Kabanjahe, Indonesia. Thousands of Indonesians spent a third day in shelters on Tuesday as a volcano threatened a devastating eruption on Sumatra island, officials said.
Thousands of Indonesians spent a third day in shelters Tuesday as a volcano threatened a devastating eruption on Sumatra island, officials said.
Governent volcanologists said 2,460-meter Mount Sinabung was not spewing as much ash and smoke into the atmosphere as it had for the first two days but it was still extremely dangerous.
The mountain erupted for the first time in 400 years on Sunday, sending around 30,000 people into temporary camps as authorities ordered everyone within a six-kilometer radius to leave.
Officials said about 7,000 people had returned to their villages Tuesday but those from within the evacuation zone were not being allowed to go home.
“People are asking us if they can go home to tend to their animals and guard their homes but they’re not allowed to leave the camps,” disaster response official Mohammad Agus Widisono said.
Government volcanologist Agus Budianto said: “The volcano continues to spew smoke and ash but the cloud is only 50 meters high compared to 2,000 meters yesterday. Visually, its activities have significantly reduced.
“But our instruments have recorded continuous tremors in the volcano, which means that there is magma trying to push upward.”
He said the situation remained too precarious for people who live closest to the volcano to go home.
“We predict that there’s still a possibility that it will erupt again,” he said, adding there was “no plan” to downgrade the threat level.
Airlines have been warned to avoid Mount Sinabung in northern Sumatra but the area is remote and the ash cloud has caused minimal flight problems.
Sinabung is one of 69 active volcanoes in the sprawling Southeast Asian archipelago.
Indonesia straddles the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where the meeting of continental plates causes high volcanic and seismic activity. It has more active volcanoes than any other country.
Earlier this month four people went missing after the 1,784-meter Mount Karangetang erupted on the island of Siau, North Sulawesi province.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono held on Monday a plenary Cabinet meeting to discuss Indonesia-Malaysia ties following a recent incident in Tenjung Berakit waters in Riau, which has sparked an anti-Malaysia drive.
Yudhoyono said talks on border issues between Indonesia and Malaysia were pressing to solve territorial disputes facing the two neighbors.
The President called for proportional diplomatic measures in dealing with any dispute, but underlined that Indonesia would defend its territorial integrity at all cost.
“This is an era of cooperation, not war. Nevertheless if it concerns our territory and sovereignty we will do whatever we can [to defend national integrity],” Yudhoyono said as quoted by Antara news agency.
Malaysia has released three fishery and maritime patrol officers suspected of trespassing Malaysian territory, while Indonesia set free seven Malaysian fishermen accused of poaching in Indonesian waters. The deal, however, has failed to appease the public and politicians alike, who regretted the compromise.
The Cabinet meeting also discussed efforts to maintain food security in the wake of global natural disasters, which occurred in, among other countries, China, Pakistan and Nigeria.
Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi has seen a growing trend among regional leaders in the passing of bylaws aimed at forcing the public to strictly uphold Islamic teachings. The Jakarta Post’s Rendi A. Witular recentlytalked with Gamawan, once a stout advocate of sharia-based bylaws when serving as regent of Solok in West Sumatra, over the issue. Here are the excerpts of the interview:
Question: Can you comment on the growing trend of regional bylaws advocating strict Islamic teachings?
Answer: If the majority population of a province or regency is Muslim or Christian or Hindu, I think there will not be any issue when local leaders want to issue bylaws that require their majority to be more disciplined in applying the religious teachings. However, having such bylaws will mean that several requirements need to be fulfilled before the issuance, to avoid igniting religious disharmony. First, they can only be applied in a homogenous society. They should not discriminate the minorities and cause public disturbance. Second, the bylaws must also comply with higher regulations and laws, and should not depict sharia words.
But at the implementation level, such bylaws tend to discriminate the minorities. How do you respond
Only a religious-group majority, targeted by the bylaws, must comply with them. People with different religions to those regulated by the bylaws must be excluded. In cases related to religious bylaws in West Sumatra, there are no measures taken against the minorities to force them to comply with such bylaws.
What is actually igniting the growing trend in the issue of sharia-based bylaws by local leaders?
The trend stretches back to 2001 after the full implementation of the regional autonomy law. Regional leaders have more say and authority in managing their own territory, and structural and commanding relation with the central government is coming unstuck. In some cases, the regional leaders are forced by the public to issue the sharia-based bylaws or they won’t gain second-term votes.
But let me underline this, such bylaws are not for the minorities. When I was the regent of Muslim-majority Solok, the people there requested me to issue such bylaws in order for them to be more faithful to their religious teachings. It’s unlike in Hindu-majority Bali where minorities are also requested to comply with the local bylaw related to the Nyepi celebration. There, Muslims must also stay home and halt all activities during the celebration. And I don’t see similar bylaws applied in any other places.
How can the central government ensure that religious-based bylaws will not weaken tolerance and
People can report their opposition to any religious bylaws to their councilors. Based on the existing laws, bylaws cannot be passed unless they are endorsed by councilors.
If no progress is seen at this level, the public can report it to the governors or to my ministry. But there are no legal tools for the governor and us to force the regencies or municipalities to revoke the bylaws other than by appealing them through recommendation notes.
The central government can only revoke bylaws related to the business and economy because there is already a closed list of what is allowed and prohibited.
In order to anticipate the issue of bylaws that can disturb religious harmony, there is a regulation requesting regents or mayors to first consult with their governors before passing the bylaws.
But the governors cannot officially ban the issue, they can only provide recommendations. My ministry has actually received several reports of religious-based bylaws that may weaken tolerance and pluralism.
But we can only appeal to the regions not to proceed with such bylaws. From what I’ve experienced, there is actually no opposition to such bylaws from the community in general. I think it’s just people
in Jakarta who are making a fuss out of it.
The government is determined to maintain its 3-kilogram LPG canister conversion program following a series of accidents related to the canister explosions by establishing three task units involving the Energy and Natural Resources Ministry, the National Police and the Communications and Informations Ministry.
Energy and Natural Resources Minister Darwin Zahedy Saleh said in Jakarta on Thursday that the first unit would be assigned to be in charge of providing instructions in using the canisters properly.
"The second unit is the monitoring intensification unit, which will be in charge of taking action against illegal refilling and other [illegal actions], under the authority of the National Police’s Detective Unit,” he said.
“The third team is the information and communications unit under the coordination of the Ministry of Communications and Information," Darwin said, adding that the last team’s task will include "countering inappropriate [media] discussions."
Darwin made the remarks during a training for trainers program involving 80 community members, such as those from the Family Welfare Empowerment (PKK) organization, about the proper usage of the canisters.
The training program, which falls under the first task unit, is expected to reach residents in 30,000 villages.
According to National Police Chief Detective Comr. Gen. Ito Sumardi, there has thus far been at least 80 accidents, involving gas canister explosions, 24 of them were related to the 3 kilogram ones.
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of cooperation between Japanese electronics manufacturer Panasonic Corporation and the Gobel corporate family, PT Panasonic Gobel Indonesia (PGI) said it would contribute more to the Indonesian economy.
PGI chairman Rahmat Gobel said Wednesday that Panasonic Corporation chairman Fumio Othsubo had met with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to discuss how Indonesia should develop its industry.
“Panasonic is committed to developing environmentally friendly industries, starting from raw materials to manufacturing processes to product outcomes,” he said at the Ritz Carlton in Jakarta.
The company said it had cut carbon dioxide production by 30 percent in some areas in 2009, when compared to 2006 levels.
Rahmat said Panasonic had made Indonesia its global production base for several products, including batteries and light emitting diodes lamps.
“The latest relocation was a lithium coin battery factory from Japan to Indonesia, which we hope can start operation in November,” he said, adding that the new factory in Cibitung, West Java, will produce more than 350 million battery a year and employ more than 400 people. (rdf)
Jakarta. House Commission III lawmakers were quick to defend themselves on Wednesday against accusations they were undermining efforts to strengthen the anti-money laundering agency, with some saying they agree with proposals to give the body more powers.
They were responding to accusations by anti-graft watchdogs on Tuesday that four parties in the commission which oversees legal affairs, had rejected 24 critical points in the government’s proposed amendment of the 2003 Money Laundering Law.
The four parties named were the Golkar Party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), the United Development Party (PPP) and the People’s Conscience Party (Hanura).
“That accusation is very wrong. There is no effort to undermine any anti-graft or anti-money laundering agency,” said Syarifuddin Sudding, a Hanura legislator and one of the formulators of the bill.
“We are still discussing the points and we only want to deliberate a qualified law, not an overlapping one,” he said.
Deliberations on the proposed amendment are continuing.
However, lawmakers from the four factions have reportedly objected to proposals to allow the Financial Transaction Reports Analysis Center (PPATK) to conduct its own criminal investigations and for the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) to automatically receive PPATK reports on suspicious transactions.
Currently, only the police and the Attorney General’s Office have the authority to investigate money laundering and have access to the PPATK reports.
“We know that the Law on KPK clearly states that its role is to supervise the police and attorney. If we push for the amendment, giving the KPK the same authority as police and attorney, then it will contradict the KPK Law,” Syarifuddin said.
Watchdogs have argued that the KPK would do a better job of using the PPATK reports.
The PPATK says it has detected 2,442 suspicious transactions since it was established in 2004, 92 percent of which were forwarded to the National Police and the rest to the prosecutors’ office.
But only 26 of the reports have ended with convictions.
Meanwhile, in the only two cases handled by the KPK that utilized PPATK reports, 10 lawmakers ended up being charged with receiving bribes, most from Golkar, PDI-P and PPP.
The PDI-P’s Gayus Lumbuun said he personally supported the points raised by the watchdogs but his party’s final stance had yet to be decided.
“The final decision will be decided by the faction, and so far there has been no discussion on that,” he said.
Golkar’s Nudirman Munir also denied his party was against the efforts to strengthen the PPATK and KPK.
Any statements by Golkar lawmakers expressing disagreement with plans to grant more authority to the KPK were merely personal opinions, he said.
“Golkar wants the system to strengthen the KPK, not undermine it,” he said. “I agree that KPK should be given access to PPATK’s data.”
Golkar’s Bambang Soesatyo has previously slammed the bill as a move to transform the PPATK into an untouchable body answerable only to the president, and said some of the articles would clash with existing laws.
But Nudirman maintained that any comments by Golkar members in Commission III should be taken as their personal opinion, and not the faction’s.
“Golkar supports any move to strengthen the KPK,” he said.
The number of subscribers for Indosat, the country’s No. 2 cellphone operator, may hit 40 million by year’s end, based on the firm’s growth forecasts, which would put it just ahead of rival XL Axiata.
Indosat on Wednesday said it saw similar subscriber growth in the second half as in the first, which would put the year-end number at about 40 million, or up a fifth from 2009.
Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, is one of the world’s most crowded telecommunications markets with 11 operators fighting for customers in a population of 237 million.
Among the three main players in the cellphone market, Indosat has 37.8 million subscribers, well behind Telkomsel, a subsidiary of Telekomunikasi Indonesia, which has 88 million, but ahead of XL with 35 million.
“I’m pretty sure 40 million is a reachable target for subscribers by the end of the year,” said Harry Sasongko, Indosat’s chief executive. “We should have the same growth rate in the second half as in the first half in terms of subscribers.”
Indosat’s 2010 first-half profits fell 71.5 percent to Rp 287 billion ($31.9 million), which it said was due to the stronger rupiah, depreciation and an unrealized loss on its derivative position from hedging, according to a report from the Indonesia Stock Exchange.
Earlier this month, XL reported a first-half net profit of Rp 1.324 trillion, up 87 percent from Rp 706.4 billion in 2009.
Indosat’s full-year net profit is forecast at Rp 1.524 trillion, up 1.73 percent from Rp 1.498 trillion in 2009, according to data from Thomson Reuters.
XL recently gave full-year guidance for subscribers at 39 million, which would draw it closer to Indosat, which is controlled by Doha-based Qatar Telecom.
Indosat, which has a market capitalization of $2.8 billion, also expects revenue in the second half to grow at the same pace as in the first half, when revenue grew 5.8 percent.
XL said in July that it expects revenue growth of up to 18 percent in 2010.
Sasongko said Indosat is still considering whether to keep or sell its tower assets. “We’re reorganizing ourselves and we think the towers should be put in one unit; we’re going to put it under one umbrella,” he said.
When asked if Indosat would consider listing the unit in an initial public offering, Sasongko said that could be one option.
“The possibility is always there, we need to look at the state of the tower business itself, also regulation and market situation,” he said.
As of the first half of 2010, Indosat has 17,372 base transceiver station towers.
Based on an average construction cost of about Rp 1 billion, Indosat’s entire tower portfolio would be worth an estimated Rp 17.372 trillion.
Indosat stock closed up 0.54 percent on Wednesday at Rp 4,650. The stock has fallen 2.12 percent so far this year, underperforming the market, which is up 23 percent.
Jakarta. In a meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta on Wednesday, the head of Japanese consumer electronics giant Panasonic confirmed that it planned to move its production base to Indonesia, senior Indonesian government officials said.
Gita Wirjawan, chairman of the Investment Coordinating Board (BKPM), said Panasonic president Fumio Ohtsubo told Yudhoyono and Vice President Boediono in separate meetings that the company would move its factories from China and Vietnam to Indonesia to take advantage of lower wages and the booming economy, which is driven by consumer spending.
Gita first revealed that Panasonic was considering such a move in March.
Industry Minister MS Hidayat, who was present at Ohtsubo’s meeting with Boediono, said Panasonic was upbeat about the country’s economic prospects, and would close its factories in China and relocate them here. He did not offer a timeframe or investment value for the move.
“They are committed to making Indonesia the production base for exports as well as for the domestic market,” Hidayat said.
This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the average wage for factory workers in China is about three times more expensive than in Indonesia — $413 versus $129 a month — while wages in Vietnam were $136.
The report cited research by JP Morgan, CEIC and the International Labor Association.
Rachmat Gobel, the chairman of Panasonic Gobel, the electronics firm’s local unit, also declined to cite an investment value for Panasonic’s factory relocations, saying only that the parent company had been continuously investing in Indonesia, and had already brought the total to $400 million.
Panasonic’s three factories in Indonesia — in Jakarta, Surabaya and Batam — make home appliances, personal electronics and batteries.
“Its current annual turnover [in Indonesia] is $850 million,” Gita said, adding that it is expected to surge to $3 billion by 2014, partly because of its recent acquisition of Sanyo.
Yopie Hidayat, a spokesman for Boediono, said Panasonic told the vice president the company may also develop solar panels domestically.
“It plans to turn houses into self-sufficient energy houses with zero emissions,” Yopie said. “They made the prototype in Japan but are considering whether to develop the industry there or in Indonesia considering the skilled-laborers here and the availability of abundant solar energy. The vice president supports the plan to make Indonesia as the production base, not only as the market.”
“They’re still considering the solar panel development here,” he added. “But the LED factories have been here and there’s also plans to extend the battery production factory.”
Boediono encouraged Panasonic to develop solar energy as it could supply remote regions of the country with electricity.
Gita and Hidayat both said Panasonic’s decision was expected to convince other companies to make Indonesia their production base.
Jakarta. A wide range of Chinese goods has flooded Indonesia since the Asean-China free-trade pact took effect on Jan. 1, the Indonesian Young Entrepreneurs Association has warned.
A new study by the association, known as Hipmi, showed that more than 70 percent of products from small- and medium-sized industries sold in Indonesia in the six months to June were imported from China.
The goods range from electrical equipment and metal products to plastic goods, garments, automotive spare parts and even packaged fruits.
A similar survey conducted by the association in 2004 found that Chinese goods in the same categories had only 15 percent of the market share.
The new study, conducted across all 33 provinces, is the first to provide figures to confirm fears that cheap Chinese goods are swamping Indonesia under the free-trade agreement between China and the 10 states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes Indonesia.
Harry Warganegara, the association’s head of international trade, said on Saturday that one of the reasons for the jump was because local consumers were “sensitive” to price differences.
Harry said the association’s findings were in line with Central Statistics Agency (BPS) data. The agency said imports from China totaled $8.99 billion in the first half of this year, up from $5.9 billion in the same period in 2009.
“Chinese products, which have been flooding the market, present the government with a serious challenge to improve the competitiveness and efficiency of domestic industries,” Hary said. “If it does not take concrete steps, the competition will become tougher in the second half of 2010. And it is only going to get tougher in the coming years, especially as local producers will be struggling with issues such as Indonesia’s relatively high interest rates and higher electricity rates.”
Local producers also face the problem of poor infrastructure.
Prasetyantoko, an economics lecturer at Atma Jaya University in Jakarta, said: “The agreement serves as a double-edged sword. It benefits Indonesia because it makes us more open to globalization, but there are consequences. The flooding in of Chinese goods will force us to increase our competitiveness, and we have no choice but to do this.”
Other economists, including Ma Tieying, with DBS Group Research, have said the effect of the pact is being overstated as import tariffs between China and Asean countries had already been gradually scaled back from 2005.
Indonesian Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu signed the deal in 2004 after years of negotiations. It established the world’s third-largest free-trade area, after the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement, connecting 1.9 billion people with a combined GDP of $6.6 trillion and total trade among members of $4.3 trillion.
Indonesia. The space agency this week moved a step forward in its plans to build an integrated space center on an island off the southwestern coast of Bengkulu province.
Adi Sadewo Salatun, the head of the Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (Lapan), said the center would be built on Enggano Island in the Indian Ocean.
He was speaking at the signing of a memorandum of understanding at the Lapan-Bengkulu provincial administration office.
Adi said the island, in the outermost reaches of the archipelago, was the perfect spot for the country’s launch pad because of its low population and remoteness.
“None of the neighboring provinces will be disturbed by our activities there,” he said.
Adi said the site of the existing rocket launch site in Pameungpeuk, West Java, had become crowded and was no longer suitable for launching rockets bigger than the last one sent skyward, the RX-420.
Given the island’s location, 110 nautical miles from the provincial capital of Bengkulu city, Adi said he was confident the project would not attract new settlers.
“This is a lesson that we learned from the Pameungpeuk site, which was sparsely populated when first set up but attracted settlers after it became established,” he said.
M Nashsyah, the head of the Bengkulu Regional Planning Agency, said the administration welcomed Lapan’s decision, adding the center would have a positive impact for the locals, especially in terms of technological development.
He said that in future, other countries might use Indonesian rockets to put their satellites into orbit. “It will make the island’s and the province’s names known to the world,” Nashsyah said.
He claimed the noise generated from spaceport activities would not disrupt the island’s 2,500 locals because the 200-hectare site was far from residential neighborhoods.
Adi added that the center would have quake-proof buildings and be built in an area of the island that was shielded from the danger of being swept by a tsunami. Enggano Island sits on one of the world’s most active fault lines, where tremors and sometimes quakes are common. They are caused by the grinding of the Indo-Australia plate against the Eurasia plate.
Adi said the plan was also in line with Lapan’s program to launch satellite-deploying rockets from 2012 to 2014.
Lapan launched the unmanned RX-420 in July last year from the Pameungpeuk site after it carried out a stationary test on the rocket in December 2008. The agency also launched two smaller RX-320 rockets in 2008.
The next rocket, the RX-550, is scheduled to be launched in 2012 and it will undergo static tests this year and in 2011.
Pos M Hutabarat, the head of research and development at the Ministry of Defense, said the space center, initially intended for civilian purposes, would be useful for the military in the future.
“We could use it for missile defense exercises and testing ballistic missiles with a distance of over 20 kilometers,” he said.
Pos said such projectiles could be aimed toward the neighboring Mega Island, located further northwest from Enggano, to see the effects of the missiles’ explosions.
He said the military had had trouble finding a remote area that was large enough to carry out ballistic missile tests over more than 20 km.
Adi said work on the site would start next year, with a start-up budget of about Rp 20 billion ($2.24 million) to build the launch pad and prepare it for the RX-550 suborbital test flight in 2012.
“But the construction will continue gradually to develop it into an integrated spaceport,” he said. “But for the first launch pad we only need a space no bigger than the size of a football field.”
By 2014, Lapan expects it will be able to launch the polar orbital flights of the RX-550 and RX-420 rockets from the new center.
Nashsyah said the regional administration would conduct a feasibility study, including an environmental impact analysis, before construction began.
“The Enggano Island spaceport will be one of the few satellite launch pads located along the equator,” he said.