Saturday, June 24, 2017

Australia asked to consider conducting trial of Bali terror mastermind


AMERICAN lawyers are asking for Australia’s help to save the life of alleged Bali terror mastermind Hambali, amid moves to transfer him from Guantánamo Bay to Malaysia to face execution.

Hambali, 52, or Riduan Isamuddin, is accused of orchestrating the deaths of 88 Australians and 114 others on October 12, 2002, by financing the attack through Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.

Hambali has spent 10 years in Guantanamo without charge. His lead lawyer, Ohio-based public defender Carlos Warner, says US authorities are trying to offload him to Malaysia, knowing he can never be tried in America.

“We’ve been advocating for a long time, mostly behind closed doors, for him to go to Australia,” Mr Warner told News Corp, saying it was the only place where Hambali could get a fair trial.

The trouble with trying Hambali in Australia is how our system would cope with such a high-profile Jihadist.

“We think that Australia is the right place for him to be because of the nature of the allegations. We also respect the due process that’s provided by Australian courts.

“Given what’s going on in Guantanamo, we have more faith in your courts than ours.”

Hambali was Jemaah Islamiah’s senior operational leader, based in Malaysia, from where he allegedly organised Bali, the 2000 Jakarta church bombings, the 2003 Jakarta JW Marriott bombing, and numerous other plots, including advance knowledge of 9/11.

Mr Warner is right that Australia’s legal system is among the most respected in the world, and the home of the majority of Bali victims; but love of due process and public tolerance has limits.

News Corp has been told the Australian government would flatly refuse to entertain a local trial for Hambali; and would make no interventions on his behalf were he sent to Malaysia.

Nor would Indonesia, which has said it does not want to take Hambali back for trial.

Australian survivors have expressed frustration with Guantanamo’s legal limbo. Some, like Peter Hughes, see the terror prison as a form of “safe haven” because it has prevented Hambali from answering for Bali.

Hughes, 56, who helped others escape the blast zone despite suffering serious burns, is just back from another regular visit to Bali (“I go sit on the beach, have a few beers, it’s all good”).

“The whole reason for Guantanamo was to get information,” he says. “They’ve exhausted all the information they can get from him and he’s worth nothing.

Victims would rather Hambali be tried in Malaysia where the punishment if he is convicted is death. Picture: Indonesian National Police, HO

“Malaysia or Indonesia, it doesn’t matter. They’ve both got the death penalty — but in Indonesia, he might be treated as a hero. Get him to Malaysia and get him killed, simple.”

Though Hambali is Indonesian, he spent years in Malaysia, where he came under the influence of now-jailed JI mentor Abu Bakar Bashir, then on the run from Indonesia. He allegedly gave his blessing for Hambali to take al Qaeda’s money for a South-East Asian terror program.

Hambali, who fought the Soviets in Afghanistan and joined the Filipino Islamist insurrection, allegedly dealt directly with Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, also in Guantanamo, accused of devising the 9/11 attack and taking it to bin Laden for approval; and of providing money to Hambali for Bali.

Hambali was arrested in Thailand in 2003 and moved about in secret CIA rendition prisons where he made admissions under torture. He arrived at Guantanamo in 2006. Then president George Bush, admitting he was in detention, called him “one of the world’s most lethal terrorists”.

It has been reported that US authorities flew to Malaysia in early November to discuss repatriating detainee Zubair, a former member of JI who is prepared to testify against Hambali and another Malaysian detainee, Lillie, in return for serving time at home.

Mr Warner says it is part of a strategy to offload Hambali to Malaysia, where he would likely face summary execution.

President Obama issued an executive order in 2008 to close the prison, which failed because of political opposition in the U.S. Picture: John Moore/Getty Images

Mr Warner says the US will not risk putting Hambali on trial, fearing the evidence would fail before a judge because it is tainted by his torture, detailed in the US Senate Select Committee’s 2014 report into the CIA’s illegal rendition program.

It also fears that key prosecution witnesses would be exposed as fellow jihadists who’ve done deals to save themselves. Mr Warner believes the Malaysian judiciary would overlook such concerns.

“I am convinced forces in the United States would like to see my client executed, or severely punished, that’s why it’s not going to happen in the US,” said Mr Warner. “It will happen in another country.”

Hambali faced a periodic review in September and was deemed a “significant continuing threat” to the US. He was recommended for ongoing indefinite detention under the Law of War.

US military guards reported Hambali had “emerged as a mentor and teacher to his fellow detainees, seemingly exerting influence over them and has been heard promoting violent jihad while leading daily prayers and lectures.”

US authorities, who have long been denounced for holding prisoners for years without trial, may have found an ideal Malaysian Solution.

President Barack Obama promised to shut Guantanamo upon taking office. He failed. President-elect Donald Trump said on the campaign trail: “We are keeping it open and we’re gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me, we’re gonna load it up.”

US President-elect Donald Trump plans to use Guantánamo Bay to lock up more ‘bad dudes’. Picture: Getty

Yet there is no apparent reason why Trump, as president, would object to a Malaysia deal.

Though Hambali can remain at Guantanamo indefinitely, the US has been forced to confront the extrajudicial problems of its offshore Cuban prison. It has transferred or released all but 60 of the 780 men who have been held since the facility began filling with terror suspects in 2002.

International law expert, Professor Ben Saul, from the University of Sydney, said the Terrorist Bombings Convention gave Australia jurisdiction over foreign terrorists who have harmed our citizens, meaning Hambali could face trial here.

“International counter-terrorism law requires the US to prosecute Hambali or extradite him to a country, like Australia, that has jurisdiction,” he says.

“Indefinite detention without charge is a denial of justice to his victims and their families, and a lost opportunity to punish and stigmatise terrorist offenders as criminals.

“Australia is well positioned to prosecute because of its proximity to the crime, the many Australian victims, and its close cooperative relationship with Indonesian law enforcement. Australia should show leadership in bringing terrorists to justice.”

Hambali’s long incarceration without charge or trial does raise other questions about human rights. Picture: Mike Brown/EPA

Counter-terror experts Greg Barton and Dr Clarke Jones said there were arguments for bringing Hambali to Australia for trial, but warned we lacked the facilities and management systems for a prisoner who is regarded as a “legend” in jihadist circles.

“If there’s a chance to bring Hambali to proper justice — and locking him in Guantánamo Bay is not proper justice — it would bring a lot of closure to Australians,” said Dr Jones.

“However, if we do that and bring him back, are we creating a rod for our backs?” He is especially concerned that young radicals not mix with the likes of masterful indoctrinators such as Hambali.

Professor Barton said there were “moral, legal and practical aspects” to ensuring Hambali faced trial but also worried about his influence in prison.

“There’s merit in the case that Australian lives were lost and he be prosecuted here but we need to think beyond that as to how you’d handle him.”

We may never need to worry about handling Hambali, but with more foreign fighters expected to return, and the terror threat now steady at “Probable”, the experts warn we will need to confront how we hold people of his

Tuesday, June 6, 2017



Ancient Bedouin warfare was reborn in the Gulf yesterday as the Saudi’s long held hatred for the tiny State of Sunni Qatar bubbled over amid claims of hacking and executions of each other’s citizens. It’s not just another spat this time as the Saudis via OPEC have the major say in total oil production, therefore pricing. And Qatar owns and exports gas from the world’s largest deposits.

There is little doubt that President Trump’s visit and his brash comments lit an old fuse between all those States who want a piece of Syria and Iraq, if not the entire Levant, once the dust settles.

Qatar is largely Sunni and supports the overthrown Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, Al Queda and ISIS terrorists. Qatar also boasts media influence in the area via its Al Jazeera network where two separate channels are each dedicated to English and Arabian versions.

The headquarters of Al Jazeera Arab Language channel in Doha is an extravagant shrine to slain Egyptian, Osama bin Laden, with huge photographs including him on a horse with an assault rifle backed by an Arabian sunset. The entire studio leaves little doubt as to Qatar’s affiliations. 

But Al Jazeera English channel shows nothing of its terrorist alliances. Peter Greste did not understand that his English reporting, when it suited Qatar, was shown on the Arab channel to the Egyptians who promptly jailed him for three years. Peter never realised he was dealing with the devil who was using him for desperate influence in the Gulf.

Qatar's number one enemy is Egypt and it was Greste of Al Jazeera who got the blame for supporting the Brotherhood.

But Qatar is about to host the corrupt FIFA’s World Cup in the middle of a Gulf summer and it has other Gulf States nervous over the tiny country’s increasing influence in the region. 

It also has closer than acceptable (for the Saudis that is) relations with Trump’s new foe, the Shia State of Iran, and Iran hates all the same things as does Qatar. And it supports the same terrorist groups as Qatar, including Al Queda and ISIS who are already seeking a new alliance of destruction in the wake of an impending Syrian/Iraq vacuum.


So Trump’s determination to dump the EPA to assist with energy self-sufficiency may be a good move as oil is central to Gulf tribal warfare. But the terms of engagement of warfare have changed since the tented Bedouins' squabbles, now all States have access to modern weapons, no longer do they charge each other on moulting camels.

The only real damage is likely to be a sharp rise in the world's oil price, but even that will not be as catastrophic as it once was.


The West has continued to coddle the Saudi Family and the Saudis have recently taken an emboldened leadership of the Gulf’s task force to help wipe out ISIS. But that is already starting to come undone at the seams. 

The West seems incapable of realising that to kill off anything in the Middle East leaves a vacuum that will incite even greater problems.

Obama supported the 10 per cent of Shia in Iraq and in most States, this led to vicious tribal vengeance against the Sunnis and the Sunnis responded with even more violent paybacks. Trump has stated his determination to castrate Shia Iran's tilt at nuclear capability and that has altered the balance once again. And no-one knows where this one will finish.


Russia’s Putin apparently has greater foresight than the Americans who are fighting for the demise of Assad, because the vacuum that the popularly-elected Assad will leave is a short fuse on a Middle East time bomb that could involve Israel and suck the US and even Russia into another endless war where no-one can be sure of who they should be fighting.

Do you seriously believe NATO members, including the US, come even close to understanding corrupt Middle-East geopolitics?

It’s time to get out of that decadent Islamic hotbed of tribal hatred... we have enough trouble with it over here.


Friday, June 2, 2017

Indo-German economic relationship can have real global clout

Europe’s increasing strain with the US represents a golden opportunity for India, one the latter can use to offer an alternative a Chinese-led new world order

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Berlin on Monday could not have come at a more opportune moment, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel having clearly outlined her intention to cultivate new allies in the east in the wake of America signaling its intent to withdraw from the world.

Europe’s increasing strain with the US represents a golden opportunity for India, which boasts a rapidly growing economy and a robust democratic political system.

According to Dr. Siegfried O. Wolf, a senior researcher at Heidelberg University’s South Asia Institute and a former consultant with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Modi’s Germany trip can “usher a new frontier in European Union-Asia relations based on democratic values, which will help stabilize the Eurasian region.”

Wolf believes China’s efforts to create a new world order conducive to its own strategic interests create substantial common ground for New Delhi and Berlin to build a solid framework for economic and political cooperation. Indian Premier Narendra Modi has echoed that sentiment, endorsing an EU-centric world vision in which Indo-German ties truly count.

“At a time when protectionist tendencies are rising globally, the affirmation by our two leaders of openness, greater trade, investments and exchange of technology for mutual growth provides businesses on both sides with much needed confidence,” says Dr. Alwyn Didar Singh, Secretary General of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

Indo-German co-operation is enshrined in a framework adopted in May 2000: the Agenda for German-Indian Partnership in the 21st Century. However there is a feeling that more can be done strengthen bilateral relations on a strategic level.

After all, Germany is a key ally of India, and one that facilitated the lifting of global sanctions imposed on New Delhi after its 1998 atomic tests. It is also the country’s largest trading partner in the European Union and one of its leading sources of foreign direct investment, contributing US$2 billion in the last two years alone. Trade between the countries currently stands at US$18.73 billion.

“At a time when protectionist tendencies are rising globally, the affirmation by our two leaders of openness, greater trade, investments and exchange of technology for mutual growth provides businesses on both sides with much needed confidence”

The two currently have no formal bilateral trade agreement, however. An India-Germany Bilateral Investment Treaty lapsed in March this year and negotiations over a fresh trade agreement with the Europe Union have been creeping along at snail’s pace since 2007.

Meanwhile, the Germans have complained about obstacles to their entrepreneurial efforts, although Singh contends that some of those difficulties have been remedied with the implementation of the 2015 “fast track agreement” to facilitate German companies investing in India.

Modi’s Berlin trip is likely to enhance Germany’s contribution in making India a global design and manufacturing hub, and India’s FICCI is well positioned to play the role of facilitator. Crucially, a concentrated “Make in India” thrust and a business-friendly policy realignment from New Delhi are making India a key destination for global capital seeking profitable returns. Singh believes efforts to attract German SMEs will help to mitigate India’s unemployment problem significantly.

Former Indian Ambassador to Germany Kishan S Rana asserts: “Germany is not only the locomotive of the European Union but also a bastion of technology and innovation – the reason why it remains a vital partner for Indian growth ambitions.” Given India’s well-chronicled weaknesses in delivering on promises, Rana advocates a time-bound program of concrete aims be established.

Seema Sengupta is a Calcutta based journalist and columnist


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Aborigine and the Drover

New Featured Release “The Aborigine and the Drover”

Author: John P.F. Lynch

Historical Fiction





RRP: $24.95


Release date: Advance Review Copies June 2017

For general release hard copy, eBook and POD July 2017


Sid Harta Publishers Melbourne Australia


The Story

In the 1860’s in the Colony of Victoria, Tabu an aborigine goes ‘walkabout’ after a violent tribal fight during which his brother is killed. He rescues the wife of a drover/farmer — Michael, who is an escaped Convict. He hires Tabu, to help him drove sheep into the mainly unexplored northern districts of Victoria to the Murray River. Only a few hardy explorers and drovers had previously been through this country when bringing stock overland from Sydney to Melbourne.   

Their droving encounters many difficulties, crossing several rivers — bushfires — floods — theft of sheep and aborigine conflict. Parallel family stories involve an aborigine battle — wild dog attacks — water rights and attempted piracy. The Novel also includes other tales involving their family’s trial and tribulations, bordering on truth and fiction. 

The Author’s knowledge of Australian history has helped him interweave tales of early settlers and aboriginal lifestyles to bring together significant events that occurred within Michael’s and Tabu’s family. The Colony’s scenery and unique animals are also vividly described, together with a surprising conclusion for Michael. Collectively these descriptions have helped to complete an exciting must read story ‘Of days gone by’ and will be of interest to all readers, and will increase the knowledge of students of Australian History.


Author Bio


John P F Lynch has written several History Books and a Biography. This is his second Novel. His first Novel, ‘The Convict and the Soldier’ is a story of the Colony in the 1860’s. This Novel is a sequel. His mother’s great, great Grandparents all settled near the town of Kyneton — Victoria, during the years of 1844-1855. John was a member of both the Kyneton and Romsey Historical Societies, both of who have helped him in his research for his books.

 He has travelled extensively in his career in Aviation and visited County Clare in Ireland and Cumbria in England to research his books.

John is a Member of the Order of Australia, a Knight Hospitaller of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and a Fellow of the Royal Victorian Association of Honorary Justices. He served in the RAN Fleet Air Arm and was the President of the Romsey/Lancefield RSL for nine years. He is also a former President and Secretary of the Romsey Football/Netball Club. 

Currently he is active with the Macedon Ranges Legacy Group, having served a term as Chairman of the Group, a Board Member of the Bendigo Club and is the long standing Sergeant at Arms the State Vice President of the Malayan Borneo Veterans Association and Vice President of the Craigieburn War Memorial and Remembrance Committee.

He has now retired but continues as a volunteer in the community.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Death in BALI Latest Updates

BALI Latest Updates

Leading news items in this double edition: An English tourist has apparently killed himself in his Sanur hotel room. A Dutch tourist collapsed and died during dinner at a Petitienget Restaurant. A Singaporean tourist was evacuated to Bali for medical treatment after being bitten by a Komodo Dragon at the Komodo National Park. An American had been found dead in his rented room on South Denpasar and an Australian man has apparently been murdered in his Sanur, Bali residence. A Singaporean student, thought to have been under the influence of magic mushrooms, has fallen to his death from a Kuta hotel.

The trial for armed robbery of a series of convenience stores by an American citizen has begun in Denpasar.

5 young boys who have been committing vicious armed robberies of motorists in Denpasar have been arrested by police.

"May Day" Marchers in Bali have demanded higher wages and the enforcement of existing rules allowing days off for menstruating female workers.

The stand-off continues between conventional taxi drivers and online application transportation users in Bali.

Rafting operators in Karangasem are at an impasse with regency officials over the collection of “retribution” fees of Rp. 30,000 from every rafting customer.

If Government plans go ahead, starting in October, cash will no longer be accepted for vehicles traveling on the Bali Mandara Toll Road.

The sailing yacht “Walk on the Wild Side” has taken line honors in the Fremantle to Bali Ocean Classic Race.

Hotel News: The Westin Nusa Dua and Bali International Convention Center have appointed a new F&B Manager. The Griya Santrian in Sanur celebrates 45 years of serving Bali Island visitors. And Colliers International counts up the growing number of new hotels openings opening in Bali. The Province of Bali halts (at least, temporarily) a 3,000 Unit Condotel Project at Geger Beach, South Bali.

The Bali Safari & Marine Park will open a Marine Park in early 2017.

Province Calls a Halt to 3,000 Unit Condotel Project at Geger Beach, South Bali

National foreign tourist arrivals increased 15% in Q1 2017, a rate of growth that may fall short of a 15 million target set by the Ministry of Tourism. We have a “Bali by the Numbers” report showing arrivals through the end of Q1 2017 that are up 22%.

Aviation News: AirAsia X will start flying daily and direct between Bali and Mumbai starting on May 19th. Citilink Indonesia now flies daily between Bali and Dili. The Indonesian Tourism Minister say 2 million more airlines seats are needed to meet 15 million tourist target for 2017. Garuda adds 45,000 seats to handle the Lebaran Holiday rush coming in June.

Ferry tariffs between Bali and Java have increased by around 15%.

Bali is spending money on infrastructure improvements to welcome World Bankers and International Monetary Fund representatives for a major international conference in October 2018.

The waters of Lake Buyan and Lake Tamblingan are on the rise, submerging lakeside temples and garden areas.

Bali Hai Cruises celebrates Earth Day and Kartini Day with the children of Nusa Lembongan.

Take a trip back in time as we look at life in the early 1800s when a King ruled almost every aspect of Balinese life.

Looking Ahead:


Keep the news coming and advertise your products on Bali Discovery and Bali Update

Support the advertisers who make Bali Update possible and advertise on Bali Update. The link to learn more:


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Russia ready to build nuclear research center in INDONESIA'S Penajam

Russian Nuclear power generating company Rosatom is ready to build a nuclear technology and science research center in the Buluminung Industrial Estate in the district of Penajam Paser Utara, East Kalimantan.

At a meeting between Rosatum and East Kalimantan provincial administration in Jakarta on Wednesday, Rosatom said it was ready to build a nuclear research center in the Buluminung Industrial Estate," Vice Regent of Penajam Paser Utara Mustaqim MZ said here on Thursday.

Mustaqim said the meeting was held at the request of Rosatum, adding such meetings have been held several time before to discuss details about the plan to build the nuclear research center called The Buluminung Nuclear Industry-Science Technopark.

It was already determined thah the location of The Buluminung Nuclear Industry-Science Technopark (BNI-STP) is the Buluminung Industrial Estate in the regency of Penajam Paser Utara, he said.

"The project was planned by the East Kalimantan provincial administration and the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan),"he said.

In February , 2017 , Batan visited the regency of Penajam Paser Utara as part of the preparation for the construction of the BNI-STP. A technical team from Batan had studied the possible location for the nuclear research center.

A survey has also been carried out to prepare a report of a feasibility study for the project. The Penajam Paser Utara district administration is to provide a land plot of at least 20 hectares for the BNI-STP project, he said.

He said the district would benefit from the construction of the BNI-STP project such as in the new jobs it would provide. "We are confident later on the regency of Penajam Paser Utara would grow to become a big industrial area," he said.

Earlier, Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan said Rosatum offered to develop turnkey nuclear power plants in Indonesia.

The company offered to develop nuclear power plants in regions where there is no threat of earthquake, such as Bangka in Sumatra and East Kalimantan, Luhut said.

"However, we have told them that we are not ready yet. We need to raise public awareness, which takes time," he said following a meeting with Rosatom representatives at his office in Jakarta.

Luhut said Rosatom was able to built power plants that had capacities of more than 1,000 megawatts.

"Even so, we need to review everything first. Even if we do agree [to Rosatom's offer], the process will take 10 years, so we have not decided on anything yet," he said.

State-owned electricity company PLN has said that nuclear energy will be the last resort for electricity procurement, but development of nuclear energy must be considered if renewable sources from water, wind, geothermal, solar and biomass failed to meet the target


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

SAD DAY FOR INDONESIA’S PANCA SILA AS Blasphemy Verdict Sinks Jakarta Governor, Elevates Islamic Hardliner

The verdict in Jakarta Governo Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama's controversial blasphemy trial highlights the rising influence of Islamist groups in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country. (Antara Photo/Mohamad H
Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to two years in prison for blasphemy on Tuesday (09/05), they cited firebrand Islamist Rizieq Shihab as a Koranic authority.

Imprisoned twice for inciting violence, the leader of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) had until recently occupied the fringe of Indonesian society; his followers are regarded as thuggish vigilantes with a penchant for extremism and extortion.

His recognition by the court as a venerable Islamic theologian — and the court's verdict itself — highlights the rising influence of Islamist groups in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country but one with a multi-religious constitution and a tradition of tolerance.

As the panel of five judges delivered the verdict condemning Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to two years in prison for blasphemy on Tuesday (09/05), they cited firebrand Islamist Habib Rizieq as a Koranic authority.

However, President Joko "Jokwi" Widodo — a moderate reformer and an ally of Ahok — has publicly played down concerns about rising Islamic intolerance. After Tuesday's sentencing, he urged Indonesians to respect the legal process, noting that Ahok will appeal.

As he geared for an election to win another term as governor of the Indonesian capital last year, Ahok told a group of fisherfolk that his rivals were deceiving people by using a verse in the Koran to say that Muslims should not be led by a non-Muslim.

That comment triggered mass demonstrations, which were spearheaded by the FPI, and the blasphemy case against the ethnic Chinese and Christian governor.

Voting for Non-Muslim

Rizieq was mentioned among several witnesses as the judges dissected the contentious verse in the Koranic chapter Al Maidah. The court endorsed his interpretation that it forbids Muslims to vote for non-Muslims. Ahok had "deliberately" and "convincingly" blasphemed, the judges found.

"Rizieq is not qualified as an expert," said Todung Mulya Lubis, a leading Indonesian lawyer and rights advocate. "I was so shocked listening to that."

Shocking, too, said Todung, was the verdict itself.

Rizieq had been a prosecution witness, but the prosecutors had asked only for a suspended sentence on the lesser charge of insulting language. In the end, the judges went for a jail term under the more serious charge of blasphemy.

"The judges did not really take into account what was submitted from the defense team," said Todung, noting many senior clerics had sided with Ahok.

While Ahok repeatedly apologized for any hurt caused to Muslims, one judge, Abdul Rosyad, said the sentence was warranted because "the defendant didn't feel guilt."

Ahok was immediately taken to a detention facility in Jakarta after the sentencing. He had been due to hand over the governor's post in October.

'Victory for Hardliners'

Ahok was widely admired as governor of Jakarta for his no-nonsense style and programs to fix the Indonesian capital's traffic-clogged and flood-prone streets.

He had held a double-digit in opinion polls over his electoral rivals until an edited video of his comments on the Koranic verse was distributed by Islamist groups last September. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims then joined rallies to demand his imprisonment. On April 19, he was defeated by a Muslim candidate in a runoff vote for the governorship.

Tim Lindsey, a University of Melbourne expert on Indonesia's legal system, said it was not unprecedented for Indonesian judges to take a harder line than prosecutors.

Even so, Lindsey said, conservative clerics had clearly influenced the panel of judges.

"This is the complete victory for the hardliners."

Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch said the case would consolidate a literalist interpretation of Al Maidah that demands Muslims be led by other Muslims in all facets of life.

"This will spread to the workplace. They will be demanding Islamic chief executives and senior civil servants. Islamists are already talking about it."

While President Jokowi displays outward calm, several government sources have told Reuters he believes the rising influence of Islamism has been fueled by political adversaries and is distracting him from reforms.

On Monday, Jokowi's government announced a ban on Hizbut Tahrir, a non-violent group that advocates an Islamic caliphate and was an organizer of the anti-Ahok rallies.

Police, meanwhile, have arrested leaders of Islamic groups for treason. Rizieq is also under investigation for distributing pornography and blasphemy.


Monday, May 8, 2017

Why is the Indonesia-Russia Fighter Jet Deal Still on Hold?

As Indonesia modernizes its military, one of the key focus areas has been upgrading the country’s fighter aircraft, following a series of problems including the grounding of existing jets.

Several potential candidates had been considered, one of which was the Sukhoi Su-35 from Russia, which is currently Indonesia’s largest military supplier. In September 2015, Indonesia’s then-defense minister Ryamizard Ryacudu announced that Indonesia had made a decision to buy the Russian aircraft, with talks beginning in November to discuss details of the deal.

But since then, details of the allegedly impending deal have repeatedly changed, with few signs of a final deal materializing anytime soon even as other alternatives, including the JAS 39 Gripen from Sweden and the F-16 Block 60 Viper from the United States, continue to remain on the horizon (See: “What Does Indonesia’s New Air Force Pick Mean?”). And as of now, there appear to be few signs of this changing anytime soon.

Last week, a Russian delegation visited the Indonesian defense ministry (Kemhan), with a view to discuss the status of ongoing defense projects between the two countries. The delegation consisted of a mix of Russian officials and defense representatives, including the Russian defense attache to Indonesia and individuals from Rostec and Rosoboronexport, the Russian state arms export agency.

During the meeting, which took place on May 3, the Russian delegation brought up the status of the Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets, indicating that though it has passed several stages, it is still being held up. According to the Indonesian defense ministry, the official response from its secretary general, Vice Admiral Widodo, was that there was still the need for an evaluation from the ministry’s procurement team, which is still determining provisions, said to include defense offset obligations as well as others such as trade and funding. It added that the MoD’s procurement team is still “waiting for certainty” from the trade ministry regarding trade and technology transfer.

These concerns are not new for close observers of Indonesian military affairs. Technology transfer, for instance, has long been a sticking point for Indonesia in its dealings with Russia and also in the evolution of some of its other defense relationships, with Jakarta seeking greater access to technology as it seeks to build up its own domestic defense industry (See: “An Indonesian Defense Revolution Under Jokowi?”).

In addition, in truth such technical issues are also only one part of an often complex story than tends to characterize big-ticket Indonesian defense acquisitions, which are in turn tied to the broader structural and institutional challenges that the country’s military modernization faces as well as the choices that it ultimately makes (See: “Can Indonesia Speed Up Its Military Aircraft Modernization?”).

Widodo did add that he hoped that “all related parties will be able to help this project to be realized soon.” But the meeting clearly illustrated that despite Russia’s enthusiasm about finalizing the deal, resolving the challenges that remain will not be as easy as the occasional headlines about an impending sale suggest.


By Prashanth Parameswaran for The Diplomat

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Trilateral Patrols in the Sulu Sea: Still Coming Soon?

A look at the status of a much-anticipated initiative between Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Last year, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines reached an agreement on limited coordinated trilateral patrols following a meeting in Bali. Though the three sides have since made more progress than skeptics had initially predicted, we have still yet to witness the official launching of these patrols, with reports that they will now occur sometime in the next few weeks.

The strategic significance of these trilateral patrols, if realized and sustained, is clear. As I have pointed out before, the Sulu Sea – or, more specifically, the one million square kilometer tri-border area in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas between the southern Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia – has long been a hub for transnational organized crime and terrorist threats (See: “Confronting Threats in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas: Opportunities and Challenges”). Greater coordination between the three Southeast Asian states to resolve these nettlesome problems offers hope for their mitigation.

That said, close observers never had any illusions about how difficult it would be to actually get these patrols going (See: “The Other Sea That Dominated the 2016 Shangri-La Dialogue”). As I wrote as the initiative was taking off, there are a range of challenges – from political ones like lingering disputes between these countries to more operational ones such as agreeing on things like standard operating procedures and necessary supporting infrastructure. Little surprise, then, that the trilateral patrols have taken some time to get up and running.

As for the launch date itself, officials had initially indicated that they would try to finalize something for April or May, though specifics have been few and far in between. In March, Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said that the three countries had agreed to a joint air and maritime patrols of an area to protect commercial vessels passing through, and that a joint patrol of the three nations in that area would be inaugurated “sometime in April or May.” And in early April, Malaysian officials had confirmed that the launch would occur at the Sandakan Naval Base in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah, with reporters being invited to witness the event.

Eventually, that launch ceremony did not take place. Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein publicly said that the launch was to be moved to a later date because Lorenzana was not able to join his Indonesian and Malaysian counterparts because he was accompanying Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to a trip to the Middle East.

Last week, Hishammuddin told reporters at the 83rd Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) anniversary at the Sepanggar naval base that the three defense ministers would meet to have a launch in Bongao in the southern Philippines next month. He also added that subsequent, separate launches were planned in Malaysia and Indonesia as well that would also be attended by the three ministers.

That would make sense. In addition to accommodating the desires of all sides, it would also recognize the trilateral nature of the initiative and also be in line with its structure, which so far seems to be rooted in naval bases in each of the three countries – Bongao in the southern Philippines; Sandakan in eastern Malaysia; and Tarakan in North Kalimantan in Indonesia.

Hishammuddin did not reveal a specific launch date for the trilateral patrols, which, if it occurs in May, would still fall within the rough timeline Lorenzana had provided earlier. But the way things are shaping up, it will not be long before they actually take off, despite the delays we have witnessed so far.


By Prashanth Parameswaran for The Diplomat

Monday, May 1, 2017

Austria-Germany dangle arms, ignore rights, on Myanmar

Myanmar's military parade to mark the 72nd Armed Forces Day in the capital Naypyitaw, Myanmar March 27, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

Military chief Minh Aung Hlaing toured weapons facilities on a European visit amid a global outcry over alleged gross rights abuses among his troops

Myanmar’s military Commander in Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, returned to Yangon on Sunday after a week-long visit to Austria and Germany. The general’s trip ended just as his political rival, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, departed for a tour of Italy, the United Kingdom and the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels.

The two tours coincide with rising international criticism of Myanmar over the continued persecution of Rohingya Muslims in western Rakhine State, where a brutal military operation since October 2016 against suspected militants has pushed at least 80,000 civilians fleeing for their safety into neighboring Bangladesh.

The military “area clearance” operation has resulted in arson attacks on an estimated 1,500 houses, hundreds of killings and instances of rape and torture, according to numerous independent and United Nations reports. Armed conflict in Myanmar’s north, meanwhile, is at its most intense in decades, with the Myanmar army, or Tatmadaw, battling several ethnic insurgencies.

Over 100,000 civilians have been displaced in the fighting amid regular reports of military abuses.

These reports were the impetus for a European Union-sponsored resolution in the United Nations Human Rights Council in March that called for the establishment of an international Fact Finding Mission to “establish the facts and circumstances of the alleged recent human rights violations by military and security forces, and abuses in Myanmar, in particular in Rakhine State.”

For European Union (EU) members to simultaneously facilitate a visit by the Myanmar military commander likely to be a key target of any international investigation is both cognitive dissonance and effective exculpation. Min Aung Hlaing has already publicly defended his forces’ performance in the Rakhine State operation, and Suu Kyi has rejected calls for an investigation as “not suitable.”

The commander in chief toured arms companies and met with senior military and defense officials in Austria, even reportedly taking a spin in a DA-62 light aircraft.

In Germany, he was hosted by his counterpart General Volker Weiker and feted at a dinner put on by Gieseck and Derrient (G&D) Security Printing company, which has since the 1970’s provided technical assistance for Myanmar’s currency production.

The senior general also toured Germany’s GROB aircraft factory, looking particularly at light aircraft for reconnaissance and training.

A weapons window shopping trip after the recent violence in Myanmar was indecently ill-timed at best, and at worst indicates an indifference to continued military impunity in Myanmar that is an impediment to enhanced military engagement with foreign suitors such as Germany.

While the EU scrapped most of its sanctions on Myanmar a few years ago, it still maintains an arms embargo which expired on April 30 (it is not clear at the time of writing if the embargo has been extended). In November, during the most intense period of the violence in Rakhine State, Min Aung Hlaing was visiting Brussels to attend a European Union Military Committee. 

To be sure, German-Myanmar military ties are not new. The Fritz Werner Company supplied Myanmar’s military with weapons throughout then military dictator Ne Win’s Socialist period in the 1970s and 1980’s, manufacturing small arms including the Heckler & Koch G-3 assault rifle.

Germany has recently sought closer defense ties with Myanmar, moves that have largely escaped the scrutiny of international activists and media outlets that have strongly criticized the preliminary and limited efforts by the United States and United Kingdom to re-engage the Tatmadaw.

To host Myanmar arms factory visits, as Israel also did in recent years, puts Germany and Austria in the same company as Russia, Pakistan, China, North Korea and other major suppliers of weapons that are being used daily against ethnic insurgents in the country’s north and are having disastrous impacts on civilian populations in the area.

Min Aung Hlaing’s relatively criticism-free visit will probably not be matched by Aung San Suu Kyi’s tour, where she will likely continue to receive the brunt of international outrage over the persecution of the Rohingya, while largely ignoring the military leadership’s complete autonomy in directing and executing recent operations.

To excoriate a democratically elected leader with no constitutional control over the military, while tacitly exonerating the principal perpetrator of recent abuses, demonstrates how skewed international comprehension of Myanmar’s transitional complexities.

Rather than being feted with factory tours and luscious dinners, Min Aung Hlaing should have been pressured to account not just for the alleged abuses perpetrated in recent months, but his continued blocking of proposed constitutional reforms that would bring his military under civilian control.

David Scott Mathieson is a Yangon-based independent analyst