Top Stories

Last week, the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) released a report confirming what many in the human rights community had suspected for years – members of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) have been embezzling public funds. Dr Ken Setiawan looks at the factors within Komnas HAM that have allowed this to occur.

Over recent months, the public has again had reason to question the quality of judges serving in the Constitutional Court. Muhammad Tanziel Aziezi, from the Institute for an Independent Judiciary (LeIP), examines the selection process for Constitutional Court judges and outlines what needs to change to ensure that Indonesia has better quality judges and, consequently, better quality decisions.

How has the Joko Widodo administration performed on economic management? How successful has the tax amnesty program really been? And has the government’s perceived new emphasis on ties with China changed Chinese involvement in the economy? Dr Dave McRae explores these issues and more with Dr Yose Rizal Damuri, in the latest Talking Indonesia podcast.

An Indonesian representative to the UN won praise last month for laying into Pacific countries that questioned Indonesia’s human rights record in Papua. Hipolitus Yolisandry Ringgi Wangge writes that defensive statements about sovereignty do nothing to address the humanitarian issues that are, in fact, the primary concerns of state and non-state actors in the Pacific.

Indonesians’ lack of interest in reading is well documented – a recent study put the country in 60th position out of 61 countries in terms of interest in reading. But is anyone doing anything to address the reading crisis? Dr Lily Yulianti Farid, founder and director of the Makassar International Writers Festival, takes a look at what is being done – and what should be done – to make reading more fun.

What roles are played by religion and culture in perceptions of disability in Indonesia and how do these perceptions influence policy? What is being done, or should be done, to promote inclusion of people with disability? In Talking Indonesia this week, Dr Ken Setiawan discusses these issues and more with leading disability advocate Slamet Thohari, from Brawijaya University in Malang, East Java.

Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s time as leader has been marked by urban evictions on an unprecedented scale. Some 325 locations have been slated for eviction by the end of 2016, in the months approaching the 2017 governor’s elections. Dr Ian Wilson examines how urban poor groups, residents and their allies are mobilising and networking in response to the forced removals.

For more than a year, the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) has been quietly working on plans to amend the 1945 Constitution for a fifth time, and reinstate the State Policy Guidelines (GBHN). Bivitri Susanti writes that although the term “state policy guidelines” might sound rather innocuous, the return of the GBHN could have grave political consequences.

During the New Order period, the middle class was routinely depicted as small (less than 10 per cent of the population) and uninterested in democracy. According to Dr Gerry van Klinken, that picture now needs a serious overhaul. They are interested in democracy, he writes, and even more in decentralisation, and play a crucial role in holding the country together.

What accounts for Indonesia’s infrastructure deficit and how can the government best address it? How does President Joko Widodo differ in his approach to infrastructure compared to his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono? Dr Dave McRae discusses these issues and more with Associate Professor Jamie S. Davidson, from the National University of Singapore, in the latest Talking Indonesia podcast.

Last week, the government announced it would seek to ban three gay social networking apps, following the alleged misuse of Grindr in a child prostitution case. Hendri Yulius writes that the bans are representative of the government’s struggle to maintain power and authority in the internet era and show that the rapid development of information technology does not necessarily lead to advances in freedom of expression.

Anti-Chinese sentiment has deep roots in Indonesian society but there is a widespread perception that it has become worse over recent years, along with the rise of Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, or Ahok. Dr Robertus Robet writes that as Ahok’s opponents have struggled to formulate effective criticism against him, they have resorted to unsophisticated appeals to primordial concerns.

Indonesian smokers were worked up last month over rumours that the price of cigarettes would soon rise to Rp 50,000 (AU$5). As Dr Krisna Hort explains, the rumours originated from an article that showed that doubling the price of cigarettes would increase tax revenues to a level that could cover the current deficit in the national health insurance scheme (JKN).

President Joko Widodo made an appeal to Southeast Asian unity in the face of regional instability as the ASEAN Summit kicked off in Laos this week. Dr Avery Poole writes that this may bode well for Indonesia’s traditional leadership role in ASEAN but we are unlikely to see significant progress on key regional governance challenges.

Indonesia’s indigenous peoples face serious challenges, including insecure rights to land and lack of recognition of their traditional religions. How are these issues being addressed, and what regional differences have to be taken into account? Dr Ken Setiawan explores these questions and more with Sandra Moniaga, from Komnas HAM, in the latest Talking Indonesia podcast.