News in Brief – Week Ending 25/05/08

Some guys have all the luck and this certainly wasn’t the case for the Indonesian police when South-East Asia’s most-wanted terror suspect, Noordin Top, evaded a massive manhunt and fled Indonesia. A senior member of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terrorist network who was arrested and extradited to Indonesia told police that an Algerian who helped him escape from the country said Noordin had managed to flee. According to a senior anti-terrorism officer said yesterday that police were still ‘cross-checking’ the information with other sources to verify the claim. Surveillance is one thing but a direct arrest is even better. Don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today. No doubt the police will catch him. They are good in Indonesia. It seems that terrorist suspects are the flavour of the month with an Australian department of Immigration and Citizenship project offered to improve Indonesia’s ability to track potential terror suspects at its major air and sea ports could be extended to the remaining ports across the country. The border management alert system, CEKAL, was developed to answer security concerns after the Bali bombings in 2002. That’s what I like, co-operation on all fronts. And, a decade after the fall of the Suharto dictatorship in Indonesia, democracy is providing fertile ground for the growth of political Islam in the world’s most populous Muslim country according to analysts. As the country prepares to remember Suharto’s 32 years in power on the 10th anniversary of his resignation Wednesday, many see the rising strength of political Islam as a defining characteristic of Indonesia’s reborn democracy.

Over in Timor Leste, once part of the Indonesian archipelago, East Timorese leaders have gathered under tight security for an emotional ceremony to celebrate six years of independence and mourn the country’s long and bloody struggle for liberation. The hacienda-style government palace on Dili’s waterfront was bedecked with international flags – including those of former occupiers Indonesia and Portugal – as the country’s red-and-black flag was raised under a baking sun. President Jose Ramos-Horta, reviewed an honour guard from a jeep and called for peace and unity in Asia’s troubled newest state as foreign force snipers watched from the palace roof. Now that’s over-the-top security!. Meanwhile back in the capital of Indonesia, thousands of protesters rallied there and other cities on Tuesday against a government plan to raise subsidised fuel prices by as much as 30 per cent. Around 1,000 people clogged the main street in Jakarta demanding the government cancel the plans and reduce the cost of food and other commodities which have soared globally. One of the protesters was quoted as saying “We will march to the (presidential) palace to reject the price hike and demand the government reduce food prices. The people’s budgets have reached breaking point” This is not good news as this will result in price hikes for tourist companies and thus charging their clientele more for a sight-seeing trip.

Let’s hop back across the archipelago where indigenous residents of Indonesia’s Irian Jaya region suffer a multitude of injustices, from rape and murder to the pilfering of riches extracted from their island, said representatives of an Indonesian Catholic diocese. Unsettled disputes and violent conflicts between the Indonesian government and the indigenous residents have resulted in the killing of at least 100,000 people by Indonesian security forces. Where’s the Pope when you need him!. Why not, let’s zoom back again and we have the usual yearly tale of choking haze from forest fires in Riau and Jambi that have blanketed North Sumatra for several days and threatens to spread to neighbouring countries. Based on reports from the Meteorological and Geophysics Agency (BMG), the haze has reduced visibility to between three and five kilometers since May 18, from around 8 km previously, but has yet to disrupt flight schedules thus far. The recent poor visibility in North Sumatra was attributed to haze from forest fires in Riau and Jambi. It seems that the big ‘request’ from SBY for the people to take much more care of their environment fell on deaf ears.

And, finally this week there is doubt. The reform movement which ended the 32 years of President Soeharto`s authoritarian rule in 1998 was expected to appear as a basis of democracy in the people`s life in Indonesia is on the rocks. But what had happened ten years later was that the reform agenda formulated in the past ran aground with the exception of political reforms, while other agendas were still regarded as a dream which had yet to come true till now. Amien Rais has his say.

And Folks, that’s the news that is the news from around the archipelago this week, or at least, that what is worth mentioning!.