Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Aceh Separatists Roll Out Sharia Law (Sharia 2.0)

The follow-up to the Economist article and the Jakarta Post announcement is not pretty.

I still have yet to read an account of how the courts are going to deal with the banking industry in Aceh. Calling interest by other names such as a "service charge" doesn't automatically align the banks with Sharia . . . does it?  Interest is the price of credit. The morality police can just . . . what?  Insist this is not true, and it will automatically be not true?  What is going on over there--one large collective provincial nap?

From The New Matilda, Feb 17, 2014

Aceh Separatists Roll Out Sharia Law
By Nic Borgese

Almost 10 years after the Indian Ocean Tsunami and the end of the 26 years of separatist conflict between the Indonesian Army and the Independent Aceh Movement (GAM), Aceh would seem entitled to enjoy some peace and stability. From the outside looking in it very much seems that way.

Closer scrutiny reveals that Aceh is slipping further into Islamic fundamentalism, enforcing Sharia law not only on its majority Muslim population, but for the first time targeting non-Muslim minorities like the Chinese, Christians and Westerners.

This should sound alarm bells for foreign investors and donor countries, especially the USA and Australia — two countries with a sizable aid program in Indonesia — as non-compliance to Sharia codes could make working and visiting Aceh unpalatable at best and unsafe at worst.

Traditionally, Sharia law applied only for Muslims, but since early February Acehnese authorities have begun enforcing by-laws (Qanun), passed in December 2013, which require every person, irrespective of race or religion, to obey Muslim codes or face punishment either by Sharia or regular courts.

These Qanun regulate dress codes, physical proximity of unmarried couples, consumption of liquor, same-sex relationships, among other behaviour codes. Breaches of the codes carry punishment varying from cane lashes, detention of up to 60 days without trial and fines.

The first attempt to pass these by-laws in 2009 was thwarted by human rights activists, who compelled the then Governor Irwandi Yusuf not to sign off on their implementation. The new administration of ex-GAM members, now rebranded Aceh Party, led by Governor Abdul Zaini and Deputy Muzakir Manaf, approved the Qanun and are determined to ensure that Aceh becomes an Islamic state despite a possible stoush with the central government, if the new by-laws are not aligned with national laws.

The Aceh Party position on Sharia law has changed dramatically over the years. Sharia law in Aceh was introduced as early as 1999, much to the opposition of the GAM, which saw it as a “trick” intended to mislead the Acehnese people into supporting the much maligned Jakarta-backed provincial government. If GAM saw Sharia law as a tool of political and social control, its political reincarnation has embraced it with similar intent.

While the enforcement of Sharia law has repercussions for the whole population, it may help reveal the provincial government's position on collaborating with non-Muslims and institutions.

The divide between Muslim and non-Muslim Indonesia has a long history, as does anti-Western sentiment. Nonetheless, in the streets of Aceh antipathy towards Westerners is minimal; people are generally cordial, welcoming and hospitable. The story may differ at an institutional level.

The fiercely separatist attitudes of the Aceh Party contradict their attempts to woo foreign investment. Furthermore, the political alliances that the leadership of the Aceh Party have been forging appear disingenuous if not disregarding of foreign relation diplomacy.

A clear example is the adherence of Aceh deputy Governor Muzakir Manaf to the Gerindra Party, led by Prabowo Subianto, a front-runner candidate for the presidential elections to replace Dr Susilo Bangbang Yudhoyono.

Prabowo has been accused of human rights breaches, crimes against humanity and being one of the Suharto henchmen who carried out abductions and torture against activists during the New Order regime. Prabowo was dismissed as the commander of the Special Force and faced an armed forces tribunal but was never properly tried for his crimes.

He has since reinvented himself as a political force and is running second in the presidential polls, trailing only the popular Jakarta Mayor Jokowi, who is yet to nominate. As a private citizen Prabowo would not be eligible to enter the US and would be unlikey to get an Australian Visa. This would change if he became president.
Why would a prominent political figure of Aceh align himself with a former enemy is the subject of much discussion and conjecture. Suffice to say that Prabowo and his party provided much financial support to the Aceh Party during the 2013 Gubernatorial election, which the Aceh Party claimed with a landslide victory, securing almost 60 per cent of the votes.

The elections were disputed, and there is evidence of ex-GAM intimidation and threats in remote villages. Nonetheless, the result stood and the Aceh Party gained control of most of the political apparatus in the province.

This latest use of power to veto and enforce Sharia law is an attempt to suppress non-aligned people and minorities. While Chinese and Christians may feel the brunt of having to adhere to codes with which they don’t identify or recognise, Sharia law, as enforced in Aceh, discriminates against moderate Muslims, youth who look to embrace modern thinking, and women.

The UN Provincial Human Development Index Report provides credible evidence that while Aceh has achieved some economic development, the position of women and marginalised groups has deteriorated since the aftermath of the Tsunami. Human Rights groups have collected reliable evidence of instances in which women have been detained, assaulted and raped by the Sharia police. Some cases have been investigated, but most go unreported.

The current situation should serve as a warning to anyone intending to invest, assist or even visit Aceh. The decision to do so should be accompanied by attempts to advocate or secure conditions conducive to dialogue, implementation of rules respectful of human rights and equity for minority groups, women and marginalised people. Foreign investment, aid and tourism should reflect principles of equality and justice. Only then Aceh can begin to enjoy peace and stability.

Nic Borgese is an Australian citizen who has worked in post-disaster, post-conflict zones for more than 10 years in Asia and Europe. He currently at the end of a three years stint in Indonesia, two years were spent in Aceh

Comment #1: I for one am entirely unsurprised, in retrospect maybe the world should not have been so keen to help rebuild Aceh after the tsunami.

Comment #2 by “O. Puhleez
Posted Monday, February 17, 2014 - 18:38
For any parliamentary democracy to function well, those elected into power have to face not only the hazards of the election cycle but a credible alternative government (ie an opposition.) As JK Galbraith pointed out, for power to even function properly, there has to be a countervailing power.
Unfortunately, when it comes to relations with Indonesia, the choice between the ALP and the Coalition is a no-brainer. For example, on the major issue of the boats, Abbott and Morrison have politely but effectively called Indonesia's bluff, and have shown a commendable determination to send the people smugglers and their high-fare-paying passengers back to Indonesia. This contrasts rather starkly with the performance of Shorten and Plibersek on the issue, who can only whinge about the  risk this entails of worsening relations, etc, etc. 
Unfortunately for us, Gillard's ALP government was easy meat for the people smugglers and the corrupt Indonesian military officers, police and officials in cahoots with them. For far too long Australian politicians have been obsequious to their Indonesian counterparts, while at the same time trying to buy their friendship with shiploads of Australian taxpayer dollars presented as 'aid'. (Or should that perhaps be better understood as protection money?)
The chief groveller, appeaser and master of the kow-tow was of course, Paul Keating. On his watch, that band of uniformed murderers, rapists and cut-throats better know as the TNI (Indonesian military) murdered, raped and mutilated as they pleased in East Timor (1965-1999), without a single objection from Keating or "Softly-softly' Evans, his Foreign Minister. Not one of those war criminals of course, has ever been brought to justice.
Subianto was in the thick of it, and should have finished up in the cell next to the one occupied by Slobodan Milosovic in the Hague. Instead, he will shortly become Indonesian President. He would find dealing with Shorten and Plibersek a lay-down misere. Abbott and Morrison are clearly  more worthy opponents.
Which as Shorten sinks, is a pity; because but for her serious deficiency on Indonesia, Plibersek would make a fine prime minister.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Jakarta Post reports on Aceh's enforcement of Sharia

A colleague working in Southeast Asia assures me that the newest attempt by the government to enforce Sharia law will be pushed down when the Ministry of Home Affairs refuses to approve the mandate. It still  saddens me on so many levels.  All the things that need to still be done for the province are going to be derailed by a global audience who is mostly scratching its head and wondering why it should contribute any more resources to a region determined to shoot itself in the foot at every opportunity. 

Below are excerpts only.

Without much fanfare, the Aceh provincial administration and legislative council have approved the Qanun Jinayat (behavior-governing bylaw) that obliges every Muslim and non-Muslim in Aceh to follow sharia, the Islamic legal code.
The Qanun Jinayat was approved by the legislative council on Dec. 13 and signed by Governor Zaini Abdullah.

Saleh said that the newly approved qanun stipulated that all violators of sharia would be tried under Islamic law regardless of their religion.
Violations . . . include drinking liquor, khalwat (affectionate contact between an unmarried couple), and not wearing headscarf or wearing tight pants by women.
Anyone found drinking alcohol or breaching the codes on moral behavior, whether residents or visitors to Aceh, could face between six and nine lashes of the cane.
On Wednesday, the Aceh sharia police stopped motorists but let non-Muslim women go after advising them to wear a headscarf. Three violations of the dress code could lead to nine lashes.
Saleh argued that the passing of the qanun was based on the principle of justice for all as Muslims would feel they were being treated unfairly if non-Muslim violators were not tried under the same law for the same violations.
Legal observer and social scientist at Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh, Saifuddin Bantasyam, said that although he had not yet read the Qanun Jinayat in detail, he thought that it would be awkward if Islamic law was applied to non-Muslims regardless of whether the violation was categorized as a sharia violation.

Key articles in the Qanun Jinayat
1. The sharia authorities will have the power to arrest suspected violators, and confiscate and conduct raids on their property, based on preliminary evidence.
2. The authorities will have the power to detain a violator for up to 30 days prior to trial. This detention can be extended by another 30 days.
3. A suspect has the right to be defended by a lawyer.
4. Non-Muslim or military suspects will be tried in a sharia court unless the violation is covered by the Criminal Code (KUHP) or by the Military Code respectively.
5. Even if the sharia court acquits a defendant, he or she will be required to undergo rehabilitation.
6. Only one appeal may be filed with the sharia court.
7. Prison terms are for up to a maximum of 40 months.
8. Caning up to a maximum to 40 lashes.
9. Fines up to a maximum of 800 grams of gold.

Source: Aceh provincial administration

My colleague adds, “I think that we need to work on a strategy for the 10th anniversary of the tsunami this year and of the MoU next year. These are opportunities for bringing back interest and attention to Aceh. And to get the Acehnese to understand that if they want to keep that attention then they have to lose the ridiculous parochialism they are falling into.”

As I was pondering whether I could even return to Aceh under these condition, I remembered philosopher Bertrand Russell’s Portraits from Memory  in which there is a section called "Why I am Not a Communist."

As you read these excerpts, substitute “political Islam” for Communism, and your favorite Acehnese politician for Stalin and Marx.

In relation to any political doctrine there are two questions to be asked:

(1) Are its theoretical tenets true?

(2) Is its practical policy likely to increase human happiness?

For my part, I think the theoretical tenets of Communism are false, and I think its practical maxims are such as to produce an immeasurable increase of human misery.

 . . . I am completely at a loss to understand how it came about that some people who are both humane and intelligent could find something to admire in the vast slave camp produced by Stalin.

 . . . But my objections to modern Communism go deeper than my objections to Marx. It is the abandonment of democracy that I find particularly disastrous. A minority resting its powers upon the activities of secret police is bound to be cruel, oppressive and obscuarantist. The dangers of the irresponsible power came to be generally recognized during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but those who have forgotten all that was painfully learnt during the days of absolute monarchy have gone back to what was worst in the middle ages under the curious delusion that they were in the vanguard of progress.

. . . In most of the countries of Asia, there is abject poverty which the West ought to alleviate as far as it lies in its power to do so. There is also a great bitterness which was caused by the centuries of European insolent domination in Asia. This ought to be dealt with by a combination of patient tact with dramatic announcements renouncing such relics of white domination as survive in Asia. . . . “

The basic claim of political Islam—that there exists a commonly agreed corpus of Islam that is universally accepted-- is false, and can be clearly seen in Indonesia with its plurality of faiths and competing orthodoxies. The body of Islamic law can’t provide relevance and answers to the problems of modern governance, especially in Aceh province. Is this law liable to increase human happiness?  The policies derived from these ideas are at best problematic.  And the nonchalant refusal to even consider the dangers of absolute power and its abuse is incredibly frightening.
The 18th century Indian Islamic Scholar Sha Wali’s theory of the Caliphate addresses the problem of the abuse of power by deeming it away by administrative fiat—“we will choose a just caliph,” or “the jurist’s council is by definition just because he knows the law.”  The whole idea of human frailties and power concentrated in the hands of the few being dangerous is simply deemed away.  This seems terribly naïve and short-sighted, particularly in light of the very long history of unjust secular rulers against which the whole Islamist ideology is aimed.
And then there are those citizens of Aceh who, as Russell notes, have apparently forgotten “all that was too painfully learned” under the various tyrannies of both colonial powers and, more recently, Indonesia itself.
As with Communism, Islam does not offer a solution to the constant presence of the potential for the abuse of power. And this refusal to learn from the past is happening under the delusion that Aceh is “searching for cultural authenticity.”  This is surprising, and certainly not convincing.  We know what those who have promulgate this law are searching for: votes based on fear and personal wealth based on repression.  Nothing really moral, or Muslim, about that.

Some comments appearing below the Jakarta Post article:

·       Title is MISLEADING. Aceh cannot enforce sharia in full. The Ministry of Home Affairs has 60 days to check whether regulations are in line with the constitution.

·       the Qur'an was man made, there was no Qur'an during the life time of Muhammad, read the Bukhari hadith, it was codified or made into a book by caliph Uthman who was not a prophet

·       there is no original Qur'an, even the one codified by Uthman in existence in the world, so don't say that the current Qur'an has never been changed

·       Its very regret that Aceh turned to Taliban, Boko Haram likeness ruling province. I believe that in the next time Aceh will be base of terrorist.

·       Is this PTSD from the Tsunami? Or are the people by nature, insane? 

·       women being fined for not wearing the hijab or wearing tight jeans is absurd. . .

·       Treating women equally is a sign of civility. Mentally they are as intelligent so why subjugate them? The clothes they wear, how they ride scooters etc. is irrelevant. The clowns on dresses aren't trying to respect women, they are controlling them. Let one women live in Aceh and Saudi and then Australia, Europe or the US and then ask where she prefers.

·       men and women may not be equal, but neither is superior, men and women complement each other, to say otherwise is just idiotic. Sharia seems to be more about control does it not, PS I am male and my wife (indo) is smarter than me.

No type of fundamentalism is good.  I hope Aceh wakes up in time. 

[thanks to Dr Efraim Afsah of the University of Copenhagen for an enlightening lecture on the topic of political Islam.]

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Avoided deforestation or avoiding the issue? The “geography of evasion”

I have to admit I took that title from the REDD Monitor’s January 14th article regarding USAID’s forest carbon project in West Bali National Park in Indonesia. (REDD = reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation)

The whole thing caught my eye because since the March 2013 realization that new Governor Zaini Abdullah was planning on re-zoning protected forest to make it “productive” (ie, a palm oil pipeline) there haven’t been many recent articles on deforestation in Aceh.  Also because JMD has been trying to get USAID Jakarta’s attention since 2008 and with the exception of the radar blip of the Deputy Mission Director and “Strategy Implementation Advisor” being nice to me when I visited their offices to beg for funds in December 2012, JMD has received bupkus in terms of assistance, returned emails/phone calls, or even requests to keep us up to date on projects in the country.

Now, I don’t want to get USAID mad.  JMD needs their support.  But this latest brainstorm of theirs is just so shockingly naïve (or politically motivated with respect to extraction interests) that I am hard pressed to think they would even consider funding a project that actually addressed true and rampant deforestation, no matter how sweet we are to them.  Even the commenters were astounded. The highlighted text is mine. And a lot of the technical references have been cut—not to bolster my point because it doesn’t need it, but just so that you will read to the end, even with some of the jargon in there.  It is really important to know how these programs work, and the fact that they are in their infancy and yet billions are being thrown at them is something we all should be concerned about.  The REDD Monitor is.  That’s enough for me.

January 21, 2014
Last week, a small announcement appeared on the website of the US Embassy in Jakarta: “The United States government and the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry today launched a new rainforest standard for carbon credits in West Bali National Park.”
It’s an extraordinary project. In a country faced with very high rates of deforestation, this is a forest carbon trading project in a national park.
The project will be carried out by the University of Columbia, the University of Indonesia and the Sustainable Management Group with funding from USAID.
Jatna Supriatna, head of the University of Indonesia’s Research Center for Climate Change, told the Bali Daily that, “We have set a target that within the next one year or two, we will have discovered the appropriate and standardized mechanism to develop carbon credits using the RFS [Rainforest Standard] system.”
Supriatna explained that the aim was to sell carbon credits on the voluntary market. Part of the profits are to be used for conservation of the West Bali National Park.
. . .  Tedy Sutedi, head of the park, welcomed the initiative to designate the park as the pilot project for research, saying that it would support the park’s management plan to reduce deforestation rates. He said that based on continuous monitoring, no deforestation occurred in the park, however, there were some cases of ornamental fish and wood thefts by locals.
So the National Park already has a management plan aimed at reducing deforestation rates. And according to Sutedi, it’s very successful, as there is no deforestation in the Park.
. . .The project developers have to prove that the project is additional before carbon credits can be sold. They have to prove that deforestation would have continued or increased in the absence of the project. That’s going to be tricky under the rules of the “Rainforest Standard” that the US Embassy mentions in its press release.
 . . . In his comment for the Bali Daily, Zulkifli Hasan, Indonesia’s Foresty Minister, read from Columbia University’s website:  “The Rainforest Standard is based on the fundamental understanding that the environment, economy, and society are ‘in it together’.”
At the launch of the project, Andrew Sisson, USAID mission director in Indonesia, said that,
“Through this initiative, Indonesia is at the leading edge of preserving biodiversity and setting conservation standards. We believe that scientific collaboration between the US and Indonesia can help to address the challenge of global climate change.”
This claim is ludicrous, based as it is on a project that has yet to start and which is aimed at protecting forest in a National Park in Bali. The project will do nothing to address the drivers of deforestation in Indonesia and less to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel.
Robin Biddulph, a researcher at the Department of Human Geography at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, describes such projects as “Geographies of Evasion”. He explains the concept as “implementing interventions in places where they do not make a difference”.

Comments [I have edited these comments to only include the most basic language about the common sense (or lack thereof) of conducting a deforestation measurement project in a national park with little deforestation.  Both commenters are well-versed in the carbon-credit/biomass removal language, but it is pretty mind-bending so I eliminated it.]
Comment 1  We applaud the author’s concerns that any REDD or REDD-like project demonstrate real and verifiable reductions in carbon emissions. . . . .
Unfortunately, the author is incorrect in asserting that The RFS precludes government gazetted Protected Areas because they do not pass a three-level additionality test. The RFS explicitly states the following:
“ER1: The RFS™ endorses the strict Legal Additionality Test, but allows one exception under very limited circumstances: i.e. where there is a history of recent and repeated Tree Biomass removals inside a Protected Area.
Limiting evidence of removals to those that have occurred inside a Protected Area eliminates consideration of threats from external Drivers of Deforestation such as highway construction or expanding farming and ranching activity. In the view of The RFS™, outside threats should not be considered because the law has already recognized those threats when prohibiting removals inside the Protected Area. In other words, external threats to a Protected Area cannot trigger a finding of Additionality; instead there must be evidence that the Protected Area is experiencing recent and repeated Tree Biomass removals despite its legal protection, i.e., there is clear evidence of ineffective enforcement in the Protected Area. The RFS™ recognizes that there may also be examples of ineffective enforcement of laws against removing Tree Biomass outside of Protected Areas; however, the extent to which any Project Proponent is complicit or compliant with respect to illegal removals is presently deemed too difficult to determine. The RFS™ makes the presumption that the Governmental Authority managing a Protected Area would not be so complicit or compliant. Therefore, The RFS™ retains strict legal Additionality for all Project Areas other than Protected Areas[1].
[1] Reduced Removals in Protected Areas will be able to earn a special form of RFS Credit™ to be known as RFS Protected Area Credits™. Important features of RFS Protected Area Credits™ include: (a) proceeds from their sale must be used solely for the social, environmental, and economic well-being of the Protected Area and its Rightsholders; (b) the credits cannot be resold or transferred by the initial purchaser, and therefore will not be subject to market price fluctuations or speculation; and (c) credit purchase agreements will be long-term and performance-based. RFS Protected Area Credits™ will be used to financially support management of Protected Areas to reduce their deforestation and degradation consistent with the integrated social, environmental, and economic well-being practices required by The Rainforest Standard. . . .  Based on on-the-ground experience of this group of nearly 70 practitioners [who created the Rainforest Standards], a conservative method was developed to include Protected Areas. Why? Because in all but a very few countries, Protected Areas are not protected. The principal reason for the lack of protection is a lack of funding to underwrite a Best Practices Management Plan that includes all stakeholders in the protection of the Protected Area.
Comment 2 [to previous commenter]:.1. Deforestation in West Bali National Park is low compared to many other areas of Indonesia (whether or not they are inside national parks).
2. Determining how much carbon is saved from entering the atmosphere as a result of a REDD project is fiendishly complicated. It’s difficult to measure the carbon accurately and it’s even more difficult to guess what would have happened in the absence of the project. Having said that, it’s even more difficult to stop deforestation in areas of current rapid deforestation such as Sumatra or Kalimantan or where the threat of deforestation is high .  . . . If the aim is to reduce deforestation in Indonesia, why is stopping deforestation in the West Bali National Park a priority?
3. If the aim is to stop deforestation in national parks in Indonesia, why start in a national park with very little deforestation?
4. How much money has the University of Columbia received from USAID for the Rainforest Standard project in total? 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Happy 10th Anniversary to us . . .

December 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the Indian Ocean Tsunami that caused incredible destruction in Southeast Asia and killed over 160,000 in Aceh province alone.  The earthquake in Aceh Jaya was the epicenter of the disaster, and it's there that JMD started its work.  I'm hoping that journalists from all over the globe will be providing continuous coverage all year.  I've been making a list of media outlets who interviewed me during the worst of it and again five years later, and I'll share them here in a few days--I'm planning on contacting them to see if they want to do another follow-up.  I think that the changes Aceh has gone through in 10 years, and the effects of the reconstruction funds  on local infrastructure, government agencies, poverty, and the environment will surprise everyone, and not in a good way.

I'd like to start the anniversary ball rolling by re-printing an article that appeared 2 weeks ago on

Indonesia police nab illegal wildlife traffickers in sting operation
Diana Parker, Mongabay-Indonesia correspondent
January 12, 2014

Police in Indonesia’s Aceh province have arrested two wildlife trafficking suspects allegedly behind five tiger poaching rings operating in the forests of northern Sumatra. The arrests followed a months-long investigation and an undercover sting operation in which police seized thousands of dollars worth of illegal animal parts.
Posing as potential buyers, undercover police caught the suspects with stuffed Sumatran tigers and other illegal wildlife including a clouded leopard, two golden cats and a sun bear skin. Aceh Police Criminal Investigation Director Joko Irwanto estimated the confiscated animals to be worth hundreds of millions of rupiah, roughly tens of thousands of dollars.
The suspects were arrested on Jan. 3 under a 1990 conservation law and are believed to be linked to a network of rare animal traders in Aceh’s Gayo Highlands and a known tiger kingpin in Medan. If found guilty, they face up to five years in prison and a fine of Rp 100 million ($8,200).

--> Garish? Stuffed wildlife seized by Aceh police. Photo by Chik Rini of Mongabay-Indonesia.

“This recent arrest shows that Indonesia is getting increasingly serious about not tolerating wildlife crime, which threaten its spectacular natural heritage,” said Joe Walston, Asia programs director at the Wildlife Conservation Society, a New York-based conservation organization that assisted with the case.
“We congratulate the group of law enforcement professionals that worked together on a local, regional, and national level to make this important arrest happen.”
Police believe the suspects acquired the rare animals from poachers in and around Central Aceh. The area has a reputation as a center for the illegal wildlife trade, fueled by high demand for stuffed endangered animals throughout Aceh.
“There is mythology that makes people believe that tigers, bears and certain other animals have magical powers,” Azhar, a species coordinator for WWF-Indonesia’s Aceh program office told Mongabay-Indonesia, adding that many local officials in the province have illegal wildlife on display in their homes.

Stuffed animals seized by Aceh police on display at a press conference in Aceh. Photo by Chik Rini of Mongabay-Indonesia.

Despite its reputation as a poaching hub, arrests and prosecutions for wildlife crimes in the province are rare. In October, a military court in Aceh
convicted two soldiers for possessing a pair of stuffed Sumatran tigers and a stuffed sun bear, marking the first ever successful prosecution for wildlife crimes in Aceh and the second wildlife crimes case successfully prosecuted by an Indonesian military court. 

“WWF urges the government to address the conservation of tigers and other rare species more seriously,” Azhar told Mongabay-Indonesia. “If poaching continues unchecked, [tigers] will go extinct in Aceh.”

CITATION: Chik Rini. 2 Pembuat Offset Satwa Dilindungi di Aceh Ditangkap. Mongabay-Indonesia. January 6, 2014.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A measured and responsible response to the volcano eruption? I can’t quite decide . . .

Perhaps Indonesia has learned from the 2004 Tsunami the cost of accepting foreign "assistance."  Or am I being too kind?  They are talking about "using their own resources" because they don't know how long this disaster will be and what its ramifications are (as happened with the tsunami).  Perhaps the government feels the same way I do about the boatloads of unsupervised reconstruction aid having done more harm than good. Is this a 10-year anniversary coincidence?  A seismic shift, so to speak? Who can say?

News: Indonesia 
Foreign aid told to wait amid volcano eruption in Indonesia 
( By Lean Alfred Santos 
3 February 2014
Almost three months after its first volcanic eruption in recent times, Mount Sinabung in northern Indonesia continues to inflict damage after at least 14 more people, including children, died after getting caught in the volcano’s scorching ash cloud on Saturday — a growing figure as days go by, but something that shouldn’t alarm the international aid community just yet.
That’s according to a United Nations official based in the country, who stressed that the international development community, despite its good intentions to always help out in times of disaster, should in this case let the governments figure it out on its own first because it knows best how to respond to the needs of their own people.
Foreign aid workers should only be deployed if the government asks them to, noted Nova Ratnanto, emergency response specialist at the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Indonesia.
“In my opinion, the government is confident in making use and exhaust its national resources. The government has appointed several agencies including the disaster management to lead other ministries to join in and work in the locations,” Ratnanto told Devex. “So as long as we don’t hear from the government yet, international assistance will have to stand by.”
He added: “When we convey to them [what’s needed], they could easily meet the need. They could have it in their operational plans … What [they should] do, I think for now, is monitor and wait whether in one second or two they are needed.”
The almost 10,000 families displaced by the volcanic eruption are currently housed about 10 km away from the crater, according to Ratnanto, who said the the government fears more people may have perished as bodies have been retrieved only from the safe areas inside the exclusion zone.
“The restriction is the path of the lava flow, so they can only retrace and retrieve the bodies in the safest place [not within the 5 km radius considered as the hazard zone],” he explained.
Finding one’s place
So far, a handful of international organizations, including U.N. agencies like the World Food Program and UNICEF, have been active in helping the displaced by the eruption, but all through previously established programs in collaboration with government ministries.
“What the United Nations [and other groups] are doing is support the resources in the different areas affected because the government, so far, has not asked for international assistance considering that some international agencies have local partners. The government is so far responding to the emergency,” he said.
This is in contrast with what happened three months ago in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, where the devastation was much more severe and extended. In addition, in that case the storm itself was gone after a day, whereas Mount Sinabung continues to threaten local communities with further eruptions.
Ratnanto explained this situation makes it harder for the international community to fully commit and — in principle — commit to a specific amount of aid.
“It will be different than if you see Haiyan in the Philippines that some of the international groups and U.N. agencies are free to provide assistance, no. Indirectly, the U.N. agencies, at this moment, are doing that while monitoring the situation and are standing by,” he noted. “This is a slow-moving disaster. We cannot predict when it will end.”
But, at the end of the day, it’s all about finding one’s right place in the grander scheme of the relief and rehabilitation operations. Ratnanto said waiting for the call for help is tantamount to respecting the sovereignty and capacity of a nation as well as being humble to admit that people — ideally — know best how they will recover from the tragedy.
“This is so because it’s political really. First because the president already gave directions to the ministries. We need to allow the government to implement what the instructions are. We cannot just simply jump in. No, we cannot. So we let them do and we are supporting them,” he concluded.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

“Follow the Coffee” Part II

In my January 7 post I mentioned sending out a few emails to companies asking them about a bag of coffee my friend purchased at a store that said it was “organic” and came from Aceh.  I traced the “provenance” of this bag to two organizations: Project 7, and Topco, who is a distributor of “store brands” to large supermarket chains.  Full Circle, the company listed on the coffee bag, is one of their distributors.

This is the email I sent to Topco:

Dear Topco:
Building Bridges to the Future supports a local sustainable livelihoods agency in Aceh province, Indonesia, called Jembatan Masa Depan (JMD) that in part that helps farmers increase coffee production. We understand that your company distributes a brand of coffee called Full Circle Coffee, Organic Medium Roast Sumatra Aceh Ground.
To help JMD better serve coffee and cocoa farmers in Aceh, we are conducting a survey from "the other end of the value chain" to see if we can trace our farmers' coffee from the store back to its origins, and if importers and distributors have information regarding the provenance of their product.
Can you let us know how Topco verifies that its "Sumatra Aceh ground" coffee comes from Aceh?
Which is the entity that verifies certification and farm location?
There are several "certification" bodies and we'd like to know which one your company chooses when it is purchasing beans from the importer.
Thanks in advance for any and all information you can give us.

On January 24 I received this email back from Topco:

Subject: Full Circle Coffee
Thank you for your request, but our vendor and certifications of this product are company information and therefore propriety information. Please be assured that any claims on the package are correct and have been verified.
Thank you for your time and have a great day.
Ticket #269691
Consumer Services Team

I am not really great with languages, but I think this translates to “Buzz off.”  Thoughts?

I wonder if Project 7 will ever write back.

It reminds me: I saw some interesting Twitter feed the other day from an organization called Coffee_Aceh, and when I went to find out more about them, their website, which has been up since 2010, had no information on it --I mean, it was blank, except for some photos that said “our farmers” and the only thing their Facebook page said was

Promoting coffee in Aceh
Mission: To sell direct from the farmer to the consumer

Both this, and the text on the coffee bag and myriad websites are admirable sentiments, but they all lead to dead ends.  None of the people saying or writing these things knows, I am convinced, if what they are saying is true.  The coffee could have come from anywhere.  How can Aceh establish itself as a leader in specialty commodities like cocoa and coffee if we cannot verify the value chain?