Monday, April 24, 2017
Kerry B. Collison Asia News: The Indonesian-Australian War - 23 Australians Kil...: Sarawak, British North Borneo, 1965: soldiers of 3 RAR board a Belvedere helicopter to search for Indonesian infiltrators AWM P01706.003...
Twenty-three Australians were killed during Confrontation, seven of them on operations, and eight were wounded. Because of the sensitivity of the cross-border operations, which remained secret at the time, Confrontation received very little coverage in the Australian press.
Between 1962 and 1966 Indonesia and Australia fought a small, undeclared wa. The conflict resulted from Indonesia's President Sukarno's belief that the creation of the Federation of Malaysia, which became official in September 1963, represented a British attempt to maintain colonial rule behind the cloak of independence granted to its former colonial possessions in south-east Asia.
The term "Confrontation" was coined by Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Dr Subandrio, in January 1963, and has come to refer to Indonesia's efforts at that time to destabilise the new federation, with a view to breaking it up. The actual war began when Indonesia launched a series of cross-border raids into Malaysian territory in early 1963.
The antagonism that gave rise to Confrontation was already apparent in December 1962, when a small party of armed insurgents, with Indonesian backing, attempted to seize power in the independent enclave of Brunei, only to be defeated by British troops from Singapore. By early 1963 military activity had increased along the Indonesian side of the border in Borneo, as small parties of armed men began infiltrating Malaysian territory on propaganda and sabotage missions. These cross-border raids, carried out by Indonesian "volunteers", continued throughout 1963. By 1964 Indonesian regular army units had also become involved.
Australian units that fought during Confrontation did so as part of a larger British and Commonwealth force under British command. Australia's commitment to operations against Indonesia in Borneo and West Malaysia fell within the context of its membership in the Far East Strategic Reserve.
At first the Australian government kept its troops from becoming involved in Confrontation, not least because of fears that the conflict would spread to the long - and difficult to defend - border between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. Requests from the British and Malaysian governments in 1963-64 for the deployment of Australian troops in Borneo met with refusal, though the Australian government did agree that its troops could be used for the defence of the Malay peninsula against external attack. In the event, such attacks occurred twice, in September and October 1964, when Indonesia launched paratroop and amphibious raids against Labis and Pontian on the south-western side of the peninsula. Members of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) were used in clean-up operations against the invading troops. Although these attacks were easily repelled, they did pose a serious risk of escalating the fighting. The Australian government relented in January 1965 and agreed to the deployment of a battalion in Borneo.
The military situation in Borneo thus far had consisted of company bases located along the border between Indonesia and Malaysia to protect centres of population from enemy incursions. By 1965 the British government had given permission for more aggressive action, and security forces now mounted cross-border operations with the purpose of obtaining intelligence and forcing the Indonesians to remain on the defensive on their own side of the border. Uncertain where the Commonwealth forces might strike next, the Indonesians increasingly devoted their resources to protecting their own positions and less on offensive operations, although these continued on a much reduced scale.
The first Australian battalion, 3 RAR, arrived in Borneo in March 1965 and served in Sarawak until the end of July. During this time the battalion conducted extensive operations on both sides of the border, engaged in four major contacts with Indonesian units, and twice suffered casualties from land mines. Its replacement, the 28th Brigade, 4 RAR, also served in Sarawak - from April until August 1966. Although it had a less active tour, the 28th Brigade also operated on the Indonesian side of the border and was involved in clashes with Indonesian regulars. Two infantry battalions, two squadrons of the Special Air Service, a troop of the Royal Australian Signals , several artillery batteries, and parties of the Royal Australian Engineers were involved in Borneo. Ships of the Royal Australian Navy served in the surrounding waters and several RAAF squadrons were also involved in Confrontation.
Continuing negotiations between Indonesia and Malaysia ended the conflict, and the two sides signed a peace treaty in Bangkok in August 1966. Twenty-three Australians were killed during Confrontation, seven of them on operations, and eight were wounded. Because of the sensitivity of the cross-border operations, which remained secret at the time, Confrontation received very little coverage in the Australian press.
RAF Avro Vulcan bomber lands at RAF Butterworth, Malaysia, c 1965. The presence of these strategic bombers was a considerable deterrent to the Indonesians during the Confrontation period
The conflict lasted nearly four years; however, following General Suharto's successful coup against Sukarno, Indonesian interest in pursuing the war with Malaysia declined, and combat eased. Peace negotiations were initiated during May 1966 before a final peace agreement was ratified on 11 August 1966.
British Commonwealth forces peaked at 17,000 deployed in Borneo, with another 10,000 more available in Malaya and Singapore.[
Total British Commonwealth military casualties were 114 killed and 181 wounded. Australian casualties of 16 killed and 9 wounded Indonesian casualties were estimated at 590 killed, 222 wounded and 771 captured
Following Indonesia's diplomatic victory in the West New Guinea dispute, Sukarno may have been emboldened to extend Indonesia's dominance over its weaker neighbours. Sukarno argued that Malaysia was a British puppet state, a neo-colonial experiment, and that any expansion of Malaysia would increase British control over the region, with implications for Indonesia's national security.
Co-ordinated to coincide with Sukarno announcing a 'Year of Dangerous Living' during Indonesian Independence Day celebrations, Indonesian forces began a campaign of airborne and seaborne infiltrations of the Malaysian Peninsula on 17 August 1964. On 17 August 1964 a seaborne force of about 100, composed of airforce Pasukan Gerat Tjepat (PGT — Quick Reaction Force) paratroopers, KKO and about a dozen Malaysian communists, crossed the Malacca Straits by boat, landing at Pontian in three parties in the night. Instead of being greeted as liberators, however, they were contained by various Commonwealth forces and all but four of the infiltrators were captured within a few days. On 2 September, three Lockheed C-130 Hercules aircraft set off from Jakarta for Peninsula Malaysia, flying low to avoid detection by radar. The following night, two of the C-130 managed to reach their objective with their onboard PGT paratroopers, who jumped off and landed around Labis in Johore (about 100 miles north of Singapore). The remaining C-130 crashed into the Malacca Straits while trying to evade interception by an RAF Javelin FAW 9 launched from RAF Tengah. Due to a lightning storm, the drop of 96 paratroopers was widely dispersed. This resulted in them landing close to 1/10 Gurkhas, who were joined by 1st Battalion, Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment (1 RNZIR) stationed near Malacca with 28 (Commonwealth) Brigade. Operations were commanded by 4 Malaysian Brigade, but it took a month for the security force to capture or kill 90 of the 96 parachutists, for the loss of two men killed during the action.
Indonesia's expansion of the conflict to the Malaysian Peninsula sparked the Sunda Straits Crisis, involving the anticipated transit of the Sunda Strait by the British aircraft carrier HMS Victorious and two destroyer escorts. Commonwealth forces were readied for airstrikes against Indonesian infiltration staging areas in Sumatra if further Indonesian infiltrations of the Malaysian Peninsula were attempted. A tense three week standoff occurred before the crisis was peacefully resolved.
By the concluding months of 1964 the conflict once again appeared to have reached stalemate, with Commonwealth forces having placed in check for the moment Indonesia's campaign of infiltrations into Borneo, and more recently, the Malaysian Peninsula. However, the fragile equilibrium looked likely to change once again in December 1964 when Commonwealth intelligence began reporting a build-up of Indonesian infiltration forces in Kalimantan opposite Kuching which suggested the possibility of an escalation in hostilities. Two additional British battalions were subsequently deployed to Borneo. Meanwhile, due to the landings in Malaysia and Indonesia's continued troop build-up, Australia and New Zealand also agreed to begin deploying combat forces to Borneo in early 1965.
On 28 May 1966, at a conference in Bangkok, the Malaysian and Indonesian governments declared the conflict was over. However, it was unclear if Suharto was in full control of Indonesia (rather than Sukarno), and vigilance in Borneo could not be relaxed. With Suharto's co-operation a peace treaty was signed on 11 August and ratified two days later.
During Suharto's rise to power operations continued and, in March 1966, a Gurkha battalion was involved in some of the fiercest fighting of the campaign during two raids into Kalimantan.
In addition to the ground and air force units, between 1963 and 1966 there were up to 80 ships from the Royal Navy, Royal Australian Navy, Royal Malay Navy and Royal New Zealand Navy
Sunday, April 23, 2017
New Relase Title “Twelve Years in Care”
Sid Harta Publishers Melbourne.
Written a story? SEND US YOUR MANUSCRIPT
From the 1860s to the late 1960s over 150,000 boys and girls “volunteered” to migrate from the United Kingdom to many colonies of the then British Empire, including Australia. The abolition of the slave trade in 1803 and the eventual emancipation of individual slaves in the 1830s had left the colonies with a shortage of labour to be partially filled by these children.
This diaspora of children rivalled the number of convicts sent to Australia. We were the unwanted generations; many of us were bastards/illegitimate by birth and/or from the lowest echelons of society. It was all quite “normal” and accepted practice; we were surplus to requirements. Once we were put into institutions we became “fillii nullius” the children of no one, to be done with as the authorities saw fit. Each of us has a story to tell; this is my story.
A child’s why?
Is a child’s cry;
Truth, brings forth knowledge.
Knowledge, is a precursor to wisdom.
Wisdom seeks truth.
Let us all seek truth.
In order to be wise.
“It is my hope that people who read this book will be far more mindful of children, as children are not things or possessions, they are simply little people. World peace will never be attained until we adults learn to love and nurture our offspring no matter what colour, creed, or nationality, and to show respect for people who think and look different to ourselves. A reciprocation of understanding by all people is the key to enable all children to attain an education and adulthood in a world of peace.
Dr Barnardo was the person who established Dr Barnardo’s Homes in England in the latter half of the 1800s. Many thousands of Dr Barnardo’s children were emigrated principally to Canada and Australia; some were sent to other parts of the British Empire.
Barnardos, is now the trading name of Dr Barnardo’s Homes. To avoid confusion and for brevity’s sake, Barnardos is used exclusively throughout this book.
To give immediacy and freshness I have used a raconteur style and have consciously avoided the cleverness’s of the “Gargoyles and Curlicues,” which seem to have become the template for many modern writers today. This plain speaking necessitates revealing more of myself than at times I feel comfortable with; however, the truth will out in one form or another.
It should be kept in mind that my brothers and I never saw my father and much of the information was only gained and put into perspective after November 2001. It was only then through the intervention of the International Social Service organisation that we found we had four brothers, two sisters and a step mother, all”
Twe lve Years in Care | John Bicknel l
of whom got lost somehow when we three brothers “volunteered”
to emigrate to Australia.
John R. Bicknell
Ex Dr Barnardo’s Homes
For people born after World War Two reading ‘12 Years in Care’ is an eye opener.
It’s a recount of one boy’s/man’s early life experiences in institutionalised care – plucked from what he thought was family life to be then sent off to an institution in England before being transported to the “colonies” in Australia.
John R. Bicknell’s autobiography is also about silent observance, yet strong determination to survive and about carving his own way in life with many lessons along the way. By no means a sentimental story, it is a must for anyone curious about the plight of Dr Barnardo’s children.
Insightful, at times raw and gritty as well as humorous and uplifting of a child’s/man’s resilience and the light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s a book, which will broaden one’s understanding beyond the idea of happy families.
The District Reporter
“A compelling insight into the life and times of a child under the Dr Barnardo’s Homes Scheme.
The experience of living pre and post WW2 as a child in such challenging circumstances is in itself a moving story.
The living standards, the treatment and discipline of such young children was extraordinarily harsh. Handing over three young boys to care seemed such a heartless, inhumane act.
Life in the Dr Barnardo’s Home in comparison appeared to provide stability and security, both in England and then Australia, and was such a contrast to the previous uncaring, unstructured existence.
It was great to read about earlier days in the local area, specifically Mowbray Park at Picton and The Oaks. The author’s inclusion of so many local identities makes this a fascinating and relatable read.”
AM, Walsh, Gerard (A. Taylor, MP) <Gerard.Walsh@aph.gov.au>
Up to 150,000 children were deported from children's homes in Britain and shipped off to a 'new life' in distant parts of the British Empire, right up until as recently as 1970. John was one of these children who came with his two bothers to the Barnardo’s Farm Training School at Mowbray Park near Picton. In his new book he takes the reader back to where it all began in a small house in a small village in southern England, into their incarceration in English orphanages and then to Australia with several other children. The chapters describing life in Mowbray Park give the reader a glimpse into the lives of similar children raised in philanthropic institutions away from traditional family structure and make their subsequent social problems easier to understand. This is a timely story for today as we all struggle to understand why so many children were taken away from families and countries. John worked hard to overcome his early life to create acceptance into local communities and successfully run a farm and raise a family but it was only at a significant cost to himself. Many other children did not. They all have stories we should know before we can remedy past mistakes and apply better policies in future.
Doreen Lyon [Many years connected with the Wollondilly Heritage Centre]
Subject: John R. Bicknell's "Twelve Years in Care", on the surface, reads like a boy's adventure story. John writes with a sense of wonderment and humour, at times causing the reader to forget that this is definitely not "Adventure Time for Boys". Dysfunctional family relationships, institutionalisation, family breakdowns - these would cause many an individual to become a burden on society, yet this Barnados Boy has clearly demonstrated that society has benefited from 'volunteering' this British Child Migrant. Advocates (assuming there are any) of the system that produced this British Child Migrant would argue that the system was justified in its actions, as it produced an upstanding citizen - John R. Bicknell, however, in spite of that system, as his autobiography demonstrates, flourished. It is a wonderful, ultimately uplifting, read.
Lynnette Buick, book reviewer in Wollondilly Shire
Twelve Years In Care is a fascinating read ! From the humblest of beginnings, John reveals to us what it meant to be a child living through the war years, often hungry and uncared for, becoming a Barnardos Boy, and finally leaving Britain for the far away land called Australia, which no one ever explained was actually on the other side of the world. Despite a cool welcome on these distant shores, John created a new life for himself and worked hard to find his identity. For anyone interested in the child migrant issues, this book is a most interesting read and certainly gives a new insight into the lives of children in care, yet this book is not a’’ woe –is –me” story, it’s inspirational and uplifting and a thoroughly good read.
Alison Lewis, author “Seasons of Life” & “Missing”
John Bicknell presents an honest and heartfelt account of growing up in an institutionalised environment and the normalisation of abuse at the hands of parents and carers. This book is a poignant reminder of the many trials and abuses that thousands of children and teens suffered at the hands of those whose very job was to protect them.
I am glad that John has told his story. As he writes, "it is necessary to acknowledge the truth of what happened as well as bear witness to the fact that these injustices occurred to the most vulnerable of people: children." Our nation has only recently formally acknowledged and apologised to children like John who migrated to Australia for the purpose of cheap labour and more often than not were at the mercy of unscrupulous and often vicious carers.
At the same time, John's account provides a wonderful insight into the well-known generosity and community minded spirit that is so evident in Wollondilly, painting a picture of warm, genuine and hardworking farming families who share in what little they have to give an orphaned boy, a family. I was saddened to read of the discrimination and suspicion that Barnardo Boys like John faced in the community. Despite being ostracised John and no doubt hundreds of other young men in his situation have helped to shape and build the nation of Australia.
The long-term impact of institutionalised childhood, of the scars one carries even into later life, is evident in John's account. That John was able to forgive his mother and father, and his praise of social workers and staff of Barnardo's nowadays, is a testament to the man that he is. John Bicknell is a valued member of the Wollondilly community and dedicates much of his time to helping young high school students as a mentor.
My hat goes off to John for telling his story. A work of this nature takes courage, dedication and a hope and trust that society and government will learn from the terrible injustices borne by children like John and his brothers.
Jai Rowell MP
Member for Wollondilly
Ahok’s absurd trial won’t satisfy anybody
You could describe the prosecutor’s requested sentence in the trial of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) for blasphemy, as absurd: illogical, odd, and comical all rolled into one.
The Public Prosecutor who read the sentencing request, Ali Mukartono, stated that Ahok was guilty as charged, as he had ‘provoked feelings of antagonism as elaborated in section 156 of the criminal code [on hate speech and incitement]’. Therefore, he requested that the recently-defeated Ahok be sentenced to one year’s prison, suspended for two years.
The sentencing request is absurd firstly as a matter of legal formality — since it was based upon a different section of the criminal code than the section on blasphemy under which Ahok was initually charged — but also because it further indicated just how very political this trial is. Because of this, the response to the sentencing request has tended to be negative not only from those who wanted to see Ahok punished severely, but also those who have perceived, or at least suspected, that this case was mere politics all along.
For the anti-Ahok camp, the prosecutor’s request is tantamount to letting the accused walk free, because the suspended sentence ipso facto means Ahok will not go to prison. For what, then, the time and energy expended in the name of this legal process? For what was the use of sensational mass mobilisations, the invocation of the defence of Islam itself, and so on, if this sentence request is all that eventuated? Is this not the same as disparaging the all-important struggle to defend the faith? Is the prosecutor just part of a more cynical agenda imposed upon the Islamic community, by means of a legal stitch-up?
Such is the case, too, with the side that has always seen this legal process as a political farce. The sentencing request reflects a lack of seriousness on the part of prosecutors, and even a failure to prove the charges, that was apparent all along. Beginning from a prosecution processes that smacked of haste, the presentation of weak witnesses, to the unprofessionalism of prosecutors in presenting their sentencing request, such that they had to delay it until after the second round of the gubernatorial election. For Ahok’s supporters, the right move from the prosecutors would be to clear the governor of all charges. But in changing, with much obfuscation, the charge from that of blasphemy to incitement, it was obvious that there was an inconsistency and lack of solidity in their appeal. The viewpoint that the trial was political was given strong support.
That’s why, after reading the sentence request, the Public Prosecutor has become the target of criticism from all directions, including from human rights practitioners who regard Ahok’s trial as a backwards step in protecting freedom of expression, and the protection of minorities. In the end, because the prosecutors themselves are an integral part of the government, then President Jokowi will cop some of the political blame. Anti-Jokowi forces will, of course, happily take advantage of the absurdity I’ve described as ammunition to discredit him — no matter that Jokowi himself has insisted that he would not interfere or intervene in the case.
Of course, the sentencing stage of the trial is not over. There is still the matter of the defendant’s pledoi or defence against the prosecutor’s demand, followed by the judge’s verdict itself. In my view, in order that this legal process does not become more of a joke and a political circus, but instead genuinely seeks out justice, the judge’s verdict will be paramount. If the verdict merely reiterates the absurdity that has played out so far, then the implications will be all the more negative. Not just because legal certainty and justice will drift further out of reach, but because it would likely further inflame the political atmosphere in the capital, with the effects felt throughout Indonesia.
Muhammad A.S. Hikam is a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at President University, Indonesia. He is a former member of the Central Leadership Board of Partai Kebangkitan Bangsa (National Awakening Party) and served as Minister for Research and Technology in the cabinet of President Abdurrahman Wahid.
This post originally appeared in Indonesian at his Facebook page. Translation by Liam Gammon.
Friday, April 21, 2017
The Intercept report alleges 'associates of Donald Trump in Indonesia have joined army officers' to oust President Widodo
The military has rejected online media reports alleging that senior generals, including the army chief is planning to overthrow the democratically-elected government of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo.
The Intercept on Wednesday published an investigative report titled "Trump's Indonesian allies in bed with ISIS-backed militia seeking to oust elected president".
The report said: “Associates of Donald Trump in Indonesia have joined army officers and a vigilante street movement linked to ISIS [Daesh] in a campaign that ultimately aims to oust the country’s president”.
It went on to add that Indonesian military and intelligence officials were involved in the coup bid against the president “from behind the scenes”.
The Intercept report was also translated and published on the Indonesian-language website, Tirto.
In its response to the report, army spokesman Major Gen. Wuryanto on Friday said: "In the near future, we will take legal action. We will report [the online site Tirto] to the police," according to detik.com.
Wuryanto rejected all allegations in the report.
"Before publishing that report, Tirto should have confirmed with the army chief or with me, because this is a sensitive charge," Wuryanto said.
The Indonesian military has had a long involvement in the politics of the country. Former President Gen. Suharto had allowed the institution to act both as a security guard and to occupy political office. But the political function was abolished after Suharto stepped down from office in 1998.
By Ainur Rohmah Anadolu Agency
Trump sparks confusion, danger of war in Korea tinderbox - US policy toward Pyongyang is incoherent and undercuts America's credibility
Trump sparks confusion, danger of war in Korea tinderbox - US policy toward Pyongyang is incoherent and undercuts America's credibility
Nothing behind the curtain? Trump's bellicose rhetoric is only likely to increase the risk of war, not resolve any issues. Photo: Screenshot from movie
Donald Trump’s latest moves toward North Korea are “dangerous” and sow confusion in a tense geopolitical scenario. Trump’s recent declaration that he ordered a US carrier strike group to race toward Korea when there was no such force in the vicinity undercuts American credibility and increases the possibility of a misstep, said Sneider, associate director of research for Stanford University’s Walter H Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center.
“War is always possible,” said Sneider, a former Asia correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor. “What Trump is doing is dangerous if it leads to miscalculation by the North Koreans, and it’s dangerous if the US actually acts on this vague threat of doing something, presumably with the use of force.”
In reality, Washington’s options for dealing with North Korea are the same as they were almost 20 years ago. Past US administrations have also held that “all options are on the table.” Both Bill Clinton and George W Bush considered preemptive strikes against nuke and missile facilities, but dropped the idea due to the risks involved.
‘To say strategic patience is over, no more negotiations, we’re going to do something — that doesn’t work, that isn’t very credible’
“There are no different or other policy options than the ones the US has been discussing and pursuing since 2000,” Sneider said. For Trump “to say strategic patience is over, no more negotiations, we’re going to do something — that doesn’t work, that isn’t very credible,” he said.
If the recent missile strike against Syria and the giant bomb that was dropped on an ISIS complex in Afghanistan were meant to signal the US now means business, that marks a sharp divergence from Washington’s previous script in dealing with Pyongyang, Sneider said.
“They’ve tried to kill the president of South Korea three times, shot down an American reconnaissance plane, captured an American Navy ship and took the crew hostage, bombed a Korean Air flight, and engaged in other numerous incidents leading up to the sinking of the South Korean Navy ship Cheonan in 2010,” Sneider said. “But the US and the South Koreans have never responded proportionally in a military way.”
This measured approach on the part of Washington and Seoul springs from an understanding that any escalation might lead to war and would put Seoul’s 10 million population – including about 100,000 Americans – within range of North Korean artillery and rockets.
China policy puzzle
Sneider said he sees a similar disconnect in Trump’s attempts to get China to “pressure” North Korea.
“The Chinese want to avert conflict” on the Korean peninsula, he said. “That’s the No1 motivation for them.”
Beyond recognizing Beijing’s mutual interest in resolving the nuke crisis, it isn’t clear how the Trump administration wants China to help, Sneider said. Beijing has already applied sanctions and slowed the flow of trade.
“I don’t understand what Trump, or National Security Adviser McMaster or Defense Secretary Mattis want China to do,” he said.
Much of the tension over what North Korea would do to honor founder Kim Il-sung’s birthday on April 16 was due to hyperbole in the US press, he said. Expectations for a nuclear test were just speculation.
“The North Koreans never said they were going to conduct a nuclear test or a long-range missile test. Everybody just put two and-two together and got 65,” Sneider said.
“Sometimes the North Koreans use those dates for propaganda purposes, sometimes they don’t.”
veteran analyst Daniel C Sneider
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Religious Politics Victorious in Indonesia -Jakarta voters’ ouster of Christian governor an ominous message
Religious Politics Victorious in Indonesia -Jakarta voters’ ouster of Christian governor an ominous message
Jakarta’s seven million voters on April 19 decisively traded gubernatorial competence for ethnic and religious hegemony, turning down the sprawling city’s successful governor, ethnic Chinese-Christian Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja, in a landslide in favor of Anies Baswedan, a former education minister supported by conservative Muslims.
A “quick count” showed Anies, backed by the powerful political machine of former presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, chairman of the Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra, had received about 58 percent of the vote to Ahok’s 42 percent. Although the official count won’t be known for weeks, in past elections the quick count has stood up as relatively accurate. Ahok, as the governor is universally known, quickly conceded. He would have been the city’s first elected Chinese Christian governor.
After what political scientists characterized as easily the bitterest race in the city’s history, Anies said after the first results came in that he would work to unite the divided electorate.
“We are committed to maintaining unity in Jakarta,” he said. “We want to celebrate pluralism and diversity.” He has vowed to upgrade the city’s shambolic squatter colonies rather than evicting their inhabitants, as Ahok has done.
If Anies’ win is an indication of a resurgence of Prabowo’s national influence, that resurgence appears to be built at least partly on a resort to religious intolerance. It also is a blow for President Joko Widodo, universally known as Jokowi, and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, or PDI-P, headed by Megawati Sukarnoputri. Jokowi used his own political muscle in a vain attempt to produce a win for Ahok, who had been deputy governor when he as Jakarta governor from 2012 to 2014 and started the reform of the city. Ahok inherited the job and if anything deepened the commitment to reform.
The decisive drubbing of a non-Muslim also raises troubling questions for future races in a country that historically has steered clear electorally of radical religious practice despite the fact that it is about 85 percent Sunni Muslim, with about a million Shias, who are increasingly persecuted along with Ahmadis, another Muslim sect. In recent years, there has been an ominous and growing trend towards religiosity that was also absent in the presidential race of 2014 when Jokowi and Prabowo collided and Jokowi won.
This election, for instance, was all about religion and race despite the fact that Ahok is clearly the most effective official to govern Jakarta in decades. He has moved to clean the capital’s noxious rivers and reduced flooding, begun to straighten out the chaotic transport system, evicted squatters from the riverbanks and run a largely corruption-free administration although he has come under fire for his sarcastic manner and frequent insults to constituents and employees.
However, the election hinged on allegations that Ahok, in a campaign speech last year, had made blasphemous remarks concerning the Quran when he said opponents would attempt to use a verse in the Muslim holy book to say voting for a non-Muslim would go against the religion.
He was said to have violated Surat Al-Ma’idah 51, the 51st verse of the Quran, which reads: “O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them. Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.”
The result was a continuing uproar, with massive demonstrations against Ahok and an eventual charge of blasphemy in a Jakarta court, with the ruling stayed until after the election despite a tearful public apology from the 50-year-old official. The verse was posted in many mosques across the city and religious preachers exhorted the faithful to reject Ahok on the basis of religion.
On Thursday, Ahok returned to the North Jakarta District court, where he faced up to five years in prison for blasphemy. However, attorneys asked for a year in prison with two years of probation, which means, if granted, that Ahok would stay out of jail but must refrain from breaking the law.
The new governor is considered to be a liberal Muslim, but he embraced the FPI, or Islamic Defenders Front, a violence-prone gang of Islamist activists that he had once called a “radical group.” The FPI, which is sometimes believed to be an adjunct of the National Police, are noted for harassing women in short skirts and storming nightclubs and discotheques. Anies is also a former member of Jokowi’s cabinet, an academician and a onetime Fullbright Scholar. Considered a highly respected young leader, he was also the country’s youngest university president.
The influence of Prabowo is not to be discounted. Widodo’s rival in the 2014 presidential race, Prabowo is the former son-in-law of the late strongman Suharto and an enormously rich businessman. He has never been aligned with religious figures. But in rebuilding his political machine following the loss, he has since turned to the FPI and other Muslim groups.
With the election over, Prabowo and Aburizal Bakrie, another political figure who had been in eclipse after losing his position as head of Golkar, the country’s biggest and oldest political party, went to the Grand Mosque Istiqlal in central Jakarta to meet with the FPI and their allies. Prabowo expressed his gratitude to FPI leader Rizieq Syihab and National Movement to Safeguard Indonesian Ulema Council’s Edicts (GNPF MUI) chairman Bachtiar Nasir, saying that ulemas or religious councils had played an important role in the victory.
The next question is what becomes of Jakarta’s governing structure. For decades the conurbation of 30 million residents, the world’s second-biggest metropolitan area, was run by political hacks who allowed it to descend into urban sprawl and deep corruption until Jokowi, formerly a reform mayor of the city of Surakarta from 2005 to 2012, ran in Jakarta.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Review Featured Book Release “Jagged Edge of Joy”
Author Liz Newton
Sid Harta Publishers
For the Wishart family the summer holidays once more stretch languidly over the sun drenched beachside camping spot north of Sydney where parents Joe and Evie have brought the family year after year. It's the summer of 1961 and baby Nellie for the first time joins in the holiday along with her brothers Pete and Dave, who are three and five years old respectively, and big sister Beth who is ten.
These hazy, lazy days of summer bring a welcome break in routine for Joe from his burden of factory responsibilities as both owner and manager, while Evie loves the chance to catch up with extended family and familiar faces as all enjoy the delights of their seaside sanctuary. Sun, sand, shells and the sea provide the raw ingredients for the whole clan to create their own versions of a perfect holiday but 1961 brings a shadow which will shatter the Wishart family.
Every parent's worst nightmare is the loss of their child, but for the Wisharts there is no certainty, no coffin, no closure. Suspicion is cast in all directions and narrows to focus squarely on those who know the family. Joe and Evie return home and try to maintain some semblance of a normal family routine but without resolution their grief is ever present, sometimes masked or momentarily stifled but never far from the surface. Eventually the Wisharts find the answers they have so long sought after that fateful summer holiday turned their lives into a nightmare from which there was no escape, but will this knowledge bring relief or further devastation?
Liz Newton has delved deep into the family dynamics associated with the loss of a child and follows the aftermath of this tragedy for each of the Wishart family members as well as its echoed impact on the Blackstone family. Newton's characters are complex and layered, finely drawn and achingly real. They continue to develop as lives are turned upside down and truth becomes abstract, delayed to be dealt with another time.
Newton authentically recreates Australia of the 1960s and 1970s through clever references to popular culture, local and world events and delights the reader through her keen ear for the vernacular in dialogue. Turning the pages of this skilfully crafted and engrossing story inserts the reader into a time capsule where the simpler times of Australia are perhaps to be found, yet darkness and danger may lurk in any era.
Parallels with contemporary historical cases are raised such as the kidnap and murder of Graeme Thorne, the disappearance of the Beaumont children and the Wanda Beach murders which blur the line between fact and fiction in this compelling story. While happiness is hidden in plain sight it is grief, pain, secrets and lies which fuel Jagged Edge of Joy, stoking the coals of this riveting read - impossible to put down!
Reviewed by Chris McGuigan