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Trump’s Indonesian Allies in Bed with ISIS-Backed FPI Militia: They Seek to Oust Elected President Jokowi

Derogation of the Rights of Forest Communities Worldwide

Indonesia’s West Papua: Settlers Dominate Coastal Regions, Highlands Still Overwhelmingly Papuan

The 1965 Mass Killings in Indonesia: CIA Blames the Victims For Being Murdered

How the Australian, British, and US Governments Shamelessly Helped Kill Countless People in Indonesia in 1965

The 1965 Crimes Against Humanity in Indonesia. Final Report of the International People’s Tribunal (IPT)

US, Britain and Australia Complicit in 1965 Indonesia Massacre. The Hague People’s Tribunal

Australia, UK, US Complicit in Indonesian Massacres, International Judges Say

Palm Oil Giant IOI and the Destruction of Forests in Indonesia

The Islamic State (ISIS) Goes to South East Asia, US-Saudi Plague Reaches Indonesia?

Jakarta Blasts: ISIS Inc Strikes Again

Eco-apocalypse Indonesia Is Burning. So Why Is The World Looking Away?

Indonesian President Widodo under pressure as economy slides

Political crisis in Jakarta over national police chief

Indonesian government pushes ahead with planned executions

Indonesian authorities prepare for more executions

Indonesia suspends military cooperation with Australia over US-Australian spying

By Mike Head 

21 November 2013

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono yesterday suspended intelligence exchanges, military exercises and naval cooperation with Australia, including coordination on intercepting refugee boats. It is a further demonstration of the damaging fallout for Australia and its chief strategic ally, the US, from the diplomatic row over US-Australian spying operations in Indonesia.

By freezing military and intelligence collaboration, Jakarta is hitting the Australian government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott at one of its most sensitive spots. Abbott has made Indonesia central to his regional diplomacy and to his election vows to “stop the boats” carrying desperate asylum seekers to Australia. Moreover, Indonesia is geo-strategically critical to the entire US “pivot” to Asia, directed against China.

Key military links and preparations are already being affected. Overnight, Indonesia cancelled the annual counter-hijack exercise, known as Dawn Komodo, which was scheduled to continue in West Java until November 29. The exercise involves the two countries’ elite units, Australia’s SAS and Indonesia’s Kopassus. The biannual joint air combat exercise Elang Ausindo, which was underway in Darwin, was also halted.

Yudhoyono said the decision, announced after a meeting of senior security ministers, was in response to the Australian government’s failure to satisfactorily explain its surveillance activity in Indonesia, primarily the tapping of the mobile phones of Yudhoyono, his wife and eight members of his inner circle. These operations were conducted by the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), as part of the US-led “Five Eyes” global surveillance network, which also includes Britain, Canada and New Zealand.

Leaked documents from former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, published by the Australian ABC and theGuardian on Monday, show that the ASD, the direct Australian partner of the NSA, closely monitored the highly sensitive phones during 2009. This followed earlier revelations of electronic spying operations from “listening posts” inside Australian diplomatic missions in Jakarta and other Asian capitals, targeting all phone and Internet communications, as part of the NSA’s global surveillance.

While Yudhoyono expressed personal outrage—asking “why spy on a friend?”—he noted that the surveillance had angered many Indonesians. This points to wider popular hostility toward the blanket US-Australian monitoring of telecommunications, which affects millions of ordinary people. Protesters burned Australian flags in Jogjakarta yesterday and Indonesian police warned that demonstrations were likely outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta today.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa indicated that relations could worsen. “We have downgraded the level of relations between Indonesia and Australia,” he said. “Like a faucet, it is turned down one by one.” Notably, however, Yudhoyono issued no call for an apology from Canberra. Instead, he said that in order to restore trust, both countries should agree to a code of conduct to prevent such spying from happening again.

Nor did the Indonesian president refer to the US, having a day earlier declared via Twitter: “These US & Australian actions have certainly damaged the strategic partnership with Indonesia.” For some years, Yudhoyono, a general under the former Suharto dictatorship, has sought to balance his administration’s improved military links to Washington and Indonesia’s increasing economic ties with China.

Behind the scenes, discussions are reportedly underway to try to repair the relations between the US, Australia and Indonesia. Indonesia’s intelligence agency chief, Norman Marciano, told the media yesterday he had been assured by Australian intelligence officials that the phone tapping had stopped and would not resume. His comments were consistent with a claim by Indonesian analyst Wawan Purwanto, who told the Australian that a three-way agreement had been struck between the US, Australia and Indonesia to “not repeat such actions in the future.”

The Obama administration last night joined the Australian government in refusing to confirm or deny, let alone apologise for, the surveillance. US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking at the conclusion of annual US-Australia ministerial (AUSMIN) talks in Washington, told reporters: “We just don’t talk about intelligence matters in public and we’re not going to begin now.”

Kerry was responding to an obvious question—had the US asked Australia to tap the phones of Yudhoyono and his associates? He sought to play down the diplomatic crisis, emphasising that the US had an “unbreakable and critical working relationship” with Australia, but also “great respect and affection for Indonesia.”

However, the AUSMIN meeting itself underscored the central role being played by Canberra in Washington’s aggressive military, intelligence and strategic “pivot” to Asia, aimed at countering the growing influence of China. The AUSMIN communiqué declared: “The United States and Australia are committed to modernising our Alliance by working together to support the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.”

A souring of relations with Indonesia would have far reaching implications for the US “pivot” or rebalance. One component of the Pentagon’s strategy in a war with China is to impose an economic blockade through the control of key “choke points”—the Malacca, Sunda and Lombok straits—all of which pass through Indonesia.

Last night, in a move to bolster Washington’s position in Asia, the White House announced that Obama would visit the region in April. It was clearly a bid to overcome the damage done to the standing of the US by Obama’s inability to make such a tour—which would have included Indonesia—in October, because of the 16-day government shutdown over slashing social spending.

In Canberra yesterday, Prime Minister Abbott told parliament he would do “everything reasonably I can” to try to repair relations with Indonesia, but did not “propose to overreact now.” He regretted the “embarrassment” to Yudhoyono, who was “a very good friend of Australia, perhaps one of the very best friends that Australia has anywhere in the world.”

Labor opposition leader Bill Shorten fell into line with Abbott and Kerry yesterday, dropping his call, issued in parliament the day before, for Abbott to emulate Obama by apologising to Yudhoyono and assuring him of no further surveillance, as Obama previously did with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over similar spying, also revealed by Snowden’s leaks.

Shorten, who was shown by WikiLeaks documents to be an informant of the US embassy, said Labor would support the Abbott government in its efforts. It would be a “team Australia moment,” he said. “What the government and the opposition must continue to do is to unite in our commitment to improving and repairing this relationship in a timely way.”

The bipartisan unity underscores that a great deal is at stake for Australian imperialism which has cultivated close relations with successive Indonesian governments, including the Suharto dictatorship, for decades. In today’sAustralian, Paul Kelly wrote: “There are distinct dangers in Indonesia’s suspension of military cooperation and intelligence exchanges … it is vital that Abbott realise this is not just a security crisis. It is a political crisis. That demands a new form of words and procedures to try to break the cycle of decline.”

The source of the escalating political crisis, however, is not problematic “words and procedures,” but the revelation of the illegal surveillance on rival governments and ordinary citizens around the world by US imperialism and its closest allies. More Snowden-sourced documents from the NSA and its ASD partners will be released in the next period, further fuelling diplomatic and strategic tensions in the Asian region.

Indonesian and Australian leaders tone down refugee dispute

By Peter Symonds 

1 October 2013

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono yesterday took steps to ease tensions between the two countries over Canberra’s plans to use the Australian navy to return boats carrying asylum seekers to Indonesia. Abbott was sworn into office just two weeks ago after an election campaign in which both his Liberal-National coalition and the previous Labor government sought to outdo each other in whipping up anti-refugee xenophobia.

Growing signs of hostility in Jakarta to the Coalition’s policies came to a head last week when Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa took the unusual step of releasing the minutes of a private meeting with his Australian counterpart Julie Bishop. In that meeting, he warned that “unilateral steps by Australia may constitute a risk to the close cooperation and trust” built through previous multilateral talks on the refugee issue, known as the Bali process. (See: “Australian ‘border protection’ regime fuels dispute with Indonesia”)

Yesterday’s discussions, described by Abbott as “very frank,” were clearly tense. The Australian prime minister extracted a small concession from Yudhoyono that “apart from the Bali process, we need another kind of co-operation at the bilateral level between Indonesia and Australia.” Nothing concrete was decided or announced, however. Indonesia’s Security Co-ordinating Minister Djoko Suyanto told the Australian that the issue of turning back asylum seeker boats was not even discussed.

In return, Abbott was compelled to unambiguously declare “Australia’s total respect for Indonesia’s sovereignty, total respect for Indonesia’s territorial integrity.” He also issued what amounted to an apology, for the times “when Australia must have tried your patience.” While referring to the previous Labor government’s policies, including a brief ban on live beef exports, he declared there were “times when all sides of Australian politics should have said less and done more” about stopping refugee voyages.

Abbott was forced to address Indonesian concerns that supporters of separatism for Indonesian Papua were using Australia as a base for their activities. In a menacing statement, Abbott warned that his government took “a very dim view… of anyone seeking to use our country as a platform for grandstanding against Indonesia. We will do everything we possibly can to discourage this and prevent this.”

Indonesia Foreign Minister Natalegawa noted that Abbott had “constantly repeated” his “absolute respect for the sovereignty of Indonesia,” but indicated that Indonesia promised little in response. Further bilateral discussions on asylum seekers—described by Natalegawa as “technical aspects”—have been assigned to Security Minister Djoko and Australian Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.

Indonesian concerns about the “border protection” policies of successive Coalition and Labor governments are bound up with broader strategic issues. Under the guise of preventing a relatively limited number of asylum seekers arriving by boat, a substantial Australian naval and air presence has been established in the waters between the two countries. During the previous Labor government, the Australian military was closely integrated into the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia,” directed at containing China.

Indonesia’s sensitivity to the presence of Australian warships in nearby waters is understandable. The Pentagon’s war plans against China include controlling key naval “choke points” through South East Asia that are essential for Chinese access to energy and raw materials from Africa and the Middle East. These “choke points”—the Malacca, Sunda and Lombok straits—are all situated in the Indonesian archipelago.

An article in today’s Australian entitled, “Why we need deeper ties with Indonesia,” emphasised that “Indonesia looms as the most important strategic reality in Australian defence thinking.” Australian Strategic Policy Institute executive director Peter Jennings warned: “Indonesia’s growing economic weight will translate into much greater military power not too many years from now.” Jennings urged Abbott to “ensure we stay close friends with Jakarta” and proposed a closer integration of Indonesia into Australian-US activities. He suggested that Australia’s Indian Ocean outpost of the Cocos Islands be used to mount joint maritime surveillance operations.

While Indonesia has strengthened its military ties with the US, it has been wary about alienating China, which is the country’s top trading partner. Like Australia, Indonesia has been hit by the slowing Chinese economy, the worsening global slump and the continuing international financial instability fuelled by the “quantitative easing” policy of the US and European central banks.

Both Abbott and Yudhoyono are keen to improve trade and economic ties. Abbott was accompanied by Trade and Investment Minister Andrew Robb and a high-powered business delegation that included top representatives of two of Australia’s “big four” banks—ANZ and the CBA—as well as Macquarie Bank, Telstra and the Business Council of Australia.

Abbott told an Indonesia-Australia business breakfast this morning that there was plenty of room to improve trade between Australia and Indonesia. He pointed out that Australia’s two-way trade with Indonesia, with its population of 250 million, was less than that with New Zealand, with just four million people. Australian investment in Indonesia is also low.

Business leaders in both countries are concerned that the dispute over asylum seekers could undermine economic relations. An editorial in yesterday’s Jakarta Globe, which featured negative news coverage of Australian refugee policies, warned that until a diplomatic solution to the issue was reached, trade and investment advances would be limited.

While the two leaders appeared to have patched up relations temporarily, the underlying tensions, which are being fuelled by the broader US confrontation with China, remain.

Indonesian economy faces continuing economic turbulence

By John Roberts 

21 September 2013

On Wednesday, the US Federal Reserve announced that its “quantitative easing” (QE) policy of pumping $US85 billion a month into financial markets would continue. The decision was greeted with sighs of relief among the South East Asian finance ministers gathered at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Bali, Indonesia.

No national delegation was more pleased than that of the host country Indonesia, where the expectation that the Fed would begin “tapering” its quantitative easing has hit the currency, shares and financial markets. On Wednesday’s news, the Jakarta stock exchange rose almost 5 percent and the embattled rupiah gained 4 percent.

The QE decision was unexpected. On May 22, when Fed chief Ben Bernanke hinted that tapering would start, Indonesian shares and the rupiah suffered. Indonesia had been a significant recipient of short term capital inflows spurred by the QE funds in the US. According to International Monetary Fund estimates, around $1.1 trillion has flowed into so-called emerging economies.

Indonesia is among the most vulnerable to changes in global capital flows because of its relatively high current account deficit. In the June quarter, the deficit was 4.4 percent of gross domestic product. In July, its trade deficit reached $2.3 billion. Net oil imports contributed to 83 percent of the deficit. The inflow of funds generated by the QE policy covered Indonesia’s trade deficit and the interest on its foreign borrowing.

However, Bernanke’s hint in May sent capital flying out of Indonesia. Since July, Indonesian foreign currency reserves have fallen by around $20 billion. Morgan Stanley has identified Indonesia, along with Brazil, India, Turkey and South Africa, as the “fragile five” with a common dependence on large capital inflows to cover high current account deficits.

Since May, the Indonesian stock market has been hit by a large outflow of portfolio investment that wiped out big gains made in the previous five months. In the month from July to August, share values fell 11.6 percent.

The decline of the rupiah only compounded the capital outflow, at the same time fuelling inflation that is already running nearly 9 percent. The falling rupiah also puts further pressure on the current account deficit that has developed since 2012—a product of declining international demand and lower commodity prices.

Indonesia has benefited from large direct foreign investment inflows, with this realised investment hitting a record of $32.4 billion on 2012. However, the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has predicted a fall in foreign investment, pointing to a decline in capital-goods imports in the last quarter by 16.3 percent year-on-year.

The Bank of Indonesia has been forced to defend the rupiah. The currency has declined 18 percent against the US dollar since May. Its fall in the June quarter was the worst of the 24 emerging markets, and nearly seven times that of the Philippines peso.

On September 12, the Bank of Indonesia raised its key interest rate by 0.25 percent to 7.25 percent. This was the highest level since 2009, and marked the fourth increase this year. The central bank had previously lifted the rate by 0.5 percent just a fortnight ago. In its statement, the bank also revised estimated gross domestic product growth for the year down from 5.8 to 6.2 percent, to the range of 5.5 to 5.0 percent.

Only a year ago, Indonesia was touted in the international financial press and among investment fund managers as an example of how emerging economies would counteract economic stagnation in Europe and the US and the developing slowdown in China. The main factor, however, was the large inflow of speculative, short-term funds.

From 2000 to 2012, according to a Bloomberg report published in the Jakarta Globe on September 11, the emerging economies grew at an annual rate of 5.9 percent, compared with 1.8 percent for the US. Speculative capital also helped keep commodity prices high until 2012.

The Bloomberg report noted: “This led many people to declare the victory of the emerging economies over the West. But the high levels of emerging market growth were artificial, caused by the global capital boom … and then huge credit transfers from the West.”

This week’s Fed decision is not an indication of the strength of the US economy and financial system. The opposite is the case. Wall Street is addicted to the infusion of Fed funds to maintain an orgy of speculation and paper profits that can only be realised by driving up the rate of exploitation of the working class.

Finance ministers at this week’s APEC meeting signalled their own onslaught on the working class. South Korean finance minister Hyun Oh-seok told the meeting that major structural reforms were needed in emerging economies to prepare for future Fed action. Former Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati declared: “We at least know how the market will react (to tapering if that happens)… so they can have six months to prepare.”

On Friday, Bank of Indonesia governor Agus Martowardojo warned that Indonesia must prepare. “We must be able to use the time frame provided by the Fed’s tapering delay to conduct structural reforms of monetary and fiscal aspects,” he said. One of the areas for “reform” he targeted was labour costs. The central banker’s comments foreshadow further deep inroads into the living standards of working people, with cuts to real wages and food subsidies in particular.

Guatemalan path for Indonesian justice

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