Crisis far from over for Sulawesi | Prabowo’s big mistake | Indonesia Intelligencer (Sept 31- Oct 5)
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Special section: Devastation in Sulawesi
Due to the significance of this week’s twin disasters in Central Sulawesi, we’re including this special section outlining the most important information about the crisis and response efforts as well as highlighting the best coverage we’ve seen. If you want to contribute to the aid organizations working to help the survivors of the crisis, please check out this list of trustworthy charities you can donate to.
A magnitude 7.5 earthquake struck north of Palu, Central Sulawesi on September 28, 2018 at 6:03 pm local time. That spawned a 3-5 meter-tall tsunami (which was magnified by the shape of the city’s bay) which struck the coast approximately 30 minutes after the quake took place.
Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) issued a tsunami warning after the earthquake but there have been accusations that the alert was lifted prematurely before the series of tsunami waves had fully subsided, potentially costing more lives. The head of BMKG, facing calls for her resignation, insists this was not the case.
Also in question is whether the country’s tsunami detection buoy system, which has been in disrepair since 2012, could have helped alert people earlier and save lives.
Although the cause of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami are still being studied, scientists seem to believe the unusual geological cause of the disaster might have made the usual early detection system ineffective. Some experts argue that better tsunami preparedness education would’ve saved more lives.
The latest official reports from the Indonesian government on Friday has 1,558 people confirmed dead, over 2,500 injured and more than 100 listed as still missing (with fears that number could rise to over 1,000). More than 70,000 houses have been destroyed or damaged and officials are estimating the overall cost of the disaster could be around $658 million.
Indonesia agreed to accept international assistance in dealing the crisis on Sunday (reportedly with some reluctance) but despite millions of dollars in aid pledged by the UN and over 25 countries including the US, China, Australia and the UK, the island’s battered infrastructure has delayed aid reaching many of the affected areas.
The airport in Palu reopened on Thursday, which should help speed up the process of getting supplies into the stricken region. Electricity has also been restored to the city and some shops and banks have reopened as aid and fuel continue to arrive.
The Guardian’s Kate Lamb and BBC Indonesia’s Rebecca Henschke have been doing a fantastic job reporting from the disaster zone and their tweets have been just as riveting and insightful as their published coverage.
'I saw my neighbours get buried alive': the mud-swamped Indonesian village (The Guardian): Harrowing accounts from survivors in Petobo, a village that was virtually annihilated by the massive earthquake and subsequent soil liquefaction.
It’s like that movie, 2012: doomsday,” says 24-year-old Joshua Michael, as he struggles for a fitting reference to the fate of Petobo, his village on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi where more than a thousand are feared buried in the mud that swept over it after Friday’s earthquake.
Standing next to the remains of his house, the silver roof flattened to the ground, clothes strewn all around it, he is trying to make out where the homes of his neighbours once were.
“The houses just got sucked into the earth and then the mud came over and sealed them over,” he says. “I saw my neighbours get buried alive.”
It was two hours before sundown and a dozen or so women, some in full black headdress, stood weeping silently, watching the men carry the coffin of a family member whose body was retrieved six days after a deadly earthquake struck this city.
Moments later, a female Christian pastor led the burial rites, while many in the group whispered Muslim prayers before the white casket - bearing an image of the Last Supper on both sides and a small cross on top - was lowered into a dirt grave in a patch of a public land by the hillside overlooking Palu and the bay.
“Safe flight Batik Air. Take Care.”
Those were the heartbreaking last words of Anthonius Gunawan Agung, who has been hailed as a hero not only in Indonesia but around the world for his sacrifice which saved hundreds of lives.
‘Not the end of the world’ for rupiah
Despite several rate hikes and numerous measures to lower trade deficit in the last few months, the rupiah continued its slide against the US dollar, surpassing the psychologically-significant barrier of IDR15,000 and trading above IDR15,100 at the close of Thursday.
Even so, Bank Indonesia Governor Perry Warjiyo said it’s “not the end of the world” and urged the public to remain calm as the rupiah’s performance isn’t as bad as some currencies, including India’s rupee and the Turkish lira.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati says the rupiah’s continued slide was not caused by the Central Sulawesi disaster, blaming it on external global economic factors, mainly Italy’s commitment to lower the deficits of its national budget.
Rollover risk: The World Bank said in a report released Thursday that developing Asian nations may find it difficult to refinance foreign debt if capital outflows are increased, with Indonesia and Thailand most at risk of debt rollover. However, the threat of bankruptcies in the two nations are still limited due to relatively low levels of foreign debt.
Bali welcomes the IMF and World Bank
Bali is set to host the annual IMF-World Bank meetings on October 8-14, in which the boards of governors of the two bodies will discuss a range of issues related to poverty reduction, international economic development and finance (you can view the event’s calendar as well as live stream several talks here).
While President Joko Widodo is hopeful the meetings will have a positive effect on Indonesia’s economy, his challenger in the 2019 election Prabowo Subianto has asked for the event’s postponement in light of the Central Sulawesi earthquake-tsunami, with funds for the event be redirected towards disaster relief instead.
Tax office cracks down on online retailers: The government will require online merchants to use tax identification numbers starting this year in order to boost revenue and up compliance in the booming e-commerce sector. Tokopedia and Bukalapak.com have already agreed to ask their sellers to comply with the regulation.
Mitsu-boost-shi: Japanese automaker Mitsubishi continues to up its investments in Indonesia, announcing plans to increase the production capacity of its Bekasi factory from 160,000 vehicles per year to 220,000 in 2020. Its increasingly popular Xpander model — which Mitsubishi’s Indonesian production facilities are exporting to neighboring countries — will account for 160,000 of those.
Islamic financial district in PIK: Malaysian investment holding company Matrix Concepts has signed a joint venture agreement with an Indonesian consortium company to build a world class Islamic financial district in North Jakarta’s Pondok Indah Kapuk (PIK) district. The development, named Indo City, will include 4,000 hectares of integrated developments including houses, apartments, shopping centers and a light rail transit system.
Indonesia’s pragmatic policies giving it resilience amid market turbulence (The Business Times): In this piece, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan argues that Indonesia’s economic fundamentals remain strong thanks to clear-minded government policies and a comprehensive strategy for strengthening to withstand further stresses.
Setting up shop in Indonesia: What you need to know about business registration (e27): A comprehensive list of bureaucratic hurdles and tips for foreign startups looking to enter the Indonesian market, including how to obtain business permits and the merits of hiring local assistance.
Indonesia’s SMEs hit hard by rupiah’s slump (The Straits Times): Small business owners in Indonesia are feeling the pinch of a depreciating rupiah, which has lost about 9 per cent against the US dollar this year, making it the second-worst performing Asian currency.
The lie that could undo Prabowo
Ratna Sarumpaet, an outspoken critic of President Joko Widodo’s government who had been a senior member of Prabowo Subianto presidential campaign team, claimed to have been assaulted by three unidentified assailants at Husein Sastranegara Airport in Bandung, where she was attending an international conference on September 21. Photos of what was supposedly her battered face went viral early this week.
Despite Ratna not reporting the alleged assault to the police, Prabowo and other senior members of his campaign repeated her story to the public and called upon the police to find the “cowardly” parties behind the attack.
A police investigation into Ratna’s claims quickly revealed numerous holes in her story, the most damning of which was evidence that the 70-year-old had actually undergone a facial liposuction procedure on the day of her supposed attack, leading them to believe the photo of her face in circulation actually showed the after-effects of the procedure.
On Wednesday, Ratna was forced to admit that she had completely fabricated the story and Prabowo was forced to apologize for spreading her lies to the public.
Late on Thursday night, Ratna was arrested by police at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta Airport while trying to board a flight to Chile, supposedly to attend another international conference. She has been charged with spreading false and inflammatory information to the public.
Some analysts believe the scandal could have a lasting negative impact on Prabowo’s chances in April’s election and some supporters of President Joko Widodo are calling upon the former military general to pull out of the race for spreading the fake story.
Jokowi’s presidential presence in Palu
By contrast, President Joko Widodo stayed out of this week’s political drama (both he and Prabowo agreed to suspend campaigning this week) to focus his attentions on the disaster in Sulawesi. He has already made two trips to the affected area and has largely been praised for his and his administration’s response.
However, some analysts have noted that the crisis could hurt Jokowi’s electoral chances in the long-term if critics are able to make the case that his government was not adequately prepared for the disaster or did not respond fast or forcefully enough to help the survivors.
General declares no communist threat
Overshadowed by the disasters in Sulawesi, the anniversary of the September 30th coup attempt by the Indonesian Communist Party went by quietly this year without any military screenings of the controversial Soeharto-era propaganda film Pengkhianatan G30S/PKI (Betrayal of the Indonesian Communist Party).
Former Indonesian military chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo had loudly challenged the military brass to screen the film publicly but current TNI commander Hadi Tjahjanto declined saying the long defunct PKI were no longer a threat to the country.
Despite how completely accurate that statement is, President Joko Widodo still made a point of stating that one of his main duties was eradicating communism and the legacy of the PKI while speaking at the TNI`s 73rd-anniversary ceremony today. The president has long been dogged by conspiracy theories alleging he or his parents were secret PKI members.
Indonesia’s harsh words for Vanuatu: On Monday Indonesia used its second right of reply at the 73rd UN general assembly to attack Vanuatu for its support for West Papuan self-determination, calling it “clueless” and saying it challenged “friendly relations” between the two countries. Vanuatu has long been a supporter of the West Papuan independence movement.
As campaigning begins for the Indonesian elections, new polls suggest a falling rupiah and rising racial and religious tensions are the key issues standing between President Joko Widodo and a second five-year term.
But challenges are also mounting for Widodo following the double disaster of the 7.4-magnitude earthquake and the tsunami that hit Sulawesi last week, with a death toll that stands at more than 1,400 people and is expected to rise as search and rescue efforts continue.
Ma’ruf Amin and the inclusion–moderation thesis (New Mandala)
The inclusion–moderation thesis might predict that Ma’ruf would temper his conservatism and turn to moderation should he be elected alongside Jokowi in 2019. The vice presidency would require him to cooperate with more stakeholders, including those from minority ethnic and religious groups in Indonesia. Thus, it seems logical that he will become more tolerant as a vice-president than he was as the head of MUI, as Greg Fealy has recently argued at New Mandala.
Nevertheless, we think such an assumption is too optimistic.
Hijrah - Between Radical And Moderate Islam (Strategic Review)
A rising tide of Islamic religiosity in Indonesia is being propelled, among other influences, by a local “hijrah movement,” which demands greater personal adherence to Shariah law, but which some observers believe has the potential to further spread radicalism and create major divisions within Indonesian society. Conformity with conservative Muslim identity – ironically just as Muslims in the Middle East are becoming more liberal – is impacting all age groups here. Since at least 2010, young Indonesians have been increasingly attracted to the movement in their quest to become better Muslims and abandon what they have come to see as bad habits.
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