president and his prime minister hostage. After a night of confusion, the RSP declared the transitional government dissolved. They then set up a new body, the Conseil national pour la démocratie (CND, National Council for Democracy), headed by none other than Gen. Gilbert Diendéré.

The people were having none of it!

As news of the countercoup spread, the people poured onto the streets, setting up barricades and massing for demonstrations. Unions declared indefinite strikes. Women took to the streets in large numbers.

The RSP responded with deadly violence.

Despite coming under direct attack, radio stations and social media resisted all RSP efforts to shut them down.

While not initially aiding the protesters, the nation’s Armed Forces did not intervene to stop the protests.

Eventually, on 21 September 2015, the Army Chief of Staff made an unequivocal statement condemning RSP violence against civilians. Amidst loud and growing international condemnation of the RSP’s violent countercoup, Ivory Coast’s silence was deafening.

Ultimately the countercoup was put down by the people and the Army; the coup plotters were arrested. [Report: The People Take on the Putschists, Africa Confidential, 24 Sept 2015.]

An international arrest warrant was issued for former rebel leader and now president of Ivory Coast’s National Assembly, Guillaume Soro, who stands accused of aiding the coup against the transitional government in Ouagadougou.

As Stratfor Intelligence noted at the time, “Soro’s likely role in the Burkina Faso countercoup traces back to the Ivorian civil wars of the 2000s. During that time, he led the New Forces, a [Muslim] rebel group that took control of much of northern Ivory Coast from the government of Laurent Gbagbo [a Christian], effectively dividing the country in two. As the group’s commander, Soro procured arms, financing and political support from abroad, much of which he received from Burkina Faso, just to the north. Compaoré’s support was crucial” to affecting regime-change in Ivory Coast.

Roch Marc Christian Kaboré
On 29 November 2015, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré – described by The Guardian as a “devout Catholic” – was democratically elected as president of Burkina Faso. 

On 15 January 2016, terrorists from al-Qqeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM’s) al-Murabitoon attacked Ouagadougou. After detonating several car bombs, they laid siege to the Splendid Hotel and nearby Cappuccino cafe in the centre of the city. On 16 January, as the siege was under way, ransom-seeking jihadists from another AQIM-linked group, Ansar Dine, crossed into Burkina Faso from Mali and kidnapped Australian missionaries Dr Ken Elliot (then 81) and his wife Jocelyn from their home in Baraboule, near Djibo in Soum province. [See RLPB 341 (27 January 2016).]

The war had begun.
Since then, violence has spiralled at an alarming rate.

On 26 February 2019, Gen. Gilbert Diendéré (who is being held in a maximum-security prison on charges of treason), former Foreign Minister Mjibril Bassolé and 82 others appeared in court on charges related to the failed countercoup of September 2015.

Blaise Compaoré
On 22 May 2019, Al-Jazeera reported: “After five years in exile, former Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré says he wants to come home, offering his help to try to broker a peace deal with armed groups.”

Of course, Compaoré’s relationship with regional Islamic terror groups is well known. [Consider this article from Nov 2012.] 

Recommended: Blowback in Africa, by Joe Penney for The Intercept, 22 Nov 2018.
Excerpt:
“Prior to their political demise, Diendéré, Bassolé, and the Mauritanian consultant they worked with, Moustapha Limam Chafi, were key U.S. allies in Francophone West Africa.  Burkina Faso, which means ‘Land of the Upright People,’ had never experienced a terrorist attack. For instance, in 2012, Compaoré, then president, sent Diendéré on a mission north of Timbuktu, Mali, to procure the release of Swiss hostage Beatrice Stockly, who had been kidnapped just nine days earlier by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Over soft drinks and grilled lamb with one of the most wanted Al Qaeda leaders, Diendéré ensured the handover of millions of dollars in return for the Swiss missionary.

“Compaoré . . . played a key role in negotiating the release of multiple Western hostages in the region. There was a cost to this, however. Known as the pompier-pyromane (“firefighter-pyromaniac”), his efforts to negotiate peace deals with neighbors (like the talks between Tuareg rebels and the Malian government in Ouagadougou in 2012) were buffeted by reports that he had played a more nefarious role in numerous conflicts, including arming rebels in Ivory Coast and trading weapons for diamonds to former President Charles Taylor in Liberia.”

Lawyer and activist Guy Hervé Kam is the co-founder of the Balai Citoyen, one of the main groups that organised protests against Compaoré in 2014, and one of the prosecution’s lawyers in the trial against Diendéré and his co-conspirators. He is not alone is suspecting that the RSP and the former regime are at least partially the cause of the country’s growing instability. As he notes, “There is a common interest between the terrorist groups that operate in West Africa and the Burkinabé political camp that is no longer in power.”

Today, it seems many inside and outside Burkina Faso are wishfully thinking, “If Compaoré could broker deals and control jihadists/terrorists prior to his ousting in October 2014, maybe he could broker deals and control them again today.”

Then again, maybe that is exactly what he has been doing all along; brokering deals and controlling jihadists, militants and criminals to advance his own agenda and serve his own ends.

Burkina Faso’s next elections are slated for October 2020.

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Papua: The Christian Crisis in Eastern Indonesia

(NOTE: The western half of the island of New Guinea, Papua was formerly known as Irian Jaya)
-- by Elizabeth Kendal

Courtesy Vanuatu, Benny Wenda presents petition to Michelle Bachelet.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet was taken by surprise on Friday 25 January when exiled Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda walked into her office.

The delegation from Vanuatu, which was in Geneva for a scheduled Universal Periodic Review (UPR), had requested and been granted a private meeting with Ms Bachelet.  Ravina Shamdasani, deputy spokeswoman at the U.N. Human Rights Office, explains what took place:

“During this meeting, one member of the Vanuatu delegation, Mr. Benny Wenda, presented the high commissioner with a petition. This was not actually a meeting arranged with Mr. Wenda for that purpose,” she said, adding that Ms Bachelet “was not aware” in advance.

The petition, which Indonesia has banned, carries over 1.8 million Papuan signatures collected in secret and at great risk.

As Australian journalist and author John Martinkus explains, the petition “calls on the UN to review the controversial 1969 vote that transferred control of West Papua to Indonesia. The Act of Free Choice vote, often referred to as the Act of No Choice by its detractors, saw 1026 people – selected by the Indonesian military – vote on behalf of their fellow West Papuans to give up sovereignty for Indonesian citizenship.

“The petition also asks for West Papua to be placed back on the UN decolonisation list. This would mean the possibility of a referendum on Papuan sovereignty, which Papuans have been hoping for since a similar referendum in East Timor, now Timor-Leste, resulted in its independence from Indonesia in 1999.”

In September 2017, Benny Wenda took the petition to New York, where the UN General Assembly was in session, with the hope of getting it into the hands of the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation.

Unfortunately, the committee’s chair, Rafael Ramirez (Venezuela), claimed not to have received the petition, before adding that it could not be accepted anyway, as Papua “is not on the agenda” and “Indonesia is a very good friend of ours”.

See: Papua (eastern Indonesia): a desperate and risky plea
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 426, 4 Oct 2017.

Needless to say, Mr Wenda’s 25 January coup has infuriated Indonesia. Indonesia’s Ambassador to the UN, Hasan Kleib, strongly condemned Vanuatu for essentially sneaking Wenda in and helping him get access to Bachelet.

“(They) deliberately deceived the High Commission by taking manipulative steps through the infiltration of Benny Wenda into the Vanuatu delegation,” Kleib fumed.

Mr Wenda with petition (25 January 2019, Geneva) Image: twitter

Unfortunately, in this battle for human rights, the Papuans have very few international friends. Australia, America and the United Kingdom – economically influential democracies that should be advocating for human rights in Papua – are more interested in keeping Indonesia out of China’s sphere of influence. And so the human rights of the mostly-Christian indigenous Papuans are sacrificed on the altar of good relations with Indonesia, for geo-strategic and economic gain.

The Trans-Papua Highway

One of Indonesia most controversial development projects is the Trans-Papua Highway, or Trans-Papuan Economic Corridor. The enormously expensive Trans-Papua Hwy will traverse Papua’s long-untraversable highlands, linking industries, mines and oil and gas hubs, while ploughing through pristine tropical rainforest, the world heritage listed Lorentz National Park and vast tracts of customary lands belonging to indigenous Papuans.

short film: Global Roadmap
For more information see:
Ill-advised' Papua highway imperils indigenous rights, rainforests
Rina Chandran, Thomson Reuters Foundation, 4 Feb 2019
also: Yale Environment 360

Writing in The Saturday Paper (9 Feb 2019), Australian journalist and author John Martinkus gives voice to Papuan fears.  “The 4000-kilometre road, will stretch from West Papua’s largest city, Sorong, through the Papuan mountains and forest to the town of Merauke in Indonesia’s east. Indonesian president Joko Widodo claims the road, the Trans-Papua Highway, will bring commerce and development to these remote regions. However, the highlanders see the road as a threat, which will bring Indonesian migrants and the military to the region. Many fear greater access to the highlands will destroy their way of life, as they believe it did for lowlanders living on the coast. As construction of the highway has progressed, it has catalysed many West Papuans to take up arms in opposition.”

And as Martinkus notes, “This escalation of the independence movement, one of the world’s longest-running insurgencies, brings with it the potential of an even deadlier conflict, for both sides.”

Martinkus explains that when he was in Papua in 2002, independence fighters were armed mostly with sticks, spears, bows and arrows, and maybe the odd hunting rifle. “Today,” he warns, “many West Papuan fighters are armed with Indonesian-produced weapons, bought or stolen from Indonesian soldiers.”

The fighters, he explains, are “the children of those killed, imprisoned and forced to flee during deadly confrontations with the Indonesian military in Papua’s remote central highlands. Growing up, these young Papuans also watched on as Grasberg – the world’s largest goldmine – has wreaked havoc on the environment of West Papua while generating billions for its co-owners, Freeport-McMoRan and the Indonesian government. Now adults, they have deeply held frustrations about perceived exploitation of their lands by the Indonesian government.”

Bloodshed in Nduga

On 2 December 2018, rebels affiliated with the West Papua Liberation Organization (WPLO) – a militant wing of the Free Papua Movement – abducted 25 construction workers working on the Trans-Papua Hwy in Nduga province, in the central highlands, north of the Freeport Grasberg mine. The next day the rebels took their captives to a nearby hilltop and shot them, killing 19 and injuring 4, who pretended to be dead to escape.

The WPLO claim that the laborers were actually armed Indonesian soldiers (TNI) who had attacked them. Reportedly, on 1 December, Papuans had spotted one of the laborers taking photographs of the Papuans as they raised the banned Morning Star flag in commemoration of the 1 December 1971 declaration of Papuan independence.

Displaced Papuan women
 Story of Nduga Refugees (17 Jan)
As would be expected, a heavy influx of TNI forces descended on Nduga province; retaliation has been swift and hard. While the military claims to be hunting the rebels responsible for the killings, the crackdown has forced some 32,000 mostly-Christian indigenous Melanesian Papuans to flee their homes. Many are struggling to survive in the jungle; at least nine women have given birth. In the Mbua district, two school children were shot dead by Indonesian security forces (TNI). Across Nduga region, the TNI has damaged or destroyed at least 34 schools and churches; it has also seized the SION GKI Mapenduma church for use as a military base. Those who have fled say they are too afraid to return to their homes.  Women and children are dying in the forest and camps for want of food and medical treatment.

Reports and photos have emerged of victims with deep burns. Canisters have been found which lend support to local claims that the TNI has been dropping explosive devices containing white phosphorous from helicopters.

As Chairman of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP), Benny Wenda has condemned the use of chemical weapons by the Indonesian military on Papuan civilians. He said the ULMWP has received numerous reports regarding the use of chemical burn-causing weapons on villages in the Nduga region. “We have photos of burned limbs, dead bodies and empty munitions canisters.”

Naturally the TNI denies this. In fact the TNI is denying there has been any destruction at all, claiming it is all a ‘hoax’.

Father John Djonga has called for the Indonesian government to allow access to media, humanitarian organisations and a UN human rights mission.

Benny Wenda urged all Papuans to boycott the general elections on 17 April. “We respect Indonesia’s right to hold elections in its own territory,” he said, “but we will oppose the elections of the coloniser when they are forced upon us. We have tried participating in the elections of the colonial master before – but we are still killed, tortured and discriminated against every day.”

Recommended: War in West Papua
By John Martinkus, The Saturday Paper, 9 February 2019

Papua’s Christian Crisis 

As Indonesia drifts from Pancasila to Islamisation, the human rights situation in Papua takes on a whole new urgency. These are watershed days. The future of a Christian people is in the balance.

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Post-script

While searching for more details on the situation in Papua, I came across the following feature article in the Jakarta Globe. It might represent a still small Indonesian voice, but it is encouraging.  It also offers some insight into Papua for those who are unfamiliar with this closed land.

Giving Hope to the Children of Papua
By Primus Dorimulu, Jakarta Globe, 6 March 2019

Staff from the Lantern of Hope School and Siloam Clinic in Daboto
with supporter James Riady (center back) and local students.
(words and images by Primus Dorimulu, Jakarta Globe)
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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF), and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Indonesia: from Pancasila to Islamisation

Vale traditional Indonesian values
-- by Elizabeth Kendal

Indonesians will go to the polls on Wednesday 17 April to elect a president and vice-president, a weak 136-seat Senate, a powerful 575-seat House of Representatives, provincial legislatures and local councils.

Recommended:
Six Things You Should Know About the Indonesian Elections
By Tim Mann, University of Melbourne

Excerpt:
“According to the KPU [Indonesian Electoral Commission], about 40 per cent of eligible voters are millennials aged 17 to 35 years old. And many of them will be voting for the first time. So the new millennial vote is considered the key to victory. . .

“Young voters are far from a homogenous group and many of those who are well connected online also hold deeply conservative views.

“One survey of school and university students by Jakarta’s State Islamic University in late 2017 found that 33 percent of young Muslims believed that acts of intolerance against minorities were ‘not a problem’ and 34 percent even believed that non-believers should be killed.”

Presidential Poll: Close and Profoundly Polarising

Background:
Indonesia: “sword” of weaponised Islam revealed 
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin (RLPB) 469, 22 Aug 2018.

Polling indicates that the incumbent President Joko Widodo (57, also known as Jokowi) will be returned as president with the conservative Islamic cleric Ma’ruf Amin (76) as his Vice-President. However, the gap between Jokowi and his perpetual rival, the controversial former Suharto-era military commander Prabowo Subianto (68), has narrowed. Subianto and his running mate, the telegenic billionaire businessman Sandiaga Uno (49), have pitched their message not only to the poor who feel left behind by Jokowi’s pro-development and pro-foreign investment policies, but to the more hard-line and intolerant, Jokowi-hating fundamentalist Islamists. Pundits expect the race to be not only close, but profoundly polarising. 

John McBeth reports for Asia Times Online (9 April), “The demarcation line between voters is clear: those who support Widodo, an avowed pluralist, don’t see Islam as the basis of the state. But those who favor deeper Islamisation are behind Prabowo.”

Subianto rally 7 April

Jakarta-based Amanda Hodge is the South East Asia correspondent for The Australian. She comments (9 April) that the differences between the two presidential candidates were on display in the two political rallies that took place on Sunday 7 April. 

“While challenger and former Suharto-era military commander Prabowo Subianto’s 150,000-strong morning rally at a Jakarta stadium was an angry sermon against corruption and foreign plunderers to a sea of Islamic white, Jokowi’s afternoon carnival celebrated a vast diversity of ethnicities, races and religions.

Jokowi 'festival' 7 April

“So stark has Indonesia’s polarisation along identity lines become this election, former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono [SBY] – whose Democrats Party backs Prabowo’s bid – ¬issued a weekend warning of the importance of governing for all. ‘As a former president, I would hate Indonesia to be divided into those who are pro-Pancasila and pro-caliphate,’ he wrote in a letter to party leaders, referring to Indonesia’s founding philosophy of unity in diversity. ‘If such polarisation continues in this campaign, I worry that this nation will indeed be divided into two opposing sides who will forever be in conflict with each other.’

Hodge confirms (8 April),  “Prabowo and his 49-year-old billionaire equities-dealer running mate, Sandiaga Uno, are polling higher among urban youth – a significant voter pool in a country where almost 40 per cent of the 192 million voters are under 35.

“Prabowo has also cornered the conservative Islamic vote, which will no doubt welcome exiled cleric Rizieq Shihab’s endorsement by video-link yesterday from Mecca. The Islamic Defenders Front [FPI] leader, who fled the country in 2017 after he was charged with pornography offences and insulting the state ideology, urged voters to stage a ‘constitutional jihad’ at the ballot box and change their president.”

The Prabowo Subianto-Sandiaga Uno ticket has also won support from the now-banned Indonesian Hizbut Tahrir (HTI) which supports the establishment of a caliphate and the adoption of Islamic Sharia law.

In truth, these hardline Islamists have no love for Subianto or Uno, both of whom are nominal Muslims at best. But while their affection for Subianto and Uno is luke-warm and pragmatic, but their hatred for Joko Widodo red-hot and supreme.

Meanwhile, the pro-development Jokowi-Ma’ruf ticket has secured the backing of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). This is unsurprising considering Ma’ruf Amin was NU Supreme Leader until he stepped down in September 2018 in order to enter politics. Instead he will serve as a member of NU’s advisory board.

As noted by Tim Mann (University of Melbourne), “voter dissatisfaction has led to a growing movement of people declaring that they would rather sit the election out or ‘donkey vote’ (golput) than vote for either of the candidates on offer”.

Indeed, according to a recent survey by Indikator Politik, at least 20 percent of Indonesia’s roughly 192 million registered voters will abstain from voting in the presidential poll due to the deep dissatisfaction they feel with regards to the candidates.

Ma'ruf (left) and Ahok (right)
These are voters who would never vote for Subianto, primarily on account of his penchant for authoritarianism and alleged human rights abuses as a Kopassus general. But they also feel let down by Jokowi, and not only because he has failed to deliver on many of his promises. Many who would have voted for Jokowi will now be non-voters or golongan putih (golput) precisely because Jokowi’s vice-presidential running mate is Ma’ruf Amin, the cleric who, as NU Supreme Leader, testified against the ethnic Chinese Christian Governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) in the controversial blasphemy trial two years ago [See: Ahok’s Blasphemy, Religious Liberty Monitoring (29 Nov 2016)]. 

Recommended:
Jokowi’s ideological shift has not gone unnoticed
By Endy Bayuni, The Jakarta Post, 10 April 2019

Excerpts:
“Bidding for his reelection in the April 17 presidential race, the incumbent Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has focused his attention more on winning the hearts and minds of conservative voters, reflected among other means by his choice of running mate and giving concessions to the military. . .

“Jokowi’s apparent ideological shift may be more for expediency to ensure victory, but voters from his traditional support base to the left of the political spectrum fear it could have major policy implications for his next administration.

“Many have declared through social media memes that they will not vote, making clear they did not endorse the shift, but that they would not give their vote to the challenger who is even further to the right, embracing hard-line Islamic groups.

“How far to the right of the political spectrum is Jokowi shifting? Will he be able to resist pressures from Muslim conservatives and the military who want to have more say in his next government?

“Almost assured of election victory, Jokowi’s political fate is now very much in the hands of those on the left of the political spectrum. If there are enough of them too angry to vote because of his shift to the right, they could well deliver victory to Prabowo.”
 
Presidential Poll: “The Islamists Have Already Won”

Recommended:
Indonesia’s Next Election Is in April. The Islamists Have Already Won.
How religion has come to dominate our politics.
An opinion piece for New York Times, by Eka Kurniawan, 14 Feb 2019

Renown Indonesian novelist Eka Kurniawan believes that by nominating Ma’ruf as his Vice President, Jokowi “has built a Trojan horse for his opponents outside the walls of his own city”.

In comparing the 2019 election to that of 2014, Mr Kurniawan notes, “This year, it seems, the decisive issue will be the candidates’ professed commitment to Islam.”

According to Mr Kurniawan, “polarisation has deepened since Jakarta’s gubernatorial election two years ago.

“Mr. Prabowo and the rest of the opposition evidently learned a lot from Mr. Basuki’s [Ahok’s] downfall. In 2014, they ran an antiquated campaign based on the supposed resurgence of communism and the Indonesian Communist Party, and failed. The [2017] Jakarta election has taught them that tapping Muslim values is an effective way to galvanize popular support.

Joko Widodo & Ma'ruf Amin, Aug 2018
“With the Islamization of Indonesian society now evidently being mobilized toward political ends, Mr. Joko must proceed with caution. Yet he may have gone too far.

“To give a good impression to Muslim voters, Mr. Joko has been presenting himself as a pious leader who worships diligently. He has even become a prayer imam and makes frequent visits to Islamic boarding schools. He has also closed his eyes and ears to certain cases brought on religious grounds, knowing that any statement could inflame grass-roots Muslims. . .”

Concerning Ma’ruf Amin, Mr Kurniawan says, “He isn’t just conservative; he is intolerant. He forbids the exchange of Christmas greetings. He rejects the Ahmadiyya, an alternative Islamic sect. He condemns L.G.B.T. activities. He wants to limit houses of worship for non-Muslims.

“Mr. Joko might remain in power, but we don’t have to wait until April to find out the real outcome of this race. No matter who ends up being president, conservative Islamic groups, backed by radical groups, will win — have already won — the election.”

Recommended:
What might Jokowi’s vice presidential pick mean for religious freedom?
By Dr Budhy Munawar Rachman,
for Indonesia at Melbourne [University], 14 August 2018

Excerpt/conclusion
“When Jokowi was elected [in 2014], many hoped for a reversal of the intolerance that had been allowed to develop under his predecessor [Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono]. There have been some limited improvements over the last four years, but the core concerns remain – religious minorities are still not able to fully enjoy the religious freedom they are guaranteed under the Constitution.

“Shi’a and Ahmadiyah Muslims still face discrimination. Accusations of blasphemy are still used against minorities who demonstrate religious understandings or practices that differ from the majority. Minorities still face extreme difficulty building houses of worship.

“If Jokowi is re-elected, the chances of this trend reversing are slim. Under Ma’ruf, MUI has been unwilling to accept arguments in support of minorities based on their constitutional right to religious freedom, instead relying on conservative religious interpretations that benefit the majority Muslim community. With Ma’ruf as vice president, things could well become a lot worse for minorities than they already are.”

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Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Advocacy at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com